We are signed up for the May 18 tour. What is the best way to get from the airport to the tour hotel (Hotel Azade)? Also is there any advice for the day before the tour starts as we will be there a day early.
Our tour didn't visit the Suleymaniye Mosque. It's not too far a walk from Hotel Azade. We did it the day before. The morning of the day the tour started we went to the Basilica Cistern, which is very close. The Arasta Bazaar is just off Sultanahmet Square. It has some nice shops and isn't chaotic. If you want to venture farther there's Dolmabache Palace and Galata Tower. Also some museums the tour doesn't visit.
I found a transfer service on Expedia. A driver met us. It was $25. That was 3 years or 4 years ago.
I took this tour September, 2019. I had a great time!
After the free refund time period has passed, you will be able to order a free RS Istanbul guide book. Check your tour account page on this website. Once you get the book, read it from front to back. You can then make a list of sites that are in the book that the tour doesn't cover (Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Asian side of the Bosphorus, Archeology museum, Turkish Bath, Chora Church, Arasta Bazaar, and the list goes on).
You could also go to Tripadvisor and look at their top places to visit in Istanbul. Before my trip, I went to the library for two afternoons and put dozens of books about Istanbul on a table and leafed through them. I even looked at cook books so that I was familiar with the cuisine.
After you have a possibility list, come back and ask any questions about them including practicalities like how to get there. Then make your final choice.
I traveled with my adult son. We arrived 2 nights before the tour started. On the first night, we walked around the hippodrome and had dinner with a view of Hagia Sophia. The next day, we took a food tour with Istanbul on Food called Taste of Two Continents. It was very good and included a walking tour of Kadikoy on the Asian side. That evening, we went to a Turkish Bath. The morning of the tour we went to the Basilica Cistern and to the Grand Bazaar.
Enjoy your trip!
Rick Steves always sends very detailed instructions about getting to the first hotel. It usually gives you several options (public transportation, cabs, car organized by the hotel, etc.) I have found these instructions very helpful on the five tours I have taken. I think these instructions are sent closer to the date of your tour. Log into your tour account periodically for new information about the tour - updated itinerary, list of participants, as well as the directions to your tour hotel.
Istanbul has a new airport in a new location, so make sure that any advice about getting into the city in guidebooks (including Rick’s!) or this forum has been updated.
There are tons of things to do and see in Istanbul. The Best of Turkey only brushes the surface. Have a wonderful time. I have been to Istanbul twice and loved it.
Suleymaniye Mosque and mausoleum and Bascilica Cistern( doesn’t take long) are must sees. Very surprised Rick’s tour excludes them.
The Suleymaniye Mosque was included on the tour I was on. I think Carolyn is thinking of the Blue Mosque which is not included probably because it is mostly covered up with scaffolding. The Blue Mosque is close to the hotel, but the Suleymaniye is not. I don't think it would be feasible to go to the Cistern with a group and it is so very easy to do on one's own during free time.
Rick suggests getting a taxi from the airport to Sultanahmet, but I disagree with this.
I easily took a Havaist bust both from the airport and then again back to the airport when I left. The cost is 18 TL which is about $3. It was easy to find, was new and comfortable and safe.
Tour itinerary must have changed since we went in 2015. We visited Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Chora Church, Spice Market, Istiklal Street, Grand Bazaar, Bosporus cruise.
You will get a list of suggestions that the tour doesn't cover in your tour info.
I think maybe the itinerary was changed due to the refurbishing of the Blue Mosque. How long did it take you to walk to the Suleymaniye Mosque?
I did not do this, but several people on my Turkey tour spent a day either before or after the tour taking a cooking class. Turkish food is delicious, especially the eggplant.
If you take the Havaist bus, Google the hotel's location, as its a bit tricky to find. A taxi from the new airport is about 40 € from the new airport. These are updates for the 2016 RS Istanbul book: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/turkey/guidebook-updates
Check if the taxi from the airport is a flat fee or by meter. Traffic in and around Sultanahmet, where the Azade is, can be at a near standstill any time of day when shops are open. I haven't been to Istanbul since the new airport opened, but I assume the car services that used to shuttle people from the old airport are now doing it from the new one. A fixed fee is better. In general be very careful with taxis - some drivers are unscrupulous and will use every trick in the book, cheating on the meter, adding fictional charges, taking a longer than necessary route and switching money - like claiming you gave them a 5 L note when it was a 50. To be fair, I only took taxis 3 or 4 times and was only cheated once. Mostly I got around on the tram and on foot.
According to the itinerary on the RS website, the tour does go to the Suleimaniye Mosque. The Cistern is close to the hotel and worth seeing, you only need about 1/2 an hour there. The archaeology museum is also close and well worth visiting - but check how much of it is open. You should be able to do it in the morning before the tour starts. On arrival day, you could visit the Cisterns. Wander the nearby Araste bazaar, it's small and the shops have quality goods. I wouldn't buy anything right away, but if there are things you like, make a note of them maybe to buy at the end of the tour, if you'll be back in Istanbul for at least a few hours. You may find things you like better while you're on the tour, you may not. There's also the Great Palace Mosaic Museum right there. It's not nearly as grand as the name implies, but there are stunningly beautiful mosaic floors from the 6th century.
We used this service to Hotel Azade. Very reliable. Istanbul tranfers