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So You're Going on the Best of Turkey or Best of Istanbul Tour

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Are you signed up for the Rick Steves Best of Turkey or Best of Istanbul tour? Maybe even both! Perhaps you're thinking of signing up? Do you have questions? I did before I took back to back Best of Istanbul and Best of Turkey tours in May and June of 2022.

I'll use this post to assemble common tour questions and to reference answers in helpful forum topics. If your tour question isn't answered, feel free to ask it here. Or post your own question separately so that you'll get an email each time someone responds - if you have chosen that forum setting.

What's In This For Me?
I get to relive one of my favorite trips by looking back through my pictures and notes to answer questions and read answers from others. I fell in love with Turkey and I hope you will as well!!

Everyone is Welcome!
Whether you're signed up for the tour in 2023, took one of the tours in the past or just love traveling to Turkey, please feel free to answer questions and add your own question/answers and topic references for future tour members.

Posted by
4872 posts

What Are The Tours Like?

They're fabulous!! Yes, I'm biased, I loved both tours. The guides are phenomenal - those of you who have taken other Rick Steves tours already know that.

You can read my day by day report of being on the Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul tours in May and June of 2022:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/3-weeks-to-fall-in-love-with-turkey

Read more:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/tours/best-of-turkey-march-28-to-april-9-completed-successfully
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/rs-best-of-turkey-tour

Posted by
4872 posts

Getting my VISA for Turkey

Tip #1: use the official website to apply for your visa to Turkey, which you'll be able to do up to 3 months prior to your date of arrival:
https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/

Tip #2:
The Turkish eVISA is good for 90 days within a 180 day window; you can enter Turkey any time during that window and cannot stay beyond it. My suggestion when you apply for your eVISA (especially for those going on the Rick Steves tours) is to set your earliest entry date to be 2 or 3 days (or a week or two) prior to your intended flight. If your flight is changed/cancelled and you need to reschedule, you can book a flight a day or two earlier without having to buy a new eVISA for a matter of a few days.

Read more:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/e-visa-expiration
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/turkish-visas
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/turkey-evisa

Posted by
4872 posts

What Should I Do During Days On My Own In Istanbul?

We arrived a few days early and stayed 1 day extra in Kuşadası, so you'll also find some ideas in my Trip Report for things to do pre- and post-tour: Dolmabahçe Palace, a Turkish Dance Evening, Galata Tower at sunset, the rooftop pool at the hotel in Kuşadası.

SRM Travel has some pre- and post-tour suggestions on their website:
https://www.srmtravel.com/RS-preposttour.html

One is their "Pre-tour Foodie Tour":
"The tour is designed to complement Rick Steves' Best of Turkey. There will be no overlaps but interesting experiences with a look into the daily routine as we take you beyond the Old Town, and carry you into the lives of the residents. On the tour, there will be many chances to talk about contemporary life, such as; being a working woman, cost of life, everyday issues, etc."

I hope to take that tour next time I go to Istanbul (fingers crossed for 2024.) They also list museums in Istanbul for pre-tour and various options for post-tour.

A few casual things that we enjoyed:
- walking on the promenade along the Bosphorous (New District side of Istanbul); have lunch over there and watch the ships
- sitting waterside (Old Town has a nice area) and enjoying a fish sandwich while watching the people and the ships

Read more:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/best-of-turkey-preparations
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/what-to-do-in-istanbul-before-tour-starts
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/off-the-beaten-path-sights-to-see-in-istanbul
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/istanbul-highlight-camlica-mosque
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/the-www-muze-gov-tr-website-for-e-tickets-for-galata-tower-and-chora-church
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/2-days-pre-13-day-turkey-tour-starting-october-10-what-to-prioritize
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/3-days-in-istanbul

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4872 posts
Posted by
4872 posts

Those Bus Days Seem Really Long - How Were They?

I can't remember a day when I was "tired of being on the bus." Even when it's listed as a lot of hours, it's always punctuated with rest stops, lunch breaks, and often sightseeing stops.

As an example, looking at Day 8..... per the tour itinerary, it's a 6 hour bus day. Per our guide's daily itinerary, we were to leave at 10:30 for Antalya and arrive at 5:30, so the entire program for that day was 7 hours. And along the way we stopped for lunch, at least one break, and to sightsee at Aspendos. So it never could have been that stated 6 hours on the bus, unless we got stuck in bad traffic or something.

Based on my photos and our guide's itinerary, here's how that day actually went:
9am Konya city walk and market visit
10:20 - 1:15 Driving (~3 hrs, with a 15 or 20 minute rest stop along the way)
1:15 - 2:30 Lunch stop
2:30 - 3:45 Driving (1hr 15min)
3:45 - 4:45 Visit Aspendos
4:45 - 5:30 Last bit of the drive to Antalya (45 min)

So although it was listed as a 6 hour bus day, in our case it was about 5 hours sitting on the bus, and the travel day was broken up by breaks, lunch and sightseeing.

I was enjoying the scenery and the periodic guide commentary, and writing entries to my trip report. So I didn't sleep. Quite a few people sat in the back of the bus and snoozed between stops.

Read more:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/time-on-bus-during-rs-turkey

Posted by
4872 posts

How Do I Get to My Hotel Before the Tour?

The new Metro line is an option:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/ist-airport-to-central-istanbul-in-38-minutes-by-metro-begins-january-22

You can also take a bus or arrange a driver through your hotel:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/transport-to-the-city-from-ist

ETA: with the high rate of inflation in Turkey, I've heard the cost of a driver from the airport to central hotels in Istanbul has gone up to €75. Our fee was calculated in euros, so the exchange rate didn't help. Our first and last hotels added the cost of airport transfers to our bills.

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4872 posts

How Do I Get to Izmir Airport After the Tour?

Among your options, you can take the tour bus or arrange a driver through your last hotel.

Will Our Rick Steves Tour Bus Take Us to Izmir Airport?

If you are flying out of Izmir on Day 13 (the last official day of the tour) the Best of Turkey tour page says (under "Hotels and Flights"):

"Our tour bus will provide free transportation to Izmir on the last day of the tour, departing immediately after breakfast (around 8 a.m.) and arriving at the Izmir airport by 10 a.m. If you want to ride the bus, you'll need to book a flight that departs after 11 a.m."

It will be your same tour bus and driver. The timing is a conservative estimate: our guide said she always makes her 10:30am flight.

If you have an earlier flight, or stay an extra day (as we did) you can ask the hotel to book a driver to take you to the airport. At the time of our tour (ended June, 2022) that was €60 for up to 4 people. It's likely more than that now; possibly €75. Our final tour hotel added the cost to our bill. You can use any leftover lira to tip your driver.

Read more:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/kusadasi-and-izmir
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/transfer-from-kusadasi-hotel-to-izmir-airport

Posted by
4872 posts
Posted by
4872 posts

What Should I Wear?

It was warm by the seaside and hot in the interior during my May/June tour. I was glad to have summer tops and sturdy sandals. You may wish to bring a swimsuit if you plan to take the (optional extra) boat ride in Antalya. We got to dive off the side of the boat and swim around for about half an hour. Our boat even had a low diving board!

Please read my Trip Report comments about shoes. Ladies, bring a head scarf to enter Mosques and everyone pack modest clothing that covers your shoulders and knees.

Read More:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/clothing-for-turkey
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/female-dress-for-turkey
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/about-attire-for-best-of-turkey

Can I Do Laundry?

We had two hotel opportunities to do laundry - one in Cappadocia (Days 4-6) and one in Antalya (Day 9.) At the time of my tour it was 200-250 TL for a medium sized bag of laundry. And of course, you can always do sink laundry.

Read More
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/laundry-option-on-best-of-turkey
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/3-weeks-to-fall-in-love-with-turkey
(search for "laundry")

Posted by
4872 posts

Tour Headsets

Your guide will provide a "Whisper" audio devices and wired earphones. (They don't work with bluetooth.) Some of the earphones stopped working during our tour days and members had to "stay close to the guide" to hear.

Packing Tips:
- bring your own extra set of wired earphones in case that happens so that you can still wander freely.
- The Whisper audio device takes a USB cord with a type B (asymmetrical) connector. The guide supplies one charger per room, with a very short USB cable. If you bring your own cable, with a Type B connector and your own wall charger with adaptor, you can charge 2 devices at once. And your cable will probably be longer than their supplied one.

Read more:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/listening-device-on-rs-tour-bluetooth-enabled-best-of-turkey-trip

Posted by
4872 posts

How Was the Weather and Do the Hotels Have Air Conditioning?

In late May, it was comfortable in Istanbul - short or long-sleeves during the day and a light sweater in the evenings. It was warm by the seaside and hot in the interior during my June Best of Turkey tour. I was glad I had a sundress, sunhat (!) and sandals and capris during our casual outdoor sightseeing days.

I believe all the tour hotels had A/C that worked too well for my tastes. I slept with the windows open in Antalya and Kuşadası and would have slept with them open in Istanbul. I was sharing a room, so there were compromises. While I enjoyed the 4am wake-up call, my roommate, not so much.

Read more:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/hotels-on-tour
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/weather-in-may-in-turkey
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/rt-best-of-turkey-tour-june-july

Posted by
4872 posts

How Much Walking, Is the Tour Strenuous?

I walked daily:
Minimum: 4.58 miles (does not include last day of tour, which ends after breakfast)
Maximum: 9.77 miles

This did include some extra-tour walking in the mornings and during free time. During the tour, there was a lot of uneven walking at sites like Ephesus and Aphrodisias. We also had several of the promised bag schleps, dragging our bags across city streets, uneven cobblestone roads, and up short hills to the hotels.

Read More:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/13-day-best-of-turkey-trip-strenuous
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/turkey/ephesus-day-tour-from-istanbul-how-much-walking-is-required-0f81a36e-9c11-46d8-83d9-84c229717b9b

Posted by
1843 posts

WOW!!!! What a comprehensive guide. I’ve already gone on the RS Turkey tour but thank you for offering up so much information. So nice of you and major karma points.

Posted by
2873 posts

A second WOW, CW. This is so comprehensive. It will benefit everyone taking or planning to take the tours. Thank you!!

Posted by
4872 posts

Thank you both, Rocket and horsewoofie, I appreciate that! It's my (not so) secret way of enjoying my trip all over again!

And if anyone else would like to contribute, correct entries, make suggestions for questions to add to this thread, please do!

Posted by
3312 posts

After going to Egypt and your excellent TR on Turkey, both tours are high on our list. Since the travel will be well over 3 weeks, we need to wait at least 2 more years.

Posted by
86 posts

Thanks, CW! I am signed up for the Best of Turkey tour in September ‘23. Your posts begin to address several questions I have. All in one easy place! No doubt I will be having more questions as I continue to plan my trip. Now I know where to turn for info.

Posted by
4872 posts

JimD and diveloonie, I'll be so glad if this helps you plan your trips, whenever they are!

JimD, I may turn to you for insights into the Best of Bulgaria tour, which I'm taking this year.

Posted by
3201 posts

Thanks for helping me relive my two trips to Türkiye! Fish sandwiches on the quay near the Galata Bridge were the best!

Posted by
2099 posts

The best of Turkey Tour was my first RS tour. So glad I took it. Sadly, friends I asked to go with us laughed as they said “ why would you want to visit Turkey”? Their loss and a shock to me as I believe they are anti Muslim from their response.

Posted by
4872 posts

Fish sandwiches on the quay near the Galata Bridge were the best!

Oh yes, Philip, I enjoyed that so much, watching the people, the boats, the lights, enjoying the music and the fabulous smells. Such a great gathering place for tourists and locals.

Posted by
4872 posts

I'm so sad for your friends, Diane. As I commented while I was in Turkey making an entry in my trip report:

From home, perhaps I saw differences.
Here, I hope I've learned to recognize similarities.

Posted by
86 posts

CW, you will love Bulgaria. I went on the tour, not having any idea what to expect in Bulgaria. Knew next to noting about the country or its extensive history. Yes, I did some research, but again, went with little idea of what was ahead for me. That’s OK. Went open to learning and discovering.

Not uncommon for RS tours, it was a busy one. A fair amount of bus time, but it never seemed excessive. The usual stops, some to see a site, others just a rest stop. Our guide, Stefan, is the guide on the RS episode on Bulgaria. He also cohosted the Bulgaria Zoom session with Rick a week or so back. He was beyond excellent. If you get him, you will indeed enjoy his expertise and his humor. Any questions, feel free to contact me, on the forum or PM, whatever your preference.

Posted by
569 posts

To anyone taking or contemplating this tour, I recommend reading Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr before you go. Moving through future, present and past, some of the book takes place in 15th century Constantinople, and it gave me a thrill to see some of the places in the book. Several members of our tour had read it and we all thought it was a great read.
Cynthia

Posted by
4872 posts

ponygirl813, thanks for the book recommendation, which I found at the library for my Kindle and look forward to starting today. How perfect that it takes place in both Constantinople and Bulgaria!

JimD, I'm very excited to follow up the 2 tours in Turkey with Best of Bulgaria. It seems like a great continuation of that region and that history. Our tour guide is Yuri, who I've also heard great things about. More Baklava and I'm looking forward to Shopska salad and Bulgarian yogurt!

Posted by
4872 posts

So I just looked up bonitsa, which seems very much like the börek we got in Turkey. Sure enough.... related!

Turkish börek
Bulgarian: byurek, Бюрек

According to 196 Flavors:

*The oldest ancestor of the banitsa is the börek. The banitsa is simply one of the innumerable varieties of börek.

The börek, also called burek, beurek, or bourek, is a savory pastry that is very popular in all the ancient countries of the Ottoman empire.*

So if you liked banitsa, you may also enjoy börek. And for me, another good reason to go to Bulgaria next!

Posted by
3 posts

CWsocial, thank you so much for the summaries of your Turkey tours. We had to cancel two Best of Turkey tours in 2022 due to COVID but we are now scheduled for mid-April this year. We made the final tour payment today. We are REALLY excited for this tour. It will be our first organized tour. We normally tour Europe independently but we decided that we'd do a tour of Turkey. And we think that a Rick Steve tour will be perfect for us. Thank you for allowing us to follow along on your two Rick Steves tours last year!

Posted by
4872 posts

Ah, dfollman18, I remember! I think you may originally have been scheduled to be on our tour because our roster dropped by 2 people at the last minute. Or you might have been on the one 2 days behind us.

I'm glad to know that you're rescheduled for April!!

Posted by
86 posts

CW, I am seriously looking at air flights for my September Türkiye tour. Since my tour begins mid-day Saturday, I plan on arriving on Friday at the latest. Maybe on Thursday. Would you have some suggestions for “must see” sites in Istanbul that would not be included on the RS tour? Suggestions might help determine if I arrive a day before the tour or two days. At the end of the tour I have to fly home fromIzmir immediately - cannot add any extra time at that end of the tour. Also, would you recommend staying at the initial tour hotel (Galata’s Hotel) or elsewhere?

PS: I am a solo traveler.

Posted by
4872 posts

JimD, I would want to arrive at least by Thursday, myself, just in case I had a missed connection. We went on both tours (Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul) and still arrived on Friday for our 4pm Sunday tour start. For you, the Turkey tour only spends 2.5 days in Istanbul and there is so much more to enjoy!

Several of the things we did were not on either tour:

  • Dolmabahçe Palace, which we visited on the day that our tour started - Best of Istanbul started at 4pm;
  • the Great Palace Mosaics Museum
  • neither tour goes to the Galata Tower, which we especially enjoyed at sunset
  • neither tour is currently going to the Blue Mosque, due to renovations. But you can still go in (outside of prayer hours) to peek at some of the areas that are not covered for active renovations.

The Archaeological Museum is part of the Best of Istanbul tour, but not the Best of Turkey tour.

The foodie tour that SRM Travel offers is similar to a day on the Best of Istanbul tour and really designed to complement the Best of Turkey tour.

Some of the other links in this thread contain suggestions for places that I didn't visit and which are not on either tour:

  • linda4490 posted that the Camlica Mosque, on the Asian side of Istanbul, "was the highlight of our recent visit to Istanbul."
  • Marie mentions the "Cistern of Theodosius -- smaller than the Basilica Cistern, but very nice. Recently, they started doing a sound and light show, which is not exactly my cup of tea, but the cistern itself is worth seeing."
  • a recommendation from Eileen L is the "City Walls walk in RS's Istanbul book, which starts from (the Chora Church)" and "is a good 4 hours including transportation so a half-day of interesting adventure not covered on the tour"
  • jeanne enjoyed a "beautiful surprise visit ... to the calligraphy museum. It is exquisite!"

There were plenty of other suggestions in the threads - I just pulled out a few that are not on the Turkey tour, all of which are on my list for a future visit! If you see something that interests you, I can let you know if it was on the Turkey tour.

We had easily found 4+ days of "extras" to keep us busy in Istanbul, which is why we jumped on the chance to take the back to back tours when they became available.

Posted by
4872 posts

Also, would you recommend staying at the initial tour hotel (Galata’s Hotel) or elsewhere?

We did not stay at that hotel, but I remember looking it up on a map and finding it is very near to the Haze Hotel, where we stayed for the Best of Istanbul tour. If so, it gives you easy access to the Galata Tower, the Bosphorus promenade and Dolmabahçe Palace, if you were to go there.

If you only go 1 or 2 nights early, I would stay at the tour hotel. An alternative is to book a hotel on the Old Town side, to be near those sights. But your tour will take you over there and you can walk or take the tram if you want to go there on a pre-tour day.

If you were to go for 3 or 4 additional nights, then it might be worth changing hotels to stay somewhere in Old Town before your tour, though I'd still prefer to spend the night before the tour in the tour hotel.

Posted by
4872 posts

Excellent, because I hope to draft off your Albania trip! And your Budapest restaurants list.

Of course, if you're not going on either tour, then that's a different list that starts with places like Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar.

ETA: after each trip (sometimes during!) I start a list of things to do next time. My list for Istanbul is enough for at least a 6 day itinerary! I'm sure I could find things to do in Istanbul for weeks.

Posted by
38 posts

We are going on the RS Best of Turkey tour this spring and I can’t thank you enough for your oh-so-entertaining trip report! We are seasoned travelers and this will be our 7th tour with RS, but there was still a wealth of helpful information in that report. I’ve adjusted my packing list and added several items based on your experience. We were originally planning to do Bulgaria, but decided that Turkey would be a better spring trip. Mostly, I just wanted you to know that I’m a big fan!

Posted by
4872 posts

Jony, thanks so much for your note! I'm glad to hear my trip report gave you ideas for your packing list. And feel free to ask questions as your tour approaches. If you're wondering about it, others are.

Besides, then I get to keep reminiscing about Turkey!

Posted by
1 posts

Thank you for all of your wonderful information. I just booked the Best of Istanbul May 14-20, 2023 and am very excited!

Posted by
4872 posts

Very exciting, justjulesrtw. That is such a good city tour, packed with exotic sights. I hope you love it as much as I did!

Posted by
86 posts

Just booked the Foodie Tour with SRM, for the day before the Best of Turkey tour. Looks like a very enjoyable and enlightening day. Very impressed by the response from SRM and the extensive
Information provided. Thanks, CW, for the lead.

Posted by
86 posts

Just booked the Foodie Tour with SRM Travel for the day before the Best of Turkey tour. Looks like a very enjoyable and enlightening day. Very impressed by the response from SRM and the extensive information provided. Lale from SRM also had numerous other recommendations if time allowed.

Thanks, CW, for the lead.

Posted by
4872 posts

JimD, that's great that you're booked for their Foodie Tour. It sounds like a fun event. I really want to take it when I go back to Istanbul!

Posted by
4872 posts

How Early Do I Have To Get Up?

I checked my photos of our daily itinerary for Best of Turkey in June, 2022. Breakfast is usually available at least 1 hour before the start of the day.

Breakfast Available / Itinerary starts

Day 1: 1:00pm tour begins
Day 2: 7:30am / 8:45am
Day 3: 7:00am / 8:30am (estimates, itinerary photo missing)
Day 4: 7:00am / 8:15am
Day 5: 8:00am / 10:00am (4:50am pickup for balloon ride)
Day 6: 8:00am / 9:00am
Day 7: 7:15am / 8:30am
Day 8: 6:30am / 9:00am
Day 9: 8:00am / 9:30am
Day 10: 6:15am / 7:30am (drive to Pamukkale)
Day 11: 6:00am / 8:00am
Day 12: 6:30am / 7:00am (early start to arrive early at Ephesus)
Day 13: tour ends after breakfast

Of course, every tour will vary and sometimes the itinerary is adjusted. In our case, a visiting dignitary to Turkey caused two of our Best of Istanbul itinerary days to be swapped.

Posted by
4872 posts

And How Early Does Best of Istanbul Start?

We had no early starts during our Best of Istanbul tour in May, 2022, so I enjoyed an early morning walk each day before breakfast. Breakfast start time will depend on the hotel you are staying in.

Itinerary starts

Day 1: 3:00pm
Day 2: 8:30am
Day 3: 8:45am
Day 4: 9:00am
Day 5: 9:30am
Day 6: 9:05am
Day 7: Tour over after breakfast

Posted by
1581 posts

Catherine, while it isn't a scrapbook I think your trip report plus this helpful thread ought to put you in the running for the free trip contest! Nobody could express the experience as well as you, even with pictures!

Posted by
4872 posts

Thanks, Andrea, this new thread has been a fun way to go back through my pictures from Turkey. I smile every time I write an entry!

I can't believe how much work and skill goes into the beautiful scrapbooks!!

Posted by
4872 posts

Will We Get Museum and Transit Passes On The Tours?

Short answer: yes, you will get passes on both tours.

Tip: Don't lose your passes - one tour member on my Best of Turkey tour lost his Museum Pass and he had to pay for entry from then forward himself.

Best of Istanbul Tour: Yes, you will get both passes

Assuming it is still the same as our tour, you will receive the Istanbul Museum Pass and a transit card. I think we got them on the first day of the tour, but it could have been the 2nd morning, which was the first time we needed them for transit or entry with the tour.

The Istanbul Museum Pass was good for 5 days / 120 hours from your first museum visit:
https://muze.gen.tr/MuseumPasses

Assuming you first use the Museum Pass on Day 2 to enter Topkapi Palace with the tour, it will still be valid 120 hours later to get you into the Archaeological Museum on Day 6. I wouldn't expect it to still work on Day 7.

The Galata Tower is included in the Istanbul Museum Pass, though the tour doesn't go there. We went twice: we paid once to go on our own before the tour and we used our tour Museum Pass for a second visit during tour free time.

The Istanbul Museum Pass doesn't cover Dolmabahce Palace.
https://muze.gen.tr/Museums

Your Istanbul transit pass is loaded with some funds that will last through your Best of Istanbul tour, and we had enough funds for a few independent trips during free time. You will return that pass at the end of your tour but could always buy another one if you're staying longer.

Best of Turkey Tour: Yes

You will get a 15 day Turkiye Museum Pass for the Best of Turkey tour. I think we also got a transit pass, which we gave back after the first couple of days in Istanbul. After that, you'll have your own semi-private driver to take you (nearly) door to door on your journey through Western Turkey!

Posted by
4872 posts

Which Guidebook Will We Get?

Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul:
Istanbul Guidebook with Ephesus and Cappadocia, by authors Lale Surmen Aran and Tankut Aran who run SRM Travel, the company whose guides lead the Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul tours.

If you're taking both tours, you'll get 1 copy for each tour. I expect you'll get the 8th Edition (Dec, 2020) since the Rick Steves shop says the new one is due out in the Fall of 2024. This edition will still be helpful for planning your pre- and post-tour days, especially to read about key sights and the guided walks. Of course, you'll want to research to confirm details: hours, cost, opening days, etc.

For example, the section on Dolmabahçe Palace (p. 67-68) needs updating. I think I provided feedback to Rick Steves; in any case, you'll find 2022-current info in my Trip Report.

Posted by
4872 posts

Kindle Edition of Istanbul Guidebook on Sale on Amazon for $3.99!

If you want to peruse the guidebook before your tour, you can buy the Kindle Edition now, normally $19.99 on sale for $3.99.

https://www.amazon.com/Rick-Steves-Istanbul-Ephesus-Cappadocia-ebook/dp/B084FXHL22/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3PUBL5HNMCQVX&keywords=rick+steves+istanbul+kindle&qid=1676999511&sprefix=rick+steves+istanbul+kindl%2Caps%2C182&sr=8-1

It's the full guidebook, not a "Snapshot" edition. I used it to copy maps, illustrations and content into OneNote, which I use to plan all my trips.

Posted by
4872 posts

Just finished Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr

Thanks to ponygirl813 for the book recommendation. Having already been on the Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul tours, and headed this spring to the Best of Bulgaria tour, it was interesting to read a story set in both countries. And I do love my history - in this case, the fall of Constantinople - in small, historical fiction doses. It was really interesting to read from the perspective of characters on each side of that conquest.

Posted by
569 posts

So glad you enjoyed the book! I've started Nights of Plague by Orhan Pamuk which is set in Turkey but am finding it heavy going. Also the author includes a spoiler early on that one of my favorite characters dies, which dampened my desire to keep reading. So this one may get set aside...

Posted by
318 posts

HI CWsocial,

As you are my expert on the Turkey tours now, I thought I'd try to ask directly. I have these two questions about the Best of Turkey tours after seeing recent Turkey tour scrapbooks: 1) how does a tour member arrange to participate in the hot air ballooning over Cappadocia (I know this isn't included but thought that guides will help set it up very early one day), and 2) in Konya (I presume), does the tour have the chance to see whirling dervishes? Thanks, as always, for your great answers.

Posted by
4872 posts

Hi Kaye, I'm happy to help, and I know others will pitch in with their information, as well!

1) How does a tour member arrange to participate in the hot air ballooning over Cappadocia (I know this isn't included but thought that guides will help set it up very early one day)

Your guide will help to arrange this. She asked us who wanted to participate and we "signed up" verbally with her a day or two ahead. The balloon company came to our tour hotel the evening prior to take payment: credit card or cash (Turkish Lira, I expect - I paid by card) were both accepted. The tour company picked us up at 4:50 the next morning (Best of Turkey Day 5) to drive the ~hour to the takeoff point. We were back at the tour hotel by 8am, in time for breakfast.

The Best of Turkey tour behind us was not able to go on their originally scheduled day, due to a big dust storm that had passed through. They were delayed by a couple of days and I think I remember hearing that they eventually got to go, though it may have been from the next hotel stop.

2) Does the tour have the chance to see whirling dervishes?

Yes! We had the opportunity on Best of Turkey Day 10 to see a Whirling Dervish ceremony in Pamukkale. I recall it was walking distance from our hotel and those who wanted to attend went as a group. The event was less than an hour and the cost was included with the tour.

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Can I Buy a Local SIM Card at the Istanbul Airport

Yes, you can. You can read about various options here:
https://www.traveltomtom.net/destinations/europe/turkey/turkey-sim-card-for-tourists

And specifically read this article (updated for 2023) about buying a SIM card at the Istanbul Airport:
https://www.traveltomtom.net/destinations/europe/turkey/turkey-sim-card-istanbul-airport

I bought a 30 day TurkCell SIM Tourist Pack, which includes 20GB data 200 phone minutes for calling within Turkey, and free, unlimited WhatsApp messaging - even if you're not on wifi. The Turkcell Tourist SIM worked great across my Best of Istanbul and Best of Turkey tours.

I just checked the TurkCell SIM video:
https://www.turkcell.com.tr/tr/hakkimizda/video-galeri/yardim-videolari/tourist-welcome-pack-english-subtitles

Their video says their 30 day tourist pack is is now 149 Turkish Lira, less than $8, if you buy it in Istanbul. If you buy it at the Istanbul Airport, the article says that same package will cost 480 TL.

I just checked my notes: the promotional video said it was 149 TL when I bought mine (not at the airport) but it actually cost me 389TL, about $25, after fees and who knows what else. (Every store can charge what they want.)

If you pay the 480 TL that the article states, today that equates to about $25.

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What Sort of Head Scarf Do Ladies Need?

Ladies, your headscarf should cover all of your hair: front, back and sides. If your guide is one of the ladies, she can show you fashionable ways to wear it. A lightweight scarf is probably best so that you can tuck it in your purse. You never know when the itinerary will include a mosque visit.

Both the Best of Istanbul and the Best of Turkey tours visit the "Cashmere House" in the Grand Bazaar, where they sell hundreds - probably thousands - of scarves in every selection of color, fabric, size/shape and price. Our visit to the Grand Bazaar wasn't the first tour day, and we'd already visited some mosques, so you'll either want to bring a scarf from home or plan to visit the Grand Bazaar before your tour begins.

I paid $15 for a lightweight cotton scarf.

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What Type of Electrical Adapter Do I Need?

Turkey uses the Euro-style 2 prong outlets - the same ones you've used in Germany and France, etc. Electricity is 240 volts. Since most cellphones these days are dual voltage, you shouldn't need a converter, only the prong adapter.

I don't recall any of the tour hotels having USB outlets.

You'll also need to charge your Whisper Headset at night. (If you forget, you'll have to cling to your tour guide to hear their commentary.) I brought my lightweight travel power strip (plus an adapter for it) to have extra outlets and USB ports.

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Do I Need To Bring a Hair Dryer?

I am near-certain that every tour hotel had a hair dryer.

If any of you like to iron your clothes, few, if any of the tour hotels had irons. Though you may have been able to get them from the front desk. I don't know because clothes that need ironing don't get to travel with me :-)

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Do the Tour Buses Have WiFi?

Neither of the tour buses that I was on during my Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul tours had WiFi.

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Do the Tour Buses Have Bathrooms?

Neither of the tour buses during my Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul tours had a bathroom.

ETA: the bus stops every 1.5-2 hours for lunch, a site, or just a comfort break. I never once had to "hope we were stopping soon." One tour member decided to "skip a stop" and regretted it.

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Will My Travel Insurance Cover My Hot Air Balloon Ride?

Short answer: you must read your detailed insurance policy very carefully to know this answer.

I often buy Nationwide Travel Insurance and researched (and bought) it for my Turkey tours.

They do not cover "Extreme Sports" nor "Adventure Sports."
They do not cover "high altitude activities."

So I was surprised to learn, when I contacted them and specifically asked, that Nationwide does cover being a passenger in a hot air balloon.

You really have to read the detailed policy to learn what each insurer covers. And even then, it can pay to ask.

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How Do I Find My Pickup Service at Istanbul Airport?

If you've arranged a driver from the Istanbul airport, your hotel may have told you to go to a specific exit door and look for a code that they gave you, then give your name.

What does that mean?

After you exit immigration, get your bag and pass through the customs hall, you'll be in the arrivals hall. Along the front side of the arrivals area, the exit doors are numbered in sequence above the door. (If you step outside, the door numbers are enormous, even easier to see.)

Once you find your numbered exit door, you'll look for a "greeter" (probably not your eventual driver) with a handheld sign with your "code." Our code was "MSF 38," which our hotel had sent a photo of. We had to step outside our exit door to find our "greeter." You'll see greeters and drivers holding signs with other names and with codes for other people.

When we found the person holding the sign with our code, he checked our names and took us to our vehicle and our actual driver who took us into town.

Our hotel added the cost of the transfer to our hotel bill. Tipping the driver was our responsibility, and our driver clearly wanted Turkish Lira.

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How Do I Find My Exit Door at Istanbul Airport?

I found this perfect video of "Arrival at Istanbul Airport, Walk from the Plane to Exit":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGUq718ltPU

Skip ahead in the video to find:

17:00 Exit with your baggage from customs hall into the arrivals hall
17:07 An exit door, straight ahead (but not door 9)
18:10 Walking towards the "Çıkış" (Exit)
19:00 Turning the corner at Exit #9

You should find your "greeter" holding a sign with your "code" either just inside or just outside that exit door.