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What I learned this Spring on 2 RS tours.

I am back from my first back to back RS tours. We started with the Best of Portugal on 4/4 and then did The best of Turkey starting on 4/18. Loved both tours and our guides were great. Here are some some things, in no particular order I would like to pass along.

If you are bringing a credit card be sure it is “Tap” enabled. A couple of tour members were left scrambling when the credit card machine would only take the credit card via a tap. Look for the Wi-Fi like symbol on the back of the card and test it before you leave. In Turkey the tap water is not recommended for human consumption. Be sure to check with your guide and the hotel staff on if the bottled water in the room is complimentary. We found out the hard way the water outside the mini-fridge was free but the bottles inside were not. Buying the large 1.5 liter bottles and refilling our water bottles did reduce our plastic footprint a bit. While the bus in Portugal had both Wi-Fi and usb charging ports the bus in Turkey had neither. So be prepared with power blocks. Both my wife and I purchased cell phone neck lanyards for our phones. It was the best investment I made for these trips. No worries of losing my phone overboard on our many boat trips, or out of the balloon in Cappadocia. Our Turkey visit was the first time in Europe where I wish I had brought more US currency. The Lira is having a tough time right now so many locations are only accepting dollars or Euros. The balloon ride in Cappadocia only took euros or dollars via their credit card machine. The Turkish bath visit took Lira but only cash no credit card. Be sure to understand your COVID testing requirements. Be sure to understand the hours vs day requirements when planning your tests. Both my wife and I and a fellow traveler bought Abbott Labs Binax Now proctored home test to use for our return. All three of us could not get them to work and we could not reach customer support. Bring a small unfolding umbrella! We got rain in both Portugal and Turkey and we had a lot of wet fellow travels who thought RS said not to bring one.

Happy Travels!

Posted by
1 posts

I’m hearing about problems with the Abott proctored tests but mostly false negatives. Did you figure out why yours didn’t work?

Posted by
95 posts

No, after an hour on hold with CS I gave up and went with the rest of tour group for an arranged test our guide setup. Both tests returned “Invalid Code” when scanning the QR code from both boxes via three different devices, two IPhones and an IPAD.

Posted by
27447 posts

There are two versions of the Abbott test--a proctored version and a self-test version. Is it possible you purchased the self-test version by mistake?

Posted by
95 posts

Nope, it was the proctored test there is a big price difference between the two tests and the box said proctored test, do not open until you have connected via the app.

Posted by
1259 posts

Thank you for contributing your experience and advice. Great stuff. Welcome home.

Posted by
90 posts

Which cell phone lanyard did you purchase. So many options, great to hear of one that worked and that you liked.

Posted by
4946 posts

I am taking notes, thank you for all of your Turkey tips!

Posted by
467 posts

I too would like to know what cell phone lanyard you purchased. I looked at some on Amazon before going to London in March and I was overwhelmed by choice and didn't buy one. Thank you for the heads up about the currency. We are doing Best of Istanbul in October.

And I'd contact Abbott for a refund of the costs of those tests that didn't work.

Posted by
95 posts

I purchased my cell phone strap from REI. But I sure it is made by Nitize. Their product is called HITCH® PHONE ANCHOR + LANYARD. It’s basically a square pad with some adhesive that goes on the inside of your phone protective case with a loop and ring that go through the charging port hole in the case. I have an IPhone 13 but I still charge via the port. Does make for a snug fit but it works fine.

Posted by
70 posts

Ran into the same issue with the Binax Now test. Ignore the box instruction - instead log onto the eMed website directly (be sure to have the Navica app on your phone/tablet). The proctor will scan the QR code when they get on on line. Worked great for us.

Posted by
2491 posts

Thanks for the detailed report. Were you able to get a refund on the tests?

Posted by
95 posts

Waiting on a reply, but I don’t hold out much hope, we had to ditch the boxes in Turkey for luggage space but I did keep the test kits .

Posted by
7050 posts

The Lira is having a tough time right now so many locations are only
accepting dollars or Euros. The balloon ride in Cappadocia only took
euros or dollars via their credit card machine.

Sounds like they are trying to shake down tourists, who probably feel like they have to choice but to meet these demands (if they want to participate in the service or to buy the product). I wonder what would happen if someone simply pushed back and said that they are going to pay in the local currency, thank you very much. I guess the problem is that if the merchant doesn't want to play nice, no one can make him/her accept the Lira if they want something more profitable. Only option for tourist is to put up or walk.

Posted by
2113 posts

Did tour members wear masks correctly and even outside if in a crowded area? Also, did the group eat inside or outside? If inside how crowded we’re the restaurants?

Posted by
95 posts

On both trips mask were required on the bus at all time. As far as I can remember all meals were inside, some in areas with just our group but most times at tables inside a restaurant. Most places were not crowded. Inside mask were worn in museums, and other RS tour site visits, i.e churches, mosques, bus stops. Outside it was up to each person if they wanted to mask up. On the Portugal tour one person wore two masks almost the entire time and many folks did mask up out doors. But at meal time mask were taken off for the meal. While we were in Turkey the indoor mask requirement was lifted but most tour members continued to mask up. We had no pre-tour positive COVID tests for any members of both tours, And both end tour testing were all negative except for one member who stayed an extra two day and then tested positive. We were in Turkey during Ramadan so if we ate before sunset the restaurants were pretty empty. All the hotel staffs were masked all the time.

Posted by
74 posts

How were the hotels on the Best of Turkey? I read another post about at least one hotel not being too great. Great idea about the lanyard, I had not thought of that.

Posted by
2768 posts

On the test kit - I had that error once. It’s still usable. You go into the app, click I have a test, try to scan, but there’s an option for “trouble scanning”. You select the test from a list - you want the one with the red band, the ag card. That’s the proctored one. Click that and it takes you to emed where you can test. Results still show in your app.

Posted by
95 posts

Sorry for the late replies, still catching up for being gone for a month.

Good news on the test kit. I received an email today saying I will be getting a full refunds. Only took two emails to customer service.

On the hotels. This trips had seven hotels. All were ok to way over the top.
The first hotel was the Acra Hotel in Istanbul. There have been some post about this in the Turkey forums. I found it to be a good hotel, good breakfast, good location, but a little worn around the edges. The staff was very helpful. Our next hotel was the Occidental Hotel Ankara in Ankara. Typical European business hotel with smaller rooms but good Wi-Fi and quiet. Next was Cappadocia Estates in Urgup. This was by far my favorite. This is a Cave hotel, so the rooms are carved out of rock, heated floor in the bathroom, could use more light. Largest rooms on the trip. The room next door had a full conference area in it. It’s owned by the family that runs SRM travel. Breakfast were good. Lots of open space and decks to hang out on. They set up a happy hour table with wine by the bottle or glass for sale. We did a picnic dinner for our second night. Up next was Hotel Sems in Konya. Another business class hotel in downtown. Nice rooms, and custom made omelette for breakfast. In Anatalya we stayed at Ninova Pension. Much more of a RS type of hotel. In the old town, family run, and I believe we were the only people in the hotel. Older facility, Wi-Fi a bit poor as I remember. Had great gardens, a bar for beer and wine sales, outdoor seating for breakfast. Our next to last was Villa Lycus in Pamukkale. This was the largest hotel we stayed at. This is a resort town and our hotel was used by several other tour groups, so the dinner buffet and breakfast were very busy with several Asian tour groups. Nice quite rooms, a thermal spa on site, but not really enough time to take advantage of them. The last hotel was Hotel Ilayda Avantgarde in Kusadasi. This was my second favorite hotel of the trip. A business class hotel right next to the ocean. Quite, very clean. Rooftop bar with pool. Close to many restaurants and the main shopping area for the last minute items.

Well I hope this helps out.

Posted by
22 posts

Thank you for all of the excellent information! We will be flying to Istanbul next Thursday to join the May 23rd Best of Turkey Tour. Thanks to your recommendation I just ordered a cell phone lanyard, mainly in hopes of doing the hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia. I would never have thought of such a thing but see how important it could be to have! We will be staying in the same hotels you stayed in... I cannot wait!

Posted by
2491 posts

Oh good, glad they refunded you for those tests.

Posted by
73 posts

West Coast, thank you for your detailed trip report. Very informative. How was the weather in Turkey in April? In general the hotels sound very nice and it sounds like you had a great trip!

Posted by
95 posts

The weather was kinda all over the map in Turkey. When we arrived in Istanbul it was rainy and cold. I wish I had brought my gloves and scarf. When our tour guide ask the group what we wanted most on this trip one person responded Sun. Well that happened by our third day in Istanbul and temperatures warmed up over the rest of the trip. So I would say outside of the 55-58 degrees in Istanbul we were mostly in the high 60 to low 80 over the rest of the trip.