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New International Traveler Going To Turkey

A friend has invited me to visit Turkey where they have been living for a while. I've not traveled much outside the United States due to parenting and family commitments - much to my disappointment - and so am very happy to have this opportunity though concerned I am doing so on a very tight budget for a multi-month stay.

  1. Any feelings on safety in Southwestern part of country or in general. Obvious issues are present in the region and have consulted US State Department and Embassy comments.

  2. Best cell phone provider? Purchase in US and exchange SIM card?

  3. Emergency health/evacuation insurance? Though I am an athlete the trip is partially a respite from some unresolved and exhausting health issues. I've known some mountain climbers and others to buy evacuation insurance? Comments?

  4. Ease of travel to other countries in the region? I'd like to get some dental work done in Eastern Europe and of course explore the region. Geographically it would seem easy to be based in Turkey. Comments?

  5. Flight options? I see a number of carriers with many one-stop options from the United States. Experiences? Also, would it be possible for me to arrange layovers in one or two cities without increasing my costs beyond a hotel? So London or some other European city.

Thanks for any input on these or via your experiences. I've waited to travel for a long time and am excited but am doing so under less than optimal financial and health conditions - thanks for all advice/experiences/input.

Posted by
448 posts

I was in Europe last August-September which included 6 days in Edinburgh, 18 days in London, and 5 days in Istanbul with two transit days. Because my health insurance plan would pay for hospitalization overseas (they would not pay for non-hospitalization care) but would not cover transportation back to the States I decided to purchase a medical evacuation insurance policy. I figured that if I did have a significant medical problem that required special transportation to the States the cost of this service could be quite(!) expensive. Consequently, I purchased a $150 policy from Travel Guard which included $1,000,000 of medical evacuation, something like $500,000 for security evacuation, and maybe $50,000 for medical care. This did not provide any typical trip insurance. This was for 30 days. The language of this was somewhat ambiguous in that they would transport you to the nearest place where you would appropriate care for the problem. In London this might be interpreted (in my mind) as an ambulance ride from my hotel or local tourist spot to the local teaching hospital. The policy was really intended for my stay in Istanbul where the quality of medical services was an unknown to me. The only other policy that I considered as MedJet(?) which cost something like $300/year for evacuation to any location in the world. Now I see that AAA offers something like these plans.

Good luck.

Posted by
11262 posts

A good source of information is the Turkey Travel Planner website: http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/

Ease of travel to other countries in the region? I'd like to get some dental work done in Eastern Europe and of course explore the region. Geographically it would seem easy to be based in Turkey. Comments?<<

They may be geographically close, but the land links (buses and trains) between Turkey and neighboring European countries are limited. You would most likely fly between them. Getting to, say, Romania, from Turkey isn't necessarily easier than it is from France. Some details of options besides flights are here: http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/trans/getting_to_tk.html

To find flights within Europe, a good source is Skyscanner: http://www.skyscanner.com/

Flight options? I see a number of carriers with many one-stop options from the United States. Experiences? Also, would it be possible for me to arrange layovers in one or two cities without increasing my costs beyond a hotel? So London or some other European city.<<

To find all your flight options, start with Kayak: http://www.kayak.com/flights. If you want a layover, use the "multi city" option (for instance: leg 1 Omaha to London, leg 2 London to Istanbul, leg 3 Istanbul to Omaha). You'll see that these days, a layover usually does increase the flight price, sometimes by a lot (there was a time when this was not true). One exception is Icelandair, which often has packages allowing a stayover in Reykjavik for little or no extra cost.

If you have the option to use Turkish Air, do so - my experience, which is matched by other posters here, is that they are far nicer, even in coach, than most other airlines. If you can say where you're starting from, others can give you more specifics. For instance, if you're on the west coast of the US, it's usually better to change in Europe than in the US, due to shorter flight times and more options if your arrival is delayed.

Posted by
1814 posts

For emergency evacuation insurance, I recommend you check out Diver's Alert Network (DAN). You don't have to be a diver to use it. When you purchase a membership ($35 per year for a single person), you get up to $100,000 of evacuation assistance coverage and other travel assistance benefits.

And what I really like is that it goes into effect any time you are more than 50 miles away from home. So my husband and I have a family policy ($55/year) that we keep in effect all of the time, to use on our international travels and even when we're traveling within the US. I have thankfully never needed to use their help, but a friend was evacuated from Switzerland with a broken leg and recommended them highly to us.

Regarding your flight options, talk to the airlines directly regarding the possibility of stopovers (which are more than one night) or layovers (usually just one night), as well as open-jaw tickets. If you will be traveling from Turkey to, say, Budapest for your dental work, you might want to arrange your trip so the dental work is at the end of your visit, and fly home from Budapest rather than backtracking to Turkey. So your flight request to the airline would be: an outgoing flight from your home to Istanbul, with a 3-day stopover in London along the way; and the return flight to your home from Budapest, with a 1-night layover in Vienna. (Or whatever.)

Posted by
16856 posts

The only easy way to travel from Turkey to neighboring countries is by flying; see www.skyscanner.com. Trains run once per day to Bulgaria, with a connection in the middle of the night, and don't run to Greece at all.

I have always felt quite safe traveling in the western half of Turkey. See also general tips at:

http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/trip-planning/tips-for-solo-women-travelers

http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/theft-scams/outsmarting-pickpockets.