So, we’re just back from three glorious weeks in Turkey and we had a fabulous time.
Thank you to everyone who has ever posted trip reports and advice. I didn’t really ask too many questions but planned the entire trip using fodors/tripadvisor/turkeytravelplanner. I read lots of trip reports and used Lonely Planet and DK Eyewitness guide books. What I did find was that there wasn’t too much information on Turkey with young kids. Many times I second guessed myself because my kids are 2.5 and 5 years old, and most of the people traveling to Turkey with kids seemed to be staying in the all inclusive resorts in Antalya or Bodrum.
Anyway, I’m just going to list what we did and what I think might help other travelers considering Turkey especially with children. English isn’t my native language so I apologize in advance for any grammatical or other errors.
Istanbul: we spent the first four nights in the Sultanamet area close to the Sirkeci tram stop and the last four nights of the trip in the Taksim Square area. I will post hotel reviews separately.
IstanbulKart: We bought the card at the kiosk at the Eminönü pier. I wanted to pick it up at the airport but I had read you had to go to a level below and the lines at immigration were crazy. I was a little shocked when I saw the crowd, endless serpentine queues winding back and forth at least ten times. There were lots of screaming kids in the queues but fortunately, my youngest had napped well on the flight and was in a relatively good mood. A lot of other airports I’ve been through in the last few years (Dubai, Singapore, London, Hong Kong) with the kids have always given priority to families with babies and young children but not here. We spent an hour and half in the queue. I’m not complaining, just an observation.
Trams: My kids loved the trams although they did get crowded at certain times. The people were very very kind and would always offer us their seats. It is very true that Turkish people love children. My youngest is probably going to miss all the attention! They were given sweets, picked up and hugged, kissed, petted on the head.
Turyol ferry: We crossed the bridge to the other side to find the Turyol ferries for the 90 minute Bosphorus Cruise. I thought this is about the right amount of time for the kids to be on a boat and I was right. It was perfect. Just thought I’d mention there were lots of people with strollers on the cruise. You just park it up front where you board the boat. I wasn’t sure about taking the stroller and I couldn’t find much information online, but it was a breeze. Also, I wasn’t sure about using the stroller on the cobblestone streets of Istanbul where pavements aren’t the norm, but I my youngest’s legs would have given way if I made him walk through the Sultanamet area. So yes, you can use strollers on the streets of Istanbul (old city area). There were a lot of strollers about.
Definitely get tickets online for the Hagia Sofia and the Basilica Cistern. The lines were huge. My kids especially liked the fish in the underground cistern and running in the grass outside the Topkapi Palace! Also the German fountain.
Golden Horn Ferry: one day we thought we’d take the ferry to the stop Hasköy for the kids to visit the Rahmi Koc Museum. I followed TTP’s directions to find the ferry at Eminönü by walking west along the Golden Horn shore past the Turyol boats towards the T.C. Istanbul Ticaret Universitesi building. Then I walked towards the water and took a left. I got to a wooden building, except it wasn’t the right wooden building. I asked for directions and realized I had walked in the wrong direction. You need to take a right once to get to the water, or alternatively, its easier to walk through the bus stop/ parking lot (which we discovered when we got back). I had printed out the Golden Horn ferry schedule so we knew when to head to the pier to catch a ferry back to Eminonu.
Taksim Square/ Istikal Street: We flew back into Istanbul on the 15th of May (our hotel was exactly on the corner of Taksim and Istikal Street) two days after the mining disaster. I was a little concerned with the news reports of the protests and strikes in the area and called the hotel the morning we were to arrive to assess the situation. They said things had settled down and we shouldn’t have problems getting to the hotel from the airport. I booked a transfer from the airport just to be safe for 30Euros. We got there fine. My kids loved walking down Istikal street although there was heavy police presence in the area over the next 4 days. They loved the nostalgic tram and the furnicular to Kabatas. We also walked to the Galata tower area one evening. We saw a lot of the protesters (even the employees at the M.A.C. shop on Istikal had blackened their faces in protest) as we walked the area but otherwise things seemed normal. I was never concerned for the safety of my children. All the people we talked to said to only worry about the police using more force than necessary.
Dolmabahce Palace: I looked online and elsewhere for tickets in advance thinking the queues would be bad, but we got to the palace around noon and it wasn’t crowded at all. We only did the Selamik tour thinking my kids wouldn’t have the patience to walk through the harem as well and it worked well. You should have seen my 2.5 year old awed by the ceiling in the last hall. It was funny, he was walking with his head tilted up. We thought we’d have a bite at the café outside the palace. The service there was extremely slow. The worse we have encountered over our 3 weeks in turkey. The food was good though.
Grand Bazaar: we took the tram to the grand bazaar to walk around a bit. We didn’t really make many purchases. We found the spice bazaar better especially those alleys to the left.
Miniaturk: We took the bus from Taksim Square (54ht) to Miniaturk one morning, I thought the kids would enjoy seeing miniature versions of the stuff they had already seen on their trip. They had a good time. The whole place can be seen in less than 2 hours, it isn’t very big. If it wasn’t for the kids, I wouldn’t have bothered with it. My youngest train crazy son loved the train ride around the place.
Taxi scams: Only one time we took a taxi, we almost got scammed. I kept telling the driver to put the meter on and he kept pointing down to something saying it was. It didn’t look like a meter to me. We finally got to our destination and he punched some numbers on that gadget he had down and said it was 65TL. I had prices of approximate fares for the distances we intended taking cabs and it shouldn’t have been more than 25TL. I told him that wasn’t a meter and he wasn’t being honest, got out of the cab, took a picture of his cab and his number plate and him and took out my wallet to pay him. He immediately said I could pay him 30TL and please delete the pictures… other than that everyone we met was lovely.
Princes Island: It was pretty straight forward catching the ferry from Kabatas. Very nice day out.
Coming up: Cappadocia, Izmir/Selcuk/Kusadasi, Pammukale, Fethiye, Kas, Antalya.
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Turkey trip report: 3 weeks in Turkey with two young children
So, we’re just back from three glorious weeks in Turkey and we had a fabulous time.