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Do the mosques and palaces in Istanbul offer decent English tours, or do you have to hire tour guides?

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Sep 17th, 2000, 08:59 PM
  #1
Lynn
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Do the mosques and palaces in Istanbul offer decent English tours, or do you have to hire tour guides?

Leaving for Istanbul on Friday and was wondering if the mosques/palaces offer the option of an English-speaking tour when you purchase a ticket. I looked into a private tour guide for the 2 of us and it was quite pricey.
Thanks for any info.
 
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Sep 18th, 2000, 04:54 AM
  #2
Dave
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Lynn,

The following is from memory and hence given without warranty:

There is an English tour of the Harem in Topkapi Palace. I would recommend arriving at the Palace entrance at (or before) opening time and going straight to the ticket window for the Harem Tour. Tour buses tend to snatch up these tickets quickly, and it's a great tour.

I don't recall having the option of taking a tour of any of the mosques I visited; in most the area open to the public was fairly limited (most mosques are essentially one large open space, so that's not really a problem). There are surely some small rooms that are hidden away from non-muslims, but I don't know if you could see them even with a guide. Keep in mind that you will also have to time Mosque visits around the calls to prayer.

You might ask at your hotel. In Turkey, things still work very much on a private-network. The owners may have a relative or friend who gives tours at a reasonable price. Be warned that many private tours (and most organized tours) in Turkey end with a visit to a carpet shop, leather shop, etc.

Dave
 
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Sep 18th, 2000, 07:58 AM
  #3
Paulo
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As Dave informs, Lynn, the only way to visit the Harem in Topkapi palace is by taking a guided tour (it's included in the entry ticket, which you have to buy separately). It's possible to have an English speaking tour to the rest of the Topkapi Palace site. One other site that's only possible to visit on a guided tour is the Dohlmambace (??) Palace. Regarding mosques, we only managed to have things explained to us in a mosque in Bursa ... the local "iman" gently took over a guide's role. In Istanbul, I haven't noticed anything looking as a guided tour in the main mosques (Blue, Suleymaniye, Beyazit, etc). On the other hand, I saw a couple of guided tours in Haghia Sophia and one in Chora church ... it didn't look as if one could just join a tour at the spot, though (the groups I saw could be part of a general guided tour in Istambul).

Paulo
 
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Sep 21st, 2000, 06:20 PM
  #4
Joanna
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If guides are too pricey and you aren't obliged to join a tour to see the sites, why not invest in a good guide book, such as the Michelin guide. They usually have a floor plan and very detailed information.
 
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Oct 14th, 2000, 12:18 PM
  #5
Randy
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I'm wondering how you don't get an english speaking guide...for free. Both days we spent in Istanbul we had our choice of several people more than willing to walk around with us to explain the history of the local attractions...cheaply. Obviously, these people are looking for you to buy something. We got a great overview of the downtown area, Blue Mosque, Aya Sophia, Cisterne, and Topkapai Palace just for agreeing to look at the guys uncle's carpet store. Cost=$0! You do have to be careful as many locals can be harrassing, but you will find many shop owners and peddlers willing to give you a quick guided tour. For the indoor attractions such as Aya Sophia and the Cisterene, buy a good guidebook.
 
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Oct 14th, 2000, 01:42 PM
  #6
Patrick
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I am usually far more comfortable using a good guide book and going at my own pace. We did the obligatory "English" guided tour of the harem at Topkapi and we were stunned that it was all in Turkish. We couldn't understand a word. Then after about ten minutes we finally realized that the guide was speaking in English, we just couldn't understand a word of it. By the way, our one rip-off in Turkey was at the Blue Mosque. As we arrived a man came over to us and told us to remove our shoes which we were already about to do. He was wearing a badge and told us it would be so many Lira each -- about $15 total. He handed us each a big folder of postcards and showed us the way in. It wasn't until later we found out there is no charge for entering, he simply sold us postcards. I'd also be very wary of free tour guides showing you something in exchange for looking at their carpets. I heard some outrageously wrong statements made by this type of tour guide all over the place. Just because a person is local, don't expect him to be an expert on history, culture, or anything else.
 
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Nov 2nd, 2000, 09:14 PM
  #7
nejat
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Please beware of anyone telling you he or she will help you showing the sites
and this people are unlicensed and their
aim is to take you a carpet or leather dealer after showing you something.
Topkapi and Dolmabahce palaces have their own guided tours although topkapi is only at harems sections.
There are possibilities you can hire a guide locally at sites too.
For any futher inquaries please donot hesitate in emailing me or posting here.
thks and regards
Nejat Incedogan
guide lecturer
 
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Nov 3rd, 2000, 09:48 PM
  #8
alan
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Hi! We returned from a week in Istanbul about 5 weeks ago. There is an English tour of the Blue Mosque. When you buy your ticket ask when the next tour in English is given. At the English tour were many other Europeans. During the other tours of the mosques and Aya Sofia we used a good guidebook for a self tour. The touts and hustlers are out there. May I also recommend taking the ferry up to Anadolu Kavagi on the Asian side of the Boshorus. The trip is very inexpensive and takes about 3hrs roundtrip. We as most people do get off and have lunch there before going up to the ruins of a Ventian castle. The site is magnificent. There is a place to have tea also on the way up. The seafood is fresh and there are many restaurants to chhose from. It is timed so that you stay for about 3 hrs there before returning. The Asian side is more peaceful appearing. enjoy alan
 
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Oct 15th, 2012, 07:31 AM
  #9
 
Join Date: May 2005
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But as he has spammed every other Turkey thread (possibly for the second day running?)
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