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Istanbul trip report -- a gorgeous city to negotiate

Istanbul trip report -- a gorgeous city to negotiate

Old Aug 1st, 2006, 05:33 PM
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Thanks for a great report-

going in November and Cannot wait!!
lornamd is offline  
Old Aug 1st, 2006, 06:16 PM
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Thanks everyone, hope it's helpful and that everyone has a great trip!

another thing...

ALWAYS have an exact address, preferably a business card and even a map with you to give the cabbies. Over half speak very little English -- we were totally confused when the cabbie didn't know what the "Hilton Hotel" in Taksim was. He'd drive up to other cabs in busy traffic and shout out to them in Turkish, "where is the Hilton hotel?" and none of them knew. There's only one Hilton in Taksim, it's very large and located on a major thoroughfare (Cumhuriyet Cadesi). He actually drove around with us for over 10 minutes and then told us to get out of the cab since he couldn't find it and of course he didn't expect to get paid but he seemed frustrated and we felt bad that we hadn't bothered to get an address.
It ended up being 8 blocks away from where he picked us up...

Always pick up business cards wherever you go just in case you want to get back there -- it can be really difficult with the language barrier to meet friends anywhere unless everyone has a business card (many of them have maps on the back)
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Old Aug 4th, 2006, 01:53 AM
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Great report! Bookmarking as well...
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Old Aug 18th, 2006, 10:49 AM
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Good info, we were intrigued by comments about the Grand Bazar -- those are very good prices.

My husband and I sound much older than fishee so I know I won't receive the same treatment -- do you have general comments about bargaining? We know what you mean about looking defensive, this is exactly how we felt at the outdoor markets in Florence -- we felt awkward haggling and people were treating us rather rudely, it was not very pleasant.

We'll be sure to eat before going and have a looksy at other shops so we know the prices outside. We'll remind ourselves this is supposed to be fun and we'll try to be friendly and playful -- any more advice about how to handle the Grand Bazar? (anyone?)
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Old Aug 18th, 2006, 11:49 AM
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Remember that the merchants of the Grand Bazaar have seen and heard most everything.
Some will ask where you are from- then offer a guess- anything to get you in conversation- the first step to get you in the shop.

I usually say Iceland or some other like lesser known country- this will usually stop them from further questions. They do not have a set response. They do not know the Icelandic language too.

When a carpet merchant approaches- a good response- " I am a carpet dealer in my country- not interested"
You can do the same with gold stores - I am a gold merchant - leather or whatever.

Often your first contact outside the shop is with a " Commission Man " he is only paid when you enter " his" shop and buy something - perhaps 10 % of the agreed price. You are actually paying this cost also. His sole job is to get you in the door.

Never offer to give them your price when asked- this automatically sets the minimum price- Always good to give zero as a starting point. Adding - I do not need this-

Everyone will offer you a tea- coffee, cola, etc. trying to keep you in the shop longer and putting you hopefully on the defensive, feeling you should buy something from this nice guy.
No need to drink or if you do feel that way.

I am not a fan of the Grand Bazaar - a nice place to visit and look- usually less than quality goods at inflted prices.

Buyer beware.
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Old Aug 18th, 2006, 11:53 AM
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Bookmarking this for reference. I'm planning to visit Turkey in Fall, 2007.
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Old Aug 20th, 2006, 03:00 PM
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I loved the bazaar although I think the great deals were on things "non-Turkish," i.e. well-made knock-offs. I don't know enough about turkish tiles, plates, rugs, etc. to determine what was high-quality although I'm told that some of it is actually very high quality. The leather jackets looked very well made -- soft buttery leather, well tailored, tight, straight seams. (Didn't matter to me since I can't afford it anyway)


I felt like merchants were more amenable on the weekday when things were slow, not very many people. Some of them were sighing in a kind of bored, resigned way - it wasn't nearly as intense as on Saturday when it was crowded and they were quickly sizing me up figuring out how much money they thought I'd spend. Go when you think it's going to be slow and then you can take your time, there's definitely less pressure and it's more leisurely.

When I was in a hurry, I'd give them the price I wanted to pay and stuck to it -- I told them I'm in a hurry and I didn't have time to do the back and forth, if they said it was too low, I'd smile sincerely and thank them for their time and rush on. They always gave me the price except for one time... 5 Lira for sunglasses, how much cheaper could they get? 15 Lira for a Dolce and Gabbana tee -- that's 9 bucks!

Buy multiple items although don't announce this at first... Name a price you think is too low and when they say no, offer to buy two.

Go with a list -- I knew I needed gifts for many people so I kept referring to my list and didn't end up overwhelmed with totally random stuff.

Smile! Have fun! They're businessmen but not the enemy! I would think to myself, if I found this at a discount boutique or discount store in the U.S. would I faint with happiness and think the tag was mis-marked? I'm very happy with all my purchases.

Like I mentioned in the report, venture to the edge shops that are technically not under the bazaar roof. Walk into the bazaar building itself (which is quite beautiful) and once under the roof, cut right (or left) and keep walking until you seem to be heading to an alley right outside of the bazaar -- prices seemed lower at these places, I'm guessing beacuse of lower rents.

Tell them that your friend got something for x price a few days before. (We did this honestly, our friend did get something but it occurred to us we could just do this anywhere...)

If people would post their purchases and the prices they paid at the Grand Bazaar, that might help future shoppers know what the price range is?

Have a great time!
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Old Aug 23rd, 2006, 09:16 AM
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thanks for the additional tips everyone! I don't think anyone is going to believe I'm from Iceland but I'll think of a good substitute!
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Old Sep 1st, 2006, 07:02 PM
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fishee-Loved all your reporting.We fly out next week for a month trip but will be in Turkey from September 16th to October 1st.(Istanbul for 5 days of it)
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Old Sep 1st, 2006, 08:27 PM
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dear fishee thx for the excellent report and memories. we were ther in '90. stayed in a restored wooden house against the walls of Topkapi.

We were toured about one day by a turkish friend of the family who took us for lunch at Pendeli in the Spice Bazaar. It's still one of my favorite meals ( as we went back a few times)

spent a very cool morning on a hot day in the Cistern Palace filleed with roman columns underground

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Old Sep 3rd, 2006, 06:17 AM
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Thanks fishee. Great report. We're booked at the Seven Hills in early November. it was the pictures of the view from the rooftop that put it over the edge. Can't wait. Lots of good practical advice here. Appreciate it.
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 12:14 PM
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Great report...bookmarking for my Sept. 2007 trip planning reference!
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Old Oct 30th, 2006, 11:14 PM
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wow! that was in great detail.we are a group of 5 adults and planning turkey sometime in a month or so. we are from india. if we do a 5 or 6 day tour on a comfortable budget (no 5 star accomodation and at the same time comfortable, clean hotels) how much would it cost approx. and is there any good travel agent thro whom we can do our own bookings and itinerary over net.how did you go about planning your itinerary.. in the sense how did you narrow down on what are the must sees and dos in turkey sort of thing?
it would be a great help if you could give me a lead.

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Old Oct 31st, 2006, 10:34 AM
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you might try an apartment rental unless privacy is very important to you -- are you traveling as couples, i.e. could you do a 2 Br apartment? This would be cheaper than 3 hotel rooms.... Here's two we considered:

Flat#511 http://www.flatsinistanbul.com/flats/511.shtml

For hotels, the Uyan range is the lowest I'd go if you still expect a very clean room and good services -- 80-ish Euro for a double room if paid in cash.

Istanbul wasn't terribly cheap as I heard it used to be 5-7 yrs ago. But food is reasonably priced compared to W Europe if you eat at kabab stands and cafeterias -- maybe 6 USD for lunch, including a plain yogurt drink.

Purchase a guidebook and add it all up: lodging, airfare, dining at restaurants... Again I think an apartment rental is the way to go for substantial savings, plus you don't have to eat out for both lunch and dinner everyday. I only do the apartments with very good friends if the flats are small.

I think the Empress Zoe or Dersaadat Hotel has a "penthouse" or duplex unit that also sleeps 4-5 people. good luck!
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