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What places should we see with a guide in Istanbul?

What places should we see with a guide in Istanbul?

Old Mar 10th, 2007, 11:06 AM
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What places should we see with a guide in Istanbul?

We are having problems figuring out an itinerary for Istanbul. There's a ton of things we'd like to see and do. We'd like to do a combination of independent exploration and guided tours. Our problem is we don't know which places we'd need a guide and which places we should explore alone. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Here's our itinerary:

August 30 - Arrive in Istanbul at 1:45pm; transfer to hotel
August 31 - Depart Istanbul at 1:15pm and arrive in Kayseri at 2:30pm; transfer to hotel
September 1 - Cappadocia
September 2 - Cappadocia
September 3 - Cappadocia
September 4 - Depart Kayseri at 3:15pm and arrive in Istanbul at 4:30pm; transfer to hotel
September 5 - Istanbul
September 6 - Istanbul
September 7 - Istanbul
September 8 - Depart Istanbul for Athens, Greece at 10:05am

We'd be on our own the first two partial days and get a guide for 2 of the last 3 days.

Here's the list of sites that we've compiled so far:
Sultanahmet - Topkapi Palace (Istanbul Archaeology Museum), Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia, Hippodrome, and the Cistern.
Bosphorus cruise
Dolmabache Palace
Shopping: Istiklal Caddesi, Grand Bazaar, and the Spice Bazaar
Taksim Square
Galata Tower
St. Savior in Chora
Ortakoy
Visit a hamam (obviously don't need a guide
Walk along the waterfront and see Kiz Kulesi

Besides seeing all the touristy things, we'd like to get a local feel for the place - through music or galleries, etc. We probably don't have time for all of these things, but I welcome your suggestions!
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Old Mar 10th, 2007, 11:29 AM
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Istanbul is great. Stay in the old city. You don't need a tour for anything in Istanbul. If you stay in the old city you can walk to everything except the grand bazaar. We did it all on our own. Definitely go the blue mosque and the grand bizaar. If you take cab rides, which we did, watch out for them trying to con you - they will. Bargain with them for the price ahead of time. There is no set price and don't let them tell you differently. And make sure what size bill you give them because they will lie and say you gave them a smaller amount.

You definitely need to set up a guided tour for Cappodocia. It's huge. We set up a three day tour that takes you to the different cites, to the caves and hiking one day. It would be difficult to do this on your own. Unfortunately, I can't remember who we went through. I think we just set it up when we got to Istanbul. Turkey is very tourist friendly and therefore very easy to get around. Just go to one of the million tourist places when you get to Istabul to plan the guided tour.

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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 08:27 AM
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Taxi suggestions. Each taxi has a meter and by law, they are supposed to use them. Make sure it is on and point at it, saying Taksimetre, pronounced "TAHK see meht treh" and that rate will normally be cheaper than haggling. Also, when the meter comes on, make sure it says "Gundez" which is the day time rate. The night time rate "Gece" is 50% high than the daytime rate. Like the above poster, make sure that you have almost have exact change for the fare so you won't be caught in "I don't have change" routine. BUt really, taxis are cheap compared to US big cities. When we are in Istanbul, we often go to a hotel and ask their desk or front door man to hail us a cab. Same things for restaurants. We also carry some of our hotel's business cards with the address to give to the driver.
We hope that you really enjoy this great city.
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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 09:16 AM
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Thanks for the responses and the taxi advice. We were wondering if we needed guides, especially for the palaces and the Bosphorus cruise. Did you just use guidebooks?

sfgirl1 - We will definitely use a guide in Cappadocia. We'll probably go with Aregus and do a three day tour. We're also doing the hot air balloon tour with Kapadokya.

MnJ - Thanks for the advice. We are very excited about our trip!
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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 09:30 AM
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You donīt need a guide but get a good guidebook so you can read the background information.

Dolmanbache palace is always a guided tour. But the only guides that get to do it are the palaceīs official ones. The tour starts when there are enough people (5-10). Those are done in different languages.
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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 09:32 AM
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And the Harem is always a guided tour. And the guides are already there, you cannot take your own.
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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 10:19 AM
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Thanks elina. It says that in my Frommer's guide. I've just reached the point of information overload!
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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 10:20 AM
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I did most of the city on my own - very easy to get around on public transport or taxi - but did engage a guide for Topkapi palace. A major advantage is that you avoid the ticket queue which can get long; the guides get group tickets without having to wait in line. In addition, the place is pretty expansive and the guides are able to steer you through pretty well, and can judge when one part is crowded and best visited a bit later.
The Grand bazaar is amazing for its size and it is easy to get overwhelmed, but just but map out a route and work your way through. You will see many of the same things at various stalls, so do shop for price. If you are not accustomed to haggling - start practicing! The typical approach is "please join me for a glass of tea" which then evolves into a sales pitch. Feel free to say no thank you or simply not respond.
Do not miss the Spice Market - it is amazing! Avoid the prepackaged saffron - the clear plastic discs display a few threads that have often been dyed to look richer and inside is inferior stuff. There is at least on stall that sells saffron in bulk and you can see it being weighed out - go for that.
Istiklal is very doable on your own - just stroll up and down the pedestrian street, or take the tram to Taksim square at the top and work your way back down.
You do not need a guide for the Bosphorus cruise. Though you will see several package tours offering it, you can easily do it on your own.
There have been several trip reports here - try doing a search for Istanbul.
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Old Mar 11th, 2007, 10:40 AM
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Thanks for the advice Seamus. I'm really looking forward to the bazaars.
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Old Mar 13th, 2007, 09:40 AM
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You can do the Bosphorus cruise on own.
Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia, St. Savior in Chora and Topkapi can be better with a good guide. I always love to hear mor information in depth.

Happy travelling,
Murat
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Old Mar 16th, 2007, 05:27 PM
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Murat - Thanks for the suggestion. We are booking a 1-day tour with Argeus of Topkapi, Haghia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Chora, and the Grand Bazaar (if we have time).
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Old Mar 16th, 2007, 06:03 PM
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You can rent a guide at the Topkap Palace. They stand next to the ticket booth. There is a guided tour of the Harem (which should not be missed unless you are a no-good fool). I really don't think you need a guide for the Topkapi Palace.

I did have a guide for Chora, which was a mitsvah, as there was a lot of history behind this church/mosque. This is a gem of a place, so don't miss it, sweetie darling.

You can only take a guided tour through the Dolmahbache Palas, so you don't nee a private guide. Get there early, as there are long lines by noon during the summer months.

Have you read my trip report on Istanbul?
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Old Mar 16th, 2007, 06:49 PM
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MM - I adore your trip report. It will be traveling to Istanbul with us.

Both of us have been to Europe before without guides (I've been to Italy and my friend has been to Spain, Italy, and France). Based on what friends and family that have been to Istanbul have told us, we decided to have a guide for one day. Of course they all disagreed on where exactly we would need a guide .

Have you been to Greece before (I think I read you are going this summer but have been previously)? Any tips for two girls in their late twenties? After Istanbul, we are going to Thessaloniki (using it as a base for day trips to Vergina, Dion and possibly another to Meteora), Delphi, Santorini, and Athens for the second week. We thought about swaping the three days in Thessaloniki for Crete, but we'll probably stick with the original plan.
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Old May 5th, 2007, 11:26 AM
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Marginal-Margiela,
where can I find your Istanbul trip report?
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Old May 5th, 2007, 11:47 AM
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Look for his hilarious Istanbul report under the screen name, Thingorjus. I think it was called something like "Turkey in the Straw.."
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