Istanbul is truly an amazing destination and one that you’ll likely want to return to again and again. And every time, it will be different – that’s the nature of such a vibrant and dynamic metropolis! Here are ten tips to get the most out of your vacations in Istanbul.
1) Remember that in a city with the kind of size, history, and diversity Istanbul offers, you’ll never be able to “do” everything. And that’s a good thing – so sit back and enjoy every moment, whether it’s checking out the fast-paced nightlife or just leisurely sipping a Turkish apple tea or strong hit of thick mokka chased back with water.
2) Plan well in advance, then let serendipity be your guide. It’s often said that the traveler’s best friend is information – but equally true is that the traveler’s best attribute is flexibility. Plan well and read up on the destination before you go – it will help make your experiences richer and steer you toward particular places or experiences of interest – but once there, allow the magic and serendipity of Istanbul (or any place, for that matter!) guide you toward accidental discoveries and pleasant surprises.
3) Learn a few words of Turkish. Don’t worry – we don’t mean you have to master the nuances of its eight different vowels, its lack of the verb to be, or its agglutinating verbs. Just learn a few pleasantries – the most important, of course, being merhaba (hello), lütfen (lute-fen; please), and teşekkür ederim (tesh-ik-kur ed-der-reem; thank you). Few people take the time, despite the fact that Turkish is a beautiful, complex, and fascinating language. Turks will greatly appreciate your efforts.
4) Be respectful of local traditions. This includes wearing modest clothing to mosques, always saying hello and goodbye when you enter or leave an establishment, showing respect for elders, not pointing at people, or being loud and vulgar in public. Be aware and observant of how locals act – take your cues from them in terms of what seems to be appropriate behavior.
5) Don’t be afraid to try local delicacies. Turkish food is one of the world’s great cuisines. The breadth and depth of its creativity and quality is remarkable. From stuffed eggplant to marinated, grilled meats, from stews and soups to delightful vegetable salads, and delicious breads to delicate pastries, there is an entire world of regional and traditional dishes to be sampled. Go for it!
6) Try traditional practices. One common practice in Turkey is a visit to the traditional Turkish baths. People often go with a friend or family member, to relax and renew, and often also as a social event to catch up on life and gossip. It’s a treat for the senses and if you’ve never visited one, we highly recommend giving it a try. Remember, you deserve to treat yourself – it’s your vacation, after all!
7) Allow yourself to slow down. Istanbul is best savored slowly and presently – just sitting in a cafe, you can watch the world go by and learn a lot about how people here live. Allow yourself to just relax and enjoy the moments without being stressed about seeing everything – you won’t. Remind yourself that even on vacation, doing less is experiencing more.
8) It’s bargain time! At the Grand Bazaar and at many small shops, bargaining is not rude – in fact, it’s expected, and it’s rude not to go along. A few basic rules of thumb: shop from midday to later on, when salespeople are more likely to lower prices to make their daily quotas; remain calm and friendly; look at other items aside from what you want and act detached even if you really want something; shoot for 30 to 50 per cent discount from the original price they quote you. Also remember to comparison shop: often stores with similar items are located near each other. There are no hard-and-fast rules; it’s just a game, but can be a friendly and easygoing one.
9) Get to know the cafe culture. There’s so much more to experience than just a single-shot latte or a decaf to go. Having coffee and tea here means savoring the moments, relaxing with friends, reading the news, exchanging stories and ideas, perhaps enjoying a flavored nargile – the traditional Turkish water pipe of flavored tobacco.
10) Spend less on accommodations and more on experiences. Why spend more and get less? Keep your budget for great meals, lovely experiences, and fun souvenirs. If you’re looking for a great stay at a great price, stay with us at the Hotel Büyük Keban. Check out all we have to offer!