I plan to go into full detail of each of my days in Turkey and share some of my learnings along the way.
Some first time experiences included:
(Celebrating Alison’s 30th birthday with a spectacular VIP hot air balloon ride and some bubbly at the end! As soon as I got the call that her vacation to Turkey was approved, I immediately booked this special day for us!)
– Visas and other requirements
Quick tips and impressions:
– The country is bigger than people think when it comes to “European” cities (It’s usually grouped with Europe but it’s mostly in Asia!)
– The people are very warm and friendly (sometimes too friendly!)
– Learn Turkish! I was lucky to meet someone in Vancouver for private lessons (similar to when I met Ella right before I went to Brazil!) and it helped me connect with people and ask for directions when lost
– Be open to booking a tour! I’ve always traveled “independently” in the sense that my partner and I like to organize all the flights, accommodations and day-trips entirely on our own. I’ve been against tours because I’ve gone on those stereotypical Asian bus tours with 30 people and annoying stops at shops. However, the Istanbul-based agency Road Runner Travel was very different and specifically geared towards independent travellers! They were flexible and open with me, they suggested things I never thought of, and helped reassure me during times of civil unrest in the Country.
– Change your money there – the exchange rate is so much better
– Try to get a hotel with a pool
– If you’re traveling by bus between cities, it will take longer than you think. This is because the busses pick up and drop off passengers anywhere along the road! This is great for locals, but slightly annoying when you thought you would get somewhere in 3 hours and it ended up taking 4 😉
– Turkish delight is sooo much better in Turkey! Made with real chunks of fruits and nuts and interesting add-ons like marshmallow and nutella– Turkish breakfast is the BEST!! So many vegetables for breakfast, you feel incredibly healthy 🙂 All of our accommodations included breakfast with the hotel fee, so do yourself a favour and try new things! Don’t be the guy we made fun of who only had cocoa puffs for breakfast 😉
(Instant connection with fellow solo female traveler, Megan!! Had an impromptu breakfast together at this rustic hillside joint where the locals were eating in front of a stunning mountain landscape. We were with two other travellers and learned over breakfast that all of us would be turning 30! And when Megan said she had a “30 before 30” travel list , I just about lost it!! She’s been to Israel on her own and I would love to go there soon!)
Why Turkey and why these cities?
Eric had traveled to Turkey about 10 years earlier and I’ve heard some great stories through him. I’ve seen his photos of the diverse landscape and heard of the friendly people and delicious, wholesome food! He’s shared accounts of how revered the eggplant is in Turkey (king of the meal) and how he considers Istanbul to be the most romantic city! This, coming from someone who’s family is from France, and has spent a lot of time Paris – the usual suspect for the World’s most romantic city!! We had said we would go together one day, but given his crazy work schedule with limited holiday, and my finding an insanely good deal to Turkey (I was already traveling halfway there for work!) I decided to go on my own. But not before contacting Alison and asking her, “HEY, how would you like to celebrate your 30th birthday in Turkey!??”
We both booked our tickets about 3 weeks out – kind of “last-minute”!! But it can be done! A helpful factor? I’ve had a few friends travel to Turkey recently so a few months back I had already been messaging them about their experiences which gave me a head start in research!
I used a tour agency to plan out the cities listed above to get the perfect mix of history, culture, activities, natural landscapes, mountains, beach-time, unique land formations and ancient ruins!
Booking a Tour through an Agency (eg. Road Runner Travel)
Here’s a helpful resource: Turkey Travel Planner.
Tom is the curator of the website and has published many guidebooks on Turkey. His site contains thousands of pages of useful information for those that like to figure things out on their own! For someone with limited time in Turkey (less than 2 weeks) he highly recommends booking a tour to maximize your time there, plus it saves the time you would take up planning and booking. Below are reasons why I suggest booking a tour as well, and specifically, with Road Runner in Istanbul!
– Plus, Muharrem suggested I give out his personal mobile to my family in case they wanted to reach me (with all the civil unrest going on..) Highly, highly recommend getting in touch with him. Let me know if you want an introduction 🙂
Antalya – Kas – Bati Antalya (note, Road Runner arranged this for us, so our driver purchased our ticket for us at the counter)
Kas – Fethiye – Bati Antalya
Fethiye – Pamakkule via Tour
Kusadasi – Ephesus – Izmir via Tour and also Pegasus AirlinesHotels and AccommodationsI’ve said it before – I like to stay at really simple places when I know I’m going to be out and about, and then splurge on luxurious places when I know I’ll have time to unwind! For this trip, we were celebrating Alison’s 30th birthday and she trusted me to plan everything, so in addition to her birthday present of a hot air balloon ride, I wanted to arrange for special accommodations!!
Hotel list, in short:
Visas and Requirements
Canadians need to apply for a visa before arrival. I believe some other nations can purchase this on arrival. Here’s the link and you can pay online: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/
It only takes a few minutes.
The Canadian government advises that one exercise a high degree of caution, but of course, that depends on where you’re going. I knew I would be staying far away from the Syrian border, but nonetheless, I contacted the Canadian Consulate and registered my travels abroad. I also read the news everyday to see what was going and posted in Trip Advisor Forums. This was a helpful news site: Today’s Zaman, Turkish Online NewspaperIt was shocking and saddening to learn of the terrorist attack while I was away, and I made sure to keep in touch with family so they knew I was safe.
Other than Chinese food, I find it really hard to get vegetables when traveling. Turkey then, is a mecca for people that crave delicious vegetables at every meal!! In my quick tips above, I reference food you must have! Get your fill at the breakfast buffets – you will miss them when you’re gone!
In addition to baklava and turkish delight, the ice cream is lovely.
The ice cream made with goat’s milk so the consistency is quite sticky! The ready-made ice cream treats are insanely cheap as well. Alison was the first to discover Magnum bars and made a point to eat them every time she saw them! For 3 Turkish Lira, how can you say no!!
I love writing up my International Food posts because I combine my love of travel AND food, so this one should be up shortly.
The list is simply endless of the places you can see and things you can do in Turkey!!! Here’s a brief list of activities I will write about in my daily summaries:
Well, I have so many new and exciting memories and will be eagerly writing this down and sharing tips and advice before it all escapes me.
Please comment below if you have any immediate questions! Or if you have some tips and stories of your own to share!
I took about 3000 photos that I have to sift through, but in meantime I’m sharing some of them on my flickr page.