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Day 224: Thinking About Istanbul… and Thinking I Need Help Planning!

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Turkey has been a country on my to-do list for years… pretty much since I started thinking about travel. Even though it wasn’t on the list of 10 countries I want to hit before I hit 30 list, I’m thinking now that list should be modified to include Turkey because a) it’s awesome, b) I don’t I want to visit some places on the list at the current time, and c) it would help me reach my 10 country goal in time! Ha.

With the help of my awesome Star Alliance ticket to Bishkek, I’m getting to hang out in Istanbul for just a few days before heading over to Central Asia, but I thought I would channel the help of my fellow travelers and bloggers to assist with planning.

So, what is there to do in Istanbul, in 4 days, that are a must for a newbie like myself? Where do you recommend I eat, sleep and play while living it up Turkish style?

To get a better idea of my travel wants, let me explain: I want to drink some Turkish coffee and have some awesome Turkish bread and dips. I like history and cultural activities, walking and people watching.

I’m a hostel lover, especially when traveling solo, but would consider spending more money on accommodation if the experience were worthwhile. Since I’m not traveling with other people on this journey, I wouldn’t consider any Europe vacation rentals, although the next time I’m with a group, this is totally going to make the list of options.

I’ll probably be looking to stay on top of work and Internet life until I fly into the depths of Kyrgyzstan, which was pretty bleak in terms of connection while there in 2008. So, if you know a good place to chill and pick up some free Wi-Fi, that would rock, too.

Oh, and any tips for getting around would be appreciated as well.

I totally look forward to hearing what you Turkey travelers have to say. Cheers!

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23 Responses to Day 224: Thinking About Istanbul… and Thinking I Need Help Planning!

  1. Tony August 13, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

    I loved the Basilica Cistern and the Aya Sophia sights. I stayed in Istanbul Hostel which was fine and is near the Blue Mosque and a few Pide places.

    • Brooke August 18, 2011 at 8:41 am #

      Pide…. Pat is going to be SO jealous.

  2. Vago Damitio August 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

    Brooke, Easy advice. Go to the Ayasofya Hotel. Gaye is an Aussie with a great place, superb location, and she’ll send you to all the right places. Tell her Vago sent you. seriously…tell her. Enjoy the Queen of all cities.

    • Brooke August 18, 2011 at 8:45 am #

      Hey Vago, thanks for the tip. The hotel looks amazing! But, it might be a bit out of my budget… will put it on the list, though πŸ™‚

  3. Kirstin August 13, 2011 at 9:22 pm #

    I’m about to spend a week in Turkey, including 2 or 3 days just in Istanbul, so I’ll let you know if I find anything can’t-miss.

    Internet still sucks in Bishkek, but there are a couple top-notch locations with decent wi-fi (and REAL coffee!) and depending on which provider you use, censorship isn’t thaaaat bad πŸ˜‰

    • Brooke August 18, 2011 at 8:47 am #

      Keep me in mind for those Istanbul tips! πŸ˜‰ Oh, and coffee and censorship – eep… I blocked it out of my mind. I remember not being able to access my blog from certain internet cafes last time… Hopefully things have changed a bit since then!

      • Kirstin August 18, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

        You use wordpress.org, right? I haven’t had any problems with it. WordPress.com was blocked for a long time by any internet providers through Kazakhstan, while Blogspot and other Google apps are consistently glitchy/blocked through Kazkahstan as well. Other than that it’s OK. It’s always a gamble.

  4. Athens Walker August 13, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

    Add the Spice bazaar and the Grand Bazaar to your list.
    Istiklal Kadesi is the main commercial / pedestrian road with many cheap pastry shops and eateries along the way. It starts from Taksim Sq. and heads downwards but not all the way to the sea. The Beyoglu neighbourhood, nearby, has myriads of cafes, bars , etc.
    I don’t know about coffee buy you’ll find Turkish tea (apple-tea?) everywhere.
    Also check out the Galata Bridge with many cafes, restaurants, etc on the lower level and people fishing from the upper level.
    You may also go on a mini-cruise along the Bosporus (don’t know cost – it was offered to us).

    • Brooke August 18, 2011 at 8:48 am #

      Awesome tips! Thanks, and I’ll def be checking out a mini-cruise if possible πŸ™‚

  5. Linds August 14, 2011 at 12:34 am #

    I’m planning a vacation in Turkey for this November and am feeling totally overwhelmed with how much there is to see. I can’t wait to read more reader response tips to help narrow down the decision making!

    • Brooke August 18, 2011 at 8:55 am #

      Seriously, a place this full of history and a cross of European and Middle Eastern cultures has SO much. I feel your pain, and I only have Istanbul to deal with πŸ™‚

  6. Bethany August 14, 2011 at 4:22 am #

    So lucky!! Seriously Turkey is one of my top countries. I only ever hear good things about it. Make sure you hit up a spice market and take tons of pics! Also might want to talk to Turkey’s For Life – they can help you out i’m sure!!

    • Brooke August 18, 2011 at 8:57 am #

      Cheers, Beth! I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I’ve heard it can be a bit ‘full on’ for the solo female traveler…

  7. Claire August 15, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    Definitely agree with the above advice to go to the cistern. Also, there are some ruins of a castle thing (sorry, not very descriptive but I can’t remember the exact name of the place) that overlooks the Black Sea. It’s about an hour drive from Istanbul and you get to pass the cool “Welcome to Asia” sign on the way there, and “Welcome to Europe” sign on the way back.

    • Brooke August 18, 2011 at 9:07 am #

      Ohhh cool — may have to take a ride out of the city just for the signs πŸ˜‰

  8. Annette | Bucket List Journey August 16, 2011 at 4:23 am #

    I have always wanted to go to Istanbul at bath in a hamam (Turkish Bath). The Γ‡emberlitas Hamami is the most popular and looks like an amazing experience.

  9. Gerard August 18, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    You need to find the best cab drivers ever… in Istanbul!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9lnApAH8ng

  10. Natalie August 18, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    Brooke – Have you seen the My Destination Site for Istanbul? Great info on there. http://www.mydestination.com/istanbul

  11. Liv August 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm #

    Hi Brooke

    Have a hamam – they’re wonderful!

    Here’s my post about all the best of Istanbul: http://www.theworldswaiting.com/2011/01/top-10-things-to-do-in-istanbul.html

    & here’s one about transport:
    http://www.theworldswaiting.com/2011/08/unravelling-turkish-dolmus.html

    & one about street food:
    http://www.theworldswaiting.com/2011/01/guide-to-turkish-street-food.html

    I lived in Turkey for years. Let me know if you have any specific questions. Istanbul is an amazing city – you will love it!

  12. Charlie Diary of a Muzungu August 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    Hi Brooke,
    I recently passed through Istanbul en route from Uganda (where I live) to UK and with your imminent trip in mind, wrote “A day in Istanbul.” What a place! I loved it and will definitely be going back. I didn’t get any hassle (female travelling solo).
    Enjoy your boat trip and look out for the dolphins!

  13. Charlie Diary of a Muzungu August 24, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    Link to the story here http://muzungubloguganda.com/2011/07/a-day-in-istanbul/
    (Woops I’m still half asleep …)

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