So I previously talked about planning my trip to Istanbul, so I figure I should weigh in on how the trip went and if I planned correctly. Swami says: Score 1 JC.
Contrary to what I had read while planning my trip, I noticed two e-visa kiosks in the airport as I arrived. However, the ease of applying via the on-line eVisa makes it a hard sell to not get the visa in advance and skip the line at the airport.
Outside the arrivals terminal I found a bank of six different ATMs. I checked my cheat sheet for conversion rates and hit the most familiar ATM. Once I had cash in hand I headed to the metro which was well labelled and about a five minute walk. (Click here to learn more about cash options overseas)
The metro ticket pass machine was out of service and the other machines accepted up to 100lr bills. As I turned to head for a cafe or a kiosk to make change I noticed a ticket in the tray. I grabbed it and looked at the pass. Some considerate traveler left an un-used 3-trip pass in the tray! All signs were pointing towards an awesome trip.
As predicted in my ride along post, there were disruptions… Big time. More-so the closer you got to Taksim square. All buses, taxis and trams were suspended before getting into the tourist areas, meaning I had to hoof it to get anywhere. After checking MapMyRun, it turns out that I walked ~12 miles.
Other than transportation being interrupted, busloads of police were brought in to cover the Taksim area and all of Istiklal Cad was closed off. It forced me to wander back streets, which gave me some interesting views I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
Travel tip: Going early to the main sights is key (Hagia Sofia, Sultan Ahmet and the cistern), else you risk spending your whole day waiting in line.
The most interesting part of this weekend was interacting with the local folks. I spent a large chunk of time in carpet shops and the grand bazaar just having tea and coffee with the shop owners. I also decided to get a haircut, which turned into the most spa-like event I’ve ever had – to include hot wax in areas of my face I’m not sure it should’ve been AND… wait for it… threading. I wasn’t ready for this. It was…weird, but I just let the guy keep going.
I loaded my spare Sea to Summit backpack with Turkish bath towels, and ceramics. Unfortunately I passed on the $20,000 carpet which I thought about all the way to the airport. Ugh. So beautiful. As I left the metro station to enter the airport I found the most lost looking person I could find, helped her plan her route on the metro map and gave her my metro card with a few trips left on it.
For more on Turkey, read my country profile.