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Art of Travel

The Truth About Turkey

Planning a Trip to Turkey? Let our in-house expert Wajiha help you out with everything from ticketing and visa to the best places to stay and much more! So let’s begin with the most frequently asked questions about Turkey.

1. When is the best time to travel to Turkey and why?

The best months to travel to Turkey are from April to September because the weather is pleasant (with frequent rainfall and sunshine), you can try out pretty much any activity and there are quite a few events taking place around the country. Although, you might want to avoid June and July as these are not only the hottest months in Turkey, but also mark the peak season for tourist arrivals. So if you want to avoid crowds and high prices, plan wisely. For more on why it’s a bad idea to travel in the peak season, read here.

2. Is it wise to travel to Turkey in the winters?

Although winters in Turkey are extremely cold as it snows a lot, but if you’re someone who enjoys the cold then travelling before the peak winter season might be a pretty smart thing to do: you’ll get cheap hotel stays, cheaper hostel prices and amazing service from on-ground vendors for being one of the few winter customers. Interested? Check out our winter packages asap! The one drawback, however, is that some of the outdoor activities are on hold in the winters that you might not want to miss.

3. What’s the visa process like?

Turkey is an easy target in terms of the visa, especially for Pakistanis, since both the countries are on friendly terms, so you might want to strengthen your travel history with a Turkish visa. For people who have a valid USA, UK, Canadian and/or Schengen visa, Turkish visa, literally, becomes a 2-minute task. All you have to do is go to the Turkish consulate website, fill in a form, pay $60 through online payment, and voila! You’ll have your printable e-visa in your hands. For all other applicants, you have to apply through Gerry’s if you are applying from Pakistan, which usually takes about 4-6 weeks to process visa applications.

4. Which airline do you recommend and why?

Definitely, Turkish airlines because A) You get a direct flight to Istanbul and B) Turkish airline offers incredible onboard and off-board services. It’s amazing how quickly they have raised their bar and are now in competition with the big guns around the world. Turkish airlines also have the highest number of flights worldwide which is again a huge plus point.

5. What should be the duration of my trip to Turkey?

The duration of the trip depends entirely on your budget and the number of cities you plan to visit. If you choose to do only Istanbul, in that case anywhere between 3-7 days would be enough. If you want to cover 3-4 cities in Turkey, then 12-15 days is a good target. In any case, keep at least 4-7 days for Istanbul entirely because trust me when I say this, you will not get enough of the city! Also, I would suggest that if you are doing other cities as well then divide your stay in Istanbul into two parts, one at beginning of your trip and the second half after doing all other cities. Basically, make a sandwich. 

6. What are the best food spots around Turkey?

Turkish people are hardcore foodies, just like us. Food is a prominent part of their culture, especially street food. Shawarma, doner, kebabs, bagel, ice-cream and local sweets are all must tries. You can easily find high-end places as well as affordable roadside cafes in Turkey, though if you fancy eating out on weekends or are traveling in the peak season, make sure you reserve your tables in advance! 

One thing that’s particularly amazing about Turkish food is that it’s all seasonal: i.e. nothing that goes on your plate would be coming out of a freezer! Turks cook and eat fresh seasonal ingredients. So if you consider yourself a foodie, you might wanna travel to Turkey more than once and in different seasons to try a variation of Turkish cuisine.

Here’s a short Turkish food guide so that when you’re in Turkey, you can actually try what you want. (Yes, we at AOT, take food very seriously!)

In the mood for traditional kebabs? Find the nearest  ‘Ocakbasis’ and watch your food being cooked live; ‘Meyhanes Taverns’ serve a variety of hot and cold appetizers, along with grilled fish and meat, and have the ambiance of local pubs with nice live music; and ‘Lokantas’ will probably become your go-to places for grabbing lunch for pocket friendly prices and quick ready-made meals.

Turkish Menu Decoder

Meze
are starters (hors-d'oeuvre)
Ana Yemekler
is your main course (typically fish or meat)
Dolmas
are stuffed with rice or meat
Porsiyon
are serving sizes; 'Yarim porsyon' is half a portion
Icmekler
are your drinks; 'Su' means water; 'Bira' is the popular local beer
In Istanbul, Ortakoy is one of my favorite spots to hang around and dine-in. Ortaköy is a small neighborhood in the middle of the European bank of Bosphorus. The word itself means ‘Middle Village’ in Turkish. It is a famous tourist spot with numerous cafes, restaurants, art galleries and bars. Another plus point of Turkey, food-wise, is that its very easy to find halal food and vegetarian options.

7. What are some of the best places to stay on a budget in Turkey?

During off-seasons you can get good deals in 3-4-5 star hotels, while in peak seasons Airbnb’s and student hostels are a great option if you really want to save money.

Remember that planning a budget friendly trip depends alot on the time of the year that you are visiting, but the one thing that will always help you is research. It will not only help you save a lot of time and money, but will also help you in budgeting your money for everything including fun.

If you take away one thing from these FAQs, let it be this: planning and research will always be your best friends while traveling. A general thumb rule I apply is to try to get to know places beforehand as much as I can, and see what activities I want to do or skip. I would also suggest reading some local blogs no matter where you’re traveling as it’s a great way to get insight into local norms, pick up on dos and don’ts and get to know the culture before you land.

Also, if you’re smart about travelling in Istanbul you’ll save tons! You see, Istanbul is unique in the sense that it is spread onto two continents i.e. Asia and Europe. And the experience of both the parts is different, fun and equally alluring! Hence the most feasible thing to do is to live in one part of the city first, for instance the European part, where you can explore the old city for its historic and cultural angle and then move on to stay in the Asian part which is much more modern with lots of shopping and fun options, this way you will save time and money in commuting between places. While we are on the topic of Istanbul, I’d like to recoomend checking out The Neo-Baroque structure located in one of my favoruiet places in the city: Ortaköy. The structure is one of the highlights of the area. It’s is a beautiful ornate mosque right alongside the jetty. It is also a prominent sight from the cruise. It adds character to the place, and sits juxtaposing with the Bosphorus bridge itself. The place completely transforms in the day and has a soothing ambience to it at night, with a lot of roadside performances and music playing. It is the perfect place to go and chill after a long and busy Istanbul day, which remains active till late hours.

8. What are 5 experiences that you would say are a must for people traveling to Turkey for the first time?
Ephesus: haven for history buffs

For all history lovers, Ephesus is a treasure trove. It is one of the oldest Roman civilizations and dates back to the 10th century BC. The Great Theatre and Library of Celsus were the most significant structures in the ancient city of Ephesus. The Celsus Library was the 3rd richest library of its time after Alexandra and Pergamum, containing more than 12,000 scrolls. An interesting optical trick that they used was that the columns at the side of the facade were kept shorter than those at the center to give an illusion of the building being greater in size (smart, right?) The library also hid a controversial secret within: the men in Ephesus would tell their wives that were going to the library but would actually end up at the brothel from the library, using a secret tunnel within!

Paragliding: expereince of a lifetime

Goosebumps, perspiration, heart banging against the chest, missing breaths, hair standing up to the point that they might just leave the roots – and off we took! From a height of approximately 6500 ft, with just a few strings attached to me and a person at my back whom I probably trusted more than God in that moment (JK, before I get excommunicated from religion!) I am genuinely struggling with words to describe those 45 minutes in the air. It made me realize how tiny we must seem from up above. Okay, no seriously, I felt more than that: It was beautiful, It was peaceful, It was freedom. It was something that everyone should try at least once in their lives!

Cappadocia: landscpaes don’t get crazier than this!

Cappadocia is an extraordinary place. The whole experience of this city is as unique as it can get. From staying in cave hotels, interpreting the fairy chimneys to going down the ancient underground city, and watching the sunrise from inside a hot air balloon – for me, nothing beats Cappadocia’s astounding landscape!

Princess Islands: where all your fairytale dreams come true

The name says it all. It’s a real-life fairy land far far (not) away. It’s literally like opening a page from your favorite fairytale book and falling within. You can easily take a cruise which takes about one hour from Istanbul to Princess Islands, comprising of a number of smaller islands. The busiest and most beautiful one is Beyukada. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. There are no motor vehicles on the islands, you will only see horse carriages and bicycles, so take in all the fresh air that you want. You can take a ride in one of the buggies which takes you all around the island and afterwards you can rent a bicycle and explore on your own. Lined with cute little shops with doll-house features, the houses have pitched red roofs with white exteriors and blooming front yards – it’s the most instragrammable place ever, you honestly wouldn’t believe the colors!

Konya: a step away from the mainstream

Konya is comparatively a less mainstream city of Turkey, but a cultural hub. It is also called the City of Rumi. This is where the famous Sufi and poet Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi spent his life and the city is also his final resting place. People who visit Konya mostly go for the love of Rumi and naturally the city has a very antique and mystical aura to it. The famous order of the Whirling Dervishes also originated from here only. Another interesting fact about Konya is the honorary grave of Allama Iqbal located outside Rumi’s tomb, as he was one of the greatest admirers of Rumi.

That’s it for now, guys! If you have any questions regarding your trip to Turkey, leave them in the comments down below and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wajiha is an avid traveller, a kick-ass blogger, and an archetect in-the-making. She’s loves reading, food and photography. Her knowledge of history, art, culture and architecture is what makes her perspective on travel truly amazing! Check out ‘The Broke Student Blog’ for more of her fantastic work!

 

 

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