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  1. #1


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    After mulling over the hot summer weather in Istanbul, the implication of Ramadan, and thinking about other destinations, we decided that Istanbul is where we really want to go this summer. I have been reading the blogs of fellow STers with much interest and have several initial questions.

    First, a little information about our plan so far. We are thinking of arriving in Istanbul around July 23rd, staying for about 7 to 8 full days. I would love to go to Cappadochia, but I hear that itís very hot there in the summer (over 100F) and most of the activities are outdoors. Our travel party of 4 will include my will-be 82 years old mother. Sheís fit, can walk a long distance albeit slowly, but hiking is definitely not her thing. I also prefer not to have the hassle of flying to get somewhere inside Turkey and I donít want to rent a car either. So Iím thinking of spending the majority of time in Istanbul and taking easy day trips using public transportation or possibly going on mini-tours.

    It seems most people on ST stay in hotels in Istanbul rather than apartments. There are no apartment reviews on ST for Istanbul. In fact, there is only one apartment review for entire Turkey. We always stay in apartments and love their convenience and comfort. Are there reasons to prefer hotels than apartments in Istanbul ?

    What are interesting and easy day trips from Istanbul? I came across Bursa and Princes Island. Any others ?

    Thank you for your help. ST has been a tremendous resource for planning my past trips. And I'm so glad to have access to the information amassed by fellow travelers in planning this one (a tad more exotic than others).

  2. #2
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    You mention not wanting to rent a car. We spent 7 weeks in country with our 24 foot RV and had not problems finding our way around, plus the roads were good.

    If that helps in your decision process.

  3. #3
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    Flennie - there have been a couple of threads here with discussions of Istanbul apartments. Check this one. And this thread has a lot of good information on Istanbul.

    In her blog posts about Turkey, Marta also links to an apartments website.

    Happy planning.

    Judy

  4. #4


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    TominVB, I don't want to rent a car because we plan to stay in Istanbul most of the time. BTW, how did you get your 24' RV to Europe!?

    Thanks, Judy, for the link to the discussion on apartments. I will check them out. But I'm still curious to know if there's something about Istanbul that makes it more convenient to stay in hotels?

  5. #5
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    I think a lot of people tend to stay a shorter period of time in Istanbul instead of a week and then head out to tour Turkey. Or a few days at the beginning and ending time.

    You mention that you will be traveling with your mother. Istanbul is very hilly so keep that in mind when you are looking for an apartment. Some of the neighborhoods are quite steep such as Galata. Also check what floor the apartment is located - we were on the 5th floor and no elevator. We did not find very many apartments available in Sultanahmet area which is the most convenient area for many sights. There will be more in Beyo?lu area.

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    hi Flennie -

    I have this place bookmarked from my trip last month. One of the properties has a 2 bedroom. I don't see anything about an elevator but I would imagine they either have one or there are not too many flights up. It is close to Taksim Square, which is across the river from Sultanahmet, but it is very easy to get to from there (tram, then funicular to the top of the hill and the square.) One great thing about staying up there is that you won't be followed around by salesmen, something that I got totally sick of when I stayed in Sultanahmet.

    http://www.3-apples.com/

    From there you can also walk DOWN to Galata and take the streetcar or a cab back up.

    Here's another one - no 2 bedrooms, but maybe you could rent 2 studios -

    http://www.topkapiapartments.com/
    This one is in Sultanahmet so you could walk to many of the sites.

    When you are checking out other places definitely inquire about the hill situation. Especially if you are looking in Beyoglu.

  7. #7
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    I like staying in apartments too, and I started off looking at apartments in Istanbul when I was doing initial planning for Turkey too. I don't think the rental apartment market is nearly as developed there as in some other major European cities. (We've found this is true in other cities too, perhaps because people tend to stay less than a week... not sure.) But there just isn't much available marketed to the English-speaking visitor.

    As I posted elsewhere, given time pressures, I ended up turning over our trip planning to a tour operator. We stayed six nights in Istanbul, then three nights in Cappadocia, one night near Ephesus, then back to Istanbul. I loved our little boutique hotel (a short walk to the Hippodrome) and having an English speaking front desk was very helpful. We did some exploration in Istanbul on our own, but we also had a private guide in Istanbul for two days (we also had a driver for parts of each day) and he set up a private tour for us to go to Bursa. Our time in Istanbul with the guide was very efficient. You'll find the prices for this kind of support less than in other parts of Europe.

    I thought Cappadocia was absolutely fantastic. We were there in July and I didn't find the heat overwhelming. We did do a hike one morning and there's a little walking, but I don't think you have to be a hiker to enjoy this area. Again, the private guide/driver helps a lot. But I understand your considerations and hopefully you'll get there another time.

    Kathy

  8. #8
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    Here are a couple of other apartment links besides VRBO.

    The House Apart

    Istanbul Apartments

    The House Apart is part of a hip restaurant/coffee house/club chain. I think they are located above the restaurants.

    I was thinking last night about apartments versus hotels. Istanbul can be a bit more exotic, different and hectic than other European cities and hotels can have advantages for first time visitors. They can often help arrange tours and give advice. Plus you get to mingle with other travelers. Sometimes also it can be a little overwhelming. Hotels can give you a bit more comfort feeling. We did feel a little isolated in an apartment. We did enjoy our time in the apartment but we also really enjoyed taking the cooking class and getting to interact with other people. You do deal quite a bit with sellers especially in Sultanahmet which is why we decided not to stay in the area. But it is pretty amazing to stay in this area surrounded by history.

    We did not cook very often other than breakfast in our apartment which different from our typical travel style when we stay in apartments. The restaurant food is so interesting, different and good that we didn't want to eat in that often.

    We were there for 7 nights and never ran out of things to see in Istanbul. There will be lots to do and see. Bursa and Princes Islands would be the two easiest day trips along with the full day ferry trip to the Black Sea. We never got to the Asian side of Istanbul or up to Pierre Lott. It may also be helpful to tours since it will help getting around to some of the places. We did not ever use taxis since we heard several comments about being ripped off. That can be another advantage of hotels although your apartment own can also help you with a driver or reservations. Also Istanbul is huge. The old city is pretty compact but it does still take time to get around.

  9. #9


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    Thank you, Kathy, Shannon, and Marta for your comments.

    I got the feeling that Istanbul might be more difficult to navigate for first time visitors than west European cities, so having access to hotel reception could be convenient. Also, it seems that many Istanbul hotels include breakfast with their room rates, which is nice, since breakfast is a meal I don't like to go out for. As Marta said, the variety of different foods available would be a great reason to eat out.

    On the other hand, I do like the idea of having a common area (living room) to gather in the evenings instead of being cooped up in separate hotel rooms. I will continue to research our options and see what works better for us.

  10. #10
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    We did stay in a hotel (actually the one Shannon firs stayed in, The Sarnic)our first trip to Istanbul which was for 9 days. Let me say we only touched the surface of what Istanbul has to offer. We want to go back either this Fall or next Spring and are planning on going with another couple. Most of the 2-bedroom apartments we have seen have only one or one and a half bathorooms which just will not work. I love this thread because already you guys have listed others that were not available when I looked last year. I am very interested in hearing what you finally book. BJ
    BJ's and Alan's Adventures
    "Oneís destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things." Ė Henry Miller

  11. #11
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    We stayed in The Faros Hotel for a week in April 2011. We usually stay in apartments but as first timers in Istanbul we felt there would be a little more help if we needed it in a hotel.
    The responses to our emails before we arrived were helpful so we felt comfortable about staying there.
    Some bonuses about the hotel - free pickup at the airport which we were very glad we had. Also breakfast included in the price, although nothing startling, it got us going for the morning.

    We had a night on the Gallipoli Peninsula and the hotel manager was able to talk to the bus company to arrange pickup for us, something we would not have had if in an apartment.

    Next time we will stay in an apartment as we feel we know the areas a little better.

    Jill

  12. #12


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    I've been researching hotels and apartments and decided on a compromise between the two. We debated whether it's better to have 2 bathrooms in 2 separate hotel rooms without a kitchen OR 1 bathroom with a kitchen. I discovered that it's nearly impossible to have 2 bathrooms AND a kitchen in Sultanahmet where we decided to stay.

    We decided that having a kitchen was more important than having 2 bathrooms as that would give us the option not to eat out every night. My mother and daughter could be finicky eaters, both because of their age. Moreover, we wanted a little more hand-holding than that offered by a totally self-catering apartment, so we decided to go with establishments that rent out suites (with kitchen) that provide front-desk or concierge-type service.

    What I found useful for searching for such accommodation is booking.com, where you can select 'apartment' as a search option. I was able to find a couple of possible suites (with kitchens). Sutanahmet Suites has generally good reviews on TripAdvisor. I contacted them to see if they have a suite at lower levels good for my mother and that allows all 4 of us to sleep in separate beds (a tall order). They replied promptly, recommending a standard 1 Bdrm suite in their Diamond building. However, it wasn't obvious what the sleeping arrangement would be (there is a king size bed with pull out double sofa). I sent another email yesterday asking about extra beds, etc. but they have not replied. However, I read that the location of the rental is at the bottom of a short but steep hill and it could be tiring climbing it daily for 10 days, especially in the summer. This could be a problem for my mother in particular.

    So I'm considering another one I found on booking.com: Gulhane Suites. It has fewer but better reviews on TA, and it has 2 bdrm + 1 bath. It costs 65e more per day than Sultanahmet Suites, but better sleeping arrangement and looks cleaner/nicer on their photos. I'm leaning toward this, but I'd like to find out more about its location. Can someone tell me what the area is like? Is it level?

    For the record, I also found a very large (120 m2) apartment with 2 bathrooms at Istanbul Holiday Apartments (check out Aslan apartment. I would have considered this, except that I think it's totally self-catering.

  13. #13
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    Those are all nice looking options. The Sultanahmet Suites are down towards the water from the Blue Mosque. I think we walked over there one time looking for a fish restaurant and also the area of the older wooden houses. It was downhill and a walk up. Let me look for the name of the restaurant we did eat at and compare the location. There was a climb up from it to the Hippodrome. Also if Shannon sees this, she may have stayed more in this area.

    The Gulhane apartment area is not too hilly. We did not explore much of that area but it looks to be not too far from the Gulhane tram station. The area was pretty busy.

    BTW, the apartment you found is from the same people we rented from - Istanbul Holiday Apartments. We were in the Galata Tower unit. We looked at the Aslan but decided to stay outside the Sultanahmet area. They were very good to work with and our apartment was well equipped.

  14. #14


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    The Gulhane area is great. It's one of the least hilly areas of the city. I have a picture taken near the Gulhane suite: http://photo.trips45.com/Istanbul2010/#dsc_1496.jpg

  15. #15


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    SteveS, if the area shown in the photo is one of the least hilly area of the city, the rest of Istanbul must be quite hilly! Do you recommend that area for convenience in sight seeing? BTW, the photos of food following the photo of the Gulhane area look fantastic and mouthwatering!

  16. #16
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    SteveS, if the area shown in the photo is one of the least hilly area of the city, the rest of Istanbul must be quite hilly!
    I would consider very similar to San Francisco - especially around Union Square or up on Nob hill. I'm kinda used to it because Seattle is so hilly, but even so - there were places around Istanbul that really taxed me.

    Steves - Great photos - is anyone is interested here is a link to beginning of his Istanbul photos

  17. #17


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    It's good to know that the terrain is like that in San Francisco (lived there when I was a kid). Well, given the hills, the hot weather, and my mother (and maybe the rest of us too!), it sounds like a prudent idea to stay in the least hilly area in Istanbul.

    Steve's photos were really nice - got me more excited about visiting Istanbul.

  18. #18
    All the best for your plan and trip!

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