While going through all of my pictures of Istanbul yesterday, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with feelings of wanderlust, nostalgia and longing. It got so bad to the point where I have been looking for job opportunities in Istanbul because of the strong connection that I felt with the city and it’s people. It’s been months since returning but I miss the culture, vibe and overall presence of being there. Nonetheless, I feel like Turkey is one of those affordable places to travel to given our weak currency here in SA but I always find ways to make my money stretch further and today on the blog, I thought I would share my tricks for the traveler on a budget.I am going to start off with flights because I feel like looking at flight prices is where you can more or less determine whether your budget will allow you to travel for that period or not. Once your flight have been sorted, everything else follows naturally and you get to get a sense of your trip “officially happening” and making planning your trip exciting.
FlightsStarting off with flights, if you have any form of “connections” with discounts on cheaper flights, USE IT! I was lucky enough to have traveled with my siblings and they work for an institution where they get discounts on flights. We weighed many options but chose to fly with Emirates. I flew economy and I know we as people would prefer something more luxe such as business class or first class but we are in the business of saving money, right? right! Now the thing with flying economy is that it all depends on luck. When I say luck, I mean who sits next to you, behind you and in front of you. The person in front of you might recline their seat far back making it uncomfortable for you to watch your movie properly but when meals are served you will be relived from such inconveniences as the seat goes up. We had a long layover in Dubai and I know that many would recommend relaxing at the Marhaba lounge at Duabi airport but … again.. we want to save money and luckily for us, there are recliner chairs all over Dubai airport that we could snooze for a few hours, charging ports to charge your phone, a plethora of eating spots, showers (if you wanted to freshen up), prayer facilities and most importantly FREE WIFI!
Accommodation I’ve already done a full review on where I stayed in Istanbul, if you’re keen to read – just click here. To me, if your accommodation and flights are sorted and then the rest will follow seamlessly. We landed in the fairly new Istanbul Airport late afternoon and took a cab to our hotel. We chose a very centralized hotel that was 50m away from the tram. Staying at Holiday Inn Istanbul City was definitely one of the smartest decision we could have made as we had a full buffet every morning and so many different facilities that we could make use of. We would go out for the day, everyday after breakfast and when you’re on the go, you tend to not eat as much. When we got hungry during the day, we would snack on bagels, corn, roasted walnuts or refreshing lemonade at the many different little carts that are scattered all over Istanbul at dirt cheap prices and then buy dinner just before returning to the hotel in the evening.
Places to goWhen visiting Istanbul, there’s lots to see and do. I was there for a little under two weeks but it was not nearly enough time for me to do everything that I wanted to (I will be back). There are quite a few tourist attractions that are free to visit and one of them being Sultanahmet Camii or commonly known as the “The Blue Mosque”. Other places such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and Galata Monastery – to name a few, that you would perhaps like to explore more in depth, I would suggest buying the “Museum Pass”. The museum pass allows you to visit all of the top tourist attractions (11 in total) for 185 Turkish Lira which is roughly R500 in South African rands. To me that is such a huge bargain as you save 170 Lira (R459). With the museum pass you also skip all of the queues. A city like Istanbul that hides layers of rich history and culture, it really is a dream getting to explore it from one end to the next.
Exploring beyond the culture and history So I know visiting museums, mosques and palaces are not for everybody but as I mentioned, there’s lots to see and do in Istanbul and you’re bound to find something that you want to do. One of our exploring days we found ourselves in Taksim Square where we explored the monuments which commemorates the 5th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, following the Turkish War of Independence. A little while further we wandered down Istikal Avenue and found ourselves at Madame Tussauds. Now Madame Tussauds has always been on my bucket list so it was a real treat for me to “hang with the celebs”. I might do a more in depth review on Madame Tassauds in the next week or so but what I can say is, if you find yourself in Istanbul
after the whole Corona mess of course, then definitely give this place a visit. You’ll feel/see your inner child unleashing!When we purchased our tickets for Madame Tussauds, we were given an option on half price tickets to either Sea Life Istanbul or Lego Land Istanbul and we went with Sea Life. Deals like this is what makes visiting different places around the city fun and exciting as you get a bit of a taste of what Istanbul has to offer – whether you’re a group of young individuals or a family. Sea Life was the first public aquarium in Turkey and is one of the largest aquariums in Europe. Sea Life also has the longest 83m ocean tunnel where you can encounter the largest shark family in all of Europe.
Where to eatFood really is the most accessible thing in Istanbul so you don’t even have to worry about it. Surprisingly you eat very little when you’re on the go and exploring. We would eat twice a day and maybe snack here and there. I believe that you should treat yourself to an authentic dinning experience in Istanbul at least once because dinning out every night can and will become very costly. Not dinning out at an authentic Turkish restaurant however doesn’t mean that you don’t get to eat Turkish food every day and night because there are many little takeaway spots that sells kebabs, traditional Turkish flat breads, kofte and baklava – to name a few. Your popular takeout spots like Burger King and KFC are around too but who wants to eat that when you can have that at home, right? We only had that type of takeout maybe once or twice when we visited Moi Park because there weren’t many authentic food places on that side of Istanbul. Our hotel had a restaurant and room service option as well but let’s just say that the prices were a bit exorbitant. As for snacking, we had many little convenient stores all around our hotel so when we needed anything we would take a short 5 minute stroll to whichever one we wanted to go to.
Traveling can be a pricey love affair but when you can cut corners and make things easier on the pocket, I’m all for it! I still have about two posts that I want to share on my Istanbul, Turkey travel diary as to how I got around the city because I do think that if the wanderlust bug bites, Istanbul should definitely be your next destination of choice to consider.