Below are the questions I've received recently along with my answers. If you are interested in learning more about my trip a few years ago, check out my Turkey page.
A: While this recommendation depends greatly on one's interests, I'd break up the two weeks as follows:
4 days in Istanbul
3 days in Cappadocia
1 day Pamukkale
2 days in Ephesus/Sirince
4 days along Turquoise Coast (we loved Kas but the entire coast line is stunning)
A: Turkey is a big country and since most people have a limited amount of time to see it, I recommend flying between major locations. We took Pegasus Air - Turkey's budget airline - which was a fraction of the price of Turkish Airlines at the time. On a tight budget? No worries. I've talked to many people who have taken overnight buses in between destinations. The buses were modern coaches and, although a little uncomfortable, it saves you money so you can book a room at a cave hotel or try hot air ballooning in Cappadocia.
Q: Is it safe to drive a rental car in Turkey?
A: It depends on your tolerance for craziness. Chris drove, and it was a little intimidating, but once out of the cities, he said it wasn't terrible. If you decide to drive, here is some advice:
- Drivers in Turkey are aggressive and impatient. Avoid driving in Istanbul as this was the most intimidating.
- Watch out for farm equipment, tractors and bicycles in the road.
- The speed limit is 90km/h on a 2 lane road, 110 km/h on a divided one, 50 km/h in cities villages etc. These may or may not be posted, people may or may not abide but checks are frequent.
- Look BOTH ways when a light turns green because there usually are a few cars that run through the red light.
- People don't usually stop at stop signs so be careful.
- Go slowly on mountain roads. Speeding and passing is common and since the roads are narrow you'll want to have time to avoid oncoming cars.
- Sometimes two lane roads in one direction will quickly change to one lane roads going in both directions. This changes with little to no warning - you'll just see an oncoming car in your lane! A good practice is to stay in the right lane unless you need to pass.
Keep in mind that we are from the US where driving tends to be a little less stressful (yes, even in Boston). If you are reading this from, say Peru or Thailand, driving in Turkey will be a breeze.
A: Well, it certainly has its risks! Just like scuba diving, bungee jumping, parasailing, or driving in Turkey there is a chance something could go wrong. However, unlike many of those activities, all you have to do is relax, enjoy the view and trust your pilot. Take some comfort in knowing that these companies have been ballooning here for a long time and hundreds of flights are completed successfully every day. All hot air balloons are regulated, licensed and must carry insurance. Pilots must meet specific skill and health requirements. Our flight with Butterfly Balloons was one of the most serene experiences I've ever encountered during my travels. There is no better way to see the other-worldly landscape of the Cappadocia region!
A: For the most part, yes! I've never been to Eastern Turkey so I can't comment on that part of the country. However, I felt very safe in Western & Central Turkey. Turkey is incredibly diverse (It is the crossroads of the world), full of visitors and friendly locals. As a female traveler (especially solo), there are precautions you must take, but they are the same precautions you'd take in most destinations. In Istanbul, I didn't see many local women wandering solo - they were usually with men, other women or their children. Tourists, however, were comprised of all sorts of demographics, including females traveling alone. Women may feel more comfortable dressing slightly more conservatively, as to not attract unwelcome attention from men. Similar to European countries like Italy or Spain, men might stare, cat call or approach a woman in hopes of winning her favor (by the way, does this EVER work?). Just tell them you are on your way to meet your boyfriend/husband and they should back off.
A: Yes! But keep in mind that you won't be able to enter many religious sites if your legs below the knee and shoulders are exposed. I wore a midi skirt (hit just below the knee), a tank top and carried a scarf to cover my head & shoulders when necessary. Also, many women here dress conservatively so, at times, you may feel more comfortable wearing a longer skirt or capri pants. One day I stepped outside of my hotel room in Sultanahmet in a pair of short shorts and after walking down the street for two minutes, I went back to the hotel and changed into my midi skirt because people were staring. I didn't wear the shorts again in Istanbul, but I did wear them at the beach with no problems (People are far less conservative at the beach and many women wear bikinis). Like most large cities, people in Istanbul tend to dress stylishly so pack like you were going to Barcelona or New York.