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Meet our panel of Turkey experts.
Were there any areas in Turky you felt you were not safe
Laurie - Fortunately, in Turkey I never had any negative experiences regarding safety. It’s always smart to protect your personal belongings when visiting crowded bazaars and tourist areas, and it’s okay to firmly decline or ignore aggressive vendors and locals that latch on to you (because they will!). While in Istanbul, I wasn’t familiar with the area and made the mistake of booking a hotel in Sultanahmet near the tourist sights. Not such a great idea, or neighborhood come nighttime! The better option was across the Bosporus in Beyoğlu and locals highly recommend Karaköy.
Pascale - Turkey is a big country, and in general, most touristic destinations in Turkey are to be considered safe. This includes the classical Turkey Triangle Tour (Istanbul, Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Ephesus), as well as travelling to the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal resorts all the way down to Alanya. In fact, except from the region right along the Syrian border, there is nothing to be concerned about.
What are your must eat or drink suggestions?
Laurie - As a vegetarian, I appreciated the stunning assortment of beautiful foods like grilled vegetables, dried fruits, and gözleme (flatbread pastry filled with potatoes, spinach, or cheese). The ice cream vendors in touristy areas are pretty darn entertaining, and I always got a laugh from the lavas “balloon” bread that restaurants proudly displayed as a means of luring customers in. And if you’re offered tea, accept it! Turkish people are hospitable folks that love sharing small, delicious cups of this cider-y concoction.
Pascale - This is a difficult question as food in Turkey is a big deal and there are a lot of regional and seasonal specialties. Savoury things to try include mantı (a sort of Turkish ravioli, usually served in winter), pide (the Turkish version of pizza), gözleme (a savoury sort of pancake with a vegetable, meat or cheese filling), and of course, a Turkish village breakfast. For those who prefer sweet things, try künefe (a hot desert composed of string cheese wrapped in vermicelli is sugar syrup), baklava, or tavukgöğsü (a milk pudding dessert made with chicken meat). These might sound strange, but trust me, they are delicious!
Which places in Tukey are your favorite, where would you not miss?
Laurie - Turkey’s a large country and there’s a lot to explore, but if I had to pick my favorite experience, it would be the hot air balloon ride, underground cave city, and Magic Valley of Cappadocia. Antalya’s Old Town is also lovely, and I hear the beaches of Bodrum are amazing.
Pascale - Again, this all depends on where in Turkey you will be going to. There is so much to see and do. Turkey is even a good destination for skiing! Most people start out with the Triangle Tour I’ve mentioned earlier, but my advice would be to look beyond the obvious things as well. These places can get so crowded that they take the fun out of it. On the other hand, they are people’s favourites for a reason, so visiting out of season and coming prepared is a good plan!
What did you love about Turkey?
Laurie - There’s so much to love about Turkey! Ancient history, fresh vegetarian food, amazing sights and nature, friendly tour guides and locals. Now is the perfect time to visit Turkey because tourism has dropped significantly in past years due to “political unrest” (unnoticeable to tourists) so there are less crowds and extremely reasonable prices.
Pascale - Almost everything. Nature is stunning and still very much untouched, history is everywhere, the weather is great, although August can be flaming hot, the people are welcoming, and the food is delicious. And then there is Istanbul, what a city!
What did you not like about Turkey?
Laurie - There were a few things that aggravated me about my time in Turkey, not going to lie. Traveling with a dog there was difficult and as a solo female traveler, I felt more targeted than the average tourist by sales people, amorous men, and curious strangers (all male). In Istanbul, taxi drivers are quick to take advantage of tourists and I went through a stressful ordeal with a falsely advertised hotel room, but all-in-all, I never felt physically threatened. In cafes and in public places throughout Turkey, I noticed a separation between men and women and feel Turkey is a male-dominated culture, which made me a bit uncomfortable.
Pascale - In very touristic area’s shop and restaurant owners can be very pushy. If you’re not interested, never engage in a conversation. Set your boundaries and stick to them.
"Not to be missed! Turkey is a wonderful country promising rich experiences to all that visit, so be sure to travel beyond Istanbul if you go."
What do you wish you had of known or been prepared for?
Laurie - See above… and I’d also add that I found Istanbul to be less cosmopolitan than I expected. Yes, parts of the city are lovely and wealthy, and at the same time the city is huge and there is a ton of traffic, poverty, grime, and chaos. I’m glad that I left the city to explore other parts of the country and was shocked at how nice bus transit was (attendants provide passengers with complimentary snack and beverage cart service!).
Pascale - As soon as you leave the major tourist resorts, people speak only Turkish. Learning a few basic words or bringing a good phrasebook will get you a long way. And don’t panic if you get invited to a wedding, a meal or any other festivity, these things are common in Turkey.
Thoughts on Turkey in General?
Laurie - Not to be missed! Turkey is a wonderful country promising rich experiences to all that visit, so be sure to travel beyond Istanbul if you go.
Pascale - Turkey has plenty to offer to any kind of traveller. This is how I’ve put it in a recent blog post: “Turkey is a country for beach lovers and hikers, for history freaks and adventure seekers, for sailors and nature people, for yoga practitioners and party people, for foodies and art aficionados. Turkey is the perfect destination for a package holiday and for off the beaten path trekkers. It is a country of contrasts, with many faces. And it is fascinating because of it. Turkey is beautiful, authentic, friendly and welcoming.”