In March 2018, I spent 11 days traveling through Turkey starting from Selcuk and went all the way to Istanbul. It was a classic Golden Triangle of Turkey tour but my friend and I did it on our own. While you can have a great time just exploring Istanbul, I highly recommend exploring the rest of the country for a week or two to uncover so many beautiful highlights. Here’s a Turkey Travel Guide to help you plan your trip. I really do hope this is comprehensive enough!
Note: This is my actual itinerary when I visited Turkey, so I can attest that the sequence of activities is really feasible, especially if you have a pocket wifi. The expense breakdown at the end of this post is accurate thanks to my travel expense tracker.
Is it safe to travel in Turkey?
This is the most commonly asked question from people who are planning a trip to Turkey. This is a legitimate question because of two years of political instability and well-publicized terrorist attacks in the country. My friends and family all thought that I was putting my life in danger by visiting Turkey. But is that really the case now?
While I postponed this trip for almost two years because of safety concerns, when I finally decided to go, I neither experienced problems nor felt unsafe at any time. Traveling in Turkey for almost two weeks from the cities to provinces was really an eye-opening experience for me. The only country that I haven’t felt that I’m an outsider and even though I couldn’t speak or understand their language, people were super kind and welcoming. I have no doubt I will make a return trip someday!
How to get a Turkey Tourist Visa
Visitors to Turkey can either apply for a regular visa or an e-Visa. The Turkey e-Visa is easy and hassle-free to obtain, that is if you have a valid visa or residence permit from the United States (USA), any Schengen country, the United Kingdom (UK) or Ireland. If you do not have any of those mentioned, I’m afraid this post cannot help you as I did not experience getting a regular visa from the Turkish Embassy in Manila.
How much is the plane ticket from Manila to Turkey
What usually takes the biggest chunk out of a budget is the price of airline tickets. Tickets from Manila to Turkey are not something I could buy off a CebPac seat sale, they are a massive purchase that I cannot make lightly. I did a hundred mock bookings months before the trip and the cheapest I found is around PHP 34,000. So when Etihad Airways announced a sale to Europe, I did not think twice. I got a roundtrip ticket to Istanbul for only 30,000 pesos (around 35,000 pesos when we applied for a 6-month installment from CitiBank). Domestic flights, on the otherhand, are cheap! One way ticket to Izmir (nearest airport from Selcuk) and Kayseri (nearest airport from Cappadocia) costs 600-900 pesos. You don’t really need a seat sale to travel to local destinations in Turkey!
How to get around Turkey
Transportation in Turkey are abundant and far less expensive than nearby European countries. In Selcuk, Pamukkale and Cappadocia, getting around is possible by local buses, taxis, dolmushes (shared mini-vans) and trains. To give you an idea, I paid TRY 6 (49 pesos or USD 1) for a train ride from Izmir Airport to Selcuk (1 hour and 10 minutes). The train was like the limited express trains in Japan, which costs around 1,000 pesos for an hour of travel. Another example is the overnight bus from Pamukkale (Denizli) to Cappadocia, which only costs TRY 70 (600 pesos or USD 12).
In Istanbul, there are numerous modes of public transportation to choose from – trams, trains, buses, taxis, ferries, cable cars, funiculars. Payment in the city is done by one single payment system called ISTANBULKART, a contactless smart card similiar to London’s Oyster Card and Seoul’s T-Money. For 4 days, I’ve only spent TRY 55 (550 pesos or USD 9) in Istanbul.
Tours (DIY vs. Guided Tours)
Touring with a travel agency and DIY-stye or self-guided both have their own advantages. I’m the first one to suggest to travel DIY, but if you prefer a more relaxing holiday experience, you can use a travel agency to plan your perfect Turkey vacation. Onenationtravel.com is a unique travel company – offering custom and group tours in Turkey.
Where to stay in Turkey
Turkey would have been an affordable destination for us Filipinos if not for the expensive airfare from Manila to Istanbul. Staying at hotels are relatively cheaper compared to staying at hotels in Manila. Budget hostels and family-run guesthouses are aplenty in Istanbul, Selcuk, Pamukkale and Cappadocia. For the entire duration of my stay, I only paid 7,231.87 pesos for accommodation. Check out my Instagram stories to see what kind of fab accommodation you could find in Turkey 🙂
Travel Tip: Make sure to stay in hostels with FREE breakfast so you could save some money. Also, you don’t have to worry about where to eat early in the morning.
*When looking for accommodations in Turkey, I found it very easy to book via Agoda.com. Here are the places where we stayed in Turkey:
4027 Sok. No 15, Selcuk 35920, Turkey
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Pamukkale Melrose Viewpoint Suites
Pamuk Mahallesi, Kadioglu Cad. Cay Sok. No: 7, Pamukkale 20280, Turkey
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Guven Cave Hotel
Orta Mah. Uzun Dere Cad. Cakmakli Sok. No:1, Goreme 50180, Turkey
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Istanbul Taksim Green House Hostel
Elmadag, Taksim, Sisli, Istanbul 34437, Turkey
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How much is the average cost of food in Turkey
Turkish Food was one of the best parts of my trip in Turkey. Just like the cost of transportation and accommodation, food is relatively cheap in both cities and provinces. Just to give you an idea, the average price of food including breakfast, lunch and dinner for one day is TRY 50 (400 pesos or USD 8). Take a look at the expense summary at the very end of this post and you will see that I only spent 5,912.86 pesos for the entire duration of my trip! Amazing, no?
*I did not have any expectations with Turkish Food before my trip, but it certainly became one of my favorites! Because I was so amazed with Turkish cuisine, I joined two food tours in Istanbul! Check out my posts here and here.
My 11-day Trip Overview
Day 1: Arrival at Istanbul Atatürk Airport; Travel to Izmir then to Selcuk
After 30 hours of travel (3 plane rides, 1 long layover in Abu Dhabi and 1 train ride), we finally made it to Selcuk, Turkey! It is the gateway to Ephesus, which is home to the Ancient Roman Ruins. We arrived at around 7 in the evening and totally got lost trying to find our guesthouse because of language barrier. Good thing, we asked a local and he contacted the owner of Ephesus Palace to fetch us. That’s a perfect example of Turkish hospitality, don’t you agree? :)I will tell you more about how I was overwhelmed by the kind of hospitality we have experienced in Turkey on my next posts.
Day 2: Ephesus Whole Day Tour
We explored the Archeological Site of Ephesus on our second day in Turkey. If you are a history buff and would like to learn as much information as you’d like, then hiring a local guide is a must. In our case, we explored the whole archaeological site on our own and just read an online travel guide while we were walking. Exploring it DIY allowed us to stay longer and get that perfect Ephesus selfies (lol!). In the late afternoon, we checked out from our hotel then traveled from Selcuk to Denizli by local train. No reservations required for this train, you just have to check the train schedule in the station and buy tickets from there.
Highlights of Ephesus:
- Basilica of St. John
- Ephesus Museum
- Temple of Artemis – Just one lonely column is all that remains of the temple
- Meryemana (House of the Virgin Mary)
- Library of Celsus
Day 3: Pamukkale Whole Day Tour
On day 3, we explored the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pamukkale (meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish) and Hierapolis, an ancient Roman spa city founded around 190 B.C. Our hotel, Pamukkale Melrose Hotel, was located at the foot of the travertines so we never had problems exploring it on our own. In the late afternoon, we check out from the hotel and headed to Denizli Bus Terminal. We bought our overnight bus tickets then headed to Cappadocia at around 9 PM. No reservations required for the overnight bus, just go to the station directly.
Highlights of Pamukkale and Hierapolis:
- The picturesque travertine formations
- Hierapolis Theatre
- Antique Pool
- Hierapolis Archeological Museum
Day 4: Cappadocia DIY Tour
My friend and I were so tired from the long journey from Pamukkale to Cappadocia that we chose to stay in and sleep right after checking in at Guven Cave Hotel. They allowed us to check in at 8 AM! Can you believe that?! Standard check in time there is at 11 AM. Since we woke up late, we were only able to visit the Love Valley and Goreme Town Proper, so we did not spend that much on this day.
Day 5: Cappadocia Green Tour
On day 5, we decided to join a small group tour of the Green Tour from Gorgeous Travel. The attractions on this tour are located far from each other so we cannot really DIY this. We visited the following:
- Derinkuyu Underground City – the biggest and deepest underground settelment so far
- Selime Kathedral – the biggest rock-cut Monastry of the region
- Ihlara Canyon – contains more than 100 churches and approximately 10,000 caves which are carved by early Christian Monks
- Pigeon Valley in Uchisar town – one of the best panoramic view of the region. The site also features hundreds of pigeon houses which are built by the ancient inhabitants of the region.
Day 6: Cappadocia DIY Tour
Day 6 was our last full day in Cappadocia so we decided to explore it on our own. In the morning, we went to the Sunset Point to witness the famed Cappadocia hot air balloons up in the air, which was definitely one of the highlights of this trip. After lunch, we went to Goreme Open Air Museum and explored it DIY. In the afternoon, we just ate and walked around town for some shopping.
Day 7: Cappadocia to Istanbul
On day 7, we woke up at 2 AM to catch our early morning flight from Cappadocia’s Kayseri Airport to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen Airport. We arrived in the city at around 9 AM and decided to explore the Old City of Istanbul or the Sultanahmet area. We were also just in time for the Lale or Tulips Festival.
Highlights of Sultanahmet:
- The iconic Hagia Sophia
- Blue mosque
- Topkapi Palace
- Basilica Cistern
Day 8: Istanbul Spice Bazaar and Kadikoy Market Foodie Tour
What better way to explore the old city of Istanbul than to walk around the city with a local, sample the best of Turkish cuisine and taste a traditional Turkish coffee? On our 8th day in Turkey, may friend and I joined a food tour in the Spice Bazaar and Kadikoy Market.
Day 9: Istanbul Culinary Backstreets Food Tour
On day 9, my friend and I joined the Two Markets, Two Continents food tour of Culinary Backstreets, a company that offers food tours specifically tailored to guide tourists to some of the oldest streets in Istanbul. On this tour, we explored Istanbul’s Karakoy neighborhood in the European side and Kadikoy neighborhood in the Asian side, tied together by a Bosphorus crossing.
Day 10: Istanbul DIY Tour
On day 10, my friend and I decided to explore Istanbul on our own. We were confident with our navigation skills already since we joined two food tours in the city the previous days. On this day, we were able to explore Sultanahmet (again) and visited historic places like Basilica Cistern and Grand Bazaar.
Day 11: Istanbul to Airport
The best thing ever happened to us this day. While we were checking in for our flight to Abu Dhabi that afternoon, the staff of Etihad Airways advised us that the flight was full and they could not accommodate us. In short, we were off loaded. As a compensation, they provided us direct flight tickets from Istanbul to Manila c/o Turkish Airlines, priority immigration pass, airport lounge access and 600 euros each.
I pretended to think for a moment, but on my mind, I was already calculating how much is 600 euros in pesos. Lol! 38,000 pesos sya! The flight was scheduled the next day at 2 AM and we arrived in Manila at 6:45 PM. Just 2 hour difference from our original flight schedule. Amazing! I got my return tickets from Etihad for only 30,000 pesos then I received a compensation for 38,500 pesos, sobrang bawi ang puhunan!
How much did I spend on this trip?
My 11-day itinerary was pretty much extensive, don’t you think? 🙂 If you’re curious how much I spent, you can check out my excel file right here. In total, I spend 75,097 pesos inclusive of everything – visa, airfare, accommodation, tours, local transportation, shopping, etc.
So, there you have it! I spent a lot of time researching and planning for the perfect 11-day Turkey itinerary, so this post is here to help you save some time when creating your own trip. I hope you find it useful, and do feel free to add your own tips in the comments section. Do you have any questions? Suggestions? Let’s chat down below! 🙂
Stay connected in Turkey
Whether you are travelling to Turkey for vacation or a business trip, a pocket WiFi should be a non-negotiable. Public places in Turkey do not offer free WiFi so it is challenging to stay connected to family and friends as well as navigate or research for your trip. To enjoy a secure, fast Internet connection and portability that a Pocket WiFi provides, make sure to rent your own device from Alldaywifi. Use my promo code ‘PROJECTGORA10’ to get 10% off!
First Published: September 18, 2018