Saturday, November 19, 2011

Reflections on Turkey

As promised, this is my post on my reflections about my trip to Turkey. Besides the awful start that I had with United Airlines and Turkish Airlines, the trip was really pretty great. Here some quick thoughts/reflections/do's/don'ts.

  • DO's
  • Fly Turkish Airlines - They are way better than any US airline and their international inflight entertainment is pretty good. Their food is really good too. Even their domestic flights were enjoyable with good service and flights.
  • Learn the language - At least learn some phrases. I didn't and I regret it.
  • Eat the food - Literally everything I ate was incredible. Unfortunately I don't know what any of it was because at the conference hotel food was buffet and things were barely labeled. Turkish desserts are incredibly sweet and usually dripping in honey or syrup. Drink Turkish coffee and tea. It's delish.
  • In Istanbul, stay in the Old City - That's the part of town where it's really, uh, old. But you'll be very close to the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, which are must-sees. 
  • DON'Ts
  • Drive without GPS - The one thing I would not do again is drive in Turkey without a GPS. Roads are labeled very poorly and hardly any streets are straight. Cities aren't grids which can be confusing. Actually I wouldn't recommend driving if you don't absolutely have to. Gas is the most expensive in the world because of all the taxes. Turkey has a very extensive bus/coach system that looks to be quite affordable. I would've done this had my conference not been in the boonies.
  • Buy domestic Turkey tickets from travel websites - I had to buy a one-way ticket from Ankara to Istanbul and I checked the usual suspects, expedia, orbitz, etc and they wanted like $200 for the 45 minute flight. But I went to the Turkish Airlines website and it was around $50 for the same exact flights. It's ridiculous. There are other low-cost airlines that fly domestic routes in Turkey, but they fly to the alternate airport in Istanbul on the Asia side, which may not be convenient if you need to be on the European side. 

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