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Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Istanbul, Turkey

Jamie and Fam Beyond

Welcome Back to our Friday Blog Series: Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s, where our favorite Travel Planning Aficionado shares her wealth of knowledge and experiences about traveling the world! After every trip to a new destination, Jamie gives us her perspective as both a traveler, and a travel advisor, through a quick but comprehensive list of what to do or not do at each vacation location!

As many of you who follow along know, Jamie’s much-anticipated Family Vacation of 2023 was spent cruising through Europe on the Celebrity Beyond! This epic cruise took Jamie and Fam through Italy, Greece and Turkey, and as expected, it was BEYOND amazing! Because the itinerary included so many beautiful and diverse destinations, we’ve been featuring different locations and travel experiences over the course of multiple “Do”s and “Don’t”s Blogs. Today, we’re featuring one of the most incredible experiences Jamie had: Istanbul, Turkey!

So Let’s Get Going to Turkey! But First…

Jamie’s “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Istanbul!

Top Favorites, and Jamie’s “Must Do” Experiences

1. DO Indulge in Turkish Cuisine

The local flavors and cuisine of a location are just as much a part of the cultural landscape as the famous and recognizable landmarks that travelers are drawn to see. Sharing meals and food is one of the most meaningful ways people are brought together (just think of what holiday we just celebrated here in America, and yes, this feature on Turkey was planned to be around Turkey Day). Make sure you try the traditional dishes of Turkey, such as Kebabs, Mezes, and Baklava, and also sit down at a local cafe to experience Turkish Tea or Coffee. Jamie and her family loved this experience so much they did it twice: once in the Turkish Bazaar at Gul Ebru Kantin, and also at the cruise port at Gunaydin.

2. DO Shop at the Grand Bazaar

The Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, and is well worth seeing and exploring. It’s the perfect place to find souvenirs, spices and Turkish Delights to bring home with you. However, because it’s so “grand” with SO much to see and choose from, it can also be overwhelming; therefore, the best way to experience the Grand Bazaar is with a guide. Without a guide, it’s easy to get lost and lose valuable time to see other sites throughout the city, but a guide will expertly navigate your Bazaar shopping experience, while also sharing history and pointing out the little nooks and crannies along the way. Pro-Tip: Be prepared to haggle for the best prices; it’s not rude, it’s common practice and the vendors expect it.

3. DO Use Public Transportation

Many people are wary about using public transportation in cities that are unfamiliar to them, both domestically and internationally, which is a valid concern; knowing whether or not you should take the public transportation in any given city is important to know before you go. In the case of Istanbul, Public Transportation is definitely a safe, efficient, and affordable way to explore the city. Using the trams and ferries to get around the city will allow you to see Istanbul from a local’s perspective, instead of just getting the tourist view. Plus, if you have a Private Guide in Istanbul (more on that later), they can help you navigate the public transportation system with ease. Jamie and her family were fascinated by traveling around the city with their guide in this way.

4. DO Have Turkish Ice Cream

Isn’t it a given that if there is ice cream, you should try it? Just be sure to get the authentic version from a traditional Turkish ice cream stand. 

5. DO Try Turkish Delights and Spices

The Spice Market is like a work of art just to look at, but then when you remember all the colors in front of you are part of the culinary arts, too, it makes the whole Market experience that much more impressive.

While you are there, be sure to try some of the famous Turkish Delights, and of course, buy some to bring home in addition to whatever spices you choose to bring home, too!

Top “Must-Don’t”s, or Things Jamie Would Do Differently

1. DON’T Disregard Dress Codes

It’s important to remember that one of the greatest gifts of travel is the window it offers into another way of life; you don’t have to understand or agree with certain customs and traditions of different parts of the world, but while you’re visiting, you do have to respect them. This is especially true at many religious sites all over the world, including in Istanbul, where there are likely dress codes many Americans aren’t used to. To be respectful (and to be allowed in some of the landmarks you don’t want to miss), everyone in your group should dress modestly. This means that everyone in your group should wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees, and that women should carry a scarf to cover their heads wherever required, such as in mosques. Pro-Tip: Bring a light scarf everywhere you go, just in case; otherwise, some mosques offer coverings for women at a small charge.

2. DON’T Miss Istanbul’s Famous Landmarks

While you’re in Istanbul, even if you only have a one day excursion on a cruise, there are a few places you absolutely don’t want to miss. However you decide to structure your day, be sure you have time to visit the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, Topkapi Palace, and the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque. They are architectural and artistic marvels, each with unique features and elaborate details, so be ready to take pictures (where allowed). Pro-Tip: Don’t forget the aforementioned note about dress code!

3. DON’T Skip the Rug Market

This one seems like a niche market, literally, but visiting the Rug Market is truly an experience to be had while you’re in Istanbul, whether you appreciate rugs or not. If you’ve ever gone looking for a rug at home, you’ve probably realized that many of the best ones are from Turkey, and for good reason; Turkish Rugs are some of the highest quality rugs in the world. A visit to the Rug Market allows you to explore the history of the rug-making art, and the process, as well; the experience is more of a show or presentation than just a shopping trip, and it’s absolutely fascinating! Pro-Tip: Be prepared to either buy or say no, but still go even if you don’t plan to buy.

4. DON’T Forgo a Private Tour Guide

This tip almost always makes its way onto Jamie’s “Do”s and “Don’t”s Lists, whether it’s in the form of DO Hire a Private Tour Guide, or DON’T Forget to, and it’s especially true for cities that are unfamiliar to you. For Istanbul, specifically, the cost of hiring a Private Tour Guide is fairly inexpensive, and the history and insight into the area is well worth the investment. If you’ll be in Istanbul for multiple days, consider hiring a Private Tour Guide for at least part of your time, especially to guide you through the Grand Bazaar and around the Public Transportation System, and if you’ll only be there for a day on a cruise excursion, definitely hire a Private Tour Guide to get the most out of your day.

And…that’s a wrap of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s for Istanbul, Turkey!

Ready to Plan?

Now that you have all of Jamie’s best advice for visiting Istanbul, are you ready to plan your next Turkish Adventure? Contact your favorite Love of the Magic Vacations Travel Advisor or email hello@LOTMV.com to start planning today! 

Just like last year, in 2023, a new Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s list will come out the Friday after Jamie returns from her latest trip! And you can find links to all of Jamie’s 2022 Travel Tips at this Blog: Jamie’s 2022 Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: A Recap

Looking for more of Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s?

So far, we have: 

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Group Cruising

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Universal Studios Orlando

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: River Cruising

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Disneyland

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Chicago

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: International Travel

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Rome, Italy

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: European Cruising

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Fort Lauderdale

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Virgin Voyages

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Disney Cruise Line

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Curacao

Jamie’s Destination “Do”s and “Don’t”s: Santorini, Greece

And don’t forget to check out our Inspiring Itineraries as well, featuring a Perfect Plan for your next vacation, and highlighting a new destination each month! You can find links to all of 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries in this Blog: A Year of Inspired Travel: 2022’s Inspiring Itineraries, Month by Month

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