I had really been wanting to do this earlier, to document my recent trip to Turkey for all you guys looking for a budget travel and I am finally penning it down!
Turkey is a pretty sought after destination and after visiting this country, I got my answer to that – it’s sheer magic!
Let’s begin to awe you…but before outlining the itinerary, here are some important insights for you 🙂
Insights on Turkey Travel Planning
Budget Required: PKR 120,000-140,000 (approx $1100 – $1300) – inclusive of airfare, visa and travel insurance (compulsory)
Total No. of Cities: 6
Route Map: Istanbul – Cappadocia – Konya – Antalya – Fethiye – Pammukale – Istanbul
Exchange Rate: 1TL = Rs. 27* (check current rate)
Pro Tip: Take Euros from Pakistan and exchange into liras in Turkey as needed; gives a better rate
Below are the average costs you’ll incur during the planning of the trip:
*prices are mentioned in round figures and Pakistani Currency
Airfare: Keep a lookout for season sales and chance seats on Etihad Airways. I was lucky to find myself a flight worth PKR 35000/- (return)
Accomodation: PKR 3000 – 3500 / day ($30) for two persons. You can get really nice hotels in any of these cities mentioned. you could even go lower than this (~ $20) and look for a hostel, but if privacy, space, personal bathroom and security is your concern, then spending a little extra still comes under the budget. For reasonable hotel bookings Visit Booking.com, Agoda or AirBnB
Transportation: Getting around the city via bus/tram is easy and cheap too. (TL 2-3per side) and they arrive every 10-20 minutes. The bus routes there are quite confusing so you better check the official website for clarity. Inter-city travel is easily made by a bus or quicker and cheaper via their domestic flights that run frequently. Try Pegasus, Turkish Airlines or AtlasJet. Taxi’s are a big NO NO!
Here’s a quick version of a 10-day itinerary to Turkey. You can read below for Further detail.
Day 1 – Arrive in Istanbul / Explore the City
Day 2 – Museum Day /Explore the Bazaars
Day 3 – Prince’s Islands / Explore the City / Nightlife
(overnight travel to Cappadocia)
Day 4 – Arrival in Cappadocia / Explore the Open Air Museum & Underground City
Day 5 – Hot Air Balloon Ride / Konya Stop-Over / Antalya
Day 6 – Explore Antalya
Day 7 – Rafting & Canyoning / Depart for Fethiye
Day 8 – Explore Oludeniz beach & Hisanoru
Day 9 – Depart for Pammukale / Explore Travertines & Heirapolis / Istanbul
Day 10 – Visit the Basilica Cistern & Grand Bazaar. Fly back home.
Day 1: Check in & Explore
* Shuttle service from the airport runs across all major areas (15TL)
Check in to your hotel, eat your breakfast and head straight out to grasp the metro and tram routes. Visit the 19th century extravagant palace of Dolmabahce . If you’re hotel is at Taksim, take the M2 from Istanbul Metro via Kabataş-Taksim Funicular (don’t forget to get the rechargeable card for TL 6) and travel along the routes for ~2.6 TL for every hop. Get off at different stations to explore the area and finally move towards Karakoy harbourside. Climb the Galata Tower (20 TL), built in 13th century and see spectacular views of the Golden Horn and combining continents. Don’t miss out on the beautiful sunset of this place and get tickets for the 1.5 hour Sunset cruise ride along the Bosphorus (15 TL) from the Ticket office exactly opposite to the Karakoy Fish Market. After the ride, Eat from either of the many restaurants on the Galata bridge, explore the Spice bazaar nearby. Rustam Pasha mosque is also lit and visible from this side of the city.
Budget Tip: please don’t get ripped by booking expensive cruise tours online or any tours for that matter. You’ll get ultra reasonable trips by visiting and booking personally. You just need to be there early and look around.
Day 2: Museum Day Exploration & Taksim Square
Reserve a complete day for the opulent history of the mosques and museums of Istanbul. At any cost, do not miss out on the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet), Hagia Sofia (25TL) and Topkapi Palace (40TL). Leave early to cover maximum spots. Other than mosques, every museum carries an entrance fee. Post 5 pm, when the museums close, sit along the coast of Marmara Sea, catch fish or cycle, walk along Kennedy Street and enjoy fresh seafood on the roadside while enjoying the views of Ahirkapi Lighthouse at Seraglio Point.
Having your hotel close to Taksim Square gives you the opportunity to wander around the place everyday. Enjoy the chaos and nightlife – this place eventually becomes home!
Budget Tip: Get yourself an Istanbul Museum Pass (85TL) to visit all the museums around the city for 5 days, including special discounts at art and entertainment centers and save yourself a lot of bucks!
Day 3: Prince’s Islands & Ortaköy
Prince Island is a cluster of 9 islands south east of Istanbul where you come and go by a ferry (15TL) from Karakoy Harbourside – Büyükada is the largest of the islands that has a lot of Greek and Jewish association and has churches, monasteries, hills and parks to offer. There are no cars in here, so you commute either on horses (expensive) or on bicycles (10 TL/Hour).
Enjoy diving in the sea, glorious quaint architecture and a vast variety of delicious foods. On return, go to Ortaköy and enjoy the hustle bustle of tourists, lit up streets, reataurants, bars and neo-baroque structures.
Pro Tip: Keep a check of timings for ferry depatures at the island. You do not want to miss out your last route and stay on the beautiful but expensive Prince Island.
Day 4: Exploring Cappadocia (Göreme)
Take a cheap early morning (pre-booked) flight (5-6 am) from Istanbul (Sabiha Gokcen Airport) to Kayseri Airport via Pegasus Airlines. Pre book an airport transfer by Argeus Travels (25 TL) from Kayseri to Goreme as it takes about an hour and there are no buses that would go direct to your hotel. Check in and Head to to Göreme Open Air Museum (30 TL) and after exploring, take a bus to Nevşehir (3 TL) and from there another bus to Derinkuyu Underground City (3 TL) which has an entrance fee (25 TL). It’s an ancient 7th century multi leveled city of nearly a depth of 200 feet. Head back to Nevşehir and explore the place a little as it’s more developed. Definitely buy lots of local chocolates and eatables from there as they are relatively cheaper. Head back to Göreme, enjoy the sunset up on your rooftop amid the fairy chimneys and enjoy delicious food from the restaurants nearby. Also shop for souvenirs from the bulk shops (But Dont Bargain – They don’t like it)
Budget Tip: Do not book any Red, Blue or Green Tour, you can do it all by yourself at half or lesser the price specially with more time at hand. Do not book a guide at the Underground city either.
Pro Tip: This is central Anatolia and people do NOT speak English at all, hence keep google translator app, a wi-fi device and maps with you at all times.
Get All Day Wi-fi device from here
Day 5: Hot Air Balloon – Konya – Antalya
Trip to Cappadocia is incomplete without the Hot Air Balloon ride – I asked my hotel (Paradise Cave Hotel) to book it for me and they did it for 80 Euros / person. The ride begins before sunrise and you’ll be done max by 8 am.
Get 10 am tickets for a stop over ride to Konya (35 TL) from the station and head to a 4 hour ride to the mystic but well developed city of Mevlana Rumi. Put your luggage in a locker at Konya Bus Station (7 TL) and visit the mausoleum. Head back to catch the 5/6pm bus to the resort city of Antalya. (50 TL)
Reach Antalya and check in to your hotel, in my case it was in Old Town Kaleici, popular with tourists. Explore dining options and enjoy musical nights at the cafes/bar.
Budget Tip: Do not get late than 6 pm to catch the bus to Antalya. Inter city bus and tram ways close at 11pm and Taxis to the main city are very expensive.
Pro Tip: Book your accommodation with Mango Pension , super hospitable hosts, clean rooms and reasonable rates.
Day 6: Exploring Antalya
Enjoy free activities like visiting the Hadrian’s Gate and the Karaaglioglu Park. Enjoy breath-taking views of the Taurus mountains from the Kaleici Marina and stroll in the greek styled streets of Yenkapi Town.
Take a bus to Duden Waterfalls (2.5 TL/side) and visit these delightful beauties for just 4TL entrance fee.
Tour through the Murat Pasha market and enjoy cheap(est) shopping from around town. Visit the famous Konyaalti / Lara beach and enjoy delicious meals from around town.
Later in the evening, you can go for a classic Turkish Hamam.
Budget Trip: Don’t use any guided tours and make the excursions yourself using local transportation. Do all the shopping from this place, it’s super awesome!
Day 7: Rafting & Canyoning – Fethiye
Enjoy a mind boggling experience of Rafting and Canyoning in the korpulu Canyons with Fortune Rafting for 40 Euros which includes everything from pick-up to food to drop off. Once the tour ends, change and rush straight to the Antalya bus station to catch your 7 pm bus to Fethiye (45 TL) via Pammukale Bus Company
At Fethiye station, find a Dolmus (minibus) to Oludeniz/Hisanoru (depends where your hotel is) that are super cheap (3-5 TL) and convenient. They run every 30 mins from 8pm onwards till 11pm (last bus) and run every 10 mins otherwise, starting from 6am in the morning.
If you have time, don’t forget to stop for a snack at Fethiye bus stop within the vicinity and meet the adorable Gerberian Shepsky, Carlos there, else he will politely escort you to his master’s cafe himself 😀
Pro Tip: Know the bus routes and timings from Antalya onwards in advance, you don’t want to waste your hours at the station if you miss the last bus. Pre book tickets if you have to.
Budget Tip: Book your accomodation with Vento Hotel for a nice lavish and affordable experience.
Day 8: Oludeniz & Hisanoru
Head out to the beach after a hefty breakfast via the Dolmus. Spend your day paragliding, scuba diving, sunbathing or visiting the Butterfly Valley. Oludeniz means “Dead Sea” and the water is great for floating but the coast is ultra pebbly and has gigantic rocks on its shores. Be Careful!
Head back to Hisanoru late in the evening and enjoy the bustling streets full of tourists, bars and fresh cuisines.
Pro Tip: Book your paragliding Tours there and then with either Easy Riders or Guide Tours for 80 Euros (You can try bargaining)
Day 9: Fethiye to Pammukale Stop-over & Istanbul
Reach back to Fethiye bus station early in the day and hop on to the one going to Pammukale – Denizli Province (35 TL). From the station, put your luggage in a locker (7 TL) and take a bus (4 TL) to the famous Travertines and Heirapolis (North Entrance – 35 TL) and take a tour of the necropolis that also has sarcophagus of Marcus Aurelius. Keep walking through this surreal city, with ruins and amphitheater on one end and calcium travertines on another. Behold the Sight!
Head back to the Denizli bus station before 6pm and get a taxi to Pammukale City Center (20 TL) as the last shuttle to the Denizli airport or Havalimani leaves around 7 pm (15 TL) The airport is around 1-1.5 hour away from the city. Take your last 10 pm flight back to Istanbul. Reach in 1.5 – 2 hours and head off to your hotel via airport shuttle (15 TL).
Budget Tip: To save some bucks, you don’t put the luggage in the locker and carry it with you to the Pammukale Travertines and request a shopkeeper to keep your stuff for few hours. You can directly go to the airport from here instead of going back to the station.
Day 10: Istanbul (Grand Bazaar & Basilica Cistern) – Fly Home
Keep the last day for big shopping and last minute excusrions around the city that you didn’t see earlier. Grand Bazaar is near Sultan Ahmet and you definitely don’t want to miss this bazaar (9am -7pm). The Basilica Cistern built in 6th century is also an awe-inspiring landmark (10 TL) that can hold nearly 80,000 meters of water.
Keep a fly-back-home flight later in the evening so you have the day time at your disposal. Reach the shuttle bus stop in time to catch your flight back home. (15 TL to the airport)
Budget and Pro Tip: If you’re carrying anything you feel the airline might not allow as hand carry, ask the airline first, sometimes they allow it and you’ll be saved from paying a hefty price for the safety wrap.
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