Turkey, Istanbul, and Cappadocia on a Budget

If your bank account is bursting with money and you want to spend it faster, then this post is not for you. If, however, you’re trying to save every penny just so you can realize your travel dreams and you’re wondering how you can travel cheap then this post is for you.

Travel isn’t cheap but if you do it right it also doesn’t have to cost a fortune. If you’re planning on visiting Turkey then you’ve already made a great money saving decision. Between lower costs of living and the low value of the Lira (Turkish currency), costs CAN be quite cheap. Your next step is to read through our cost saving tips and then decide exactly what things you most want to experience within your budget.

Istanbul Tulip Festival

SOME GENERAL TIPS

–Experiencing a city isn’t the same as seeing every museum. Wandering the streets, enjoying beautiful neighborhoods, visiting churches and mosques, are all free and just as important to experience a place as visiting the museums.

-Consider getting a museum card. The main, country wide body of museums, accepts the Müze Kart pass. There are a number of different options to choose from so you’ll need to decide if getting the card is going to save you money based on what you want to see. (for more info on museum passes check out Museums in Turkey)

-Wanna blow your budget? Go to the hospital without travel insurance.

-Hike! Turkey has some stunning trails through wilderness and history. Whether you want mountains, sea vistas, or rugged plains, there’s a trail waiting to be explored for free!

-Travelling in the spring or fall will be a bit cheaper than in the summer. The winter will be even cheaper yet but the weather could be bad depending on where you’re going. The Mediterranean and Aegean regions tend to be nice most of the year except from December to mid February.

-The best thing you can do is make friends with a local! They know the cheapest ways of doing things and will often insist on feeding you!

-One of the best ways to save money is to get out of Istanbul. The Aegean and Mediterranean regions can still be expensive, especially if you’re in one of the tourist hotspots but if you get out into the countryside prices drop off considerably. Central Anatolia, the Black Sea, and Eastern Turkey regions are the cheapest options and there are tons of sights well worth visiting! (check out Getting Off the Beaten Track for more on how and why to get beyond the tourist districts)

 

ACCOMMODATION

Accommodation can easily become a major expense when traveling, which, if you’re just using it as a place to sleep, can feel like a rip-off. One of the easiest ways to save on accommodation is choosing what season you travel in and where you visit. Hotel prices are the most affected by seasonal rates so a great way to save on accommodation is to visit in the shoulder or off seasons (though when the off season is will vary a bit from region to region).

When picking out a place to stay there’s two things you need to ask yourself: How nice does it need to be? And how close to the main attractions does it need to be? In major tourist centres like Istanbul location is going to cost you more. Sometimes just being a 20 minute bus ride away will save you money. However, the worst quality hotels will often be near the heart of the historical centre of any city so if you’re the type of person who’s fine with a nasty hotel, then this is a great way to save money.

Often the cheapest hotels will not be listed online so booking one of these ultra-cheap hotels online isn’t really an option. What we usually do is walk into a neighborhood that looks cheap, keep an eye out for hotel signs and then ask the price at the front desk. If its not a really cheap price you can ask if they have any cheaper options and they may bring the price down. Make sure to ask to see the room first to make sure it’s the kind of place you’d actually want to stay.

Another great option is couch surfing! Couch surfing is an online community of hosts and travellers where travellers can stay at locals’ homes for free.  (Please note that this doesn’t mean your trip is free, it means that you have a free place to stay, the rest of the costs are still up to you.) Couch Surfing is growing in popularity in Turkey, especially in the larger cities but don’t expect to find much outside of places like Istanbul, Cappadocia, Ankara, Izmir, etc.

For more about this program check out courchsurfing.com

 

SAVE ON FOOD

Tip one is simply don’t eat western fast food like McDonalds, Burger King, and KFC. Reason number one is that they are a whole lot more expensive than most local places and they’re not even quick. McDonalds in Turkey is also really quite bad. The second reason to avoid these places is that spending money should be a part of enjoying Turkey so when you eat you should also be trying to experience something of Turkey. Burger King does not offer you a very Turkish experience.

Get a little way away from the tourist districts for your food and save big. Sometimes it’s just a matter of going a few blocks away and finding the same food for around half the price.

Restaurants tend to nail you on drinks and water is almost never free.

By law the price list is supposed to be posted in restaurants. If it isn’t on the wall or not in the menu then it may not be worth it. However, if you’re in the middle of nowhere, chances are they just haven’t gotten around to writing the prices and they aren’t going to rip you off. If it’s a beachside café on the Mediterranean near the resort districts, just move on.

Finally, remember that grocery stores have food too. You can buy a picnic lunch for a fraction of the cost of eating out.

 

GETTING AROUND

For within the cities public transit is usually the cheapest option. In smaller towns and cities you’ll be able to pay cash but in the bigger cities you’ll want to get a transit card to take advantage of the best rates. Getting a card is super easy and will save you big time.

If you’re traveling in a group though a taxi may very easily be your best option. Taxis tend to be fairly inexpensive so when you split the cost three ways, they can end up being cheaper and quicker than taking a bus, especially if you’ll be needing to make transfers.

For intercity travel there’s the train, the bus, and flights.

Flights are cheap within Turkey so if you’re weighing your options make sure to look into air travel as well. The two main airlines in Turkey are Pegasus and Turkish Airlines making shopping around pretty easy. Pegasus tickets can be crazy cheap, sometimes even cheaper than the bus.

While you can hitch hike in Turkey it’s not recommended due to safety and the fact that it can take a VERY long time to get picked up. In really rural areas hitch hiking works better but along larger highways the people I’ve spoken to have waited up to five hours just to get picked up.

For more about travel in Turkey make sure to check out Getting Around, an article all about transit cards, bus types, and airports in Turkey.

 

HOW TO SAVE IN ISTANBUL

To save money in Istanbul here’s a list of some of the city’s free (or close to it) attractions.

-Mosques actually make up a number of Istanbul’s top attractions so take advantage of it! Make sure to see The Blue Mosque, Süleymaniye, and Nuruosmaniye just for starters.

-The Grand Bazaar is one of the most popular attractions in the world and its free! Spend a day in the maze of little streets and corridors. If you want to buy something head out to Tahtakale, a neighborhood just between The Grand Bazaar and the Spice Market and you’ll find much of the same stuff for half the price.

-Take in one of the city’s great parks. There are so many great parks in Istanbul and if you come at the right time you can even take in Istanbul’s amazing Tulip Festival!

-Walk Istiklal Street. With its little red tram, European architecture, and endless bustle, Istiklal is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike that doesn’t need to cost a penny.

-Walk through Fener and Balat and see the churches

-Take the cheap cruise to Kadiköy. Ok, so its not actually a cruise but the ferry that runs between Istanbul’s European and Asian shores is dirt cheap and a great experience.

-Take in the city’s best view at Ortaköy. Come take in the view of Büyük Mecidiye mosque, sitting on the banks of the Bosphorus with an intercontinental bridge stretching away in the background.

Etnospor Festival. If you’re in Istanbul in May, this celebration of old Central Asian sport and culture is a great free event for all ages!

-Visit a street market

 

HOW TO SAVE IN CAPPADOCIA

Cappadocia is not so much a sight or a city as much as it’s region that spans a few different provinces with tons to do and see.

-While the area around the main sights (Ürgüp in particular) is a bit pricier, the outlying areas are quite a bit cheaper. The main sights are the main sights for a reason though so make sure you don’t skip them!

– Stay in a normal hotel, they’re cheaper than cave hotels.

-Hike! Cappadocia is a region full of amazing valleys, towering mountains, and other worldly landscapes with fascinating sights around every bend. While some of the valleys are protected (usually due to cave churches and such needing maintenance) many are free entry.

-Watching hot air balloons from the ground is A LOT cheaper than riding them and its still an amazing spectacle!

-Cappadocia has its own regional museum pass that you may want to consider looking into.

Nevşehir Caves Cappadocia
The endless maze of caves and tunnels in Turkey’s Cappadocia

Have any other great money saving tips or favorite free sights that we missed? Let us know below!

1s & 0s by knowler