Honeymoon in Turkey
February 22, 2013 10:59 AM   Subscribe

My fiancee and I are considering Turkey for our honeymoon next October. Should we take a pre-arranged tour or book all our own hotels, in-country travel, etc.? Our considerations are money and how much effort it will be to plan a long trip to a new place in addition to a wedding.

I think our honeymoon budget will be about $4k, and the flights will probably be $1600-1800 of that. We'd like to get the most time we can out of the remaining $2300 or so. (We're also hoping to do a Honeyfund-type registry and pay some of it that way... but let's say we have $4k to spend out of pocket).

I found a travel tours company that does mostly-inclusive Turkish vacations - 15 days for $2100 each. I've never been a tour-group person, but it's kind of appealing while planning a wedding to book a vacation where you already have the hotels, in-country travel, and most meals arranged for you. I think we could find a tour that has enough alone time available that we wouldn't be honeymooning with a group the whole time. The stuff on their tours all sounds interesting, and they have some optional things you can add on or not.

So what I want to know is, how difficult/time intensive is it to do all the research to book hotels in Turkey and figure out how to get between cities? Istanbul and Troy are on our definites list, and I'd really like to see Antalya and Cappadocia, and do a one-day straits cruise. (We're open to other suggestions, too!)

If the difficulty is worth getting to set your own itinerary, can we actually do a 10-14 day trip on our own for about $2300 plus flights? Or is the tour company giving us a pretty sweet deal?
posted by nakedmolerats to Travel & Transportation around Turkey (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
In my experience, what works best in Turkey is to book individual tours for the individual places you're going to. For example, you can probably see all of the things in Istanbul you want to see on your own and book a straits cruise outside of the framework of a "tour." But to do all the interesting things in Cappadocia, you're going to need to book a tour so that you can get driven to all of the interesting places you need to go to.

Getting between major and minor cities is stunningly easy: there are a ton of bus companies that will get you to wherever you're going. Getting between smaller towns is more difficult, and that's where the tours come in.

The places you name (Antalya, Istanbul, Troy, Cappadocia) are all very well documented regarding hotel and transportation options. With the exception of Cappadocia, you can probably show up to all of them, sight unseen, and book a hotel and track down a tour company able to take you to the places you want to go. However, it is best to plan all of that ahead of time.
posted by deanc at 11:19 AM on February 22, 2013

Agree w/deanc.

I would definitely suggest avoiding a pre-booked tour for the whole thing. If you want to go to Cappadocia there are tons of tour packages you can get just for that. Also, the tours on that page look overly packed--do you really want to go to 5-6 cities in 14 days? With only 3 days in Istanbul? Cappadocia is definitely a must-see. I don't know anything about Troy. I'm sure Antalya's nice but haven't been. I'd also recommend the ruins of Ephesus if you're at all interested in that kind of thing--phenomenal. Izmir, the big city 45 mins away, also seems interesting. Istanbul-Izmir flights are short and cheap; it could be an easy 24 hour overnight trip.

For in-country flights make sure to look at Pegasus Air and Atlasjet. Super cheap budget airlines that can get you from Istanbul to anywhere you'd want to go at a good price.

Unless you're both hardcore pedal-to-the-metal-all-day-every-day types, I think you'd enjoy it more if you did, say, Istanbul for 4-5 days and then a few days each in, say, 2 other places (max 3). Getting around Turkey is not that hard, but it can be tiring and the distances can be long if you're going by bus.
posted by pdq at 11:29 AM on February 22, 2013

I would also recommend the individual tours, not a massive group package. We did almost no planning for Istanbul and still ended up in a great hotel, with the freedom to decide when we wanted to go on a ferry cruise, or how long to spend in the museums, etc. We also hired a tour package to do Izmir/Ephesus once there, by basically talking to the nicest seeming tour company within a five block radius. It was a little barebones, but very safe and fun. I think we ended up paired with a couple of other little tour groups, but it was much better and easier than dealing with the huge groups from the cruises or other big packages. I would also say that being in Istanbul for at least 4 days is probably better than trying to cram in too many other sights, especially on your honeymoon. There have been some great Istanbul threads recently; you might want to see how much you want to do and see within Istanbul and then look at the timeframe again. Also, there are budget buses (both dolma and modern Grayhound-equivalent,) but given your timing, I would spring for the budget flights.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:59 AM on February 22, 2013

Agree with everyone else that there's no need for an all-inclusive tour. My gf and I went last August and spent $2600 for 15 days. That included a car rental for 4 days, so you could probably still spend less. We did absolutely no individual tours because I hate that kind of thing, and we still saw everything I wanted to see.

I had put together an itinerary before we went, but we only booked our hotels and transportation the day before each hotel stay.

Incidentally, Troy is a disappointment if you are not serious about Homer. It's very difficult to piece anything together from the many remains piled on top of one another. If staring at what is almost assuredly not the Scaean Gate is enough for you, great, but otherwise it's something of a bust. I'd skip the Troad altogether, except maybe Assos, which is a delightful joy for the modern town itself, the view of Lesbos from the summit, and the quality of its ancient walls and theater.
posted by dd42 at 12:18 PM on February 22, 2013

Oh yeah, I should have mentioned that a friend (also a classics person) highly recommended Pergamon (Bergama) as an alternative to Troy. It's slightly closer than Izmir to Istanbul, and the visible ruins are also spectacular. If you are looking for ancient ruins, there are some other phenomenal sites in Turkey, but they're harder to reach-- worth it if archaeology is your thing, maybe not as much if you're looking for a mix of beaches or other cultural aspects.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:27 PM on February 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

My wife and I honeymooned in Turkey (has it been 12 1/2 years already!) and loved it. We spent about 4 days in Istanbul on our own and then joined a small tour group (eight including the 2 of us) for a 15 day train/bus/gullet tour. Although we got a lot of people wondering why we didn't travel alone we really enjoyed the group we were with. It was run by Imaginative Traveller and at the time it was really well done.
posted by smcniven at 6:44 PM on February 23, 2013

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