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turkey on a shoestring budget...???

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Initial post: Jan 28, 2009, 5:39:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 29, 2009, 4:39:15 PM PST
hell kitten says:
am thinking about a 'backpacking trip' thru turkey - on bus & train, but have not purchased a guide book yet (will probably get lonely planet). there are other destinations I am considering, but do not want to buy a guide book until i have decided upon country of travel!

that said, i was searching the net & found some older sites that were stating $5/night (basic!) accommodations... am wondering, given the weakened US economy, if i could realistically lodge for that amount currently? also, what could i expect for train/bus tickets (say, for a distance of 250-500 km)? and daily taxi fare? and meals?

NOTE - this is a backpacking budget & i'd like to cover travel, meals and lodging for under $10/day... on the US dollar!

any seasoned travelers out there, with recent budget travel in turkey???


a PS - did some more web searching and (1) the turkish $ has weakened against the US $ recently (!) and (2) $10 should provide more than suitable lodging and (3) transportation by bus/train is about $1.50/hr of travel... SO under $10/day total costs MIGHT be done (I am guessing), but add just a few more dollars for this and that - and the added comforts & ease should be totally worth it!

still, anyone who has anything to add - would appreciate! :)

Posted on Feb 27, 2009, 9:13:24 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 27, 2009, 9:19:20 AM PST
We went last summer. Istanbul is easy to walk. Take a state ferry up the Bosporus - not a tourist boat. In fact, there are tourist buses and vans all over the place. Everyone wants to shine your shoes and give your directions because they want your money. If you stop to look at an item, you will be beseiged with a merchant, the merchant's next-door neighbor, even the merchant's grandfather telling you anything - (i.e., "I like Americans; My nephew lives in Detroit; Nice shoes. Good taste. Not every tourist has good taste. Would you like to see my rugs? Come inside. We will have some tea.") - anything to get you to buy their product. You will have to haggle over everything. If you ask for a donar in a pita for lunch. They will bring you a whole lunhc with a donar. You have to say no, just donar. That is frustrating, but Istanbul, the sites, the sounds, walking, looking, and eating cheaply is possible and enjoyable.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 27, 2009, 3:50:02 PM PST
hell kitten says:
librarian -- thanks for the input. sounds pretty benign for a larger city & major tourist destination... ;)

"and give your directions because they want your money..."

that sounds a bit cynical... but also remember, people have to make a living - and there really isn't anything wrong with a little opportunism. but from what i've heard, people in turkey are quite friendly -- and genuinely so. and i'm guessing that the hustling drops off significantly once you stray from the beaten path. also, when you travel and lodge, as the locals do -- people typically don't see you as a $ sign, and often truly just want to help... or so that has been my experience almost everywhere i have been.

Posted on Feb 27, 2009, 10:18:05 PM PST
I don't think that it is humanly possible to live off $10 a day in Turkey, unless you've got a place to sleep for free. I'm not saying this because I'm a big spender...a random example for reference, Lonely Planet says that an "ultrabudget" traveler in Bolivia can "get by" on under $15 and that most people spend 25-50 dollars; I spent $7 a day there. But back to Turkey: LP says that a budget traveler can get by in Turkey on 25-35 *euros*, not dollars. It might be possible to undercut that by, say, 5-6 euros if you buy food at grocery stores and markets and you don't take many long bus rides. That would make about 20 euros, or about 25 dollars. Even a hostel bed will generally run you ten bucks, and that's leaving aside entry fees, bus trips, food, etc. The Lira has weakened against the dollar, but not enough to reduce costs by such a significant amount.

That said, Turkey isn't terribly expensive, either, and it is certainly worth visiting. People are very kind, and you're right that hustling drops off a *lot* when you're not in touristy areas. Even people who hustle you a little are usually genuinely friendly. If someone invites you into his shop and offers you tea, it is okay to take it, chat a bit, thank him for his time, and leave without buying. Most people are happy to talk to you if you're respectful and friendly. If you learn a few words of Turkish people are very appreciative; though it is a difficult language, you can easily learn the polite phrases with a little help from someone who can guide your pronunciation, and it's something that surprisingly few tourists bother to do.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2009, 12:33:00 PM PST
hell kitten says:
kathleen -- "Even a hostel bed will generally run you ten bucks, and that's leaving aside entry fees, bus trips, food, etc..."

thanks! i ran into a site a while back, and i think it was hosted by the turkey tourism dept (?), and i recall that there were options around the $10 range, that included amenities such as breakfast and all you can drink FREE beer! and generally when i see bottom listed prices for tourists - my experience has been that you can more than half that if you stay where locals do. and not unusually, in far off locales -- as long as you have a sleeping bag - you may stay with a family that will feed you & give you a roof, and they just ask for a donation.

but yeah, my impression is that i should figure about $10/day lodging, $5/day travel costs, $5/day food, plus entry fees - give or take here and there...

"you can easily learn the polite phrases with a little help from someone who can guide your pronunciation, and it's something that surprisingly few tourists bother to do."

no doubt! i have often wondered how patient americans would be with travelers who spoke no english... vs. the arrogant expectation when *they* travel -- meaning, everybody should speak english - everywhere! (huh?..) just a ramble here -- but i traveled extensively across vietnam soon after they opened their borders to tourists, and their tonal language is very difficult (!) - but i spent about 5 cents on a translation dictionary & there was NO language barrier, cuz everyone was so incredibly patient to flip back and forth b/w the translations. and in turn, they learned a bit of english, and i, a bit of vietnamese. except their pronunciation was much better! ;)

Posted on Mar 2, 2009, 3:41:47 PM PST
timbobbin says:
I couldn't agree more that picking up the very basics of the Turkish language will serve you well. On our visit people were thrilled that we had taken the time to figure out how to say please, thank you, hello, goodbye etc. My genuine interest in, and some knowledge of the history of the country was also a source of much bonhomie. Rough Guide to Turkey is the one to buy.

Posted on Mar 3, 2009, 4:00:12 PM PST
Tim Leffel says:
$10 a day is not a reasonable budget in Turkey, even in the dead of winter. You could save yourself a lot of digging around time by just checking out a guidebook from the library or thumbing through the cost section at a bookstore. (Or of course, buying a copy of The World's Cheapest Destinations...) But really, you've got to go to the cheapest parts of Central America or Asia to get by on ten bucks a day unless you have people to stay with or you stay in one place the whole time and don't eat much.

Posted on Mar 4, 2009, 7:49:04 PM PST
Just to give you an idea of the cost of entry fees- they will probably set you back the most. Entrance to almost EVERY historical site in Turkey is about 20 lira. In Istanbul, there are a few places that you might want to see, at least 5 at that price. And, the price of the travel seems like a great opportunity- $1.50 per hour. That is not the case, as when I lived in Istanbul, there must be 3 or 4 interchanges from dolmus (small private bus) to city bus to metro to ferry, etc etc. just to arrive at one destination. This is similar in other cities, but definitely less complex than Istanbul. Additionally, most taxi rides around Istanbul can be well above $10. I would think of $10 at a minimum, and remember that the taxi rate at night is 1.5 times the day price.

For travel between cities, using a decent (though it is all relative) bus company- like Metro Turizm or Kamil Koc (there are some others, but I have traveled with these companies extensively), from each point to point it should cost upwards of $28. Aside from that, good luck!

Posted on Mar 5, 2009, 4:49:14 AM PST
Shirz says:
I have been to turkey many times as I live so close. I don't think it is realistic to get by on $10 a day. Especially in Istanbul admissions to the sights are will run you about $10 a day (averaging 2 sights per day at $5 each.)

There is nothing worse than being short of money when you are traveling. I would say go for $25 to $30 a day. $10 for accommodation, $10 traveling or admissions and $5 for food.

If you think you can make in on $10 a day, by all means try it - but make sure you bring an international ATM card to withdraw money if you get stuck.

Posted on Mar 16, 2009, 4:13:40 PM PDT
Mandi says:
I've been to Istanbul on a budget but not one as small as what you're proposing. You can eat and sleep cheap but you don't want to skip the sights because you didn't budget enough money. The sights are what you're there to see! The people are incredibly friendly and like Kathleen mentioned, it's perfectly acceptable to accept an invitation to tea and chat but not purchase anything. You'll get many invitations for tea so you definitely won't go thirsty while you're there :)

For a free place to stay check out You might get lucky and find a bed (or a couch) someplace you're trying to visit. I haven't tried this but I have a friend who has used it many many times and swears by it.

Good luck!

Posted on Mar 20, 2009, 9:26:30 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Mar 20, 2009, 9:27:50 PM PDT]

Posted on Mar 22, 2009, 3:22:03 PM PDT
hell kitten says:
"BTW the Turkish police are not fond of travelers who are bums."

oh gee -- i am so concerned. i only have a PhD -- but cuz i choose to travel native style -- i am a bum? and should be scared of police??? plonk.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2009, 9:32:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 22, 2009, 9:34:11 PM PDT
Anon. says:
You must have been able to access this posting in the one minute it was up.

Turkish police are concerned with public welfare and decorum the same as any advanced society.
I have slept in the park in Amsterdam, on the streets in Baltimore, in a doorway in Atlanta, in a transit lounge in Valencia.
None of these places were really much fun if you were poor.
Hell, no place is fun when you are poor.
Living rough is fine in the opera, reality does not come with a musical background.
I define poor as being *unable* to sleep on your own cot in a secure location in doors.
If you have a Ph.D., wonderful but that is seriously irrelevant to traveling "native style."
It makes you look like a fool to the locals--they know who is a native and who ain't.
Besides, as a ourist, you aren't likely to know the rules of the road--you will be fresh meat on the counter, if I may mix a metaphor.

Posted on Mar 22, 2009, 10:43:39 PM PDT
I read the now-deleted post as well and I don't think that it was well-put. However, I don't think it's at all true that when one pays a low price one is traveling "native style", and this is especially true in Turkey. Turks are charged different prices than foreigners by the same hotels, and many Turks don't/wouldn't stay in some of the places that turn out to be good bargains for foreigners. I could see this very clearly when traveling within Turkey with a Turk. Unless one travels with a Turkish person who is familiar with the particular region of the country, even the specific town in which one is staying, one's experience, and one's food and accommodation bills, will differ from those of locals.

The variable price structure brings up a point that I should've mentioned earlier, is worth your time to try negotiating on accommodation prices. If the place isn't full, they may be willing to lower their rate for you.
Your reply to Bookish Baker's post:
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In reply to an earlier post on Mar 23, 2009, 10:15:07 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 23, 2009, 10:23:46 PM PDT
hell kitten says:
kathleen: "Unless one travels with a Turkish person who is familiar with the particular region of the country, even the specific town in which one is staying, one's experience, and one's food and accommodation bills, will differ from those of locals."

i think this is true of many countries -- but there will *always* be those that will charge the price for natives -- and as long as you know that, there is *always* room for negotiation. ;) (iows, know what things actually cost - and only be willing to pay that much... it isn't as if people will turn away a paying matter your country of don't need to travel with a native - you just need to operate as one!)

as a PS -- for example, when travelling in India - if you ASK a rickshaw driver what you owe -- it would be a few dollars. BUT if you just give them 30 or so rupees (about 50 cents) when you depart - they acknowledge a done deal -- as only tourists *ask* what they owe!

Posted on Mar 23, 2009, 11:37:29 PM PDT
Lord Bronco says:
Heya HK- I just got back 2 weeks ago after spending 4 weeks and criss-crossing the Turkish interior on my first travel abroad. Absolutely GO-I'm already thinking of going back, and now through May the prices were very forgiving-exchange is still at 1.66 USA Dollar to one Lira. I did the massive euro trip through prague germany Italy and turkey-and I got along well with the germans and even better with the Italians-The Turks can't be beat for genuine friendliness, hospitality and generally being quite hilarious once you get to know them. Also, the country itself is mind-blowing in it's history and sights in ways that even Europe can't compete with.

I'd honestly say to do right it would take 1 to 2 months to see most everything-and that's skimping quite a bit of time in Istanbul. The locals say you have to live there by itself for 2 months to really see most of it-but dang Istanbul is intense even way off season.

I think the other posters are correct in their monetary assessments-if even a little conservative. Online hostel listings often come up short and in the 2 biggest cities-Ankara-I couldn't even find a hostel-only a budget hotel-60 Liras a night.

The buslines are very extensive and reliable-but it's actually a pretty large country-I spent 15 hours going from the western coast to the capital Ankara on one leg.

Shorter answer still-You can blast through the most crucial sights in Istanbul in as little as 4 days, but it's extremely tiring i'd give it at least a day just to get situated and take 6 or 8 days. Ankara is definitely worth 2 to 3 days, if only as a way stop to some of the extremely cool nearby sites.

As a small town guy-I found the outlying areas to be far more laid back and fun, especially in the off season-though I had to skip most of the ones I really wanted to see:

Cappadocia- SE of Ankara-5 star rating-absolute must see.

Antalya- due south on the Mediterranean coast-supposed to be gorgeous. North of Ankara on the Black sea is a whole run of small towns that are recommended by locals as really getting away from it all.

Headed west- Izmir is hands down the *best* big city in All of Turkey according to people that live there-Big but not to big-great weather.

SW of there is Ephesus-absolutely 5 star must see according to everybody and their grandmother.

SE of Instanbul about 90 KM is an amazing forest area that most tourists will never see

SW of Istanbul is Troy-which-umm jeez I'd just dig the history.

As to the eastern part of the overall country, particularly the SE...Yes-recently open to tourism for the first time. Locals just said basically nothing is all that cool over there, and the troubles in the SE and with Iraq may have something to do with that. I would love to see those spots for novelty bragging rights-but ehhh. Let me put it to you like this-There are active military missions into northern Iraq happening as we speak-and these are not training exercises.

I your thinking of doing that-I would actually say off season might get a bit scary...

Right now, the weather is still on the coldish side in the interior-just like it is here in Oregon right now-but not as cold as london and frankfurt.

Pack like your got layers to do a ski trip-not like you're going to hang out at a cabana.

I'd say book your super cheap flight 3 weeks out from now, and work your language skills up to doing Istanbul *last*-though all super budget flights are through there.

The guides I used-The big Lonely Planet guide-Priceless-saved my behind sooo many timesmaking it up as I went along (Picture of the guy looking away from you on the cover).

The Lonely phrasebook-absolutely also priceless.

The Istanbul encounters book from lonely-ehh not so much (the mini-guide).

I'm *literally* tempted to head back before the tourist season starts up in June in exactly the time frame I mentioned.

I could and would go on and on-but I hope this helps.

I would want about 2 to 2500 grand US to err towards emergency comfort if trying a exhaustive tour of the touristy/rural sites for bus fares and emergency hotels not including airfare.

Final word, in the big cities and the touristy spots they are very urban and urbane with an extensive travel infrastructure. I did no tours, no touts (guides) and I'm still trying to communicate the massive cool sensory overload of nifty stuff i saw.

Hope this helps


Posted on Mar 31, 2009, 7:46:17 AM PDT
M. Lane says:
Hello, my suggestion for a guide book is Let's go turkey. It was published a long time ago, but Let's go books are more geared toward the budget traveller. They will tell you right off the bat if a place is good for a budget traveller or not.

I haven't been there. I am going May 15. If you are going at that time, let me know. Maybe we can meet up.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 2, 2009, 4:48:12 PM PST
K. McKenna says:
I've backpacked in Turkey three times and spent about $25 a day counting airfare, transportation (bus), lodging, food, entrances (sites, museums, etc.). Get a Let's Go book for information, lodging, eating, etc., and a Cadogan Turkey book for history, site information, etc. Bus travel is much better than train. It's a beautiful country--be sure to cover as much of it as you can in all directions. Don't know what the situation is now for travel in SE Turkey. Last time I was there a curfew was in effect.

Posted on Jan 17, 2010, 9:42:31 PM PST
D. Zberg says:
Dang, $25 a day? I couldn't - no way. Turkey is an awesome place with many things to see. I'm not sure about $25 a day let alone $10. One night at the bar would be the whole trip. If you are seriously talking about a strict budget, stay away from Alanya, Bodrum, Marmaris, and of course, Istanbul. Stay away from $50 Lonely Planet books too. Just print what you need from the internet (I love the South America on a Shoestring book costs $49.90). Cappadocia, as someone mentioned, is awesome.
My recommendation: Spend a little bit of money.
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Initial post:  Jan 28, 2009
Latest post:  Jan 17, 2010

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