Solo backpacking to Turkey marks a come back of my solo backpacking era. I had not ventured out on my own for the past one and a half years. Backpacking to Turkey is also the first backpacking trip to Europe. To be politically correct, Turkey is half of two worlds. It is located at the Southeastern Europe and Western Asia. Being at the crossroads, Turkey is laden with history and culture. As any other countries in Europe and Western Asia, Turkey can be considered as an expensive country (atleast to me; beyond my usual South East Asia budget). When a country is expensive, you have to more or less make some preparation to lessen problems which might arise.
This entry is a narration of the things I have equipped myself with before leaving for Turkey. This may guide you in preparing your Turkey trip.
Planning gets you nowhere until you take the first step by buying the flight ticket to Turkey. Once you buy the ticket, it is highly unlikely for you to not make the trip.
Although the capital of Turkey is Ankara, most international flights land in Istanbul. If you are departing from Kuala Lumpur, you can either take direct flight or indirect flight to Istanbul. For the purpose of this trip, I bought return ticket to Istanbul via Doha with Qatar Airways. When I purchased the airfare at RM2,087.00 for return ticket, Malaysia Airlines which is having direct flight also had promotion for extra hundred ringgit. I chose Qatar Airways because I had never flown with Qatar before. I was very nervous prior to departure because my transit sector in Doha was only 55 minutes. Rest assured, you will get on board on time.
Like I said, expensive country requires extensive research in order to the estimate your budget. Turkey is a vast land with thousands of attraction of all kinds. You must ascertain the route that you will take and suit it with your itinerary and time. I only had 14 days. From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to cover the off beaten Southeastern Anatolia which is known as the Land of the Prophets. Travelling by bus would take more than 24 hours to reach Sanliurfa. Therefore, I decided to book domestic flight. I was lucky that I grabbed Turkish Airlines promotion fare. It would entirely depend on what you want to do in Turkey. You might want to do Istanbul and Cappadocia for a week (do-able); Istanbul+Cappadocia+Mediteranean+Troy.
Since Southeastern Anatolia was remote, I kept my itinerary open for any possibilities. I decide when the time comes approach.
Some of the routes for Turkey :-
1) Istanbul – Busra – Izmir – Pamukkale – Cappadocia
2) Istanbul – Cappadocia
3) Istanbul – Canakkale – Cappadocia – Konya
4) Istanbul – Cannakale – Fethiye
For the whole of the trip, my pre-booked accommodation was the three night stay in Istanbul at the beginning of my trip. For this purpose, I used Hostelbookers.com. A guesthouse dormitory bed may cause you around EURO10 or TL30, which is about RM60. You might be able to have a room on your own for TL60 onwards.
This, I learned the hard way. Turkey is one of the countries with most expensive fuel/gasoline. You should expect to pay TL80-100 (between RM160-200) for 10-12 hours bus ride. 3 hours bus ride from Konya to Cappadocia costs me around TL35 (RM70). When flying and taking the bus makes no difference in terms of costs, I would recommend flying with any of the low cost airlines in Turkey. However, do consider the taxi fare from the airport to the city centre as some of the airports are located very far from the town. Miscalculated budget, I bought flight ticket from Kayseri to Istanbul when I stayed in Gerome which was 1 hour drive to Kayseri. I had no choice but to take early morning flight. I had a jaw-drop when the costs rounded up to EURO50.
Most museums are closed on Monday and bazaars are closed on Sunday. If you are planning to purchase the Muze Kart, make sure you don’t purchase it on Sunday for I am sure you won’t be able to utilize the Muze Kart to its fullest. Muze Kart is a pass that allows you entrance to 7 places of attraction at the costs of TL85 in Istanbul.
Excuse my noobness as I have not experienced winter overseas. So I thought the transition to spring was supposed to be warmer like the air-condition temperature. Lo and behold, the first day in Istanbul, the temperature was 7 degree celcius. I also had to endure 0 degree celcius in Cappadocia. In fact, it even snowed when I was trekking. Regardless of what you may think, it would always be wise to bring you winter jacket with you if you are travelling in March. What more with crazy weather that is sweeping the world into confusion.
Although Euro is widely acceptable in Turkey, the national currency of Turkey is Turkish Lira. When you do your booking in hostelbookers, you will notice most hostels require for the price minus the booking payment be paid in local currency. I can only speak of my experience hunting for Turkish Lira in Kuala Lumpur. In two words, damn hard. I was told Turkish Lira is very difficult to get in Kuala Lumpur, only selected money changers have Turkish Lira currency – Masjid Jamek and Pavilion.
Since Pavilion was nearer to me, I dropped by at the money changer kiosk which was at lowerground level only to be told that they did not have that many Turkish Lira left. According to the receptionist, I had to call again the next day to speak to the boss who would bring the amount requested. After numerous phone calls, I sealed the deal. I managed to get TL1,300 before leaving at the rate of 1.95MYR for 1TL. The trick is that I do not want to waste money through multiple money changing as I would be in the losing position. I brought enough Euro and USD for emergency stash.
For the purpose of this trip, I sent brief itinerary and emergency contact number to Malaysian Embassy in Ankara because Sanliurfa was more or less 100km from Syrian border.