Soooo Turkey, a richly unique and historical land that bridges Europe and Asia. Who doesn’t want to visit Turkey? It’s been in our travel bucket list for the longest time and finally, we managed to make it come true at the first month of the new year! The one thing we love about Turkey is its diversity. There are so much to see and eat and experience. Turkey has been known for its history and stunning landscapes and sceneries. Their culture is vibrant, their nature serene and lush and their weather is perfect all-year-long! You can’t just go to Turkey and stay in one city. Yes, Istanbul is great but venture further to neighboring towns and cities and you’ll realize how much fulfilled your life had become. Haha! By the way, did you know that Istanbul is NOT the capital of Turkey? We didn’t either. It’s actually Ankara. Anyway…
My friends and I were not thinking of traveling to Turkey that much. I mean, it was in our travel plans but we were so busy with other things that we thought we won’t make any trips outside KSA for 2014 and yup, we didn’t, but when October of last year came, I chanced upon a deal in Saudi Airlines. I can’t even remember what I was doing surfing Saudia’s website in the first place! Haha! I tried a January 2015 date for Turkey and lo and behold, the roundtrip flight to Istanbul is just SR 999! Whattt! My heart pounded like crazy! I need to tell my friends and we had to come up with money to pay for the flights PRONTO! Haha! So we all scrambled to make a plan and purchased the tickets on the last week of October for a January 25-30 trip. Imagine the agonizing wait from the time we purchased the ticket to the actual trip? Haha.
Budget for flight to Turkey via Saudi Airlines: SR 999
Of course, the airlines are not always on sale. On average, the roundtrip flight is around SR 2,000 on major airlines like Saudia and Turkish Airlines. I suggest you pick either because they’re direct flights and won’t waste much of your precious travel time. Budget airlines like Fly Nas and Air Arabia also have flights to Turkey but their prices are more or less the same like the major ones. Also, the budget airlines arrive in Sabiha Gokcen Airport. Yup, a thing to note about arriving in Istanbul is that there are two international airports: TAV Istanbul Ataturk Airport and Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport. The first one is Istanbul’s major airport and is 45 minutes away from the city center while the other one is a bit further, around 75 minutes away. The Sabiha Gokcen Airport was built because the Ataturk Airport can no longer handle all the domestic and international flights of the country with its growing tourism industry. Saudia operates in the Ataturk Airport which is more convenient for us considering that we only have a few hours to roam around central Istanbul after our morning flight and before a morning flight!
What about visa you might ask? Do we need it? Do you need it? Of course it depends on your nationality. For us Filipinos, we need a tourist visa to Turkey. How do we get it? If you already have a Schengen visa, you can already apply for an e-visa from this website: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/. But if you don’t have the Schengen visa like we do, then we do it “manually.” We went to the Turkey Embassy in the Diplomatic Quarters. What are the requirements? You won’t find them in the Turkey Embassy to Riyadh website because it’s always down (oh now, it’s not haha). So we asked our friends who have visited Turkey before and they mentioned some documents we need to have but they told us they weren’t sure if those were everything they submitted so we were left in doubt. I made the call to the Turkish embassy instead and a friendly guy gave me a list. Basically, here’s what you have to prepare:
– 2 Pictures (2×2 inches with white background)
– Valid passport (you have to get your passport from your employer first)
– Copy of iqama
– Exit-re-entry visa (optional; if you already have it then good)
– Certificate of Employment (for employees of private companies, you need a stamp from the Chamber of Commerce)
– 3 months Bank Statement
– Filled-Up Application Form (which you can get from the embassy or message us and we can email you, hehe)
– Flight tickets
– Hotel and tour details and itinerary (if you already have one)
– SR 225 (Visa application fee)
You don’t need to schedule an appearance in the embassy. Just go there. We went to the embassy a month before our scheduled trip. We arrived at around 9:00 AM and was given a stub with number. We were then called immediately inside (being early birds has a perk) and the officer just went through our documents. We answered a few questions then we paid. We were given a stub and was told to collect our passports two days from the date at around 1:00 PM. My friend Jamila went back to pick up our passports after two days and the 30-day tourist visa was already in our passports. Yeyyy!
My friends left all the planning to me. Hello, OC traveler! Haha! You might have noticed in my travel entries that I tend to pack a lot of activities in one day. That’s because I want to make the most out of my time in a country that I’m visiting. I pour hours into research just to make sure that I covered everything and not fall into any tourist trap which will waste time. Haha! Anyway, if you’re not as OC as me, feel free to go to any place or country and use your time going with the flow. There’s nothing wrong with that too. My friends and I have six days in Turkey and there are so many things to do! For convenience, we went with a travel agency. A few clicks here and there and I saw the website of Magnificent Travel. I read about them in Tripadvisor and they got really good feedback from other travelers. Here’s a general itinerary I had in mind:
January 25 – Istanbul
January 26 – Izmir (Ephesus)
January 27 – Pamukkale
January 28 -Cappadocia
January 29 – Cappadocia
January 30 – Istanbul
Why did I pick those places? Because all those regions present a good mix of history and nature. They’re the most famous places in Turkey that tourists visit and as much as I want to stray away from the crowd, these are the places we want to see and experience too. There are a lot of other different itineraries you can go for depending on how many days your vacation is. The Istanbul part of our itinerary I handled myself. I booked us rooms in two hotels that are walking distance to the famous Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque via booking.com.
Budget for hotels in Istanbul:
Aristocrat Hotel – EUR 138 (for 1 twin room and 1 triple room) – approx. SR 600 or SR 120 per person (because we’re five in our group)
And Hotel – EUR 201 (for 1 twin room and 1 triple room) – approx. SR 865 or SR 173 per person
There are so many hotels in Istanbul that are walking distance to the major attractions and you can get rooms that are lower in prices than those we got but we’re fine with our choices. They’re very chic boutique hotels that are comfortable and convenient. Except we run into a problem with And Hotel which I’ll tell you about in my travel entries later. The rest of our trip to other places was handled by Magnificent Travel. Why go with a travel agency? Because of the convenience. I swear we didn’t have to worry about anything. It also prevented me from having a headache dealing with many people and websites to book our flights, bus trips, hotels, etc. I only had to deal with Mr. Nihat of Magnificent Travel and he was really nice and helpful. He replies to emails promptly and even if we had minor emergencies during our trip, he was just a phone call away. I suggest you plan your tour before you arrive in Turkey although it is also possible to arrive in Istanbul and visit one of the many travel agencies in Sultanahmet and from there, pick the trips you want to go to.
Budget for 4-days/3-nights Ephesus-Pamukkale-Cappadocia tour is EUR 445 or approx. SR 1,920.
Here’s our itinerary:
January 26 (Day 1): Fly to Izmir and transfer to Ephesus. One day sightseeing tour to the ancient city of Ephesus, the house of Virgin Mary where she is believed to have spent her last days, and to the Artemis Temple known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. After tour, three hours bus ride to Pamukkale. Overnight in Colossae Thermal Hotel, Pamukkale.
January 27 (Day 2): Pamukkale sightseeing tour to the ancient city of Hierapolis and the calcium waters place. Overnight bus trip to Cappadocia.
January 28 (Day 3): North Cappadocia Region Tour and overnight in Kismet Cave Hotel
January 29 (Day 4): South Cappadocia Region Tour and flight back to Istanbul
Our tour package includes breakfast and lunch. Also the domestic flights via Turkish Airlines. I will give more details and pictures on entries I will write and publish soon. The hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia is not included in the EUR 445 package. That is another EUR 120 (approx. SR 520) per person. Yes, it’s expensive but it’s totally worth it.
That’s about it for planning our trip to Turkey. Overall budget, excluding pocket money, is around SR 2,958. We carried around SR 2,000 for pocket money but believe us, if you’re a shopaholic, it will never be enough. Hahaha! If you have any more questions, feel free to message me (Janelle) at The Pink Tarha Facebook page.
Don’t forget to come back again to the blog because I’m going to write about our 6 days, 5 flights, 4 places, 3 vegetarian buffets, 2 mosques… 1 amazing Turkish adventure!