My 5 tips for a luxury trip to Istanbul for less

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Travelers interested in visiting Istanbul are in luck: The U.S. dollar has been strong against the Turkish lira recently, and your money goes a long way.

Karen Fedorko is the owner of Sea Song, a travel company in Istanbul that plans private trips to Turkey. “You can have a fabulous upscale vacation here without trying too hard,” she said. Having planned dozens of Turkish trips herself, Fedorko has a few tips to consider before you schedule yours.  

— Visit During Value Months

April, May, July, August, October and November are considered Istanbul’s slower seasons, which means hotel rates are at least 20 percent lower compared with the rest of the year.

The city is notorious for its traffic jams; for travelers who want to come when roads are not bumper to bumper, Fedorko advised a trip in July and August. “This is when most of the Istanbulites are at their summer homes so the city is not so crowded, and it’s much easier to get around,” she said.  

— Stay at Small Boutique Hotels

Istanbul has no shortage of pricey large hotels, but Fedorko prefers the city’s many small boutique hotels. They generally cost a third less than five-star properties, but still offer excellent service and many of the same amenities. Several are also located in beautiful historical buildings. The House Hotel Karakoy, for example, is a converted Ottoman-era bank that still has its original vault. It offers nightly rates starting at $150.

— Book a Full-Day Tour Guide

Hiring a private guide for at least a day or two to show you Istanbul’s many historical sites and museums is the way to go if you are looking for a memorable trip. But book for a full day, Fedorko said: guides’ rates can be around $120, whether they are hired for a full or half day.

Private guides also save you time because they know how to get from place to place quickly, and can secure tickets in advance to the attractions you will be visiting so you won’t have to wait in long entrance lines.

— Shop Away

You do not have to feel guilty about shopping in Istanbul, Fedorko said. “Whether it’s spices, jewelry, carpets, ceramics or handmade scarves, you can buy top-quality items here at very reasonable prices,” she said.

Hit the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar, as well as the Ferikoy Organic Market, which only sells organic goods and is held on Saturdays in the city’s Sisli district. Browse the shops lining Istikal Street in Beyoglu district, which sell everything from local nuts and handicrafts to clothes by up-and-coming Turkish designers.

— Dine Like the Locals

Istanbulites enjoy drinking and eating well, and the city has no shortage of value restaurants in residential neighborhoods such as Karakoy, Galata, Nisantasi, Ortakoy and Bebek. “You can have fabulous kebabs and meze for $15 a person, and fresh seafood meals for as little as $30 a person,” Fedorko said. “And, if you stick to drinking local wines and spirits, your alcohol tabs won’t be high.” The Guide Istanbul has information on new restaurants and bars as well as long-established spots.

 

By Shivani Vora – NYT