Recently, I met with a friend who was traveling to Turkey for the first time. Since I had just come back from my trip, she asked for some simple tips before she packed her bags. Some of the questions she asked will seem rudimentary to more well-seasoned travelers. But for those who are just getting the wanderlust bug, it's good basic knowledge to have, whether you're traveling to Turkey or to other corners of the world.
1. What kind of shoes do you recommend?
I wear my trusty camper boots and Puma boots. I love the way they hug the cobblestones.
2. Is it cold at this time of year? Coat or jacket?
Who knows with global warming? It was temperate when I was there, but layering is always the key. Bring a waterproof jacket, gloves, and of course a fabulous scarf.
3. What are the best places to shop? As a first-time visitor?
I love the Arasta bazaar. It has a bazaar feel with less pressure maybe. The Arasta, and shops nearby, have some hip designers. Look up where weekly fleas markets are.
4. Do I need to know the language?
I know very little Turkish. I just have some of the bargaining mannerisms down and certain looks.
5. Should I haggle? Does it work?
No question, you should haggle. If a store has fixed prices, expect to pay that unless you are buying wholesale. That means more then one!
6. I'm looking for a rug. What should I look for in terms of quality?
Too broad a question. RESEARCH. Ask questions before you go. There are so many blogs, books, resources you can find. Allow yourself to be seduced by the stories. LOOK and DO NOT buy the first day, no matter what. But if you try to bargain and a price is met, be prepared to buy.
These are two books I recommend: Rugs and Carpets of the World by Ian Bennett (great images of what looms are used and what weaving looks like) and Kilim, the Complete Guide by Alastair Hull and Jose Luczyc-Wyhowska. Fantastic images and great insight of all the tribes and explanations of what the pieces are and why things are done a certain way.
7. Do I need to wear a head scarf?
Your trusty pashmina works. Mostly you will need to cover your head when you go to a religious place.
8. Do I need cash or can I use my credit card?
Cash always is best for the vendor and often for you. More bargaining power, less fees for all!
9. What kind of bag should I carry? For shopping...
I use my ancient Tumi bag that is a cross bag with hidden pockets, it's light weight and black. I am not a back pack lover.
10. Can I buy most toiletries and things over there?Yes, you can buy all of that over there. Istanbul is very cosmopolitan. You may not find brands you are familiar with but take a chance and go local!
If you have additional questions about Turkey that you'd like to ask me, leave a comment or message me on Facebook. I'm happy to share my love of this beautiful country. For now, enjoy some night scenes and street shots I captured from my last visit.