As a tour guide from İstanbul, who has been active in the field for more than 25 years, I’d like to share a few tips that will add to the value and the overall enjoyment of your visit to Turkey.
You may agree that İstanbul is one of the most unique cities in the world, where one can observe diverse daily life in a setting of ancient history and natural beauty. The people of İstanbul are also unique. They make up a cultural mosaic of different national, ethnic, cultural and religious origins. This rich international culture is apparent in the many different types of sports, cuisines, hotels, restaurants, shopping areas, nightlife, music, movies, and artwork available for all to enjoy.
İstanbul is now ready to welcome a greater number of guests than ever before!
1) Visit Istanbul as a traveler, rather than just a tourist.
What is the difference between a traveler and a tourist?
A tourist sees the highlights of his destination, eats in restaurants with fellow tourists, and has little opportunity to mix with locals. A traveler goes beyond the main attractions. He is an active participant; he is involved in the local culture. A tourist observes from the outside. A traveler observes from the inside, interacting with locals, and becoming part of the living culture, if only for a short period of time.
For instance, both the tourist and the traveler must go to the Sultanahmet area in the Old City, where all the most famous landmarks are located; however, the traveler will not be content with this alone, and will begin to explore the side-streets. A traveler mixes with locals and attempts to experience and understand the local culture. He gains an appreciation and thus becomes an agent for a more peaceful global community.
2) Venture off-the-beaten path and explore new places on your own. Go to some of the following places by public transportation, and then use the back streets, to the extent that you take the chance of losing your way. Just keep the hotel address and contact info with you.
The neighborhoods of Eminönü, Balat, Galata, Üsküdar, Çengelköy, Kuzguncuk, Beylerbeyi, Kadıköy, and Beşiktaş are wonderful areas to explore. Stroll through the residential areas as well as the markets.
3) Learn a few words of greeting in the Turkish language, and don’t be afraid to use them. Create opportunities for spontaneous interaction. Sometimes language is not needed to convey an idea or your interest. You will have an experience that is new and out of the ordinary if you get out of your comfort zone and mix with locals.
4) Try home-hosted meals.
5) Travel with companies where the bottom line includes giving back to the local communities.
6) Make the world your classroom. Attend workshops, lectures and presentations when offered, and include authentic experiences in your itinerary.
7) Stay long enough to experience at least some of the vast natural, cultural and historical heritage.
Become a traveler! Learn about the people and their way of life. Interact! Share experiences and gain first-hand information.
Our role as interpretive guides is to give our guests the opportunities to immerse themselves in the culture.
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