The only thing that was time consuming was the visa application. That took 3 working days. Everything else about the trip was finalized in less than 2 hours.
The days were finalized first since we needed to make the most of the UAE National Day holidays which , this time , were coupled with a weekend. Hence the planning began two weeks before the date of travel.
Tickets were booked depending on the dates and timings and of course the cost. Hotel rooms were booked next. Once that was done, “must visit” places were noted , a day tour and the red bus tour were booked. All vouchers printed and done in two hours. We were confident about getting the visas on time. And thankfully, we did!
Istanbul is one of the most common destinations from here. Many tour operators offer packages too. We did try to take a package, but the flights didn’t match ours schedule. So we did all the bookings on our own. Turned out to be a bit more expensive but definitely worth it. Istanbul can easily be covered without much assistance. The issue is only with the long queue for the tickets at the entrances of certain museums and palaces. Tours operators get them ready for you, so it saves time. And yes of course a bus full of people is always better.
I noticed the precision with which these tour operators run their business in Istanbul. Buses collect guest from various hotels in the morning. They then meet at one point and separate us according to our respective tour bookings. Then they paste little circles with our tour numbers on us to identify us. Yes, it is easy to get lost among the tourists in Istanbul. The place survives on Tourism.
The only authentic Turkish food we had was at the Orient Express Restaurant at the train station. For other times there was always Burger King or some such.
The trip was a relaxing and enjoyable one. We took our time to stroll and enjoy both the Taksim Square of the Modern part and the Sultanahmet Square of the Historical part of the European side of Istanbul. We couldn’t cross the Bosphorus Strait to the Asian side of Istanbul due to time constraints. We missed the cruise to “Princess Islands” too. These need a day each. Due to rains, I lost quite a few opportunities to click photographs and many of them were clicked from my iPhone from under an umbrella. The trip was truly a memorable one. I hope you like the pics.
Park at the Sultanahmet Square
Towards the Entrance of Basilica Cistern
Roasted Chestnut Stand
Station Orient Express
Obelix at Hippodrome
Inside the Blue Mosque
Inside the Hagia Sophia
Turkish Carpet at Matis 1
Turkish Carpet at Matis 2
Little Hagia Sophia
Istanbul Tram Service
Tear Column, Basilica Cistern
Red Bus Tour, Taksim Square
Entrance of Dolmabahçe Palace
Clock Tower of Dolmabahçe Palace
Historical Tram at Tunel