This post is part 1 of 17 of my trip to Istanbul. The series intends to give more than just a I-saw-this-and-did-that review. It aims to share the voice inside my head as I explore a world I’ve only read in books.
I’m a nerd. I like math and I like to plan. Excel is my best friend. I can’t live without my planner. When it comes to traveling, I get excited at the thought of creating a new spreadsheet. Budgeting is my favorite part. How low can I go?
This 8-day trip to Istanbul was only $1270 – $640 for round-trip tickets and $630 for everything else. That means I spent less than $80 a day. That includes accommodation, food, entrance fees, transportation and souvenirs. I’d say it’s a pretty good deal for independent traveling.
JC and I landed in Istanbul around 10AM with no place to stay. We took public transportation from Ataturk International Airport to Sultanahmet in search of a home and found the Hali Hotel. Here’s an excerpt of the hotel review I wrote for Lay Your Head Here:
Imagine a panoramic view of the Golden Horn, The Haghia Sophia, The Bosporus River, The Blue Mosque and the Sea of Marmara. That’s the view from the terrace of the Hali Hotel in Istanbul where I had my complimentary breakfast every morning.
If you’re visiting Istanbul for the first time, staying in Sultanahmet is ideal. The Hali Hotel is located within minutes from The Grand Bazaar, The Topkapi Palace, The Blue Mosque, Haghia Sophia, Suleymaniye’s Mosque, Basilica Cistern and other historical and cultural places.
You can find the rest of the review at Lay Your Head Here.
The Hali Hotel is conveniently located in the middle of everything. The Putin-looking manager at the front desk was a little cold at first but he warmed up to us throughout the week. Hip-Hop Hasan gave us a great tour of the hotel. He was a jovial guy who led a double a life – a bell boy by day and a hip hop break dancer by night.
JC told the Putin-looking manager that Hip-Hop Hasan deserved a raise for giving us an exceptional tour. Hip-Hop Hasan’s Kool-Aid smile grew even bigger but the Putin-looking manager gave JC the stare of death that said, “Don’t give the boy any ideas or his raise will be coming out of your pocket.”
For 55 Euros a night, we settled into our temporary home for the week. After a power nap, we went to brunch around 3PM and ordered a cup of Turkish coffee. I desperately needed that shot of caffeine before setting out on foot. We walked by the Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque and strolled through the Hippodrome, which was packed with tourists and locals.
It was the middle of Ramadan and many of the locals gathered at the Hippodrome to await their first meal of the day. JC and I went back to the Hali Hotel and sat on the terrace for over two hours watching the sky change colors as the sun set. It was the only night we had the terrace to ourselves. We had a feeling that this would never never happen again. People usually realize it hindsight but when something is too good to be true, it probably is.
We stayed up there for as long as we could – alone in the dark with nothing but the lights below and the stars above. I had a front row seat of the Hagia Sofia to my left and The Blue Mosque to my right – both lit up with lights. When the wind blew, I felt as if I was floating. I was high just knowing that for the next 8 days, I did not have to be cooped up in four walls and spend over 10 hours of the day typing away in front of a computer screen.