Planning the Perfect Turkey Layover on Your Trip Through IST

Aug 12, 2019

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This week’s episode of Miles Away is one of our most exciting yet, thanks in no small part to our incredible giveaway, giving you a chance to win:

  • Two round-trip business-class tickets between US gateways and Istanbul (IST)
  • Two nights with breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul At The Bosphorus
  • One night with breakfast at the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul At Sultanahmet

TPG reviews editor Nick Ellis joins me fresh off the plane from an incredible trip to Turkey, where he spent some quality time in the country’s most connected city. Nick shares a handful of Turkish delights, including some of his favorite sites around town and details of his stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul At Sultanahmet — a key component of our giveaway.

You can listen to this episode of Miles Away above, or listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts, including:

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For more on flying Turkish Airlines and visiting Istanbul, see:

If you have any questions, thoughts or topics you’d like the team to cover on the Miles Away podcast, please send us an email at milesaway@thepointsguy.com, tweet me at @zachhonig or find me on Instagram — I’m @zachhonig there as well. And please don’t forget to subscribe!

Featured photo of Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul At The Bosphorus by Nick Ellis / The Points Guy.

Full Transcript:

Zach Honig: Welcome back to Miles Away. Today we are venturing out to Istanbul, Turkey. Before we jump in, I just want to say we’ve got a really cool giveaway. I’ll spill the beans right now. We’re going to give away two business-class tickets to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines and we’ve got three nights at the Four Seasons. But full details at the end of the episode, so be sure to stick it out. Listen to the entire episode because we’ll have some clues that you’ll need to participate in the giveaway.

Zach Honig: Joining me today we have Nick Ellis, TPG’s reviews editor. Hey, Nick, welcome back to Miles Away.

Nick Ellis: Hey, Zack, good to be back here.

Zach Honig: Walk me through the trip that you had. So you were there for about a week in total?

Nick Ellis: Yeah. I was elsewhere in Europe first. So I flew from Nice, France, on Turkish Airlines into Istanbul New Airport, taxied for maybe an hour and a half, and then finally pulled —

Zach Honig: Right into the city, into downtown.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, basically. It felt like we were going downtown at that rate. The airport itself is huge. You walk in and you don’t see another person for miles.

Zach Honig: Really?

Nick Ellis: Yeah, it was crazy.

Zach Honig: I’ve been wanting to see it for a while. This has been in the works for for quite some time.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, and I think that maybe it’s just because of where I came from, it wasn’t busy at all. I walked just in these enormous corridors with soaring, tall ceilings and huge, wide walkways. It was kind of surreal.

Zach Honig: All right, that sounds very different than Istanbul Old Airport. Is that what they’re calling it now? The old airport? They still have some flights out of there?

Nick Ellis: I think they do because they still reference it at some points.

Zach Honig: OK.

Nick Ellis: But I don’t really know.

Zach Honig: IST —

Nick Ellis: Is the new airport.

Zach Honig: That’s the new airport.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, yep.

Zach Honig: So I flew into the old IST —

Nick Ellis: Yes.

Zach Honig: Couple of years ago and yeah, did definitely not feel spacious at all. It was an entirely different feel.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, sure.

Zach Honig: But it did have a very cool business-class lounge.

Nick Ellis: Yes.

Zach Honig: Even even back in the day — it’s been around for awhile, — but that was one of the top business-classes lounges. So when I was in there, I’m like, “Well, what’s going to happen to this? This is kind of a nice space.”

Nick Ellis: Yeah, apparently the new space in the new airport is just as good or better. They have made-to-order food and huge spaces, wide open. I didn’t get to see it while I was there because I was flying in coach and arriving.

Zach Honig: OK.

Nick Ellis: Yes.

Zach Honig: Well, I’m still very jealous that you got to visit the New Istanbul Airport.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, it was cool for sure.

Zach Honig: How far is it from the city?

Nick Ellis: It took almost an hour or so in a taxi.

Zach Honig: Oh, did you hit traffic or is it really far away?

Nick Ellis: Not really any traffic. It seemed really far away.

Zach Honig: OK.

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: The old airport’s probably a little bit closer.

Nick Ellis: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. It seems like a lot of cities are doing this, building these brand new airports far, far, far away from the city center.

Zach Honig: It’s hard because they need a lot of space.

Nick Ellis: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep.

Zach Honig: And especially as tourism increases over the years, you need additional runways, and bigger terminals —

Nick Ellis: Exactly.

Zach Honig: And there just isn’t that much space —

Nick Ellis: Yep.

Zach Honig: In downtown areas.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. I just feel like every city that’s doing a project like this needs to have an express train to the city. The cab was cheap, it was $20US and it wasn’t a big deal. With traffic, it would have been miserable.

Zach Honig: How did you choose to get around there? Was it just cabs the whole time or did you take Ubers?

Nick Ellis: Well, I was in the city only for about two days. The first day we walked everywhere. We stayed right close in Sultanahmet, which is the main tourist area. Which is where, like, the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, all these places, that’s where they are. We could just kind of walk from one to the next, no problem. Then if we wanted to go elsewhere, we did take a taxi or two, but mostly walked.

Zach Honig: OK.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. Yeah, I would say that I think if you know your route and you know where you’re going, or have an idea of where you’re going, it’s walkable for sure. But taxis are easy. Even if you don’t speak Turkish, you can show them the address on your phone of where you’re going and they’ll get you there, no problem. They’re all metered, we never had a problem with the taxi meters or anything like that.

Zach Honig: You’ve been all around the world, first time in Turkey. Did Istanbul remind you of any other cities or did it meet your expectations?

Nick Ellis: It did not remind me of anywhere else. You hear the call to prayer walking around in the city, which is really cool. My friend noticed this and told me that looking out into the cityscape, it kind of reminded her of a Star Wars landscape because of the minarets dotting the sky. It was all gray, it just kind of looked like a really cool … It’s ancient, but it almost looked super-futuristic the way that the mosques were constructed and that kind of stuff.

Zach Honig: So you’re there for a couple of days, which was —

Nick Ellis: Yes.

Zach Honig: — probably a decent amount of time to work in a stopover maybe, if you’re connecting on Turkish Airlines and going somewhere else, especially now that the airport’s a bit further out, you don’t want to go to the city for maybe four hours.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, yeah.

Zach Honig: You’re going to be spending half that time getting to and from the airport.

Nick Ellis: Totally, yeah. I think you probably need a good day. If you had one day you could see the top tourist sites because they are so close to each other. We did that kind of the first day and then the second day kind of chilled a little bit and went into the more obscure, foodie, drink neighborhood —

Zach Honig: Living as a local almost.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, yeah. Where the coffee shops are and all that kind of stuff.

Zach Honig: What would you say, so maybe looking back to that first day that you had there, were five of the top activities that you should not leave Istanbul without completing?

Nick Ellis: Yeah. The first thing we did was when we lined up for the Hagia Sophia, we bought an Istanbul museum pass.

Zach Honig: For people that don’t know, that’s that famous Blue Mosque.

Nick Ellis: No, the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque are two different things.

Zach Honig: Ah, OK.

Nick Ellis: They’re across a square from each other. Basically the Hagia Sophia was a Byzantine cathedral, then it was converted into a mosque, and now it’s a museum. The Blue Mosque is still an active mosque today, so you can only go in at certain times. But [for] the pass we paid 220 Turkish lira, which is about $40 gets you into five or six museums and it’s valid for five days. The lines were super, super long, even early in the morning. When it’s hot out in the summer, you do not want to be waiting in those lines. That was worth it alone.

Zach Honig: What else does that include? Is it a multiple museums —

Nick Ellis: Yeah, you can go into the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, which is where the Harem, the famous Harem is. It’s really cool, you could spend a whole day in that area. Then there’s a … I forgot what it’s called, but it’s like an underground cistern, and a few others that I forgot that we did not have a chance to see.

Zach Honig: But definitely if you don’t like lines and you don’t have a lot of time in Istanbul, that is definitely a good way to beat the crowds.

Nick Ellis: Yes, 100% definitely recommend buying that. Another great thing that we did was we took a cruise along the Bosphorus, which is the river that separates the European and Asian sides of Istanbul. We walked from our hotel in Sultanahmet to a station called Eminönü. It’s a huge area, everyone’s kind of hanging out there. It’s just right by the river. It’s where all the tour companies kind of dock the boats and the ferries that take people across the Bosphorus.

Zach Honig: Got it. You did an hour and a half sunset cruise, but you could also take a ferry across and see it that way for probably cheaper?

Nick Ellis: Yeah, you could too. Probably cheaper, definitely.

Zach Honig: Just depends on what you’re after, I guess.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, exactly. The weather was kind of bad there. It was clearing up, so we were like, “Oh the sunset’s going to be beautiful, so let’s do that.” You see kind of the famous sites, but also the kind of maritime culture that the city has too. Even though it’s just the river, it’s very water-centric. These kids were jumping into the Bosphorus River off these bridges. It was really cool. Under one of the bridges there are all these fish, really local fish shops that sell fish sandwiches, and grilled fish, and whatever they are.

Zach Honig: Oh, that’s awesome.

Nick Ellis: Really cheap and local. Then we went back to where we started at the Eminönü Station and we walked across the Galata Bridge to another area of town. This is still the European side, but kind of the central part of that area is called Galata Tower. It’s this old tower that you can climb up and have amazing views of the city from. The line’s very long for that too. Around there, there’s a whole area called, I’m going to butcher this, Beyoğlu. That’s kind of an area that has a lot of bars, and restaurants, and shops, and record stores, and shoe shops, and all that kind of stuff.

Zach Honig: Like the cool nightlife area?

Nick Ellis: Yeah. That’s like where the SoHo houses and just kind of cool hipster people hanging out there.

Zach Honig: So I want to work in some a reader questions.

Nick Ellis: Sure.

Zach Honig: I solicited some questions on Instagram. First we have one from Liz. I know that we talked about some of the activities —

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: She said, “What are some of the must-try foods and activities?” I know that we definitely want to talk about food. That’s one of the reasons —

Nick Ellis: Yes.

Zach Honig: That you’d go to Istanbul and spend some time.

Nick Ellis: Yes. The food is incredible. You just go to any cafe on the street and you’re going to be able to get a traditional Turkish meal, which is like kebab and a lot of lamb.

Zach Honig: Now, the kebabs, is it like cubes of meat on a skewer?

Nick Ellis: Yeah. Or it’s more like minced meat kind of in long —

Zach Honig: It’s like a sausage almost.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, exactly. It looks like a very long sausage and kind of flat. You can order hummus, and baba ganoush, and every single type of yogurt sauce you can imagine. A lot of places that have this really fluffy pita bread that’s kind of filled with air, and then you pop it, and then it deflates.

Zach Honig: Perfect medium for all that stuff they bring out.

Nick Ellis: Exactly yeah. That was definitely a highlight. Turkish coffee and Turkish tea is a huge cultural thing there. I don’t personally drink coffee, but I had to try one anyway. It was very potent.

Zach Honig: Yeah.

Nick Ellis: Very potent.

Zach Honig: It’s almost like a little spice to it.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. My friend told me that it’s because the beans are unfiltered and you kind of leave at the bottom leftover coffee.

Zach Honig: Yeah, there’s some residue there.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. I don’t really know coffee, but it was good. And I liked the tea a lot. The tea culture is really, really cool. It costs like 20 cents for a cup of tea, and it’s just a nice way to relax, and it’s delicious.

Zach Honig: Do you get a Turkish Delight with every cup of coffee there too?

Nick Ellis: I don’t think I did.

Zach Honig: OK. I definitely paired them with each coffee, that’s for sure. It’s just like this little tiny … it’s like a rectangle.

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: It’s a sweet, chewy. It’s hard to describe.

Nick Ellis: It’s kind of nutty, but chewy, but it’s kind of sweet.

Zach Honig: Yeah. And powdered powdered sugar on something?

Nick Ellis: And powdered sugar on top, yeah.

Zach Honig: Oh man, they’re so good.

Nick Ellis: A lot of Turkish Delight.

Zach Honig: Yeah.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. No, it’s very good and it’s very real.

Zach Honig: And they serve them on Turkish Airlines too.

Nick Ellis: Yes.

Zach Honig: Any other must try food? Are there specific restaurants that you would seek out or was it just kind of like, “Let’s go to …” Keep it casual?

Nick Ellis: Our goal was to keep it as casual as possible and just kind of walked by places that looked good and hopped in. But I do know that Istanbul has amazing restaurants that are definitely worth going. I don’t remember the names, but I’ve read about places that have tasting menus and that are at least known around Europe for being pretty amazing.

Zach Honig: Yeah. So it sounds like you can just plan a stopover, go into the city —

Nick Ellis: Totally.

Zach Honig: — And see lots of great things, have amazing food, and not really plan too much in advance before you go there.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, certainly.

Zach Honig: One thing though, and we’ve been getting this question a lot, I think at least a dozen people ask, but Andrew says, “Is it safe for American travelers in particular?” Did you feel targeted in any way or unsafe in certain areas? It sounds like you walked a lot.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, I never did. I felt completely safe while I was there. It was actually interesting because one of our days in the city was National Turkish Democracy and Remembrance Day. It was the day that the coup was attempted three years ago —

Zach Honig: That reminds me of being with that lounge.

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: Remember the changed lounge?

Nick Ellis: Yeah, yeah. It’s the exact same name of the lounge, but they have a day now enshrined.

Zach Honig: Oh boy.

Nick Ellis: That was a little bit interesting just because we all know what happened on that … We all know what happened with that coup attempt.

Zach Honig: It’s crazy to think about, it was pretty recent.

Nick Ellis: I know, but it was three years ago. Yeah, we were there. On one of those days that we were there, it was very, very, very crowded. It must’ve been a work holiday because the streets were packed, absolutely packed. We were going through the Egyptian spice market. It was so claustrophobic. I didn’t feel unsafe at all, but I couldn’t even get through the whole thing. I just had to find the nearest exit because it was just too many people.

Nick Ellis: No, other than that, the people were great. One of the moments that I thought was really funny is that we were just walking down the street and we looked up and saw this little kitten on this building.

Zach Honig: There’s a lot of cats all over the place there.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. This kitten was walking along the ledge of this building, very high up. I don’t know how it got there, but everyone was so concerned, and taking their phones out, and they were calling the police. The fire department showed up and they were going up on the cherry picker to rescue this kitten. But the kitten then ran under the scaffolding so they couldn’t get it. But it was kind of an adorable scene and I’m really sad that we couldn’t see them rescue the kitten.

Nick Ellis: I think that Istanbul is a huge city and you take the same precautions that you would in any other town of a similar size, like New York or Los Angeles.

Zach Honig: Beware of pickpockets essentially.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, definitely. I didn’t bring much out with me. I took some Turkish lira and wrapped up my debit card, and my ID, and one credit card, just in case, to bring with me and put it in my front pocket. I had my phone, I kind of held it the whole time. It’s so hectic, there’s so much going on it’s kind of of hard to stand out almost.

Zach Honig: You went in the middle of summer.

Nick Ellis: Yes.

Zach Honig: When I went it was actually after the Dubai Airshow, so it was in November.

Nick Ellis: Ah, cold.

Zach Honig: It was chilly. It was actually. So you prefer hot, hot, weather, 70s is pretty good for me. When I went, it was probably low 70s, it was very, very pleasant. But it wasn’t crowded.

Nick Ellis: Right, yeah.

Zach Honig: There were not too many tourists. The weather was great, clear skies. Shorter days, but it was it was fantastic. If you don’t have to travel there in the summer, [you] might want to consider shoulder season too.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. In cities, even though I do like the heat when I’m sitting on the beach. When it’s really hot in a city and you’re walking around all day, I don’t love it. Actually, we had lower temperatures than you had though. We were like mid-60s and kind of rainy and cloudy.

Zach Honig: Oh wow.

Nick Ellis: It was weird. It was totally weird.

Zach Honig: OK.

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: I’m just picturing it being really hot.

Nick Ellis: I know, and it usually is. People were like, “We don’t know what’s going on.” They’re like, “We have no idea where this came from. This is completely out of the blue.” But then it cleared up the second half of the second day and it became beautiful. Yeah.

Zach Honig: I always like to ask this, usually at the beginning, who is Istanbul for? Is it families, is it couples, solo travelers?

Nick Ellis: I think that if you’re a family with the young kids, it’s probably not the best.

Zach Honig: It’s a lot of walking.

Nick Ellis: It’s a lot of walking. It’s a lot of —

Zach Honig: Steps.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, a lot of steps. It’s very hilly. There’s a lot of historical significance that is is going to be lost on the children if they’re especially young. That being said, I don’t think they shouldn’t go. I just think it’s not as accessible or even as interesting for kids that age as London would be, because of the London Eye and the fun kind of attraction stuff.

Nick Ellis: Definitely solo travelers, couples. I think it’s a great place for both of those types of travelers to go. There’s so much to do. You go, even as a solo traveler, and go on a few tours and I’m sure you’ll meet people from all over the world that are visiting that city, and you’ll make friends, and have plenty of places to go drink, and eat, and all that kind of stuff.

Zach Honig: I want to take a quick break and then when we come back, we’re going to dig into some flight and hotel options for your trip to Turkey.

Zach Honig: Nick, you were already in Europe when you flew into Istanbul. You flew in from Nice, it was a three-hour flight, something like that?

Nick Ellis: Yeah, about three hours.

Zach Honig: But if you’re coming from the US it’s quite a distance. But, Istanbul and Turkey in particular, on several award charts counts as Europe. So Western Europe, it’s the same number of miles.

Nick Ellis: Right.

Zach Honig: That’s a great value essentially —

Nick Ellis: Yes.

Zach Honig: Because you get a 10-hour flight for —

Nick Ellis: Same price as the six-hour to London.

Zach Honig: Exactly.

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: Turkish Airlines flies from a handful of gateway cities in the US and North America. In the New York area we’ve got JFK, there’s a Newark flight as well. They’ve got the Dreamliner coming. There’s Washington, DC, there’s Miami.

Nick Ellis: There’s Atlanta.

Zach Honig: Atlanta.

Nick Ellis: Chicago.

Zach Honig: Chicago.

Nick Ellis: West Coast.

Zach Honig: San Francisco.

Nick Ellis: LA and San Francisco.

Zach Honig: Lots of options.

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: And then you can also fly other carriers as well. But if you really want to start off your trip with the real Turkish experience, especially if you’re in business class, because it’s a fun business class.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. You’ve flown that in business.

Zach Honig: Yeah, I did.

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: Back on my way home from the Dubai Airshow, I got two flights on wide-body planes, so I had the A330 at first, which is 2-2-2 in business class and then the 777, which is 2-3-2. Which does mean that you can get a middle seat in business —

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: Which is not ideal. The product itself, the hard product is not great. It’s fine, especially if you’re going with a companion, but the new business class though is —

Nick Ellis: Looks to be a lot better.

Zach Honig:  1-2-1. Definitely a step up. But a award availability for a while, at least a couple of years ago, was outstanding.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. You could find it all the time. It’s definitely less now.

Zach Honig: It’s harder to come by now, definitely. I —

Nick Ellis: Yeah. If you can find it, you can book with United or Aeroplan, so you can use your Chase or your Amex points and book for 70,000 United each way and 57,500 Aeroplan each way. Which is, like you said, is an amazing deal.

Zach Honig: Oh, yeah.

Nick Ellis: Especially because the food. I haven’t flown it, but whenever people talk about Turkish Airlines, they say the food is just out of this world good.

Zach Honig: It’s from Do & Co, which is an Austrian caterer.

Nick Ellis: Yeah.

Zach Honig: I mean, it’s really good food. Just the whole process, they come and they set up the tablecloth, which is nothing out of the ordinary, but they do a very nice job.

Nick Ellis: They really set it up.

Zach Honig: Yeah, they really set it up. They line up your napkin holder, and all your silverware, and they put a little LED candle on the table.

Nick Ellis: The little things.

Zach Honig: They dim the lights. It’s just a whole process. It’s like a food parade. It’s a lot of fun.

Nick Ellis: And there’s an onboard chef, isn’t there? With the little white hat?

Zach Honig: There is, yes. Yeah, I forgot about that. Yeah. So there’s a chef who comes to take your order and must do something in the galley, I don’t know.

Nick Ellis: Turns on the oven.

Zach Honig: It’s pretty rare to have a business-class chef. Exactly. It’s not like they can make custom meals necessarily, but they can maybe do modifications. I would say the food, and the flight attendants, just the service aspect of it makes Turkish worthwhile.

Zach Honig: But if you can’t find availability on Turkish or if you’re going to Europe beforehand, there are plenty of options and still the same redemption amounts.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. So many airlines fly to Istanbul because it’s such an international global city. You can fly Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian on Star Alliance alone.

Zach Honig: Yeah, BA.

Nick Ellis: BA.

Zach Honig: Iberia.

Nick Ellis: Iberia. Air France, KLM.  Yeah, all the above.

Zach Honig: Definitely lots of different flight options.

Nick Ellis: Totally.

Zach Honig: I’ve noticed with the cash fares, especially when I was flying back, it was the same price for me to work in a stopover.

Nick Ellis: Yep, that’s great. Yeah.

Zach Honig: Might not be the case, but it just depends on the fares. Take a look, look at the multi-city option.

Nick Ellis: Definitely.

Zach Honig: Don’t just say, “I can get a nine-hour layover.” Do multi-city, fly in one day, check to see if you stay a couple of days, is it this the same price? If it is, see a new country.

Nick Ellis: Absolutely should do it, yeah. Without a doubt.

Zach Honig: Where did you stay when you were in Istanbul? You were very centrally located, but what hotel did you choose?

Nick Ellis: We were at the Four Seasons Sultanahmet.

Zach Honig: Four Seasons guy, all right.

Nick Ellis: Yep, yeah. The price was so good, It was like $250 a night. And then I was splitting it with a friend, so when we were there for just two nights.

Zach Honig: Did you book through Amex FHR?

Nick Ellis: Yep, yep. So we got the $100 food and bev credit, free breakfast, which was out of this world, the breakfast. They had an extensive make-your-own juice station, they had a Turkish kind of like a crepe situation going on. They had the omelets, the fruit was amazing. The meats, the cheeses. It was an hours-long affair. The hotel, it was beautiful. It was very kind of old classic style but very quiet. The staff was great. A really good value for your money there.

Zach Honig: There are a number of points hotel options, but don’t overlook Amex FHR.

Nick Ellis: Definitely not.

Zach Honig: I just completed my second Four Seasons’ stay over the last few weeks. Because of Amex FHR, I did Kuala Lumpur.

Nick Ellis: Oh, yeah.

Zach Honig: Which is great because it was about $150 and I got a $100 spa credit.

Nick Ellis: Right.

Zach Honig: And I just did True North in Scottsdale, Arizona, which I think the rate was $230, but I got a $100 credit there and free breakfast. In the end, it’s a heck of a deal.

Nick Ellis: Totally, yeah. One of the nights we used the $100 food and beverage credit at the other Four Seasons property to have dinner, because it’s right on the Bosphorus, and it was incredible.

Zach Honig: Oh, that’s pretty cool that you can do that too.

Nick Ellis: Well, we called and —

Zach Honig: They’re like, “We’ll charge it to your room, sure.”

Nick Ellis: Yeah. Well, I asked them … I was like, “Can we use the food and beverage credit at the other Four Seasons property?” And then they transfer me to someone else and I don’t really think that the question was really understood correctly because they’re like, “Yeah, yeah, of course.” And then we got back and it was on the bill and I was like, “Well before I called this property here, just to make sure that we could do that before we did.” They took it off just fine, but I don’t think it’s explicitly said.

Zach Honig: Oh, OK. This is a your-mileage-may-vary situation.

Nick Ellis: Yes, exactly. But it worked out and it was beautiful.

Zach Honig: I stayed at the Park Hyatt, which —

Nick Ellis: I was going to say there, but then I switched at the last minute.

Zach Honig: It was a good call to switch because the Park Hyatt, it’s a beautiful hotel, but if you’re walking around, then it’s a bit further out and it’s up a long hill.

Nick Ellis: Oh, OK. Oh, wow.

Zach Honig: And there’s not much to see in that area.

Nick Ellis: Interesting, OK.

Zach Honig: I was also on foot. I was spending a lot of time getting to and from the hotel just between the sites.

Nick Ellis: Mm, yeah. Yeah.

Zach Honig: Worth keeping in mind. Then of course you’ve got plenty of Marriott options.

Nick Ellis: Tons, yeah. There’s a St Regis, a W, Ritz Carlton, at least one or two Marriott-branded.

Zach Honig: Conrad, if you’re a Hilton person.

Nick Ellis: Conrad, Hilton.

Zach Honig: Yep.

Nick Ellis: Yep.

Zach Honig: Plenty of points and miles options. Istanbul hotels, even the nicer hotels can be relatively reasonably priced.

Nick Ellis: Yep.

Zach Honig: So check the cash rates before you pull the trigger on an award.

Nick Ellis: Definitely.

Zach Honig: But if you’re going during a peak period or maybe there’s some kind of event —

Nick Ellis: And you’re going to get a great value for your points.

Zach Honig: Definitely. So I’ve one more question, I want to end with Chris’s question here. “How long should you go for?” We talked about that. I mean, a couple of days is pretty short.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. I would ideally probably have three full days and if you have more time, I think even one more would be great. I think there’s so much to see, you can really slow down and get a taste of the way of life there.

Zach Honig: The local life, yeah.

Nick Ellis: Yeah. Because I think it’s really unique and I think that that would be a really good use of your time. I’d say probably three is ideal because you do tend to arrive late in the day, just the way that the flights are, because they are so much longer —

Zach Honig: Right, right. Evening flights —

Nick Ellis: To Western Europe.

Zach Honig: From the US.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, you’re going to still arrive at three o’clock, and by the time you get into the city, you’re going to dinner and it’s done.

Zach Honig: Right.

Nick Ellis: There’s really not much else you can do. And you’ll be jet lagged. I would definitely do at least three full days.

Zach Honig: The second part of Chris’s question is, “Are there any other cities or areas worth visiting besides Istanbul?”

Nick Ellis: Yes, definitely. One that I wish I could have gone to is Cappadocia where they do the hot-air balloons —

Zach Honig: The hot-air balloons.

Nick Ellis: Over the cave dwellings. Yeah, that looks amazing. But, somewhere I did go was the beach on what’s known as the Turkish Riviera. The area’s called Bodrum. It’s on the Aegean Sea, so it’s close to Greece. Bodrum is a huge peninsula and then there are little towns in each area. We flew into Bodrum Airport from Istanbul, and then took a cab for almost an hour and stayed at the Edition in Bodrum, which was phenomenal.

Zach Honig: Oh, so it’s kind of like a small town, but they still have some western hotel chains.

Nick Ellis: Yeah, yeah.

Zach Honig: OK.

Nick Ellis: There are a lot of small towns. But also where we were was, it was called Yalikavak, or something like that. There’s this huge marina. Apparently a lot of Ukrainian billionaires go park their yachts there. It’s a very glamorous, Mykonos situation. But we also found, just as far away, was much more traditional towns that you have. Just the beach side place where you can eat fish and traditional Turkish food, and it’s really cheap. But yeah, there are beach clubs everywhere. The water’s gorgeous, the scenery is gorgeous. It’s very mountainous and and rugged, but it’s kind of greener than you’d think of Mykonos, which is very kind of desert-y or Santorini, which is kind of dry. But it was very green and yeah, beautiful.

Zach Honig: Sounds like the best of both worlds.

Nick Ellis: Definitely, yeah. It was a great place to relax, but also go out and have fun.

Zach Honig: Thanks so much for joining us, Nick. If someone wants to follow along on your adventures, where can they find you on social media?

Nick Ellis: Yeah, I’m on Instagram at @nellis_ellis.

Zach Honig: @nellis_ellis. Well safe travels, sir.

Nick Ellis: Thank you, Zach.

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