Traveller – do your research!

We are finally on the slow journey back to Oz after a wonderful 6 weeks away. There were so many highlights for both of us on the trip and we both enjoyed different parts of the journey.

With many highlights, there were also some challenges, as there always will be when you travel. On our first trip to Turkey, we were just feeling our way, hoping to get beyond just being a tourist. We were very lucky to have made some wonderful friends and it was great to catch up with them this time around.

One thing we have learnt, particularly about Turkey is that even if you live there many years, the locals will probably still consider you a tourist. Being a tourist means many things (not all of them good).

Here are some points mainly about Turkey but not exclusively:

  • At markets and bazaars you will always pay tourist prices, even if you think you got a bargain (it helps to have a Turkish friend with you to negotiate prices).
  • In some hotels, you will be passed over by staff in preference of Turkish customers – don’t know what that is about – perhaps language barriers
  • It is important to show respect to cultural practices and customs, don’t expect the same in return. A good example of this is that I meticulously ate with my right hand (sometimes difficult as a left hander ) as it is a big cultural no-no in Muslim countries. In Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and Algeria I have seen locals eating with their left hand. My advice – say nothing and keep eating right handed.
  • Don’t get impatient if things don’t run on time – make sure you factor some leeway for “Turkish minutes”
  • Shop at the supermarkets, shops with fixed price and places where the locals go, then you will have more chance of paying the correct price. (I think this applies to other countries where you can bargain – e.g. Bali and Malaysia)
  • In many countries, the idea of orderly queuing does not apply. We found the pushing and shoving in Turkey on ferries, at airports and on the tram a bit much sometimes. (I also put this down to a completely different sense of personal space  – we are spoilt in Australia as we have a small population and a lot of empty spaces so we tend to ‘need’ more body space to feel comfortable – e.g. the population of Istanbul is almost the same as the entire population of Oz.)

These points sound critical, they are not meant to be – just things to be aware of. We love Turkey and we are already planning our next trip. Part of why we love Turkey is because of the people – they come from the heart, are generous to a fault and appreciate the dry and ironic sense of humour that many Australians have.

We also tried very hard to find good places to stay and used sites like tripadvisor.com, booking.com and expedia.com.au to research and find accommodation. Interestingly we found out from one of the hotel managers that this information may be biased, as booking.com takes a commission from hotels  – if you pay a higher commission you get more of a profile. Apparently tripadvisor is going this way as well. We did get stung like this on booking.com as we booked cheap accommodation based on a couple of reasonable reviews and then when cross checking in tripadvisor, the hotel had lots of ‘terrible’ reviews. What made it worse was when we tried to cancel the booking, we realised that there was no refund for changes to the booking. Our advice – READ the small print.

To this point about research, we also got stung earlier in the year by wotif.com when we booked a place which was really bad, misadvertised and could not get a refund – no one was responsible!! Another experience was our “Sailing tour” to Croatia, too many layers of agents making it impossible to get any action, as it was, quote “not my problem”.

Book direct where possible and you will save money and potential drama, as everyone in the tourism food chain gets their cut but no one wants to be responsible if things so wrong.

If you are interested in other reviews and recommendations see my contributions on tripadvisor.

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