At first look, touring popular places in Istanbul independently, seems intimidating. Some members of my tour group who planned to explore Sultanahmet on their own felt this way after exposure to the rush hour at Eminonu Pier. The place was so crowded and everybody was talking in a language so foreign we could not recognize a single word.
I would have to admit that I was a tad intimidated as well. I doubted whether my husband and I would be able to navigate commuting to Sultanahmet on our own. But I did my homework before our trip. I know we could commute to Sultanahmet from Kadikoy by ourselves. The fact that we will be spending only a third of the price for the add on tour of a guided Sultanahmet Tour was a great motivation.
If one wants to tour an area independently, one has to be prepared. One has to do her homework. I usually apply the same planning steps for independent touring.
1. Ask myself this: Is it worth going without the convenience of a guide and pre-arranged transportation?
For me, it was. I wanted to experience the sights and sounds of Istanbul among its people. Taking the ferry and riding the tram to Sultanahmet, I thought, would do it for me. Most of all, I would save a lot. Savings that I could spend for shopping. 😉
2. Research the route. Know the ways to get there and choose the route that will work best.
To get to Sultanahmet from Kadikoy, one could take the bus, a taxi, or the ferry and then the tram. I found out that traffic in Istanbul could get bad. The best choice is to take the ferry from Kadikoy, where our hotel was, to Eminonu Pier. From Eminonu, we could then take the tram to Sultanahmet which is only three stops from the tram station in Eminonu.
3. Identify places to go and entrance fees. If available online, purchase tickets for attractions. Most offer internet purchase discounts.
Istanbul’s Museum Pass offers a discounted price for entrance fees to major attractions. But it is a three day pass. We only had a day at leisure. So, we skipped on this. Our trip was in February. During the off peak season, there are less tourists. I figured, the lines would not be long. I could get tickets from the booth.
4. Plan to exchange cash for local currency. Having some money in local currency is always good.
Armed with information and some Turkish Lira, my husband and I with tour buddies who decided to come with us on our day at leisure in Istanbul had a fun time. We definitely have no regrets doing Sultanahmet on our own.