Efendi Travel offers excellent value-for-money half- and full-day small-group guided walking tours of Istanbul’s major historical sights.
It may just be the most efficient way to see all the main sights in a single day (including even the Grand Bazaar).
The full-day tour is actually two half-day tours. You can choose to take the morning tour, the afternoon tour, or both tours for a full day of sightseeing.
You’re picked up from your hotel around 13:00 (1 pm) for theafternoon tour, which begins with a visit to Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia), followed by visits to the Milion stone, the Sultanahmet (Blue) Mosque, Ottoman imperial tombs on Divan Yolu, Burnt Column (Çemberlitaş), the Çemberlitaş hamam (Turkish bath), and the Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı). The tour ends around 16:30 (4:30 pm) in the Grand Bazaar, allowing you time to wander and/or shop on your own.
Compare that list of sights to any other walking tour, and you’ll see the Efendi Travel difference—and the value.
Now here’s the kicker: the full-day tour fee is only €45 (45 euros) per person, admission fees included. If you have your own Museum Pass, the full-day tour fee for you is only €25, because you don’t need the included admission fees.
As the admission fees add up to about €20, that means you’re getting a full day’s tour of Istanbul’s major sights for only €25. (Entrance to the Topkapı Palace Harem is optional, so the extra admission fee for the Harem section is not included in these prices.)
Lunch is not included. This is an advantage: you get to choose where you have lunch, and how much you spend, from a quick snack, sandwich or picnic to a full meal.
For lunch, the tour stops at Sultanahmet‘s famous Lâle Restaurant—world famous in Hippie days as the Pudding Shop. The Lâle is a good choice as it is right at the eastern end of the Hippodrome, much nicer than in its Hippie days, with a good selection of ready foods (you can choose just by pointing at what looks good), free wifi, soft drinks, wine and beer.
You choose whatever you’d like for lunch, or you can go somewhere else, or you can bring your own picnic and have it while sitting on a bench in the Hippodrome—your choice.
If you want to participate for only half a day (morning or afternoon), you pay only €25, and admission fees are included, so the full-day tour really is a bargain.
Let me emphasize this: it’s not just that you pay less with Efendi than on many other guided tours, it’s that you see more: more sights and more time to see them.
For example, many tours don’t allow time for you to explore the Harem at Topkapı Palace; and some—especially those that take you to the Grand Bazaar—schedule tour stops at particular shops. The entire tour group goes into the shop, sits for an hour or so, inspects the goods, and the tour operator is paid a commission on purchases made by tour participants. Nothing wrong with this, except that prices may be higher and…you’re sitting in a shop rather than seeing the sights! Why pay a tour company a fee for shopping? You can go shopping on your own. You don’t need to pay a tour company to park you in a shop for an hour. More…
The good news is that on the Efendi Travel walking tour there is no forced shopping stop. Your Efendi guide will make suggestions if you ask, and can introduce you to good shops if you like, but you won’t be parked in a shop for an hour when you should be out seeing the sights.
Efendi Travel ‘s Old Istanbul Guided Walking Touroperates every day, though you must keep in mind that Hagia Sophia is closed on Monday, and Topkapı Palace is closed on Tuesday. If you take the tour on Monday or Tuesday, Efendi Travel invites you to re-join the tour on a following day to visit the place you missed (Hagia Sophia or Topkapı Palace) at no additional charge.
|Yeni Akbıyık Caddesi No: 30|
Sultanahmet Istanbul map
Tel: +90 (212) 638 6343, 638 6344, or 638 3746
Fax: +90 (212) 638 3922
—by Tom Brosnahan
|Airport Transfer Service|