3-Day Turkey Itinerary With Cost Breakdown | From My Turkey-Russia Solo Trip
By DAN FORTEZA
When I got that cheap flight tickets of Manila-Dubai round-trip last year, I know that Dubai will never be my final destination. That’s why I never wasted my time booking another flight bound to another dream city of mine – Istanbul! Being the city that sits between Europe and Asia, Istanbul is a paradise for a geography geek like myself. And I’m sure you’ll also enjoy Istanbul as much as I did. To help you with your Turkey itinerary, I’ll be sharing my actual day-to-day itinerary in this blog including the breakdown of cost during my trip to Turkey. Aside from Istanbul, I also went to the city of Bursa, 150 km south of Istanbul.
NOTE: Before returning to the Philippines, I flew to Russia after Turkey and spent a few days in the Russian cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. Feel free to read my other article about my 4-day itinerary in Russia with cost breakdown.
Here are my flight ticket details with costs for this Turkey itinerary:
- Manila (MNL) to Dubai (DXB) via Cebu Pacific – 6,499 PHP
- Dubai (DXB) to Istanbul (SAW) via Pegasus Airlines – 8,904 PHP
- Istanbul (SAW) to Moscow (DME) via Pegasus Airlines – 6,072 PHP
- Moscow (SVO) to Dubai (DXB) via Aeroflot – 10,914 PHP
- Dubai (DXB) to Manila (MNL) via Cebu Pacific – 2,160 PHP
FLIGHT TICKETS TOTAL: 34,549 PHP = 665 USD
NOTE: For Philippine Passport holders who will go through flight transfer at Dubai International airport (DXB), you DO NOT need any sort of UAE visa as long as you stay within the airside area of the airport. Even if your next flight is on another terminal, you can transfer with ease using DXB’s terminal-to-terminal transport buses.
It was almost a 9-hour flight from Manila to Dubai. I arrived at Dubai International Airport (DXB) Terminal 1 at around 9:40 PM. I just need to transfer to DXB’s Terminal 2 for my next flight bound to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) at 4:20 AM (the next day). There is a dedicated transfer desk at Terminal 1 so I’ve transferred to Terminal 2 with ease by utilizing one of the airport’s transport buses. If you have check-in baggage with you, unfortunately there is a subjected fee for transferring check-in baggage. In my case, I only have a carry-on backpack with me and so the transfer was hassle-free.
Currency: Turkish Lira (TRY, TL)
Exchange rate: 1 USD = 5.72 TL
Prefer mode of transportation: Tram / Subway / Trains
Int’l Airports in this trip: Sabiha Gökçen (SAW)
Time Zone: GMT + 3
After a restless night of flights and transfer, ISTANBUL has finally come to a reality! A city that straddles between two continents of Asia and Europe, definitely a dream come true seeing it with my own eyes!
I arrived at Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen airport at around 8:10 AM as per schedule. It was almost a 5-hour flight from DXB airport. The first thing I looked for at the airport was an ATM to withdraw cash and then looked for a sim card (for internet connection) right after. See Day 1 expenses below to see sim card cost.
TIP: Some backpackers do not appreciate buying a sim card. But I always recommend buying one even if you’re just staying for a few days. Googling every thing is a life saver!
MY 4D/3N TURKEY ITINERARY with COST BREAKDOWN
DAY 1 Photo Gallery
DAY 1 TURKEY ITINERARY:
- Transport from Airport to Hostel. The Sabiha Gökçen Airport is located on the Asian side and the journey can take up around 90 minutes to downtown Istanbul. From the airport, I took the Havataş Bus going to Taksim Square. The bus operates from 4 AM to 1 AM. My hostel is about 6-10 min walk from Taksim Square or Taksim metro station.
- Hostel name: Chambers of the Boheme (click HERE to book)
- Hostel room type: Bunk Bed in Mixed Dormitory Room
- Hostel rate: Refer to Day 1 expenses below.
TIP: When booking your hotel/hostel, look it up on Google Maps first and ensure that it is not too far from a subway/train station.
- Tour around Istanbul with a Turkish friend. I was restless but definitely ready to see and explore Istanbul on my first day. I met Zuhtu (he’s Turkish) from Couchsurfing. He intends to tour me around the city when I arrived at my hostel. I was with him the whole day and he helped me explore Istanbul like a local. Zuhtu doesn’t speak English much and so I had to use Google Translate to communicate with him sometimes. If we still could not understand each other, we just both laugh it off!
- Taksim Square. We started off the tour at Taksim Square which is a 6-minute walk from my hostel. It is a major tourist and leisure district famed for its restaurants, shops, and hotels.
- Galata Tower. We took an old tram (also called nostaljik tramvay) from Taksim to Karaköy tram stop and then headed to the Galata Tower. The tower is one of Istanbul’s most iconic symbols.
NOTE: Zuhtu even bought me an Istanbul Kart, it is an all-around public transportation boarding pass in Istanbul. I just need to top it up once empty. The card costs 10 TL which already has a 4 TL load (so the card itself is only 6TL).
- Dikilitas. We visited the Dikilitas park situated within Sultanahmet district. We took the metro train to get here from Sishane station.
- Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque). From the heart of Sultanahmet district, this breath-taking building is one of the most majestic Ottoman mosques in all of Turkey!
- Hagia Sophia. Just across the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia is regarded as the eighth wonder of the World, the Hagia Sophia (or Ayasofya) in Sultanahmet is surely one of Istanbul’s most impressive sights.
- Istanbul University. Founded in 1453, this is the oldest university in Turkey! From Sultanahmet train station, we traveled to Beyazit train station to get here.
- Suleymaniye Mosque. Another incredible mosque in Istanbul! From Istanbul University, we took a stroll toward Suleymaniye Mosque. The mosque is situated in some elevation and thus there’s a spot here where you can see a scenic view of the Bhoporus Strait! This strait forms part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia.
- Grand Bazaar. Our walking tour continued here at Grand Bazaar. This is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. We had hamburgers here and it was Zuhtu’s treat! Afterward, we stroll along Eminönü Pier to catch the ferry going to Uskudar district. So we were technically crossing the Bhoporus strait to get to the Asian side of Istanbul.
- View of Istanbul from Camlica Hill. Zuhtu said he wanted to show me this amazing place on top of a hill where I could see the entire Istanbul! It’s in Camlica hill. From Uskudar, we took a bus to Camlica and continued moving on foot until we reached the top of the hill. Being tired and restless that I was, I had no regrets. The place was truly beautiful and with a scenic night view of both the Asian and European parts of Istanbul in one scene! There are also restaurants and cafes at Camlica Hill. It was around 10:00 PM when we left the place.
- Back home to Taksim Square. We both took a bus to get back to the European side of Istanbul and then took a metro train to get us home. I don’t remember which train station he got off but what I do remember that Zuhtu was one of the nicest and accommodating persons I’ve ever met. I got off at Taksim train station.
Hostel Photo Gallery
DAY 1 EXPENSES:
- Sim card with internet (Turk Telekom) – 100 TL
- Havabus ticket to Taksim Square – 15 TL
- Bottled juice drink and bread – 6.15 TL
- Room accommodation fee (3-night stay) – 133.5 TL
- Food (rice and chicken and chocolate) – 16 TL
- Top up Istanbul Kart – 10 TL
DAY 1 TOTAL: 280.65 TL = 49 USD
DAY 2 Photo Gallery
DAY 2 TURKEY ITINERARY:
- Take a rest in the morning. I needed this after the tiring day yesterday!
- Create a Do-it-Yourself Walk Tour in the afternoon. I wanted to re-explore Istanbul on my own so I created this simple DIY walking tour. Google Maps definitely helped me a lot where to locate places and deciding where to start. From Taksim train station, I headed to Sultanahmet area to again see the iconic Hagia Sophia and explore more of Sultanahmet and Eminönü. Places to note of in my DIY tour were:
- Divanyolu street. After getting off Sultanahmet station, I took a stroll along this road. At Divanyolu, there are several restaurants, gift shops, and tour providers you can find. I then decided to book a Bursa Tour for tomorrow from one tour provider (Marco Polo Tours). I’ll be free the whole day tomorrow so why not. If you fancy Troy Tour or Cappadocia, there are also tours available but comes with a price and takes longer travel time.
- Çemberlitaş Sütunu (Column of Constantine). This is also known as the Burnt Stone or the Burnt Pillar. Found this along the street of the Yeniçeriler Caddesi cornering Divanyulo street.
- Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque). I really wouldn’t mind seeing this mosque again!
- Hagia Sophia. And this one, too!
- Topkapi Palace Museum. This palace is just a few blocks from Hagia Sophia. There are other notable places nearby Topkapi palace museum such as:
- Istanbul Archeology Museum
- Museum of Ancient Orient
- Gulhane Park
- Column of the Goths
- Eminönü Pier. Right after Sultanahmet area, I moved to Eminonu Pier. It was about 20 minutes by foot.
- Galata Bridge – Just 10 minutes from the Pier, I took a walk across Galata bridge. There are men fishing, seagulls shrieking, and vendors pushing their cart full of fresh-baked simits (sesame-encrusted bread rings). While watching the ferries making their way to and from the Eminönü and Karaköy ferry docks, it feels so magical.
DAY 2 EXPENSES:
- Nescafe drink and biscuit – 6.50 TL
- Bursa Tour ticket – 190 TL
- Ice cream – 9 TL
- Istanbul kart top-up – 20 TL
- Food (chicken, rice, choco, veggies, spaghetti, bottled water) – 21.5 TL
- Istanbul kart top up – 10 TL
- Bottled water 1.5 TL
- Food (chicken, rice, salad, choco, water) – 16.5 TL
DAY 2 TOTAL: 275 TL = 48 USD
DAY 3 Photo Gallery
DAY 3 TURKEY ITINERARY:
- Bursa Day Tour. Bursa is regarded as the first capital city of the Ottoman Empire! Up to this day, the city proudly displays its Ottoman heritage in the shape of many mosques, tombs, and lovely quarters of old houses. That’s why it’s hard not to see this city knowing it is just 3 hours from Istanbul. I made a good choice joining a Bursa day tour on my third day in Turkey. We were about 50+ joiners for the day tour and the majority of the joiners were Arabic speakers. Here are the notable places in Bursa that we’ve visited:
- Green Mosque
- Green Tomb
- Cable car ride in Mt. Uludag
- Open Cable Car in Mt. Uludag
- 600-year old giant tree
- Turkish delight shop stopover
NOTE: We arrived back to Istanbul at 10:00 PM
DAY 3 EXPENSES:
- Simit (bread) – 1.5 TL
- Bottled water – 1 TL
- Coffee & Bread – 10 TL
- Toilet fee – 1 TL
- Open Cable Car ride – 30 TL
- Ice cream – 5 TL
- Two Bottled water – 3 TL
NOTE: Lunch is included in the tour.
DAY 3 TOTAL: 51.5 TL = 9 USD
DAY 4 Photo Gallery
DAY 4 TURKEY ITINERARY:
- Fly to Moscow. I left downtown Istanbul at around 7:00 AM to catch my flight to Moscow. I would have loved to stay much longer in Istanbul but I only have a one-week break. For the next three days, I’ll be visiting Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia.
DAY 4 EXPENSES:
- Food (2 x fried rice with chicken strip or Nohutlu Pilav) – 10 TL
- Havabus ticket to Airport – 15 TL
- Souvenirs (keychains) – 55 TL
DAY 4 TOTAL: 80 TL = 14 USD
- Hotel / Hostel
- Booking.com. I usually book my hostel accommodation at booking.com. Thus, I recommend you guys trying it as well. Room accommodation ranges from cheap hostels to luxury hotels. Book hostels through booking.com as they have free cancellation or pay-at-the-hotel option.
Use my link to book your hostel and you’ll get 10% of your booking back after your stay. Click this link to get that discount.
- Airbnb. Try Airbnb in finding comfy and cozy rooms! I have used Airbnb on some of my other trips and I loved it!
Have you tried Airbnb? Sign up with my link and you will get up to 42 USD (2,200 Php) off your first stay. Click this link to get that discount.
- KAYAK. All of my flight bookings are all from KAYAK. Kayak is one of the world’s leading travel search engines and searches hundreds of travel sites.
I suggest you check Kayak (click HERE) as they usually offer cheap fare rates compared to other booking sites.
- Istanbul Package tours
- Viator. Viator is the world’s leading resource for researching, finding and booking the best travel experiences worldwide.
Click here to find the best Viator deals in Istanbul!
- Bursa Tour – I booked at Marco Polo Tourism & Travel agency located at Divanyolu Street, Istanbul. You can check out their website HERE.
- Travel Insurance
- World Nomads. If you don’t have travel insurance when times get tough, basically you are screwed. Traveling always comes with inherent risks attached. Whether you are trekking in the Nepalese mountains or wandering the streets of Istanbul, unforeseen events can suddenly upend your world. Generally speaking, travel insurance covers you for the following: Medical Costs – hospital visits, emergencies, evacuations; Property Loss – luggage and their contents; Travel Issues – accommodation and transportation expenses. Thus, I highly recommend you guys getting a travel insurance. I bought one from the World Nomads (available in 130+ countries) where most travelers get their travel insurances.
Go to this link to get to your World Nomads travel insurance.
The trip was absolutely quick! I’m sure you’d think that a three-and-a-half-day stay in Turkey is not enough. You’re right, but I did enjoy every second of it. No doubt.
It would be worth mentioning also that visiting Istanbul ticks the ‘Visit Europe continent’ in my travel bucket list because I was technically on the European soils! After Asia, it was my first time to step on another known continent. It was something I couldn’t believe up to now.
If you’re just planning to visit Istanbul, go ahead and make it a reality! I hope that by the help of this Turkey itinerary blog will make your travel easy and convenient. Safe travels!