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We lucked out with a private tour - only the two of us. Guide was friendly, knowledgeable and informative. All three sites are worth visiting, we had no wait because our guide had tickets, and we went directly in to both the Hagia Sophia and Basiillica Cistern even though there were extremely long lines. Worth it to book a tour! Our guide helped us to wind out way through the Grand Bazaar and had some good tips for us. This tour enhanced our visit to Istanbul.
Wow. This was a great tour. We learned the full history of Hagia Sophia. Our guide, Gülay knew every date and every detail. The Basilica Cistern was much different than I expected and enhanced by the knowledge of our guide. We had the opportunity to go to a private pottery showroom and have a personal demonstration. My favorite, was the Grand Bazaar. It is overwhelming, but our guide had a good knowledge of which vendors were reputable and helped us navigate. She should do shopping tours!
Private guide picked us up on time, took us to the Hagia Sophia, Cistern, and Bazaar, gave us private time, and transferred us back to the hotel. Could not have been better.
I would recommend the full day tour, but we only had a half day available. Good tour guide and interesting tour. Suggest you copy what is on tour (its not on the voucher), as our tour guide would have left out the Roman Cisterns (which was a highlight), if I had not reminded her.
Yes it was interesting ,the history of the Hagia sofia mosque and basilica cistern Had a great history.but the carpet shop visit was unusual in istanbul there was a salesman describing how a carpet was made and a attempting to sell us a carpet should it be on the tour NO.the guide was helpful
For the Hagia Sophia and the Basillica Cistern I joined a group who had be on tour since that morning, but for the Grand Bazaar I had the guide (Sylvia?) all to myself which was a bonus She was able to give me undivided attention and we had a nice afternoon exploring the Bazaar. I would never had found my way out on my own!! Hagia Sophia and Basisillica Cistern were fascinating and the guide was able to explain to the group the history of both.
Erkki L Finland
The Basillica Cistern and Hagia Sophia are a must. They are historically some of the most interesting destinations in the world. HS museum has a lot of christian history inside as well, perhaps even more than muslim.
However, our guide was very poor. Young abnoxious guy, who had limited information about the destinations and not so good english language as to be able to really communicate with his customers. He was criticizing our young daughter of 5 for bothering his concentration and insulting a person outside the group by making a useless remark in HS that you may not listen to my speech. Very poor behaviour.
Grand Bazaar can be nice, for someone, who has not visited it before. for us it seemed useless as well as the extensive carpet shop visit. However, the cistern under the carpet shop had a very interesting exhibition about the hippodrome. This and the texts in HS and other places were well executed in Istanbul and explained much better things than our guide.
Nicole L USA
This tour is worth doing, especially to see Hagia Sophia. The Cistern was cool to see, but it's not a must-see. Grand Bazaar was cool to see, but, in my opinion, the Egyptian is way better priced with better quality items. I just felt like I was rushed on the tour, like the other tours I took in Istanbul.
Garry M United Kingdom
Worth doing but may as well have gone on a tour with other people. One of the reasons for opting for the private tour was fact that other tours seemed to include some form of 'selling' visit eg to carpet maker. Having suffered this experience in both Marrakesch and Delhi it is something we wished to avoid. However the private tour we soon discovered also included just such a delight. We made it clear to the guide that we did not wish to do this. Consequently, rather than the 4 hours promised on the tour description, the whole experience ie Hagia Sofia, Byzantine Cistern and Grand Bazaar was over in under 3 hours. Our guide was a very pleasant young man but I felt perhaps lacked the sort of experience and knowledge we might have expected from a more mature person. Overall, therefore, a bit disappointing and not particularly good value for the £102 it cost.
Mixed review of the tour. It was extremely helpful to be able to skip all of the lines at the locations of our half-day Istanbul Tour, especially because it was raining the day of our tour. The tour guide was fairly knowledgeable, however, we could have received a bit more information, especially at the Grand Bazaar. Also, some information we were given on the tour has proven to be false. There, we were just delivered to the location and set free, without any explanation of its history. There was not much time for questions, and at each location, instead of guiding us through with accompanying information, the guide simply gave a quick explanation at the entrance and set us free after designating a meeting point. Also, in the middle of the tour, we stopped at a traditional turkish carpet-weaving demonstration, which started out interestingly, but then turned into a lengthy and fairly uncomfortable sales pitch. As students, we are clearly not in the position to be considering a purchase of a 50,000 rug. I would not doubt if the tour organization has some sort of agreement with the carpet company. It was disheartening that we spent more time in this sales pitch approx. an hour than the Basilica Cistern 15-20 mins and the Hagia Sophia 30-40 mins. Considering the minimal entrance fees that were waived with the tour, but the ease of skipping the lines, it is debatable whether the tour gives you enough bang for your buck.
Cheryl P Canada
The Hagia Sophia is an absolute must see and going with a tour means avoiding the long lineups. The Basillica Cistern was also worth a view. However those are the only good things I can say about this tour.
Our tour started quite a bit later than planned and our guide did not seem very enthusiastic about his work. He would give the group a short preamble before each site and then send us to wander on our own while he would wait for us at the exit. We also found out that the Grand Bazaar was closed due to a High Holiday and he led us to believe that he was taking us, instead, to see a second Cistern. In fact we ended up herded into a carpet shop where we were given a short demonstration of carpet making which was then to be followed-up by a major sales pitch. Many of us in the group felt conned. Three of us managed to escape and go instead to a local restaurant to grab a beer and some much need laughs. We did have to give up the free drive home, that was offered as part of our package, but not one of us regretted getting away. The Half Day Imperial Tour could have been very, very good, under different circumstances, but this particular day was not worth the money!
2 stars because of the beautiful sites. The Hagia Sophia was especially beautiful in the snow. I was absolutely shocked, however, that the Blue Mosque was not included since it was a stone's throw away. Our guide was knowledgeable and kind at first, but became angry and sullen when we didn't want to visit a "traditional carpet shop", after that he walked ahead of us at a fast rate, and kind of ignored us. For a quarter of the price, if you are in the area (we were staying in Beyazit), just hop on the tram and see the sites yourself. Hagia Sophia and the Underground Cistern are beautiful---you don't need a whiny guide to ruin your day.
Even though the guide was very nice and informative, this tour could have been a lot better with minor management changes. The time management again was very desapointing and at the end it seemed this is not the guide's problem but the logistics of the company. First the tour happened in the morning, not the afternoon, which spoiled some plans I had made before. Than I was picked up even before the time arranged, and from my hotel to picking up a couple in another hotel until finally meeting the guide and arriving in the first attraction (Grand Bazaar) it took more than one hour, we spent a lot of time in the van stop in the middle of the city waiting things to happen. We spent too much time in the van and in the Grand Bazaar (the least interesting attraction of the tour), even though the guide rushed inside sometimes, we spent too less time in both Hagia Sophia and the Cistern. In total we had two hours for the three attractions. In the end I found out this time issue was due to the fact that they accomodated me in a group that had other places to go in the afternoon, which was rather annoying because I didn't want to make a tour full of attractions because I wanted to make sure I would have time to see it all, but it didn't make any difference since I was in a tour where things were rushed. The day after the tour I went back to Hagia Sophia because during the tour we missed an extremely important part of Hagia Sophia, which is the second floor where you can see the byzantine mosaic panels, this was very desapointing.
This tour was awful. We were picked up at our hotel at 1pm. Then we had to sit on a bench and wait for 1 hour for the morning group to finish lunch because they were running behind. The tour guide, I say this loosely because he barely spoke, took us to the Basillica Cistern. He gave us exactly 3 minutes worth of history about it then told us to meet him outside in 20 minutes. He then took us to the Hagia Sophia. At least we got a full 15 minutes of history out of him before he left us on our own and randomly pointed out places to go inside. We then went to the absolutely stupidest carpet demonstration that is such a scam. We rounded out the day at the Grand Bazaar. He pressured the group to stay longer than the tour time. This way he didn't have to drive anyone home. He again randomly started pointing which way our hotel was (Hotel Levni) and said it was about a 5-10 minute walk. Which was just a flat out lie. For two in shape women in their 30's it took us 25 minutes. I am so disappointed in Viator and will not be contacting you again. I just can't believe you would partner with such an awful local company.
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