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This tour was quite a bit of a disappointment.
The visit to Hagia Sophia was a nice visit and the only real saving grace of the tour. However one should be aware that the time the guide shares information about the place is NOT substantial, and you are then left to your own devices. In many ways, I could have easily gone there on my own.
The Basilica Cistern would have been fine... except the guide only shared some urban legends and did not bother sharing the true historic reasons for many of the things found in the cistern.
Then came the uncomfortable part... a historic demonstration of turkish carpet weaving at a carpet shop. A poor excuse for what was in essence an extended sales pitch that took the better part of an hour. I had read earlier reviews so was prepared for it, but it did not make things any less uncomfortable for our entire group. The only saving grace was the air conditioning which provided some comfort from the heat. But this was easily the longest part of the entire tour and to have an entire sales team try to pressure you into buying a carpet is NOT the reason I booked it. The guide even warned us not to go back there alone later... if that means he wont get a commission if we do or if there is a more sinister reason, I have no idea... but hardly a good sign in any event.
And finally the grand bazaar... this could have been a nice visit if not for our tour guide. At first he was nice and even showed us the way to shops... but he very deliberately tried to separate us even when we explicitly told him that we wanted to stay in a small group, something that frustrated him greatly it is easier to pressure someone into buying if they are separated after all. And when he showed us the way to shops he criticised us if we did not buy things immediately and could not accept that we would not buy anything in a store he had brought us to.
In short, I do not recommend this tour and would suggest that if you want to see the Hagia Sophia and the other sites you do so on another tour or even on your own.
It was a good tour the guide was informative. The historical references and the magnificent architecture at Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern leaves you spellbound. Good to book with a definite skip-the-lines experience. Long queues mostly at these popular monuments. Sadly, Grand Bazaar was closed being Sunday, however, the guide took us to the spice bazaar, more commonly called an Egyptian Bazaar.
The guide was unhappy having only the two of us (not my fault). The tour was done in 2 hours instead of 4. I am sure he was knowledgeable but didn’t bother to till us anything if we don’t ask. Hagia Sofia was done in less than 25 minutes and it was the main reason I booked this tour. Not worth the m
The guide was very knowledgeable in history of the sites and provided time for pictures. FYI - there is an option on this tour to see Turkish carpet manufacturing. Please note that there is not much direction inside the Grand Bazaar - the guide simply drops the group at one of the 20 gates and you are on your own in that maze of 4500 shops. Watch out for your belongings.
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.
Great way to visit all the important historical sites of Istanbul! We were picked up from our hotel in a nice minibus and taken to meet the group who were on the full day tour. Tour guide was very knowledgeable. Make sure you each lunch before the tour begins, otherwise when you arrive at the Grand Bazaar there are plenty of places to grab a doner.
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!
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