Turkey was one of those trips we put on the calendar without actually putting any thought to it. It was one of those trips I was certain will get a maximum of 6-8 Nomads sign ups. Earlier in the year, I already booked 3 rooms at our cave hotel in Cappadocia. When Abdullah asked me if I was certain of the number, I responded “Yes! I’m very certain. We might be even less but let’s keep it at 6”. I had doubts because the trip was less than 2 months after Jordan. Secondly, we had a condition for joining the experience; “Nomads are required to have a UK. US, or Schengen visa before they can sign up for this trip”. This I thought will discourage people from signing up as not everyone has these visas.
Finally, Nomads in turkey was the most expensive trip on our calendar. Turkey cost a whopping $1,800 and I was so sure few people were going to sign up.
We ended up with 12 people flying from Lagos, Abuja, Aberdeen and Dublin! We also had Nomads from Ghana, South Africa and of course Nigeria.
Our experience was full of joy, love, laughter, tears and of course MAXIMUM ENJOYMENT! It was a trip that really touched my heart. The Nomads were perfect, the destination was perfect, the timing was perfect….EVERYTHING was perfect!
“When next are you guys going to Turkey”
“Please sign me up for the next Turkey trip”
“I missed the ad for this trip, please organise another one”
We got a ton of messages like this but unfortunately, we aren’t planning any trips to Turkey soon. This post is pretty much going to help you plan your trip to Turkey from Nigeria (applicable anywhere else in the world). From visa applications, costs, planning, to dos etc, check out my 10 useful tips I learnt from planning our group experience to Turkey.
HAVING A UK/US/SCHENGEN/IRISH VISA IS EASIER THAN GETTING A TURKISH VISA
…especially if you reside anywhere outside Abuja.
The Turkish Embassy in Nigeria is currently in Abuja and I’ve heard it’s not an easy visa to get. Nomads in Turkey was my 3rd visit to Turkey and I’ve never had to get a Turkish visa at the Turkish embassy. Turkey is big on tourism and they have an alternative for travellers to apply for Turkish visas. This application takes less than 10 minutes and it’s one of the easiest visas I’ve had to get till date.
If you have a UK, US, Schengen or Irish visa or PR, you can apply for a Turkish e-visa via this website for $41 (Nigerian passport holders) and $61 (for Ghanaian passport holders). There’s a catch though. You’ll have to fly Turkish Airlines, Onur Air, Pegasus or Atlas Global, your passport must have at least 6 months validity, you must have a return ticket, hotel reservation and $50 each day of your stay etc. See the full prerequisites below.
Right after you’ve followed the rules and put in your details, you will receive your visa in your mail after 2 minutes. See step by step process of e-visa application here.
APPLY FOR YOUR VISA AT LEAST 48 HOURS BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Yes the visa process is fast and easy but the way our Nigerian cards are set up, your cards might start acting up. This happened to me during the Nomads in Turkey trip and I kept the Nomads waiting at the airport for over 30 minutes, trying to get the visas. I knew the visa process was pretty easy so I left it till last minute. On my way to the airport I started applying for the visas and my cards just won’t work. I tried American and Canadian cards, NOTHING was working! I was certain some forces were at work and they didn’t want us to enjoy the Cappadocian sunrise and sunset. The cards finally started working and I was able to purchase all the visas ASAP.
TAKE SOMETIME TO SOAK IN THE NEW ISTANBUL AIRPORT
Honestly, this is probably one of the best airports I have been to. It was that great and worth every single hype. We got lounge passes courtesy Turkish Airlines and I was amazed at how non-conventional it was. My favourite area was the kids play area and the suitcase lockers. It didn’t feel like an airport lounge at all. I felt like I was in a very sleek bar/restaurant. Extremely instagrammable!
IF TRANSITING TO ANOTHER CITY, GIVE TIME FOR TRANSFERS
To get to Cappadocia from Nigeria, you’ll have to land in Istanbul first. Flight from Lagos lands at about 5am in the morning and we had the option of either catching the next flight to Cappadocia at 6.30am or the subsequent one at noon. Though the wait was long we opted for the one at noon and that couldn’t have been a better choice.
The airport is pretty massive and you’ll have to take your luggage from the international terminal & check in at domestic. This took us at least an hour and I’m certain if we booked the 6.30am flight we would have missed it! You also need to leave room for uncertainty. For example I lost my passport (left it on the Lagos- Istanbul flight) and it took an additional 30-45 minutes to retrieve it from the flight. If you are flying to Cappadocia or any other city and your first stop is Istanbul, leave at least 3 hours between your flights.
THERE’S MORE TO TURKEY THAN ISTANBUL
I know Istanbul is the hottest spot for everyone visiting Turkey but there are 80 other provinces waiting to be explored! Outside Istanbul, I’ve been to Nevshir/Kayseri (which is where Cappadocia is), Izmir, Denizli (where Pammukale is) and every province has something unique to offer.
Turkey is like the gift that keeps giving. There’s so much to see and do. It’s also affordable to travel across provinces and there are a couple of local flight options. There’s Turkish airlines which flies to almost all the provinces but there are also Onur Air, Atlas Global, Pegasus and Sun express which are more affordable options. Our flight from Istanbul to Cappadocia cost us less than $150 for a round trip. Depending on the time of the year, you can get is as low as $80.
Every time I’ve visited the country, I feel I haven’t done it any justice. It’s a destination I’ll explore over and over again. The direct flight from Nigeria and ease of getting a visa is definitely a plus.
WHILE IN CAPPADOCIA, STAY IN A CAVE HOTEL
There are over 200 cave hotels in Cappadocia so there will surely be one that will fit whatever your budget is. Booking.com is a great place to start your search and you’ll find accommodation ranging from €50-€300 per night. There’s no place in the world like Cappadocia, so to get the full Cappadocia experience, I advice you stay in a cave hotel. Cave hotels are hotels made out of these incredible rock formations which make up the Cappadocia landscape. Staying in one feels like you’ve been transported to the set of Flintstones the movie, a truly unique experience.
Our favorite cave hotel, Kale Konak, only opened about 13 years ago has about 17 rooms, a Turkish hammam, a spectacular view and Abdullah and his team are great hosts. It comes highly recommended & they make your Cappadocian experience 100X better.
COST FOR HOT AIR BALLOONING EXPERIENCE IS STEEP BUT WORTH IT
Most people go to Cappadocia for the hot air balloon experience and honestly, there’s none other like it all over the world. For most balloon experiences, it’s just one or a few other balloons in the air. However, in Cappadocia, it feels like you are at a balloon festival. On a clear and busy day, there are about 150 balloons up in the air. No other word to describe what you see but MAGNIFIQUE. It’s my most memorable experience till date.
However, I must state that the experience itself costs quite a bit of money and if you are not one for experiences you might be taken unawares by the price. It costs somewhere between €140-€230 depending on the company and the type of flight. The company we used, voyager balloons, have both standard and comfort flights. The standard flights have about 24 people in the basket and costs €190 while the comfort flight has 16 people in a basket and costs €230. It’s pricey but the experience is priceless!
PLAN TO STAY IN CAPPADOCIA FOR 3 NIGHTS
…especially if you are visiting during the windy months. The weather can get unpredictable so even when you are visiting during the busy months, plan to stay at least 3 nights. We stayed for 3 nights and the balloon flight got cancelled on one of the days we were there. It was the day of our photo shoot and we planned to take photos with the balloon as our backdrop but that didn’t happen. For hot air ballooning, the best months to visit is April, May, June, September and October.
Additionally, there are a ton of other activities to do in Cappadocia outside hot air ballooning. Visit the underground cities, check out the goreme open air museum, take an ATV tour around the city to catch the sunset or go horse back riding. Cappadocia has more than enough to occupy you for 3 nights.
IN ISTANBUL, STAY IN THE FATIH/SULTANAMET AREA
Considering that Istanbul is a transcontinental City (a part of it is in Europe and another in Asia), this tip will apply if you plan to stay in the European side. On our itinerary, we had the old city tour so it was only ideal to stay in this area and it was perfect. We found the GLK premier hotel in fatih and booked it right away. The price was right; about $150 per night. We were only a 10 minutes walk from the Hagia Sophia area and an additional 5 minutes from the Grand Bazaar so everything was pretty much within reach. We stayed on a street with nice restaurants and roof top bars. Every time we felt hunger pangs, good food was just 2 seconds away! One of our favorite restaurants, where we had the best pasta, was right opposite our hotel. Literally 10 steps between both entrances.
IF YOU’LL BE MOVING AROUND IN ISTANBUL, GET A METRO CARD
Like most European cities, Istanbul is very easy to navigate using the metro. If you are looking to move from one part of the city to another, the metro is the easiest and cheapest means of transportation. Load your Istanbulkart with 10 Lira worth of credit and top up when necessary.
We didn’t use the metro as we were in Istanbul for two nights and all the activities on the itinerary were within reach. However, one of the Nomads used the metro to the Taskim square and her feedback was just as reported; simple and easy to use.
- There’s a language barrier, even in cities like Istanbul, so be ready to speak slowly, clearly and maybe whip out your google translate app sometimes. The official language in Turkey is Turkish and only 17% of the population speaks English.
- Food is relatively cheaper in cities outside Istanbul. Budget $10 for a meal + drink in Cappadocia and $20 for a meal + drink in Istanbul.
- Make sure you try testi kebab in Cappadocia. Testi kebab is meat cooked in a clay pot sealed in with tomatoes, vegetables and some spices . The dish is slow cooked for a couple of hours in a traditional clay pot over coal. We first had it at a restaurant called “House of Memoris” in Uchsiar and we Christened the owner Mr Memori. We tried the Testi kebab in a couple of other places but none was quite like his.
- If you are black, be prepared for a lot of stares, people asking for photos with you and people stealing to take photos of you. This happened especially in Cappadocia. Initially it was cute but after a while you get exhausted and it’s okay to say NO. You’ll think cappadocia gets a lot of melanin thanks to Instagram but it’s not nearly enough! So when you get there, prepare to sprinkle your melanin magic unapologetically!
Hope you found these tips helpful and I can’t wait to see your Turkey photos on the gram!