What better way to experience such an original place as Istanbul than to walk through it with someone who knows the culture, history and people? The growing number of Istanbul free walking tours as relatively safe types of entertainment is one of the positive consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for art, food, and history lovers. The post covers the financial, organization and varieties of guided Istanbul walks.
Cost of ‘free’ walking tours
Since the capital of Turkey is closer to Burgas than the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia, I try to take every opportunity to visit Istanbul, and free walking tours make part of my frequent trips there. I’ve been on different excursions, yet this post I devote to only one of my favorite companies – Istanbul Walking Tours.
The reason why I regard them as the best one is, first of all, because all their guides are incredibly knowledgeable and each offers their unique programme, plus informational support regarding any matters. In essence, they help you draw your list of unmissable things to do in Istanbul.
Second, the company is honest regarding their tips and expectations and indicates this information on the website right in the booking section – they recommend rewarding the guide at a minimum of $ 10 because it’s their full-time job. Of course, it’s not the obligatory and fixed sum. In contrast, some companies require payment for the ‘free tours’ during the online booking or collect the fixed fees at the beginning of the excursions.
Booking Istanbul walks
Istanbul free walking tours are mainly in English, but some are in German and Spanish. The minimum duration is about three hours; some are pet-friendly, and others don’t allow the four paws companions. All these details are available at the time of booking. It’s essential to sign up for walk-in online, at the latest – a day before the guided sightseeing.
Another important, although not obligatory thing: plan your Istanbul free walking tour at the beginning of your visit to the Turkish capital. In this case, you can get practical tips regarding your future activities and plans from locals. The staff are licensed English-speaking tour guides born and raised in Istanbul.
Choosing between Classic and Alternative sights
The company has on its list about ten excursions day and night, the names and content of which tend to change. Some walks focus more on history, others on the culture and mundane Turkish life.
To discover Istanbul from the perspective of locals, consider going on the two best-rated introductory tours in Istanbul: the Old City Tour and the Alternative Tour. The former overviews the country’s history and includes the visits to the iconic signs: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Grand Bazaar; it has more of an overview character.
The latter is more about life in Turkey and topics like politics, social norms, and modern public places; and doesn’t tackle history. It covers many not significant at first glimpse places that the majority of tourists would never look for: börek store, book market, university, local market.
Whichever tour you choose, tip generously the guides – they do a great job and make every visit to Istanbul unforgettable!
Photo: Tatyana Garkavaya