August included some Bulgaria and mostly traveling around Turkey. We were lucky to land some solid hotels, and BRG a few hotels to get them for free or up to $19. Obviously we used a lot of hotel points as well.
Actually, let’s just get right into expenses, and then hotels, and details about flights and buses.
- Hotels = $431.43
- + 185,000 points, and 5 BRGs
- Flights = $290.10
- Land Transit = $265.29
- Food = $505.22
- Misc = $164.08
Total = $1,656.12
Luckily we had already booked the Radisson Blu Pera Istanbul pre-devaluation, and when the credit card BOGO was in affect. Same with Ankara, but I left myself two days unaccounted for.
My assumption was that hotels in Istanbul would be super cheap, and maybe it was the time of year, but the hotels were super expensive. At least the points hotels that I was looking at were.
Best Rate Guarantees
So I decided to focus on BRGs. I had left myself two days before going to Ankara. Also, if you didn’t read August Travels, Carrie’s dad was visiting us in Turkey. We did Cappadocia and Istanbul with him. So we had two more nights unaccounted for in Istanbul, and her father doesn’t have hotel points.
Leaving we flew out of SAW, which is an hour away from the center, and flying back to SAW got us in at 11pm. So I decided to stay out at the SAW airport and look for a Hilton BRG. Each time I could find the DoubleTree out there for $63/$69 a night and then Hilton matched and took off $50… which brought it down to $13 and $19.
For the two nights in Istanbul, we wanted to actually be downtown and I looked at the InterContinental, since IHG’s best rate guarantee is that you get a free night. It limits you to once per 7 days, but we were coming back almost 2 weeks later. So we were fortunate and found the lower rates and got the free nights both times, 2 weeks apart. It was huge if only for the 4pm check out, since I have Ambassador status. We got to stay in the city longer before moving to the DoubleTree the first time, and we had the concierge hold our bags before flying to Egypt.
Prices by hotel:
- 2 IHG BRGs @ InterContinental Istanbul, Turkey – BRG + $0
- 2 Hilton BRGs @ DoubleTree Tuzla Istanbul, Turkey – BRG + $32.15
- 1 Expedia BRG @ Radisson Blu Ankara, Turkey – BRG + $70.80
- 4 nights @ Radisson Blu Pera Istanbul, Turkey – 100,000 CC points
- 5 nights @ Radisson Blu Ankara, Turkey – 45,000 CC points
- 5 nights @ Hilton Sharm Dreams, Egypt – 20,000 HH points
- 5 nights @ Hilton Sharm Waterfalls, Egypt – 20,000 HH points
- 3 nights @ Goreme Kaya Hotel, Turkey – $204.98
- 2 nights @ Hotel Ego Plovdiv, Bulgaria – $78.50
- 2 nights @ Belaneda Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria – $45
Total hotel points:
- 40,000 Hilton points
- 145,000 Club Carlson points
- 2 Hilton BRGs
- 2 IC BRGs
Radisson Blu Pera Istanbul
Nice hotel that gave us a decent view of the old city. The main street it’s near is more crowded than Disney, but I thought the hotel was super central. Quick subway ride to the Blue Mosque, or a few blocks from Taksim. Probably the nicest hotel we stayed at this month, but I liked the “free” price of the IC better.
Like too many IC hotels, the rooms are old. The furniture could have come from an antique store in rural Virginia. Yet, I loved the hotel, and the rest of the hotel is pretty modern. The gym is fantastic, with 3 big rooms of equipment, and with big open wood floors. The hotel staff is friendly without sucking up.
Maybe I’m biased because we got upgraded to a Jr. Suite the second time and the room was much nicer. But the standard room of the Radisson Pera was more my style- modern… and the hotel was in the european looking section in a smaller hotel. But the IC just feels like home to me, with no idea why.
Really, I like the hotel better. If you have a late flight, you can leave your bag with concierge and come back and go straight to the airport bus. That’s huge for me.
Radisson Blu Ankara
15,000 points to be downtown in the capital city, sounds like a good deal. Although, I can’t figure out why they don’t remake Istanbul the capital; it’s so much more of a vibrant city. Not an “aspirational” hotel, but they did give us a suite, so I can’t complain when it’s only 15k! And we booked when the credit card gave us two nights for the price of one.
Also, I’m a little bitter that the hotel sent us on this big wild goose chase. Our first night we wanted to eat at 10pm and I made the sin of asking the hotel staff about restaurants. They promised me everything in the city is closed except for one restaurant, and they promised another couple the same. Then they just got a cab for both parties, assuming both wanted to go there and share a cab. So we awkwardly did. And the entire cab ride (which was long) we passed open restaurants, until we got to our super over priced restaurant. Later I found out the street next to us has tons of places open late. What the heck front desk guy?
Any hotel where I feel pressure from the staff… is just awkward.
Goreme Kaya Hotel
$60 a night for a good hotel, it was just a whim booking but it panned out well. I knew I was picking for Carrie’s dad too and there weren’t points options… so TripAdvisor picked. Although I knew I wanted to be in Goreme. The town is tiny. Oh, and google maps has the hotel on the wrong side of town so I was lucky I checked their website.
However, they have a full time guy who pitches people on tours, who is 10 times worse than a timeshare guy. It was so bad that we took the outside stairway from the restaurant down to the street anytime we wanted to leave. Worked like a charm. At check-out he apologized for never seeing us to help us plan. Hmm… crazy he never saw us. Should have moved from the lobby to the outside staircase.
They have a free shuttle at certain times they don’t list on their website, but one is to SAW at 9am. But coming in we got a taxi, and that’s where the story comes in from August Travels. Seriously beware.
But obviously I picked the hotel because I could get it for $13, and got the same deal for Carrie’s father. No complaints. The hotel is modern and has the best internet of the hotels we stayed at in Turkey. But the location is nowhere.
We took the 9am shuttle to SAW, then got the bus to Taksim where the InterContinental is. Worked out perfectly.
We didn’t fly very far, but we did take 3 Pegasus flights. Pegasus is an airline based in Istanbul – at the SAW airport east of town (and has a direct bus from Taksim).
I’d brag about how cheap Pegasus is, but I did drag my feet in booking and paid double an earlier price for one of the flights.
- Istanbul to Ankara = $17.69 per person
- Nevsehir to Istanbul = $47.83 per person
- Istanbul to Sharm El Sheikh = $79.63 per person
So $18 for a flight was awesome… $48 isn’t as good, but not the end of the world. And I thought $80 for a flight to Egypt was a totally fair price.
We earned a few points off the BRGs hotel stays, and a $50 coupon off of the Expedia BRG. But most of the paid hotels were because there weren’t any points hotels in Veliko, Bulgaria or Goreme, Turkey. Not a lot of earning opportunities here.
However, I did earn $18 worth of Pegasus points… enough for my Ankara flight actually.
Buses for 2 passengers:
- Sofia to Veliko Tarnovo =$24.65
- Veliko Tarnovo to Plovdiv =$23.05
- Plovdiv to Istanbul =$44.56
- Istanbul to SAW airport =$10.06
- Ankara Airport to Ankara = $5.75
- Ankara to Goreme =$27.31
- Goreme to Nevsehir Airport =$13.75
- SAW Airport to Istanbul =$9.63
- Istanbul to SAW Airport =$9.59
What was perfect is that the InterContinental Istanbul (which was free) is on Taksim Square, and Taksim is where the direct airport buses start and end. Buses to IST ($3) and SAW ($5) airports leave every 30 minutes from behind the Point Hotel Taksim. The Grand Hyatt is there too, and the bus is direct… so it’s going to take the same time as a taxi, but way less hassle.
As I said in the August Travels post, taxis are super bad in Istanbul, and there is no Uber at the SAW airport, and the cheap Uber isn’t in Istanbul at all.
I’ll talk about Egypt more later, most of our time for August was really in Turkey.
$1,600 is basically what we should be doing, or less to make up for earlier… as I’ve said many times. (Also, note that the stats you’ll see posted on the stats page will have the final three days of food calculated into it and so it’ll be slightly different.) But it felt like a budget month. Nothing huge or surprising, and obviously the food in Turkey isn’t expensive.
I probably would have cut out Ankara, but I always falsely assume capital cities will be interesting.