Typical line of ATMs

Wish I’d known

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I’ll keep adding to these tidbits of travel info gleaned from experience. Feel free to ask questions in comments, if you are traveling somewhere I’ve been.

Türkiye: Arriving at Istanbul Airport

When I got to the luggage carousels, I found the huge hall had ATMs all the way around the room. And all were anonymous. I thought they were my only option for getting cash. I had a hard time with their touch screens, and every time I found that I would not get a receipt, I aborted the transaction. Anonymous is bad enough, but with no transaction reference should there be issues? I spent an hour and more trying to complete a transaction with a machine that would give a receipt, and finally came away with a bit of Turkish money to start off with. And when my luggage was in hand, and I exited Customs, I had quite a surprise. I’ve been to many international terminals where, once you clear Customs, you’re done – there’s a meeting area and likely there are transportation desks and services and hawkers … but here were a huge number of shops and services and actual proper bank ATMs! Dang.

Türkiye: SIMs

You are going to want mobile data. You can’t count on finding public wifi or restaurant wifi. So, if you have an international plan, great, but if not, I hope you have a dual sim phone and can just add a Turkish sim. Right at the airport, in that nearly-a-mall after exiting Customs, there were shops for 3 mobile providers, all with similar offers, and of course the sellers will insert the sim and initialize it for you so you’re instantly connected. There is a catch: tourist service will be good for up to 90 days, and then you’re done: because your phone has not been registered in the country and you have not paid the proper tax on it. So don’t get overly attached to the number. If you’re going to stay long term, think about buying a mobile phone from a Turkish store.

The SIM I bought in April was Turk Telecom and the one I bought in July (put into a different phone) was Vodafone. Each time I paid 420 TL, first almost $29 and about $24 the next time. I had unlimited calls and texts and 20 GB of data. Both worked fine.

Türkiye: Airport transportation

My first arrival, I took a taxi to my hotel. I had learned a couple of things in advance: transfers arranged by a hotel cost more than transfers you book online yourself; and a regular metered taxi is probably going to be a better price than those services. I also learned that there are categories of taxis, yellow being the most common and the most economical ride. So, I took a yellow taxi, and he let me off close to my hotel … Yes, seriously. In Istanbul I had several experiences of being let off downhill from my destination – perhaps a block, perhaps three, once more than two tramstops distant.

Later I learned about Havaist buses, and I highly recommend them. Regular service from either airport (IST and SAW) with routes to Taksim, Beşiktaş, Beyazıt Meydanı, and Kadıköy among other destinations, but for most tourists, one of those first 3 areas, on the European side, will probably suit you. And if you’re staying on the Asian side, Kadıköy is likely good, but not the only option. The fares are just two or three dollars! (35-46 Turkish lira) You can then walk, get a local bus, or taxi to your lodgings.

Türkiye: ATMs

You don’t need to go about with a lot of excess cash in Türkiye, because you will never be far from a good bank ATM! I have never seen any place with so many bank machines. They do have variable fees and commissions, so if your bank doesn’t reimburse the fees, you may want to try a few machines before completing a transaction. Be sure to change language on the first screen because once you enter your PIN, the option is gone. And NEVER accept a currency conversion, always choose to proceed WITHOUT conversion (which is about the language you’ll see: “proceed without …”). You’ll pay a pirate rate of 10% or so if you let the provider convert, whereas your own bank – if at all decent – will give you something close to the middle interbank rate, the best you can get in a retail transaction.

France: Train stations, SW

While most stations these days are accessible, meaning, you can find an elevator somewhere to avoid any flight of stairs, there, surprisingly, are NO lifts at Béziers or Narbonne. This is something an overburdened passenger needs to be prepared for, especially now that porters are a thing of the past. At Montpellier, some lifts were out of order but it was possible to find one that worked.

France: Train tickets

You’ll rarely have the chance to buy a ticket from an agent, and you may find no staffed information office. What you will find are ticket machines. The national rail machines work pretty well, but the local lines have some very dated machines that are more awkward to use, with clunky dials instead of touch screens. What is bizarre is that the two machines may give you different prices for the same trip. How could you know? I paid over 30 euros for two day-trip tickets that should have been one euro each way. There are no refund or exchange possibilities in any station, even if there is a ticket office or tourist office. I can just say, if a fare strikes you as high for the journey, go try the other type of machine. You should allow yourself at least 20 minutes to get a ticket from a machine, as there can be lines, and not every machine is likely to be in working order. A half hour is safer.

France: ATMs

One simple suggestion. Whenever possible, use the Banque Postale atm, found at every post office, for a no-fee transaction.

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