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Istanbul

bazaar

Flickr/simononly

“Hello, hello. Come. Have a cup of tea.”

They’re friendly.

“You know. Very famous rugs here.”

They’re insidious.

“Nobody comes here to buy a rug, but everybody leaves with one.”

They’re gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse — or so you think.

You’ll find these salespeople chirping in the grand bazaars across North Africa and the Middle East in cities like Istanbul, Marrakech, and Cairo, but the aggressive tactics can be found from Jaipur to the Brooklyn Flea.

The approach generally begins friendly enough, “It would be an honor to have you look in my shop.” Next thing you know, you’ve had four cups of tea and are haggling for free shipping on a $1,300 rug, rationalizing the cost because the negotiation started at $1,700 — that, supposedly, lasts three generations, which is fantastic because the great, great grandkids need a half-wool, double-woven rug covered with sheep impressions.

But don’t worry. This type of encounter happens to almost every tourist — some multiple times — daring to enter the chaotic bazaars across around the world (seriously, not joking). But here’s what to expect and avoid at bazaars around the globe.  Read more

Ho Chi Minh City

Brian Jeffery Beggerly/Flickr

Sometimes, when you travel, a magical thing happens. You’ve put your guidebook away and just followed your nose, eyes, or feet through a city. Oftentimes it’s the best way to find the real heart of a place and get an experience that the average tourist would not. (Pro tip for wanderers: Before heading out, bring the number of a local cab service.) Here are some of our all-time favorite spots in which to get lost… Read more

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Museum of Innocence

For culture hounds who like the nostalgic, the romantic, and the unexpected, check out the beguiling Museum of Innocence. In the midst of the twisty streets of Istanbul’s Çukurcuma neighborhood — in between antique shops, cafes, and crumbling wooden buildings – it’s just won the title of the 2014 European Museum of the Year. It’s no ordinary museum, despite the focus on everyday Istanbul life between the 1950s and the 1990s.

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Raffles Istanbul

Yes, lodging in Istanbul is incredibly inexpensive in the winter, with plenty of hotels offering rates under $100. But if you’re willing to make a small splurge in low season, you’ll enjoy luxury that’s leaps ahead of what your dollars will get you elsewhere.

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Go Turkey

Istanbul might be snowy during the winter, but visiting in low season means more discounts, fewer crowds, and time for (warm) pleasures like historic museums and contemporary art galleries. While it’s not too cold to shop your way through Istanbul’s famous street markets during the day, it’s easy to relax in cafés like the renown Mado Café when the sun sets, snuggling up to traditional drinks like Turkish tea, Turkish coffee, and sahlep — a sweet, milky, and cinnamon-y beverage. Here’s a guide:

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Reto Klar 2

For Lynne and Tim Martin, retirement wasn’t about slowing down — it was about seeing the world.

In 2011, the couple revealed to their family and friends that they were taking the unusual step of selling their California home, donating the furniture, and putting the rest of their belongings in storage so that they could travel the globe. But rather than set up shop in hotels, the Martins make themselves at home in vacation and apartment rentals through HomeAway, never staying less than a month in each destination. We sat down with Lynne to chat about how they manage this lifestyle — to get some advice for other roving renters.

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MondrianSoBe1The Morgans Hotel Group, which offers a spate of stylish, upscale properties around the world, is in the midst of some major expansion. The Mondrian London at Sea Containers is set to open September 30, followed by the Mondrian Doha, and the Mondrian Istanbul. The hotel group is also preparing to open their Delano brand in Las Vegas this fall, followed by Cesme, Turkey; Moscow; and Cartagena; then another in Karaköy, Istanbul. With all this new activity in mind, we took a step back to see how their second Mondrian property, in South Beach, Miami, which opened way back in 2008, is holding up.

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istanbul

With culinary influences extending from Central Asia clear through the Caucasus to the Mediterranean, the food in Turkey is justifiably world-famous. At the heart of the Sultanahmet district in Istanbul, however, you’re much more likely to find overpriced and under-spiced versions of Turkish favorites than anything else. For a more authentic and delicious experience, head a bit further afield to some of our favorite spots in town: Read more

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Maybe it’s the markets selling exotic spices and flavorful tea, or maybe it’s the alluring juxtaposition of ancient mosques and modern architecture. And then there’s the cuisine, from Old World street fare or 21st-century takes on Mediterranean delights. Whatever the reason, it seems that these days the flights to Istanbul are packed with tourists ready to get full on food.

Future visitors will be delighted to hear that Istanbul has responded to its growing popularity by building more everything — more hotels, more restaurants, and more bars and shops. Best of all, many of these new options to rest your head and fill your belly come at a favorable price. Here are some of our favorite picks:

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GoldenHornCruising down the Bosphorus is one of the most popular tourist activities in Istanbul, but most people will pay way too much (50 Turkish lira/$40 or more) to sit on a crowded, privately owned boat for three hours without every really getting the chance to interact with local culture. The public Bosphorus ferries are a bit better, at 25 lira ($20) round-trip, and they’re of locals traveling to the outer areas of the city, but there is an even better option: the Golden Horn. This curved estuary that divides the historic Pera and Sultanahmet neighborhoods stretches over 7 kilometers inland from the Bosphorus, and was in historic times Istanbul’s primary harbor.

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In Europe, when temperatures drop, so do the prices. Traveling to Europe outside of the summer season almost always guarantees savings — but this year you can get an even earlier start by jumping on this special offer from Lufthansa. The respected airline, a member of the Star Alliance, is offering low rates starting at $532 round-trip between the United States and a number of European cities, including Istanbul, Vienna, Berlin, Warsaw, Prague, and even Moscow. Read more

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“Dizzy” is a word we often hear people use to describe colorful, chaotic, history-rich Istanbul. There’s something travelers seem to love about throwing themselves into the alluringly confusing city – and with new flight routes and relatively regular airfare sales, doing so has gotten easier and easier. In the midst of all the sensory overload, orient yourself with this by-the-numbers guide on affordable thrills that can be had for $5, $10, and $100: Read more

Flickr/rjshadeAs the count down to the New Year approaches, so does the party-planning pressure. Most major cities throw vast, crowded spectacles for the occasion, but if you’re not so keen on ringing in the New Year elbow-to-elbow with thousands of strangers, consider planning something a little offbeat this year… Read more

Shoulder Season Spots in EuropeHere we are in September, and though certain parts of Europe tend to cool down faster than others (Vienna is already in the low 60s, while Sicily is keeping things at a balmy 75 degrees) summer season has for the most part come and gone. But don’t let that end your fun – or derail a possible vacation. Between now and Thanksgiving, there’s a special window of opportunity for savvy travelers known as shoulder season.

Flights aren’t necessarily cheaper compared to the rest of the year, and yes, temperatures can fluctuate quite a bit (you may luck out weather-wise, but it’s never guaranteed), there is one sure benefit to traveling at this time of year: fewer tourists.

This in-between season offers a calmer, less hectic way to enjoy Europe’s traditionally touristy destinations like Rome and the Greek islands. With the dip in foot traffic comes shorter lines, greater flexibility in organizing tours, and easier access to in-demand restaurants and hotels – in short, a better vacation. Here, we offer suggestions for the activities you’ll want to add to your itineraries for a visit to Europe in the next month or two. Read more

Bailica Cistern, IstanbulFound under the Eminönü district of Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern is a 6th century underground chamber that features 336 marble columns, vaulted ceilings, and arched doorways, all made without a mold – incredible when you consider that it was built in 532CE. This is the place where 80,000 cubic meters of water were stored for use in the nearby Great Palace and surrounding buildings. After part of the cistern was destroyed and covered by dense construction during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods, it was rediscovered in 1545. Since then, the location has been restored to its original condition – even though the Great Palace no longer stands. Read more

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