Have you travelled on a group travel tour? Because prior to last month, I had not. I usually travel alone or with a friend, but this time around, I wanted something a little different. There are many tour groups out there, and the choices are overwhelming. Thankfully, one seemed to stand out from the rest. Intrepid Travel came with great reviews, amazing itineraries, and a wonderful mission. I ultimately took a trip with Intrepid and I’m so happy I decided on the Turkey Highlights Tour with them! Read on for a full review of my experience from start to finish.
Intrepid Travel: The Turkey Highlights Tour
The Trip Selection
Intrepid has an extensive list of trip offerings. They can pretty much take you anywhere in the world, any time of the year. Granted, most of the trips do have an “off season.” However, if your first choice is not available, I guarantee there are many others! They really have that many options!
For me, the list of criteria was quite simple. The trip needed to line up with the dates I had off from work, cost less than $1000 USD, and visit somewhere I’d never been. I put those exact filters in the website’s search tool, and found many options to choose from! In the end, I made my choice simply by choosing the one with the biggest discount (Intrepid always has great sales)… and boy, am I so happy I did!
The tour I ultimately chose was the 8-day Turkey Highlights Tour. The trip runs from February to October, and provides a great overview of the main sites of Turkey. I went on my trip in February of 2022, one of the first tours of the year. It was still off season, which did affect some of the activities, but it didn’t put much of a damper on the trip. I truly had the time of my life! Read on for more information about the incredible itinerary, as well as a reflection on my first ever experience traveling internationally with a tour group!
For what Intrepid offers, prices are extremely reasonable. There are different styles of trips, which affect the cost. The styles offered are Basix, Original, Comfort, and Premium. The styles determine the type of accommodation and transport, as well included activities and amenities. Obviously, the Premium trips have more luxurious accommodation and include more activities and amenities. The Basix trips are for individuals on a shoestring budget and include cheaper accomodation and less activities and amenities. Original and Comfort are somewhere in between.
The Turkey highlights tour is an Original trip and the amenities and inclusions were exactly what I expected for the price. With the discount I only paid $713 USD for my trip! Typically, depending on the season, this trip costs between $950 and $1100 USD. However, as I mentioned previously, Intrepid frequently offers sales, so keep your eyes open!
Lastly, the prices listed are always for a shared room, which is great if you are traveling with a companion or don’t mind sharing a room with a new friend. However, with Intrepid, you can purchase a single room for an extra fee (starting at $250 USD for this trip in particular).
The Booking Process
The booking process is extremely easy! You can book directly on Intrepid’s website. You will need your personal information (i.e. name, date of birth, address, and contact information) and a credit card. If you book far enough in advance you can book with a deposit only. You can arrange to pay in installments as well. As long as you are fully paid 28 days in advance, Intrepid is pretty flexible.
As a side note, some of my trip mates on the tour booked through a travel agency. The process seemed a bit complicated, so my recommendation would be to book directly through the Intrepid website yourself.
The Pre-Trip Preparation
After booking, you will enter required details such as your passport information, an emergency contact, and travel insurance details. Yes, travel insurance is necessary for any Intrepid trip. I used Tin Leg Travel Insurance for this trip. However, I used Nationwide Travel Insurance and World Nomads in the past. World Nomads is normally my go-to. They do not cover COVID-19 related issues, so I am temporarily finding other options. Tin Leg is in the middle of processing a claim for me from this trip and so far, I’m pleased with their response rates.
After you enter the required information for your trip, Intrepid sends you a host of essential information. This information is extremely thorough and definitely prepared me for my trip. Most importantly, the essential information provides you with your meeting time and place, so you know exactly where you need to be and when you need to be there on the first day of your tour.
Not included with Intrepid trips bookings are flights. You are responsible for finding a round trip flight yourself. If you want some tips for saving money on flights, here is my guide to 10 Tips for Saving Money on Flights! I also have a list of apps that I use religiously for my flight bookings. In fact, the second app listed is how I found my flight to Turkey!
When you arrive at the airport, you have two options to get to the tour meeting point. You can arrange it for yourself, or during booking with Intrepid, you can select an option to have them arrange the transportation for you. This is an extra cost if the tour company provides this service for you, unless you are part of a Comfort or Premium tour.
I arranged transportation with a hotel shuttle service from the Sabiha Gocken International Airport when I arrived. On the way back I asked the hotel to call me a private cab to take me to Istanbul Airport. Both trips cost 30 Euros one way. I am unsure what my trip mates spent for their Intrepid-arranged transfers.
The Meeting Point for the Turkey Highlights Tour
The meeting point for the Turkey Highlights Trip was early afternoon at our group’s accommodation in Istanbul. Here is where we met our guide and trip mates and went over important details for the trip. It’s very important to attend this meeting. Unfortunately, due to circumstances outside my control, I ended up missing it. Thankfully, Intrepid’s customer service line, the local tour operator, and my guide were extremely understanding and helped me navigate the situation flawlessly. I caught up to my group and gained all the essential information despite being several hours late.
Here is where I want to provide a huge shout out to our tour guide, Ayșenur. A local Turkish guide, knowledgeable and passionate about Turkey and tourism, who exceeded my expectations in every way. She went above and beyond in her duties as a tour guide, making sure we were all comfortable and happy at all times. I learned so much from her, and as a typically solo traveler, it made me rethink my preferred method of travel. I have nothing but praises for Ayșenur, and while I loved the itinerary and meeting new people, she is ultimately the reason I loved my experience with Intrepid so much. If your tour guide is anything like her, I can guarantee you will have an incredible experience with Intrepid!
My Trip Mates
As the world is still slowly opening up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Intrepid group was extremely small. There were only five of us plus the tour guide, but to be honest, I actually very much enjoyed it that way. It was a great way to get to know each other very well.
My trip mates were all female and from the United States, Australia, England, and South Africa. I don’t know what the demographics of groups are typically like, but according to the guide and those who had previously traveled with Intrepid, the majority of travelers are from English-speaking countries and, while there are definitely men who come along, the trips do tend to be largely female. If you do want to ensure your trip is female only companions, Intrepid does have that as an option!
The Turkey Highlights Tour Itinerary
The 8-Day Turkey Highlights Tour Itinerary was nothing short of incredible. The trip started in Turkey’s magnificent city of Istanbul. After a short one-night stay, we headed to Izmir and drove to the gorgeous seaside town of Kusadasi. We spent three days and two nights there, enjoying a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ephesus. Upon return to Izmir, we boarded an overnight train to Konya. We spent the day in Konya, before moving on to Cappadocia for two more days and more adventures! The trip wrapped up with a final two days in the magical city of Istanbul!
Our first and last night we stayed at a beautiful four-star hotel in the New Town area of Istanbul, only minutes walking distance from the Galata Bridge. The hotel was luxuriously decorated and had great amenities. I was happy we stayeded here at the start and finish of our trip. It was a very nice place!
The other two hotels were three-star hotels, kept clean and comfortable, with essential amenities provided. It was certainly the off season for these hotels, so I do wonder what the experience would be like during high season. The hotel in Cappadocia in particular was beautifully decorated and had a number of communal sitting areas and a bar. None of which was in use, but I can imagine what it may be like to attend an event there.
Once with the group, all essential transportation is included in the price of your tour unless specifically noted. Intrepid provides the transport required to get from place to place (by private bus in this instance), or arranges public transportation, including flights, as necessary. In my experience, everything ran smoothly and there were no difficulties encountered.
The only transportation you may have to finance yourself outside of the booking fee, is transportation taken during your free time, or the transportation to/from an optional activity. What I learned is that many of your trip mates will be interested in doing the same activities as you, so many of these costs can be split!
One of the best parts of travel is the food. It is always so important to me. With Intrepid, the food included with a tour truly varies, but they will always lay it out for you on the homepage of each trip. For example, the Turkey Highlights Tour included 6 breakfasts, 1 lunch, and 1 dinner. Our hotels provided the breakfasts, and they were phenomenal! No complaints there. We had our lunch at a traditional Turkish Pancake House! The dinner was a home-cooked meal made by a lovely Turkish woman who served us in her home.
The remaining lunches and dinners were on my dime. Our guide was phenomenal at directing us to places to eat that kept budget (though Turkey is very cheap compared to New York) and dietary restrictions in mind, yet still served up some deliciously, authentic Turkish meals! My new obsession is Turkish Pide, by the way!
Turkey Highlights Tour Included Activities
Each Intrepid trip has a theme that determines the types of activities on the tour. A popular theme is “Explorer,” which happened to be the theme of my Turkey Highlights Tour! This theme includes a variety of activities which involve history, culture, and even a bit of adventure! The physical rating for this trip was a 2 out of 5, which I thought was definitely fair for anyone who is reasonably healthy. But before booking, do take a look at the rating and inclusions to make sure you’re up for it!
We took a hike in Cappadocia, which was incredibly windy and cold, but also extremely fun! We also went down into the Underground city of Cappadocia, which is certainly not for the weak of heart! Otherwise, the included activities, while wonderful, were a bit more tame. Well, I guess that depends on how you view wine tasting, exploring the ancient city of Ephesus, and taking a walking tour of Istanbul across the very old cobblestone streets!
Turkey Highlights Tour Optional Activities
As if there wasn’t enough excitement included already on Intrepid tours, you also have the option to participate in additional activities! I decided to try them all, because when in Turkey… The only main downfall of going during off season was the wind in Cappadocia prevented the hot air balloons from departing during our stay. It was a bit disappointing, but I got over it pretty quickly since I was able to do so many other things! The optional activities I participated in included a visit to the Hierapolis Ancient City and the natural springs of Pummakale, the Goreme Open Air Museum, a Whirling Dervish Show, Galata Tower, Hagia Sophia, and so much more. Despite these activities not being in the original inclusions, Intrepid made it simple to add to my itinerary and my guide arranged everything for me. Cost was reasonable and I can say from experience, it’s absolutely worth it!
The Turkey Highlights Tour Departure Point
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Most Intrepid tours, it seems, like mine, end after breakfast. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Some of my tour mates stayed in Istanbul for another few days. Others departed for another destination. Then some, like myself, headed to the airport to go back home.
As previously stated, if requested in advance, Intrepid can arrange airport transportation for you. However, I did not select that option and was able to secure transportation through the hotel with no issues.
Now you know exactly what happens on an Intrepid Travel Tour from start to finish! I hope you enjoyed learning about my Turkey Highlights Tour and I have now convinced you to go on a trip with Intrepid! I am not associated with, or sponsored by Intrepid in any way, I just wanted to share this great experience with you!