Getting there: Those traveling from the U.S. will arrive at Istanbul Ataturk Airport (www.ataturkairport.com), the country's major international airport that's only about 20 minutes from the city's most vibrant area.
Direct flights to Istanbul are available from major U.S. cities; the trip from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport takes about 10 hours. The primary carrier of such flights is Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com), an affiliate of American Airlines. Turkish Airlines also flies direct from Chicago; Delta (www.delta.com) flies direct from New York; and British Airways (www.britishairways.com) has many flights from various U.S. airports with stopovers at London Heathrow.
Tour operators: FLO USA (www.flo-usa.com, 407-756-2703) sends about 1,800 to 2,500 people a year to Turkey. The company offers agents a 12-to-16 percent commission, depending on volume. We recommend tipping FLO USA guides about $6 to $8 a day and bus drivers about $5 to $6 a day. Agents can call Cengiz Aras, president of FLO USA, at 888-435-6872 715 or e-mail [email protected]
A smaller, perhaps lesser-known operator selling the destination is Pacha Tours (www.pachatours.com). The company offers several packages including the Super Value Western Turkey Tour, which is 17 days, all-inclusive with air starting at $1,545.
Pacha Tours offers agents a 10 percent commission. Osman Aroymak, a Turkey specialist, gives two consultations for either consumers or agents free of charge. After that he charges $75 to help customize a Turkey vacation. Agents can reach him at 800-722-4288, ext. 9737, but he recommends first sending a detailed e-mail to [email protected]
The city of Troy is also recommended, although you will need to bring your imagination, as most of the ruins have virtually disappeared. There are but a few rocks scattered here and there, but enough to help picture the lives that existed thousands of years ago with the help of great tour guides such as Güris and another FLO-USA guide, Gökhan Alatas. Both are highly recommended. To request either, write to [email protected] for Güris and [email protected] for Alatas.
Where to stay: In Istanbul, although the Pera Marmara Hotel (+90 212-251-4646) has small rooms, it's a find for its views (the higher you are, the better the view; request the seventh floor) and location, a five-minute walk from Istiklal Caddesi.
For high-end clients, recommend The Ritz-Carlton Istanbul (www.ritzcarlton.com). Book clients in Deluxe Bosphorus View rooms, which are 540 square feet and feature Turkish-inspired style and décor, a king-sized bed and an oversized marble bathroom decorated with Iznik tiles.
Agents can contact Selcuk Degeril, director of travel trade sales, at [email protected]
Rooms at the Marmara Antalya (+90 242-249-3600) in Antalya are very large and the bathrooms are also ideal. We found that many of bathrooms at other properties, especially the showers, are much smaller than they are in the U.S. This is not the case at Marmara Antalya, which is a five-star property.
All three properties offer 10 percent commissions. We recommend calling FLO USA representatives for further booking information.
Qualifying Turkey clients: Here are some questions agent Karl Tibbetts of American Passenger Travel, based in San Antonio, TX, recommends that all agents looking to sell Turkey ask their clients before deciding whether the country is the right fit for them: Do you mind buses? Do you mind a full, hard day? Could you walk a lot?
From his experience, the usual Turkey traveler is middle-aged, adventurous, in good physical condition, with an interest in antiquities and history. Another of his tips is that clients should stay hydrated, so alcohol consumption should be kept at a minimum.
Passports and visas: Both a passport and visa is required for U.S. travelers; make sure passports have at least six months from the outbound date before they expire.
If not arranged ahead of time, it is possible for U.S. passport holders to get a visa, which costs $26, upon arrival at Istanbul Ataturk Airport. Only cash is accepted.
Weather: The seasons are very similar to the U.S. Spring runs from mid-March through April, with the fall season beginning around October. The summer begins in May and the winter begins in mid-November.
More facts: Turkey is usually seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time; the country doesn't observe daylight savings.
Although the U.S. dollar is widely accepted here, the currency in Turkey is the lira (at press time, $1 equaled about 1.4 lira).
Seventy-seventy million people live in Turkey, 15 million in Istanbul alone. The southeastern border of Turkey is shared by Syria and Iraq. The economy, as well as the climate, is worse in that area.
The eastern area of Turkey is the highest part of the country and has 16,000-foot mountains. Ninety-seven percent of Turkey is near a fault line. However, the next major earthquake isn't expected until 30 years from now. —JP
• Turkey's Ministry of Tourism www.tourismturkey.org
• Hasan Zongur, director of the Turkish Culture and Tourism Office in New York: 212-687-2194, [email protected]