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Istanbul’s hidden secret – Büyükada Island in the Princes Islands

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If at all possible, we recommend allowing extra time in Istanbul to visit Buyukada Island. If you don’t have the time to stay overnight then it is still worth going for a day trip! The island is unique as no personal vehicles are allowed. Therefore, everyone including tourists all navigate the island via bikes and horse drawn carts!!

Horse drawn carts Büyükada Island

How to get to Büyükada Island (Princes Islands)

Depending on where you are staying in Istanbul, you will need to get onto the Blue Line tram to Kabatas Station (it is the last stop on the line). Upon arrival to Kabatas Station prepare to be hounded by locals on the hunt to make a buck as you are basically a walking dollar sign. They are selling food, flower headbands, and day trip packages to the Princes Islands (which we believe are unnecessary!). There are signs directing you to the ferries for Princes Islands, but the locals are happy to point you in the right direction if you feel lost. There are lots of people, boats, and desks so ask around until you find the ferry to Buyukada Island and it should cost you 5 lira per person.

The boats can get quite full and all the other passengers aren’t the politest. Therefore, to save dramas try and get on the boat up to 30 minutes before you depart. If you are like us, it will give you time to lug your bags to the roof of the boat, pick the best seat and then take a few scenic photos before other tourists start blocking your view! Then it is just a matter of sitting back and soaking in the sea view as you motor past the Palace, the Blue Mosque, the Asian side of Turkey and islands along the way (the boat ride lasts about 1 hour).

As you arrive at Buyukada Island be prepared for more hounding by the restaurant owners and ice cream stalls (Turkish ice cream is delicious by the way). If you are anything like Moss you will chat to them all, promise them that you will probably come back later and befriend them all over the next few days!

Tips for using the trams in Istanbul:

  • The tram costs a flat fee of 3 lira per person, no matter how far you are riding it.
  • Each station is located in the middle of the road.
  • There are ticket machines at each station. Note that you may need to look around for them as the pay stations are sometimes only located on one side of the road.
  • Once you have inserted your 3 lira you will be issued an orange plastic coin which will give you entry to the stations platform.

When to visit Büyükada Island

Apparently more people visit the Island on weekends, but the way we see it you will either be swarmed by school trips on weekdays or families on weekends.

Where to stay on Büyükada Island

There is a lot of accommodation on the Island. We stayed at the Marine House Boutique which was called Marine House Hotel on the sign (it appears that no online booking names were the same as their sign on the door in Istanbul! So confusing!) The hotel was right in the centre of town, and was possibly the most modern building but was also a little pricey.

Do I have to wear covered clothing on Büyükada Island

The dress code on the island is a lot more laid back. Upon arrival I was sweating up a storm, still dressed in my Istanbul appropriate clothing of canvas shoes, jeans and a non-strappy top (I really don’t know how they wear jeans every day!)

Restaurants and cafes on Büyükada Island

Be aware that some café/restaurants are pricy but the experience is sometimes worth it! We stopped at a little café on the waterfront looking at a harbour to grab a cold drink and to our horror purchased the most expensive Fanta we had drunk all holiday.. 5 lira each! However, while sitting at the table getting over the fact that each sip was costing about .50 lira, we noticed a local fisherman sitting close in the harbour. He was ripping the heads off live sprats with his bare hands and throwing them to a cat which was not fazed by the seagulls and ducks, let alone the water! We then managed to snap an action shot of it reaching for a fish scrap…

Fisherman on Büyükada Island

While staying on Buyukada Island, we recommend getting into the true Turkish spirit! We started off our Friday night with a local bottle of red wine and some fresh Cherries. They were both delicious! We also discovered a dip containing Yoghurt with eggplant (highly recommend!) and Moss managed to stomach a fish.. with the eye and all. If you are still feeling energetic later in the evening, we recommend going to a bar called ‘The Harbour’. Its combination of comfy bean bags, shisha pipes and Turkish delight all go down a treat, plus the staff are super friendly and the language barrier is a good laugh.

Hiring bikes on Büyükada Island

The island is hilly and you need to stay out of the way of all the horse drawn carts but it all just adds to the adventure!  The horse drawn carts barrel along ringing bells so you need to react quickly in order to not be trampled. They are very touristy, but we didn’t use them as the bikes gave us more freedom and were more appealing, plus we felt that the horses were malnourished and didn’t like the concept of the horses being whipped to pull our lazy bums up the hill.

Tips for hiring bikes on Büyükada Island

  • The bikes cost different prices depending on how long you want them for. Ours cost 30 lira per person, needing to be returned by 10pm
  • Take an ID card with you. The bike company held on to Moss’s ID card until the bikes were returned
  • Get your hands on a map (the bike company should be able to give you one)
  • Ride around the island in an anti-clockwise direction (as this way is much easier)

Hiring bikes on Büyükada Island

Things to do on Büyükada Island

If you get the chance, pay a visit to the old orphanage and Lovers Road. Unfortunately, we chose to walk to Lovers Road and could not find it! So hopefully you are better at navigating than us.

We also recommend cycling to a beach and spending a few hours enjoying the water. One of the beaches closest to the main town is called Yorukali and costs 30 lira to enter and lie on the beach chairs. It is set up as a beach club with loud music and looked as though it could be fun. However, we were the first to arrive for the day and as it was only 11am it did not appeal. There are a few beaches around the island, but the only one we did visit required us to pay at the café at the top of the hill and leave our bikes behind. There was a bit of a walk down the hill to the water, but it was worth it! It cost 15 lira per person and was beautiful and peaceful!

Beach on Büyükada Island

 

Since May 2014, Rebecca has been wearing out her jandals. She loves anything that involves the ocean whether it be scuba diving, wakeboarding, jet skiing or more recently - sailing! Consider following her via RSS Feed, Twitter and Facebook.

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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon

    June 25, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    Awesome looking island. Thank you for the tips. I didn’t even know it existed. 🙂

    • Rebecca Barlow

      June 29, 2014 at 2:51 AM

      Hi Zoe, I’m glad you enjoyed the tips. Yes, it is definitely Istanbul’s hidden secret!

  2. John @ Imperative Travel

    June 28, 2014 at 2:24 PM

    Great tips about Büyükada Island. specially the beach. its very nice to look.

  3. Desiree Ricks

    July 2, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Look great in the Island.

  4. Michelle

    July 2, 2014 at 3:01 PM

    I haven’t made it to Turkey yet, but my fiance, who has traveled all over the world, has and puts it as one of this top 3 countries. He also was on Buyukada Island and says it was lovely.

    Nice photos, btw. Love the one with the cat 🙂

    • Rebecca Barlow

      July 5, 2014 at 4:29 AM

      Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment! Hopefully one day your fiancé will take you there, could be a great place for a honeymoon! 🙂

  5. Wendy

    July 6, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    Hi Rebecca, thanks for the tips! I’m going to Istanbul in a couple of months…and planning to stay in one of the islands. Just wondering whether you remember the name of the last beach you mentioned above? (To pay at a cafe on top of the hill) Thanks!

    • Rebecca Barlow

      July 8, 2014 at 10:24 PM

      Hi Wendy, you will have a great time! Unfortunately we do not know what the name of the beach was, but if you ride along the west coast of the Island until you are in line with Saint George Church (also known as Aya Yorgi Kilisesi) you will be sure to find the road side café 🙂

  6. Selma

    July 13, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    I get the feeling that the cat in the second to last picture was about to make a decision it would immediately regret 😛

  7. Tina

    July 15, 2014 at 5:14 PM

    Büyükada Island is one of the nine islands in the Sea of Marmara in Istanbul. And it is known as the Princesses’ Island, since the princesses used to visit this island for relaxation.

  8. Ani @ All About Travelling

    July 29, 2014 at 11:56 PM

    Hi Rebecca,

    I went to Istanbul a few years ago but that was a quick trip so did not venture out much. This time, I am headed there for 5 days, so will make sure I visit this island – it sure looks like a great place for a day out.

    • Rebecca Barlow

      July 30, 2014 at 5:15 AM

      Hi Ani,

      You will have a great time! Make sure you take your togs because it is very hot in Turkey at the moment 🙂

  9. Living Valencia

    August 2, 2014 at 1:09 AM

    Istanbul is so huge, interesting & beautiful, that makes impossible to discover all the hidden secrets (even for locals).Interesting post.

  10. Charley

    July 29, 2016 at 11:01 PM

    Hi Zoe. Do remember the name of the cafe or whereabouts roughly it was going clockwise or anticlockwise around the island? I am staying on the island for a bit and trying to find reasonable beaches. There are a number of more expensive ones and the locals say go to the top half of the island,lock the bike and you’ll find beaches but it’s through quite dense brush, so I have had not much luck with that yet. Thanks for the post 🙂

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Europe

Amsterdam Food Guide

If you think of Amsterdam you don’t think of food. However if you try the food here in our Amsterdam food guide you might get lucky.

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Amsterdam Food Waffles

We are total foodies and our travelling has allowed our passion for food to grow considerably (not to mention our waist lines)!  We love trying new food when we visit foreign countries and always make a huge effort to eat the local cuisine. Check out some of the food we ate below in our cheap and delicious Amsterdam Food Guide.

Amsterdam Food Waffles

We had heard from a number of people that the Amsterdam food was nothing to rave about. To be honest food was not really our main interest in visiting but then again neither was an Amsterdam Peep show and we ended up enjoying that!

However we were pleasantly surprised. I think the people whom we had talked to had it wrong. Sure Holland doesn’t really have a local cuisine but once we got over this fact we realised there is still some damn good food to be had from the various Amsterdam Restaurants.

Amsterdam Food

The best meal we had was actually next door to the Red Light district in Chinatown. Crossing the canal to the east away from the neon lights your nostrils are attacked and your mouth begins salivating from the delicious smells wafting along the narrow cobbled streets.

As we walked into Bird Thai restaurant the enticing aroma hit us instantly leaving us drooling in anticipation. It was definitely up there with some of the best Thai food we have had. We went for the classic Green curry, fried rice and duck combo.

The Green curry was so flavoursome with the richness of the coconut milk blending perfectly with the traditional spices.  The duck was cooked to perfection and for the first few minutes of the meal all you could hear was the crunching of the crispy outside layer as we devoured the duck in minutes. Needless to say the fried rice was a taste explosion too!

Cheap and delicious Amsterdam food is easy to come by. With hangovers and munchies affecting your hunger it is no surprise that there are an abundance of Fast Food chains and takeaways in Amsterdam. In fact it was actually more the way that the fast food was served that surprised us as you could buy it out of massive vending machines at Febo!

Amsterdam Food Febo

Hidden workers stand behind the vending machines churning out burgers, fries and sausage rolls so all you has to do is insert a Euro and “hey presto” you have a hot meal in your hungry hands.

Then there were the frites stores which seemed to be on every corner. The first thing you noticed about these was the tantalising smell. There is nothing like the smell of chips straight out of the fryer and covered in salt to get you tummy rumbling. Served in a triangle cardboard carton and covered in mayo which meant that that you couldn’t reach the chips at the bottom without covering your greedy fingers in sauce. Just a tad annoying!

But there is nothing like hot chips to warm you up on a cold day.

Finally, while hot chocolates are not typically food I feel they still deserve a mention especially because the usually come paired with waffles! Ahhhh the perfect breakfast.

Amsterdam Hot Chocolate

We loved nipping into a cafe or bar like Cafe Bar Eddy in Amsterdam to warm ourselves up with a hot chocolate. It literally tasted like they had melted chocolate down and added cream. Heaven in a cup. And the choice of waffles was daunting as you could have whatever you wanted. Fruit, chocolate, syrups, cream or all of the above!

If you are heading here then don’t expect to find an array of traditional Amsterdam food. Instead treat yourself to a hot chocolate and waffle for breakfast, grab a quick bite from a vending machine and sample some of the different cuisines found near the Red Light District.

If you stick to this Amsterdam food guide then your taste buds will have a great holiday too!

If you have visited before then what did you think of Amsterdam food?

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Europe

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Check out our guide for the first timer in Amsterdam visiting a coffeeshop.

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How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Before getting started I just want to clarify that we are not drug users. We don’t condone using illegal drugs. And we are not telling you to go and smoke weed in Amsterdam. BUT, our goal of this travel blog is to help advise, educate and provide travel tips for ALL situations. So if you are headed to Amsterdam then we hope our guide to smoking weed in Amsterdam will help you out.

And check out this smoker friendly accommodation for your next trip.

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam Coffeeshop

When you tell people that you are visiting Amsterdam then they immediately think of one thing and one thing only. Weed. Dope. Herb. Buds. Spliff. Whacky Tobbacky. Pot. Marijuana. Cannabis. 

Call it what you will but just know that the biggest name for it is “ILLEGAL”.

Yes it is actually illegal to smoke weed in Amsterdam. But for now the Netherlands government do tolerate smoking in designated “coffeeshops”. This is slowly changing as the Government tries to moderate the tourism drug trade and in 2013 there will be new laws which we won’t go in to now as they are continuously changing.

In the meantime if you obey the rules, are not a moron and use our guide to smoking weed in Amsterdam then you are going to be fine.

Smoke weed in Amsterdam

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Don’t smoke weed in Amsterdam in public such as on the streets. There are over 300 designated coffee shops where you are tolerated to smoke weed. These places are regulated and everything is done in the open.

Don’t get confused and try to smoke in a koffiehuis (coffee house) which sells coffee and light meals or a café that is a casual restaurant and/or bar.

The coffeeshops are super easy to spot with marijuana leaves in the windows and Bob Marley paintings on the doors. Not to mention the smell wafting through the cold breeze. There will also be the usual tourists that have stupidly over-indulged and are glassy eyed.

We visited one of the five Bulldog coffeeshops when we were in Amsterdam and had no complaints. We even enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate while we were there!

Bulldog Coffeeshop in Amsterdam

Buying weed in Amsterdam

As long as you are over 18 then you will be allowed to buy up to 5 grams of weed in the regulated coffeeshops. Plus you have the added security knowing that your marijuana is not going to be laced with anything else if you are attempting to buy it off someone on the street. And who knows, they might be setting you up to get busted.

We were (and are) total amateurs and had no idea what to do once we actually stepped foot in the coffeeshop. But quickly sussed it out. There will generally be a “dealer bar” with full menu’s and everything for you to choose. So if you are an expert you will probably know what to order! Prices will of course vary by quantity (grams, bags, individual joints) and quality.

For a beginner ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy like we were. Ask the staff what they recommend and what effects each type has. They will know then that you are a newbie and will guide you. Just know that they are very accustomed to tourists who don’t know exactly how to go about the whole process.

What we found out is that it is actually perfectly fine for you to visit other coffeeshops and smoke weed that you have already purchased somewhere else. However, it is considered rude not to at least buy a hot chocolate or coffee if you do this. Coffeeshops do also have some of the best coffee in Amsterdam.

How to smoke weed in Amsterdam

Don’t be an idiot

Number 1 rule: Don’t smoke too much weed in Amsterdam! Even if you are a pot loving hippie from a commune you are probably going to find the marijuana really strong in Amsterdam. Just take it slow.

If you are enjoying a drink as well then again take it easy with the booze. All the coffeshops won’t sell you beer as well as cannabis.

EAT! Don’t go drinking and smoking on an empty stomach as cannabis lowers your blood sugar level and this can turn a fun day into a disaster if you haven’t eaten recently. Check out our Amsterdam Food Guide for some quick eating tips here.

A final word of warning, please watch out for the spacecake! Eating cannabis will knock you on your ass and is much stronger than when smoked.

Finally, enjoy yourselves and for goodness sake obey the rules, laws and customs while you are smoking weed in Amsterdam.

If you have an addiction to drugs then reach out and seek some help.

Check out these Weed Products for your next travel adventure.

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Europe

Four Jandals Visits an Amsterdam Peep Show

Have you ever wanted to visit an Amsterdam peep show? We had the chance to go and embraced it with open arms. Check out our experience here

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Amsterdam peep show Sex Palace

An Amsterdam peep show is a must, just like visiting the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Okay slightly different. But you have got to go!

And if you have ever wanted to visit Amsterdam then more than likely you are going to be interested in checking out a peep show in the red light district. It might be worthwhile checking out this Amsterdam’s Red Light District – The ultimate guide.

Amsterdam Moulin Rouge Red Light District

There is something about the red light district that draws the punters and tourists alike in. Maybe it is the bright red neon lights that illuminate the darkened alleyways that pull them in like moths to a flame. Or the bars and coffee shops that let a certain smell waft lazily across the glistening canals.

Or maybe it is just the fact that sex really does sell.

When we visited Amsterdam with a couple of friends we actually spent what I now consider an embarrassingly long time in that same area. The fact is that we seriously could not get enough.

Not like that of course!

We just couldn’t believe that everyone is so open and carefree about what is for all intents and purposes, window shopping for sex. The number of guys knocking on windows and being ushered behind the curtains of every room were staggering.

However, we were not enticed ourselves to fork over $50 euros but were intrigued enough to want to check out an Amsterdam peep show. I just want to clarify here that it was actually Adela that was the most keen. I just didn’t want to let her down so went along with it…

Amsterdam Red Light District

http://www.flickr.com/photos/shaynekaye/4792525797

Visiting the Amsterdam peep show

Much to our surprise, there is only one Amsterdam peep show left in the whole city back in 2012!

The very originally named “Sex Palace” is situated on the banks of one of the main canals in the heart of the red light district on Oudezijds Achterburgwal street. Walking under the neon flashing lights into the entrance way your senses are assaulted by sights, sounds and disturbingly smell.

All around the walls are posters and screens showing ladies in various states of undress and positions. A white board lists the movies that you can rent out for your viewing pleasure in one of the many private booths. But we were only there for one thing:

The circular structure sitting slightly to the left of the entrance with a dozen small doors along it’s walls. 

Each of those small doors lead into equally small rooms no larger than a traditional UK phone box. A small covered viewing window blocks your view forward.

The money box clinging to the wall to operate the viewing window only accepts coins. But don’t worry if you only have notes as they handily have a large coin machine dishing out $2 euro coins for ease of watching.

Once you close the door and chuck in your money, the viewing window pops open for 2 minutes and allows you to view the large, slowly-rotating stage on which a scantily-dressed woman displays herself. With her flexibility she could have represented any country in the upcoming Olympics!

Amsterdam peep show Sex Palace

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattmangum/2301545978

I was cracking up laughing the entire time I was in there because you can actually just make out the rest of the “audience” in the opposite booths. I even got a little wave and smile as the girl slowly revolved past my window.

The Amsterdam peep show was a little bit creepy. But even though we were there late on a Saturday night the booths were doing a roaring trade. Obviously nearly everyone else, from the hens parties to the couples, were there for the same reason as us. To check out one or two rounds before heading back into the night giggling like school girls at a sleepover at what we had just done.

The shifty eyed single men on the other hand skulked away to their respective viewing windows again and again with pockets full of coins.

If you ever get the chance then we actually do highly recommend taking the plunge and visiting an Amsterdam peep show. Just make sure that you are always respectful of the women in the shows and the ones on the streets!

Have you ever been to an Amsterdam Peep Show or Sex show? Tell us about your experience below.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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