Why Turkey?

Simply because its rich with history with a lot of that old age world feel and it doesn’t cost a arm and a leg to get to, nor to travel within nor to stay nor to eat plus the Turkish Lira currency is down to +- 4.80 ZAR TO 1 TL and visas are free for South African Passport holders (3 minute online application. Go for it..) Oh and my main reason, Ankara Crown Plaza was free for the whole 2 months booking period on IHG (5000 points per night, unbelievable)

How to get there?

Plenty airlines offer sub R5000.00 airfares to get to Istanbul from South Africa consistently in economy. I opted to use some expiring Voyager miles, 60 000 for economy or 90 000 for business.

The trick to using Voyager miles is use them on Star Alliance network or SAA code share partners. Taxes are surprisingly low ( eg: Emirates R1500 taxes to Dubai at 60 000 voyager miles in economy.)

The great benefit of using Voyager miles for non international hub cities ( like mine) in South Africa is that you can get your return internal flights to Johannesburg or Cape Town for free basically when connecting to your international trip. This is a saving of about R3000.

Star Alliance is a great network ( and the biggest of all 3 networks), there seems to be soo much award availability numerous times each day I checked. I could go via Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana but I opted for Cairo ( you allowed one free stop over – love this) on return the agent at Voyager even gave me a option of coming back via Los Angeles on Turkish Airlines as that was the only route on date they had connecting through 2 or 3 cities before touchdown in Johannesburg.

For those who follow my free newsletters you will know that Marsa Alam and Port Ghalib on the Red sea in Egypt had some fantastic specials as well at IHG Resorts and Hilton Resorts.(More on that later.)


Star Alliance Gold benefit: Boarding first onto an empty plane


If you can wheel and deal a empty four seater at check-in.. DO IT


Connecting In Istanbul

Turkey has amazing internal rates to fly. I got a one way flight for 99TL from IST/Ataturk Airport to Ankara/Esenboga Airport. Flight time is 65minutes. Turkish air is a Star Alliance member. Perfect opportunity to add mileage to a Aegean Airlines lifetime Star Alliance Gold Account (read more here) DSC00641

 Getting to the Hotel in ANKARA

At the airport there is convenient bus named Belko Air. (Supposedly has free wifi onboard, couldn’t connect after a half dozen tries though.) Costs are 9TL, make sure you have Lira in your wallet, they have issues taking foreign currency.

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The thing I love about DIY travelling is you never know what you in for next, the suspense is great as apposed to having a tour operator handling your A-D transfers, you will miss out on B and C which all lies in-between making a trip into a adventure. Can you imagine Amazing Race contestants being pampered each leg with a tour guide / operator, it will be the most boring show on earth.

DSC00647 Surprisingly the bus stops at ANKAMALL which was at the hotel. IMG_1401 
























The amount of times I’ve saved 50 euros on private transfer by finding ways to get to my hotel at a cost of 2 Euros are too many too mention.

The Hotel

Booked the above on IHG Pointbreaks, Free if you have 5000 points per room per night.

I must add every one of the 3 IHG hotels I stayed at in Turkey had a Guest Relations Executive come over at check-in to welcome and introduce herself and to provide a business card with mobile number for anything to make stay more memorable, the same was printed on a personalised signed welcome letter in ankra cp ankara suite






















IHG Europe has introduced a Platinum Amenity at check-in from September last year, a welcome drink and snack or 600 Reward Club points free. They gave me both as I was indecisive  trying to figure out the value of one vs the other. ( I like this, 9 separate stays and one will have enough points for a free Pointbreak night again.)


private door leading to two adjacent suites



Separate lounge and office desk



Good Morning Ankara

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The Spa















The Elite Club Lounge

Room card code access. Standard for Platinum Elite members.

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Unlimited ALL day snacks and drinks.

You could live out of a Elite Lounge without spending any money. Hot evening snacks had a variety of Turkish cuisine.

Exploring the outdoors

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The underground train station is very convenient (300m across hotel) and affordable at 1.75TL per route.


On this trip I did Ataturk to Kizilay and then back to Ulus as recommended by the Hotels Guest Relations Executive.


At Kocatepe Masjid, Ankara


Kocatepe Masjid is the largest in the capital of Turkey.


Another Interior shot.


The exterior of Kocatepe Masjid
















































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Typical Turkish street food , under R20 served with lovey chillies and pouring yogurt.

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Directly outside the train station in Kizilay.

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Typical street vendors, this particular ones are in Ulus.
























After a long hike in Kizilay, the long trek up steps and hills to get to the Ankara Castle begins.

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Panaromic city views of  Ankara, which is said to be bigger than every city in the USA save New York.

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Various hotels, curio stores and supermarkets align most roads to the castle.



The Amazon Jungle














Honestly its not the Amazon, its 2012’s 3rd most visited city in the world and it’s Antalya in Turkey. A whole world in one beautiful city. Stay tuned.


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