I wrote travel
guidebooks for 35 years,
so I think it's fine to find
your way around Istanbul and Turkey
with a book and a map. Turkey
is not the kind of place where a personal
guide is essential to protect you and
lead you through chaos every day.
That having been said, there's
no denying that seeing the sights with
your own private
guide is the best way
to fully appreciate the richness of
Turkey's history, culture and cuisine.
Unlike a guidebook, a private guide
can answer any question that may
pop into your head, explain what
you're seeing right at that moment,
and provide far more information
than can fit in a book.
Depending on preference, some visitors
will choose to employ a guide for a
day or two (particularly in Istanbul),
and others may choose to have a guide
accompany them throughout their entire
Here are other good reasons to use
a private guide:
1. Guides have priority to
buy tickets to touristic sites. There
may be (and usually is) a long line
to buy tickets for Topkapı
Palace or Ayasofya,
but your guide will go right up to
the window, buy your tickets and
lead you in ahead of the crowds.
know how to use your precious travel
time most efficiently—no
need for backtracking or waiting
needlessly in traffic when a better
itinerary would have spared you.
know the tricks of the trade and
the current situation. They'd
know that Bosphorus
cruise boats departing from Eminönü this
week are very crowded, but that identical
boats departing from Kadıköy are
4. Guides know all the best
photography angles and locations. Want
good souvenir shots without the hassle?
Want to know if it's culturally appropriate
to take that shot? Ask your guide.
can find the café, restaurant or
shop that is just right
for your taste because they know
them all. Tell them what you like,
they'll take you there.
Tourist guides in Turkey are required
by law to complete a rigorous training
program of several years,
and to obtain an official government tour
It is against the
law for anyone who has not
been trained and licensed to function
as a tourist
guide in Turkey.
anyone who has ever employed a guide
knows, it is not just
a guide's knowledge that
makes a tour successful, but also his
or her personality and sensitivity to
your needs and wants.
Turkey has thousands of
licensed tour guides. If you want a
private guide, how do you choose?
Turkey's professional tourist guide
organization is the Tourist
Guides Union (Turist
Rehberleri Birliği, or TUREB),
of which the affiliated Chamber
of Istanbul Tourist Guides (İstanbul
Turist Rehberleri Esnaf Odası, or İRO). Each other important
tourism destination in Turkey also
has its local organization. They have
set up TurkishGuides.org, a website
to help you find a licensed guide.
By employing a guide who is a member
of one of these organizations, you
are more likely to have a good tour
experience, and you will have recourse
to the organization if there is a problem.
Tour Guide List includes
the tour guides I know personally. It
is in no way a complete list, but
it is impossible for me to know
and personally recommend thousands
Note that professional guides provide
their services for a fee.
Although they welcome inquiries about
and availability of their services,
they expect to be paid when
they provide tourism information. If
you contact them for information and
trip-planning help, you may be asked
to arrange payment by
credit card before
questions are answered, and before
their time is scheduled—just
as with other travel services such
as hotels and flights.
Please also note that guides
are not travel
agents, and are not
licensed to make reservations or
other travel agency services. (For
those services, contact one of my recommended
In addition, note that guides cannot be drivers. The two professions are separate in Turkey, with separate licenses. In fact, guides are prohibited by law from driving clients.
I cannot guarantee that
any particular guide will be successful
for any particular tour or location(s),
or that a guide will have the right "chemistry" with
your personality to make your tour
100% successful. I can only say that
on my list have
satisfied other travelers who
have told me so.
If you employ a guide
for a private tour in Turkey,
you may want to send
a report to TUREB on
your experience. This will help the
organization maintain high standards
of quality among
their member guides:
TUREB — Turist Rehberleri Birliği
Sıraselviler Cad. Soğancı Sok. No:3/Kat:3 (map)
Cihangir, Beyoğlu, İstanbul
Tel: +90 (212) 292 0520
Fax:+90 (212) 292 0855