We spent three months in Romania and when our tourist visas were about to expire, we had to figure out where to go next. The only issue was the next country could not be in the Schengen zone. We had committed to a two-month housesit in Spain (in the Schengen) and couldn’t risk overstaying our total allowed time in the zone, 90 days. Organizing logistics is definitely the biggest challenge of being full-time housesitters! After some online research, we narrowed down our choices and decided on Istanbul, Turkey.
According to TripAdvisor, Istanbul is one of the most affordable European cities to visit in 2015! It seemed a perfect choice for us being so close to Romania and a country not in the Schengen zone. We had six weeks to kill before our house sitting assignment started in Spain. We thought that would be enough time to get to know Istanbul. We booked the flight and one week in an Airbnb apartment on the Asian side of Istanbul. Our plan was to orient ourselves the first week and then book further accommodation after we got to know the city a little better.
Then another house sitting opportunity came up! Conveniently, it was in Turkey, but not in Istanbul. The assignment was along the most Southwestern coast of Turkey, right in the heart of an area we had never heard of before, the Turkish Riviera.
We hadn’t considered visiting anywhere in Turkey beyond Istanbul. We had heard mixed reviews on costs in other areas of Turkey and didn’t want to risk maxing out our budget. Honestly, “The Turkish Riviera”, the stretch of coast where the house sitting assignment was sounded expensive. We decided, free accommodation in a lovely home with a pool should make it affordable enough!
We spent two weeks in Istanbul and a month on the coast visiting five different destinations total. and let me tell you if you love beaches, turquoise sea, ancient relics, and awesome outdoor adventures you have to visit the Turquoise Coast of southern Turkey! Here’s what we spent living six weeks in Turkey. Costs are broken out between Istanbul and the combination of four different destinations along the Turquoise Coast.
Living costs Turkey: Our costs for a stunningly affordable two weeks in Istanbul
All prices in USD
Accommodation costs- $546 (two different Airbnb entire place rentals)
Utility costs- Included in the cost of our rentals
Groceries (including beer and wine)- $241
Restaurants and entertainment- $105 (including entry fees to attractions)
Phone\Wi Fi- $16
We rented two different Airbnb apartments while in Istanbul. Both were on the Asian side of the Bosphorus Strait. Istanbul is huge, almost 15 million people live there! It is so big it straddles two different continents, Europe, and Asia. The Asian side is typically cheaper for accommodation as most of Istanbul’s signature attractions are on the European side.
The European side is also the most populated side, making the Asian side calmer and some say, the most authentic side of Istanbul. Our first rental was much farther from the Bosphorus Strait which divides the two sides of the city so we didn’t visit any attractions on the European side the first week. Kartal is the neighborhood where we stayed the first week. It is just off the coast of the Marmara Sea.
We had originally planned to spend at least three weeks in Istanbul, one week in Kartal, one week closer to the Bosphorus, and one week on the European side. We wanted to spend time in different parts of the huge city, see the highlights, and experience local culture. Staying in Kartal definitely helped us see and experience life as a local on the Asian side. Following our Airbnb hosts recommendations, we shopped at the markets she shopped at and visited her favorite areas close to the apartment.
The second Airbnb was in Uskudar, a neighborhood close to the Bosphorus. We could walk from the apartment to catch the ferry to the European side! This is the perfect area if you want convenient access to the European while staying somewhere a lot less chaotic. Again, we were far enough off the tourist trail to enjoy local culture and take advantage of cheaper accommodation costs.
Our Airbnb rental was a newly renovated two bedroom apartment that only cost $35 USD a night! We visited the European side four times that week. The ferry ride alone was such an unforgettable experience because of the stunning views and the ride was so much fun!
There is a lot of cheap, delicious street food in Istanbul! We ate our favorite, balik ekmek ($1.76 a sandwich!) every time we arrived at the Eminonu Pier. Balik ekmek, literally translated ‘fish bread’ is grilled fish, onion and salad stuffed in a big piece of bread. The sandwich and the experience ordering one was awesome! Vendors aboard ornate boats tethered to the Eminonu pier fry up some seriously delicious fish. The pier is busy; people coming and going, tourists and locals hanging out eating the tasty sandwiches. A really cool experience and one of our favorite memories of Istanbul.
It was very easy to keep costs low in Istanbul without missing a thing. Many of the amazing things in Istanbul are free or very inexpensive to visit. Street food is cheap, delicious and plentiful as well. Our favorite experiences were the Basilica Cistern (entry 20 TL or $7 USD), the Grand Bazaar (free), and wandering the grounds between the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia(free). We liked to eat at the Eminou pier and sample and buy food at the markets (most meals were less than $5 USD).
Three weeks of free accommodation in the Turkish Riviera!
We had never heard how lovely the Southwestern coast of Turkey was. Dubbed the “Turkish Riviera” the stunning area is a popular tourist destination for good reason. Fine beaches, dreamy lagoons, and impressive archeological ruins stretch for more than 1000 kilometers of the splendid shoreline.
When the opportunity to house sit for three weeks in the town of Ovacik came up days after booking our flight Istanbul it seemed like a no-brainer. We did a little research on the area and decided we absolutely had to accept the assignment! We ended up booking an extra week further along the coast in a city called Marmaris, after the homeowners return.
Here is what we spent living three weeks on the Turquoise Coast
All prices are in USD
Accommodation- $235 (one week Airbnb rental in Marmaris)
Utility costs- Included in the cost of our rentals
Groceries (including beer and wine) – $600
Restaurants and entertainment- $160 (including entry fees to attractions)
Internet\Wi Fi- included
Awesome experiences we enjoyed because of our location housesitting!
Our house sitting assignment was in Ovacik, a town right between two popular tourist destinations; Fethiye and Oludeniz. Luckily public transportation was easily accessible from the house and we made the most of that! We visited both Fethiye and Oludeniz a couple of times each week. Having three weeks of free accommodation with housesitting gave us lots of wiggle room in our modest monthly budget. We didn’t have any trouble finding fun ways we wanted to spend our extra funds!
Popular with tourists, Fethiye is a bustling harbourside city. It is a perfect hub for accessing the many attractions along the Turquoise Coast. Twenty minutes from Ovacik by bus (called a dolmus) it was the most convenient place for groceries and shopping from where we were house sitting. Before the homeowner had left for her trip she gave us a tour of Fethiye, offering recommendations on things to check out during our stay. One of the coolest thing she showed us was a fish farm hidden among the vast network of narrow side streets! We bought two very cheap trout to cook at home which were absolutely delicious.
She also recommended we eat at the Fethiye Fish Market, a fun and different way to eat out in Fethiye! The well-stocked market is surrounded by little restaurants that will cook fish you buy from the fishmongers and provide bread, salad and drinks for an additional fee. The selection of fish was excellent.
We really liked Fethiye despite its touristy popularity. It had a unique feel that other busy tourist destinations we have visited lacked. We like to walk as much as we can so we loved that many of Fethiye’s best attractions could be easily accessed on foot from the center.
Another draw for us was the two weekly markets, one on Tuesday and the other on Friday. Both sell fresh produce and operate on the same site. The difference between the two is the Friday market is much bigger offering a wide variety of clothes (a lot of counterfeit branded stuff), accessories, and household items. We lugged bags stuffed with delicious fruits and veggies (even huge watermelons) on the bus twice weekly!
Fethiye’s most prominent landmarks are the Lycian Rock Tombs. Looking like entry ways to ornate temples, the tombs are carved into a cliff face high above the town. They are easy to find and pretty easy to get close to as long as you don’t mind a bit of a steep uphill climb. We walked from the center and climbed the hill to get a good look without a lot of effort.
The Lycians, an ancient people who inhabited the area between present day Antalya and Fethiye lived with their dead nearby. They believed the dead were carried away by angels to the afterlife. The lofty position of the tombs gave the angels easy access.
A sheltered lagoon alongside a lush national park, Oludeniz is the perfect setting for an easygoing day at the beach. The popular beach town is ten minutes in the opposite direction of Fethiye from Ovacik on a dolmus. We visited Oludeniz to enjoy the beach and the stunning views of paragliders soaring above the turquoise lagoon. There are a lot of restaurants and bars adjacent to the lagoon. We found most to be overpriced for what was offered so we ate out mostly in Fethiye. The top things to do in Oludeniz include tandem paragliding (which we regret not doing!), parasailing, and boat tours along the coast.
When our house sitting job was over we decided we wanted to check out another city in the area. The money we saved on accommodation with housesitting helped us enjoy an extra week on the Turquoise Coast! We headed back past Fethiye to stay in a Mediterranean resort town called Marmaris.
We decided on Marmaris because of the great choice of reasonably priced accommodations. We stayed in the cheapest Airbnb rental of all we had stayed in before! We rented a pristine, spacious one bedroom apartment for $20 USD a night! In addition to great accommodation prices, the seaside city offered a lot of family friendly fun. We spent a lot of time at the beach and along the busy boardwalk. Makai had been wanting to visit a water park for a while and there was a big one right off the boardwalk. Atlantis is the biggest water park in Marmaris. We enjoyed a fun afternoon there swimming, sliding, and taking in the terrific seaside views. You can save 30% on entry fees if you book tickets for the water park in advance online.
Our Airbnb host let us know about a market that happens weekly in town. We love to visit community markets to experience local culture in the places we visit. At the market in Marmaris, we talked with vendors and got to sample produce, olives, and fresh Turkish cheese.
We saw and experienced so much our six weeks in Turkey! House sitting definitely helped us make the most of our time there.
Here is what we spent in Istanbul, Ovacik, Fethiye, Oludeniz, and Marmaris combined.
All prices in USD
Accommodation- $781 (three weeks free with housesitting and three weeks of Airbnb rentals)
Utility costs- $0.00 (free housesitting and included in the cost of our rentals)
Groceries (including beer and wine) – $841
Shopping in stores chicken was cheap ($2 USD per pound), beef was expensive ($7 USD per pound), and pork was very expensive and hard to find. Most fruit and vegetables were cheap, strawberries were $0.70 a pound! Produce was even cheaper at markets and from street vendors. Beer and wine were also more expensive, $2 USD for a 0.5 L bottle of beer and $9 USD for a bottle of wine on average.
Restaurants and entertainment- $265 (including entry fees to attractions)
Transportation- $290 (excluding flights)
Internet\Wi Fi\ phone- $16
The bottom line on living costs Turkey
Six weeks in Turkey cost us $2219 USD total (excluding flights). That’s $52.83 a day for a family of three!
Istanbul is cheap to visit and if you rent accommodation with a kitchen you can save even more. Buying food at the markets and from street vendors was very inexpensive for most things so we saved money cooking some meals at home. Staying on the Asian side (close to the Bosphorus) was considerably cheaper than accommodation prices on the European side as well. Airbnb apartment rentals we looked at with the same size and amenities were 25%-50% cheaper on the Asian side.
Initially, we approached visiting Turkey as a stop over to avoid visa issues. Our trip there ended up being so much more than that because of housesitting.
A housesitting assignment inspired us to check out a truly stunning part of Turkey we wouldn’t have considered visiting otherwise. It helped us to see and do so much more in Turkey. The Turquoise Coast is a popular destination for tourists and expats alike. Housesitting helped us see the coast from both perspectives, as tourists living in a local community. Experiencing destinations from a local perspective is our favorite way to travel. Housesitting helps us do that and saves us so much money in the process.
Do you need some travel inspiration? Maybe you want to retire somewhere warmer or make a lifestyle change to live well for less money. Joining a housesitting platform can deliver new travel ideas into your inbox. Additionally, housesitting is a great way to insert yourself into local life in a destination to make sure a move is right for you.
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