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3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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on 20 January 2007
This book is an excellent and pretty definitive travel guide for getting to grips with Istanbul. I had previously always relied on Rough Guides, but in this case only the Lonely Planet Guide was available. Having relied on this book for the best part of a week, I will consider switching alleigance for future expeditions!

All the standard features are there - historical contexts, practical information etc - but I particularly appreciated the sections detailing e.g. the types of restaurant you'll come across. I enjoyed the style of these chapters, and appreciated more of an insight into Turkish life than the somewhat drier and concise Rough Guide information.

One major issue I would like to highlight though, is that the author of this book clearly has friends living in Istanbul, and no doubt reviewed some of the restaurants and experiences with a Turkish speaker on-hand. Not that language itself was a problem, but I regularly had the distinct feeling that I was being taken advantage of because of my lack of local knowledge. I doubt that an Istanbulla would have been overcharged or given sub-standard food, particularly in the more authentic restaurants, and at times the reviews differed considerably from the reality.

Local insight has definitely enhanced this book, but it has also perhaps given an overly positive spin on things and is not therefore, a true representation of experiencing the city as a tourist. Still, a lot of very useful and interesting information, particularly for sight-seeing, and more than worth the money.
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on 11 February 2007
I love Istanbul, having lived there in the early 1990s. In 2005 I made my first return visit since then, and although I feel confident I know the city well, much has changed. This guide contained information which locals I stayed with weren't aware of, particularly public transport info.

My main criticism of LP books is that the maps are pretty useless, and this is once again the case. You really need to get a separate map f you are going to venture beyond the really well trodden path. (There are a couple of bookshops on Istiklal Cadessi that sell good maps).

I found the tone of the book suited me - it is enthusiastic about an amazing city, and the author certainly knows the place well. I don;t usually follow guide book suggestions for places to eat, preferring to discover those on my own. I am gald I allowed Maxwell to lead me to a couple of cafes and bars, however, as they were excellent.

(By the way, I was a woman travelling on my own and found I was notlead to anywhere I felt threatened or was taken advantage of)

I recommend this book for both the novice and experienced traveller to the city (which I don't with all LP City Guides - some, like Paris, I think reather too basic for the experienced visitor to that city).
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on 18 January 2006
In my experience, seasoned travellers fall into one of two camps - Lonely Planet fans and Rough Guide fans. Okay, seasoned travellers don't even bother with a guide book, but you get my point. I'm a big Rough Guides fan but unfortunately they don't have a guide to Istanbul, but I'd found LP's Pocket Guide to New York City really good so I took my chances with this far more detailed tome for my recent visit to Turkey.
It has almost everything you need in it for an enjoyable stay but the layout, and some of the content, left a lot to be desired. It starts with a series of introductory chapters talking about all the exciting aspects of Istanbul life as well as a very poorly written section on the city's history, before moving on to discuss the different areas of Istanbul, and detailing all the main tourist hot spots (may I recommend the Basilica Cistern), followed by a list of things to do - eating, drinking, entertainment etc. At the back there's a series of maps for all the areas discussed in the book - while basic, they usually sufficed, although I still got lost on every trip I made to Beyoglu and, despite being printed in 2005, are already out of date with regards to the tram routes.
However, due to this design - intros then details - you lost all context and the facts were broken up. For instance, there's an introductory chapter on food and drink that discusses the types of restaurant you should expect to find (mehaynes, lokantas, pideci, etc.). One hundred pages later it begins reviewing restaurants, referring to the style of restaurant, sending you scurrying back through the pages to find out what it's talking about. Bad design - the introductory chapters don't serve a sensible purpose because, by the time you've bought the book, you've already planned to go there.
The facts about the tourist attractions are concise and accurate, but could have done with some historical context/perspective (probably to be found in the earlier chapters). The same applies to the Walking Tours chapter: there are six tours through particular areas, sometimes with a theme (Ottoman, Byzantine). Would a short opening paragraph explaining the significance of the area/architecture have been too much to ask for? It also had several day-long exursions although I ran out of time for these.
However, the worst thing for me, travelling alone and in the off-season, was any mention, as far as I could see, of the issues of travelling alone and out of season. This is a terrible omission. Lone travellers are prey to the touts who prowl the city and sites and in the off season touts are especially desperate/aggressive. It could also have mentioned that, in the winter months, sellers will offer you ridiculously cheap prices to make you their first sale as they believe this will bring them good luck. I'm not kidding here: one store keeper was so desperate to sell he cut his price from €120 to €10!
So, it has the basic content right but the basic design wrong. Unfortunately, it seems to be the most detailed guide on the market.
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on 20 October 2008
We just spent 5 days in Istanbul and were tearing our hair out by the end, with the assistance of this book. Many of the places which were recommended as cheap places to eat were incredibly expensive and not very good, we felt that the author must be on commission for some places. All of the prices in the book were wrong - for the attractions most had doubled in cost.. this book came out in April and we went in October.

We felt that this book was for people with a much larger income than we have (and are prepared to be ripped off) - we are not backpackers but do like to get close to the city, either the city has nothing to offer or the author is just not our kind of person.. We found most places we really liked by accident,, some of the addresses are wrong in the book and the map has at least one street incorrectly labeled.

There was no warning about the masses of hawkers - shoe shine etc and the fact that all the restaurants have people outside pressurizing you to go in. We would have found advice on this helpful before we went.

Particular note - the tea place in Gulhane park is extremely expensive - £3 for a nescafe, and in the area around Nevizade Sokak, which was highly recommended in the front of the book, we were charged £55 for a below average meal..
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on 23 March 2008
As a guide from lonely planet, of which I have many copies for other countries, this one just isnt quite right.

It doesnt quite follow the usual and sucessful format of the 'standard' lonely planets and is therefore a quite confusing and vague. The usual mine of info on hotels, restaurants and concise descriptions of the sights etc are either watered down or non existent or in alphabetical order so you dont know which is best or what is nearby..
Perhaps The worst aspect of this book is the photos and descriptions of the sights. The descriptions are so poor and long winded that I am left not really knowing what the sight actually is, let alone what there is to see there, what is good about it or where it is. Instead you have to wade through a historical story which isnt quite relevant and extract something if you are lucky.
The photos in the book mainly consist either of the useless arty type that you sometimes get in the standard LPs- such as a close up of a local in front of a brick wall, or maybe just the brick wall... Otherwise there is a number of personal profiles with a full page pic of some guys face, his name and what he does (like a tour guide) ?!?

So whats good about it- well the book is a convenient pocket size and every now and then you get a few pages that more closely resemble an LP guide.

Its worth pointing out that this book is a lonely planet "encounter" rather than a standard lonely planet, which seems to be a lonely planet attempt of the style of the eyewitness top 10 books, which are quite good for small city visits where you already have all your accomodation etc taken care of and you just want to know details and good pics about what there is to see. However, with the LP "encounter" version you are left with neither of the good points you may have come to expect from either an LP guide or an eye witness guide.
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on 26 August 2008
Until now we have always rated Lonely Planet guide books highly. However this one on Istanbul is very disappointing and misleading. Although the description of places and buildings is good, the layout is very irritating as you frequently have to change sections to find all the details you want. It is out of date as regards the times places are open and the entry prices charged. The index is far too complicated. Come on Lonley Planet you can do much better than this!
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on 19 October 2011
It makes it a bit difficult when you no longer trust your guide book. A lot of the information on transport - ferries and trams and such - is really out of date. Descriptions of the sights isn't very useful and there is very little insider information and very little that is off the beaten track. The worst by far are the restaurant reviews. The guide mostly recommends over-priced places that are not especially good and are extraordinarily unfriendly, with the worse offender being Havuzlu at the Grand Bazar which was just a terrible experience (tourists forced to order from a buffet by the entrance while turks are given menus and much more attention, no table service after you order, shockingly rude manager and staff). Basically, a couple of hour of internet research and some common sense would be better than trusting this guide, particularly since Istanbul is such a friendly and pleasent city.
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on 18 September 2011
This Kindle version is not a success. Much more work is required to adapt the maps to the electronic version - maps are one of the main reasons to buy Lonely Planet or Rough Guide or Time Out. Many of the links to websites lead nowhere or do not correspond to the writer's description (such as "English version available"). It is not the author's fault if the sites have moved but the advantage of an electronic version is to be able to update. The Kindle edition is in fact a static electronic copy of the paper version - and not a great copy (especially for maps); it is quite user-unfriendly and there are no photos. I'll stick with the nice paper version until they invest a bit more in the Kindle version.
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on 19 April 2009
Overall, this is a good guide to the city. It has logical sections, such as key neighbourhoods, Sleeping, Eating, Travel, Language, Excursions, top places to visit, and a stimulating account of the city's history.

Advice and information is helpful and we discovered much of the city's attractions using it.

I have a two concerns though, one is rather crucial, especially if you eyesight is not 100%. The maps use an unhelpful blue, white and gray design. Coupled with tiny print, these make for hard reading and lead easily to frustration, especially as you may be walking round in the thick of things. The pull out map, showing the whole city, was better. Most references, however, are to maps inside the actual guide.

Second, as others have noted, the guide doesn't give the best account of modern-day Istanbul. Most, if not all, of the pictures of the city fail to show life as it is now. Instead, they show a more traditional side, which is not necessarily obsolete but certainly narrow.

Would I buy this book again if, say, I lost it and had to have a guide to Istanbul? It depends. Rough Guide are publishing theirs soon, so it might be worth waiting and comparing them.

Again, it's a fair book and does the job. Maps need improving.
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on 28 July 2008
I wouldn't recommend this guide, it has a lot of information but is confusingly put together. At first glance it might seem logical to have separate sections for everything but I found I was constantly trying to get all the information about a particular area and being asked to skip between areas of the book.
This was worsened by the maps. They were all inaccurate( without exception) a lot of the street names were not recorded and directions to shops/ bars /restaurants were difficult to understand. The pull out map was not a help.
This is a shame because in my backpacking days the classic lonely planet guides were excellent if only they had kept the same design; with accurate local maps, area guide that let you know what to do area by area.
Why have I given it two stars? Well its redeeming features were great information on the main attractions, a bit like having your own guide, ie in The Topkapi and Aya Sofya and many other places. ALSO very impressive good restaurant recommendations.
In all a real shame this book was not better put together, it has a lot of information but was very difficult to use. I suggest you spend your money elsewhere
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