What is a halal tour to Turkey and how to organize it

What is a halal tour to Turkey and how to organize it

Every year, the number of Russians who prefer holidays according to the concept of halal tourism in Turkey is growing. In recent years, the demand for halal hotels in Turkey has also been growing in the organized segment. ATOR Vestnik presents an overview of the market and a selection of beach halal hotels in this country.

TURKEY AS A HALAL DESTINATION

The market of Muslim (halal) tourism in Russia in recent years has been developing even more dynamically than traditional types of recreation. According to experts, the most popular destinations for such a vacation among Russian tourists are the UAE, Malaysia and Turkey.

As for Turkey, the most popular outbound destination in Russia, this country is strengthening its positions in the Russian halal tourism market every year. Now, according to Menzat Ozgur, a representative of the Turkish host company Tulpar Travel, the main flow of halal tourists from Russia to Turkey is generated by such Russian regions as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, the republics of the North Caucasus and Crimea.

The first specialized chains of halal hotels began to open in Turkey in the early 2000s and managed to take a solid share of the halal tourism market. According to Mr. Ozgur's calculations, there are now about four hundred specialized halal accommodation facilities in the EMEA region, 150 of which are located in Turkey - in Istanbul, Ankara, on the Antalya and Aegean coasts. Half of these 150 hotels host exclusively Muslims who adhere to the strict rules of Islam. The remaining 75 hotels work, including for tourists of other religions, who are ready to rest in accordance with Sharia norms.

At the same time, a couple of years ago, according to Menzat Ozgur, 80-90% of visitors to Turkish halal hotels were domestic tourists (Turks), but today more than 60% of guests are Muslim foreigners. The tourist flow from Russia in this segment has also perked up, the expert says.

A couple of years ago, 80-90% of visitors to Turkish halal hotels were domestic tourists (Turks), but today more than 60% of guests are foreign Muslims. Tourist flow from Russia in this segment has also revived.

RUSSIAN TOUR OPERATORS AND HALAL TOURISM

The increased interest of Russian Muslims in Turkey as a destination for halal tourism is facilitated by the active development of the entire hospitality industry in the Muslim travel sector here. After all, halal tourism means not only accommodation in hotels that provide services in accordance with Islamic standards, but also the infrastructure in general adapted to the halal preferences of tourists. In Turkey, almost everywhere there are restaurants and cafes created specifically for the rest of Muslims who observe Islam. These restaurants and shops are subject to rigorous checks to ensure that they provide services in accordance with Islamic standards.

But, despite the general trend of growing interest in halal tourism, in the organized tourism sector in Russia, offers in this segment are limited. “According to my estimates, 99.9% of Russian tour operators do not develop this segment in a special way. As for Turkey, the matter here is further complicated by the fact that almost exclusively large federal players are working in this area. These are highly respected and professional companies, but the specificity of their main business is to be engaged mainly in the production of serial, conveyor products, and halal tourism is still a niche and individual story, ”says Menzat Ozgur.

Today, Russian players in Turkey do not have package offers specifically for halal vacations, but the range includes those halal hotels in Turkey that accept both Muslims and tourists of other religions. At the same time, we are not talking about a specialized halal tourism product - tourists simply book hotels available in the booking system of tour operators.

Public transport in Turkey is quite affordable, and you only need to book in advance for especially popular routes and on public holidays. Although the railway network is not very dense, there is a system of bus routes that compensates for this disadvantage with reasonable prices, which are quick and convenient to travel. For shorter distances, within cities and towns, or between individual villages, there are so-called dolmus (a local form of public transport, similar to fixed-route taxis). The internal network of sea ferries is limited by the Sea of ​​Marmara, Black Sea and Aegean coasts.

State-owned airline THY connects Ankara and Istanbul with most of the rest of the country's major cities. Another way to travel is to rent a car. Prices for this type of service in Turkey are higher than in all other Mediterranean countries, however, after bargaining, you can count on solid (especially in low season) discounts. Renting a car is often the only way to get to particularly remote areas. In addition, for short-term tourists, this will allow them to visit more noteworthy places.

Turkish Railway

Turkish Railways are operated by Turkish State Railways. It is best to travel by Turkish trains between the three main cities of the country (Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir) and its provincial centers. The first Turkish railways were built in the middle of the 19th century by the British. Their main purpose was to deliver the harvest of figs to Izmir. Later, German companies connected Turkey with the European rail system, which gave rise to the operation of the famous Orient Express. They also built a branch running through Turkey connecting Berlin and Baghdad.

The limited construction budget led to the fact that the railroad tracks were forced to bypass numerous mountain ranges (no money was found for the construction of tunnels). This and subsequent underfunding has led to the fact that moving from one point to another by train can take twice as long as traveling on the same route by bus. However, rail travel has its advantages, such as comfort and lower prices, so if a short trip along the Aegean coast is annoying, then traveling longer distances from city to city can be interesting and educational.

Perhaps in order to make life difficult for terrorists who blow up railway tracks and attack trains passing by, train timetables are rarely published here. Sometimes you can see small books with the timetable of Istanbul trains, as well as some intercity and international flights, but they rarely contain complete information about the movement of trains on the main routes within the country. Also, you cannot rely on the pocket guide published by Thomas Cook. Therefore, the only way to find out everything with a 100% guarantee is to personally go to the station, study the scoreboard, and then check it with the railway employees.

The best flights west of Ankara are mavi tren or ekspresi. These are the fastest trains, which, however, still remain much slower than buses. In the east, however, their speed drops sharply, and their timetable is often disrupted. If possible, do not use the local yolcu trains as they are extremely slow. When traveling long distances, you will have to choose between first and second class tickets. However, the difference between them is small. The first class features Pullman sleeper cars with air conditioning in summer and heating in winter. Second-class carriages in the west of the country are also Pullman, and in the east they are of the European type, with six-seater compartments and narrow corridors on one side.

In second-class carriages, unmarried women traveling alone are looked after by a conductor, whose duties include placing them in a compartment, as well as delivering them to their families safe and sound. All trains have non-smoking cars called "icmeyen vagon". When traveling by train, you don't have to take food with you, as almost all trains west of Ankara have dining cars with a good and inexpensive, albeit somewhat limited menu. In addition, it is assumed that all long-distance trains have wagon buffets, but in the east of the country it is better to find out their availability in advance, so that if something happens, take the necessary food and drink with you.

All major flights must be booked in advance. This can be done from a month to three hours before departure, but tickets for the most popular trains can be reserved for a longer period, which is often practiced on the eve of major national holidays. Although the entire ticket reservation system is computerized, in practice it is difficult to purchase tickets for the Ankara-Istanbul train, for example from Izmir, or to get a berth from a small train station. Credit cards are not accepted for train tickets.

Prices

Prices for the best trains are about the same as for bus routes of the same length. Usually it costs 25 liras to travel from Ankara to Istanbul in first class, and from Istanbul to Tatvan - 35 liras for a seat in a sleeping car. When buying a round-trip ticket, you save up to 20%, and international students with documents confirming their status can receive a 30% discount. Inter Rail, Eurail and Eurodomino rail passes operate throughout Turkey, although you are unlikely to be able to recoup their cost. It is better to buy a monthly Tren Tur card for unlimited travel on second class trains for 100 liras or a similar card for travel in a sleeping car for 400 liras.

There are three types of berths on Turkish trains. Kusetli is a berth in a six-seater compartment of a second-class carriage with shelves that can be reclined for the night and attached to the walls. In this case, only for the pillow you will have to pay about 15% of the ticket price. If you ask for a full set of linen with a blanket, then it will generally cost 30% of the already paid fee. Ortulu kusetli is a slightly better sleeping category. In this case, there are only four berths in the compartment. Yatakli is a first class compartment with two (sometimes three) berths, with bed linen provided in advance.

Traveling in this compartment from Istanbul to Denizli or Pamukkale alone, you will pay 80 lira, together - 50 lira, and from Istanbul to Van (that is, twice the distance), these prices will be equal respectively 70 and 60 liras. The difference in cost indicates that some destinations are currently equipped with newer, more comfortable coaches. Considering that this is less than a third more expensive than tickets for kusetli, then you can quite pamper yourself (over time, the above prices may change, so check this information on the spot).

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