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February 24, 2010

By February 26, 2010Greece & Turkey

February 24, 2010

SSU Greece and Turkey 2010

Hello fellow travellers!

Here are some repeats of info and lots of new stuff. Read on….

Our group consists of 34 people; 4 leaders, 18 master’s students (9 in     the worship module, 9 in the ministry module) and 12 joining us just for the experience.

I am mailing an information packet from the tour company out to everyone tomorrow. (Sorry Aussies, you will need to wait until I see you in Istanbul for your packets, no time for the mail service) These contain flight info, if you are flying with the group, hotel contact info and other assorted little tidbits. Anything you need to know now is included in this letter.

Remember that you will need to obtain an entry visa when you arrive at the Istanbul airport. This needs to be paid for in cash. See below for the accepted currencies.

Turkey Entry Visa Fees If you apply at the consulate, the fees are higher than if you buy the visa directly at the point of entry. Here are some fees applicable at the point of entry:

US: US$20

Australia: US$20

Canada: US$45

Note: visa fees can be paid only in foreign currency. The accepted currencies are US Dollars (US$), Euros (€) and Pound Sterling (£).

Baggage Restrictions

We do have a restriction on baggage because of our domestic flight in Turkey. You may want to hold off on your gift purchases or choose to send a package home before that flight!

The Turkish Air flight allows for 1 checked bag at 20 kg (44 lb) with no dimension restrictions.

The carryon bag allowance is 7.7 kg (17 lb) with the maximum dimensions of 23 x 40 x 55 cm (9 x16 x 22 in)

There is a luggage tag included in your packet. You will fix this to your bag after clearing customs in Istanbul or when you meet up with the group at the hotel.

Generally when we arrive at a hotel, we will enter and be given room keys. Our bags will be taken off the bus and delivered to our rooms. In the morning, when we are leaving, you will place your bag outside your door at the appointed time and it will be picked up and put on the bus.

Trip Trivia

Both Greece and Turkey are 6 hours ahead of AST (SSU time) and 2 hours ahead of GMT.

The average temperature in the areas we will be travelling in during March range from about 7-18C (45-65F). It is colder in the north of Turkey and warmer on the Greek Islands and the Pelonponnese. There may be a bit of rain, not a lot usually. I find that a good hooded wind/rain jacket layered with a fleece or sweater is the best way to handle all the differing climates.

Footwear for the days should be comfortable and good for walking. You might want a second option for the evenings in the hotels.

A bathing suit is a must so you don’t miss out on the wonderful hot spa pool experience in Pamuukkle!

Casual clothes are all that is needed. I pack comfy pants and layers of tops. It’s all about layering!

European hotel rooms supply little toiletry items but don’t usually have washcloths. If you are used to having one, best to bring it along with you.

I bring laundry soap, scrub brush and flat sink plugs to deal with dirty clothes. Hotels and the cruise ship offer a laundering service but it is pricey.

My purse is always stocked with a bunch of ziplock plastic bags, so useful! I also carry small packs of tissue (multiple uses here too!), travel packs of moist towels (Wet Ones/ Baby Wipes), Tide-to-Go, and hand sanitizer.

Cruising!

The cruise is like our vacation/down time after a busy week of travel.

We will be on the cruise ship for 2 nights. You will all be very happy to have outside cabins. This means you will have a window! The inside rooms have no windows and feel like closets. Since our first trip, I have requested this upgrade for the entire group. If you have any concerns about seasickness, I would recommend picking up some of the pressure point wrist bands.  We have never had a problem with people suffering on this cruise. Ask us about the 2008 SSU crossing of the English Channel!  Ah… travel tales!

When we board the ship, you will hand over your passport. It will be returned when we arrive in Athens. You will use a ship card for all transactions and be required to settle this bill before disembarking. All meals on board are covered but you may choose to order some drinks, use the spa or do some shopping. You would use the ship card for these things. No cash transactions on board. Onboard currency is euro’s.

Our first night on the ship will be Greek Night! Passengers are invited to dress as Greek as possible or wear blue and white, the colours of Greece.

There are excursions that you may sign up for when we dock at the various islands. Usually we have an information night before the cruise and you may sign up then or you may be able to so on the ship. We are going to new islands this time so I’m sorry that I have no info to give you on what those excursions will be and less expensive ways to do them. I have found that it is generally cheaper to fill a cab and head to a site then to pay for the excursion but I don’t know what these new places will offer.

If you aren’t concerned about spending money you may want to consider signing up for the Patmos tour. This would get you off the ship first and guarantee a good length of time in the grotto. Another option is to disembark as quickly as you are able and grab a cab. This is a cheaper alternative but with a slight element of risk. We have done this with no problems.

Money!

I recommend travelling with 2 cards, in case one gets lost or damaged. I use a debit and a credit card. Make sure you know your pin numbers! There are ATMs everywhere. I would visit a machine at the airport in Rome (for those travelling with the group) and get some euro. In Istanbul, you can pick up some Turkish lira. Try to withdraw larger amounts as you will be charged a fee each time from your bank.  Most places do take credit cards.

It is always a good idea to call your bank or credit card company and let them know the dates and places you will be travelling so their computer doesn’t freeze your card. From experience, I can tell you that even calling them doesn’t guarantee that your card won’t still be stopped. This is another reason to have more than one way of getting money!

Tipping:

It’s also handy to have some US currency. A $1/ day tip, left in your room, is suggested for the hotel cleaning staff. I carry a bunch of US $1 bills and euro change for this purpose. There is no need to tip for any meal service in the hotels as this is already covered. Usually, if eating out there is a service charge added to the bill. If not, 10-15% is customary. Tip taxi drivers at least 10-15% of the fare.

You will be asked/required to tip the cruise staff the equivalent of $10 USD/day – 8 euro/day before leaving the ship. You will be able to use a credit card to clear your ship account.

The tips for the guides and drivers have already been paid in your main tour cost. We will have a short goodbye time with each guide and I will give them a card with their money and some gifts. If anyone wants to bring a gift from your area or something that you would like to pass on to the guides please do.

I have just learned that the guide we have used in Turkey on the last two trips is unable to be with our group this time. We are still trying to sort this out but it is not looking good. At the moment our guide will be Sabahattin Canliel. He comes highly recommended and I’m sure will be wonderful. It is disappointing though as not every guide fits into the style of our groups.

We have had 3 different guides in Greece and are trying a new one this trip. His name is James Nikolopoulos and he also comes highly recommended.

Shopping!

We will sometimes stop as a group to shop. We have stopped at carpet places and learned about handmade carpets, leather shops and been treated to a fashion show, pottery/ceramic/icon shops and watched the crafts people working, textile warehouses…. We also will get to spend some time in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Please remember the weight restriction we need to follow for the flight in Turkey. Lots of places will ship your items directly home for you. Peter and I finally bought a carpet on the last trip and had it sent home. Very easy!

Turkey is a great place to look for leather, rugs, scarves, apple tea and tea sets, Turkish coffee, Turkish Delight, spices and hookah supplies.

In Greece be looking for icons, pottery, ceramics, jewellery, pewter, art, olive oil and soap.

You will need coins for using the bathroom facilities at most stops. You will also probably want to purchase bottled water.

Important Papers

It’s always a good idea to leave a photocopy of your passport, any other important travel documents and contact information with someone at home.

Attachments

I am attaching an info sheet on electrical adapters. You will need a common 2 – pin European adapter for any electrical devices that are rated 110 – 240v. If you have an electrical device that is just 110v you will need a converter as well to use it. Also attached is the hotel list, rooming list and the student reading list….again.

Connecting:

If anyone has any questions please email me:  [email protected]

or phone me at home: 1-506-466-5725.

While travelling my cell number is  1-506-466-8478 / same email.

In Europe dial + or 00 then 506-466-8478 to talk or text.

Students should contact Peter   [email protected]

or phone 1-506-466-5725 with any questions about assignments.

Here is a link to our itinerary:

http://www.pilgrimtours.com/groups/ssugreece.htm

Meeting in Istanbul

For those arriving in Istanbul on March 12 at 1:35pm with the main group or shortly before or after that, we will be gathering just beyond the exit door to the custom zone. Our guide will be there around 2 – 2:30 and will be holding a Pilgrim tours sign.

For everyone else, we will gather for dinner at the hotel and a short meeting in the evening. I will try to have this info posted in the lobby.

Well, hope that is enough information for you! We can plan out every detail and then things happen and you need to get a new plan. Remember to stay flexible (our travel ‘f’ word) and content. We will have a wonderful learning adventure together.

Group Flights from Boston:

March 11 …  Departing Boston at 5:55 PM on Alitalia Flight #615

March 12  …  Arriving in Rome at 7:45 AM

Departing Rome at 10:05 AM on Alitalia Flight #704

Arriving in Istanbul at 1:35 PM

March 27 …   Departing Thessalonica at 6:35 AM on

Alitalia Flight# 733

Arriving in Rome at 7:25 AM

Departing Rome at 10:15 AM on Alitalia Flight # 614

Arriving in Boston at 2:35 PM

See you in Boston or Istanbul!

Blessings, Mary Ellen

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