SRM Travel Agency, Istanbul, Turkey – Review
SRM Travel Agency – Review
I rarely use a travel agency but the opportunity to visit Turkey came up and I only had 4 weeks to plan the trip. I usually spend 6 months or more planning a trip so this was a hustle! I wanted to research the history and sights so I could educate the kids and that left very little time for the logistics of trip planning. So, I looked to the internet for help, emailing several guides and agencies, but between weak English skills and the time difference I would wait and wait for a reply and get something that either didn’t answer my question or didn’t make sense. I was frustrated and the clock was ticking.
I stumbled upon yet another agency – SRM Travel Agency, crossed my fingers and sent and email. Hallelujah! In record time and in perfect English I got a reply to my question. Whew! So, I asked another and another. Quickly and clearly the answers came back. I had found help!!
But then, the help got even better. Lale, owner of SRM Travel Agency, recognized that I was a travel writer and made suggestions based on that. Then, she asked about my kids and my husband and made suggestions based on our interests. Emails came with choices for family friendly hotels and rooms and in no time at all we had a fantastic trip planned. She emailed me a contract with all the transportation and lodging details. I signed and voila! Perfect trip!
Most travel agencies leave you right there. But not Lale with SRM Travel Agency.
They plan a trip, you pay, they give you the details and off you go. But not the SRM Travel Agency. They are with you every step of the way. I had a question and called Lale and *gasp* she actually answered the phone! No recordings, no waiting, no holding…but a real live person who cares about your trip answers the phone. I was in love!! 🙂
All of the arrangements were easy to perfectly orchestrated. Lale is clearly respected and well known in Turkey because everywhere we turned things were arranged perfectly. Then, one day we realized we wanted a change. We found ourselves in the lovely seaside town of Kusadasi and wanted to stay another night which would cancel 2 days of guides and transportation and lodging in another city. Without her help and expertise it would have been next to impossible. One quick phone call to Lale and voila – Arrangements were cancelled in the next town, our hotel stay extended where we were, and transportation was changed. It could not have been easier. She was warm and lovely and nonjudgmental.
Her goal was for us to have the perfect trip.
Stop and think about that. When was the last time you ran into anyone, in any profession, whose goal was for you to have a nice experience? When we called with a request regarding visiting a motorcycle shop she made arrangements for us to see the three in town. When we had specific requests for food types….bingo -she made it happen.
How often do you encounter true customer service? Someone who really wants your adventure to be special? Perfect? Cares what you want and what you think? That is a truly rare experience.
Not only did Lale arrange all our travel details, but she owns the lovely Cappadocia Estates. Read more about our amazing hotel here experience here.
I rarely hire guides, but with so little time to prepare it was a necessity and they were worth every penny and more! In hindsight, we would have missed out on so much if we had not hired them – even if I had prepared! The insights, the details – wonderful. SRM Travel Agency arranged all the guides. We chose one day per area for a guide to give us an overview. Then we explored on our own the other days. We had one guide in Istanbul, one guide in the Cappadocia area and one guide in the Kusadasi/Ephesus area and that was the perfect amount.
Guides are valuable and since they are going to be with you for a long period of time – finding one that suits not just your informational needs (because they are usually equally educated in order to be an official guide) but to mesh with your travel personality. You need one that will not frown or sigh when you stop for something that seems unimportant to them but it is valuable to you. You need one that manages to speak with intense enthusiasm even though this is their 8 millionth time to visit this site because it is your FIRST and perhaps your ONLY. Do you have kids? You need one that not just tolerates the questions, shenanigans, etc of the young but actually enjoys them. Kids find fascination in unlikely places and you need a guide that happily shifts gears to accommodate YOU. They will be with you at lunch, etc, too. Do you want to sit and eat with this person? This person also needs to be sensitive to the needs of your family and this takes perception on their part because your culture is different than theirs. Do you need a little more personal space? Do you need a moment to breathe? This person needs to ‘read’ you and adjust. Guides are not created equally – and thank goodness because there are so many different types of travelers, of course there needs to be so many different types of guides. When you hire a guide – be sure to ask the right questions.
Barak was our guide for one day in Istanbul. He showed us around and gave us all the historical information and background we needed to appreciate the area. He entertained my interest in the less obvious, too, and translated for me when I asked to see the kitchen at the restaurant where we ate lunch. He had just finished the mandatory military time for males in Turkey. This gave us a little insight into his life which we found very interesting. Istanbul has a VERY long history and he was so good at switching gears as while we put the history in perspective with what was happening in other parts of the world at the same time. My youngest child has a time line in his head that he seems to be putting together and he is always full of questions.
Our guide for the Cappadocia area was Saneem. She was quiet, calm, and very charming. My kids took to her immediately. She pointed out things that a kid would love and had them entertained while I asked questions along the way. Her recommendation for lunch was fantastic! We so loved the food and the ambience. What a beautiful place! Her relaxed attitude was perfect for the day of exploring this very unique area. She sat with us at lunch and she and my tween daughter chatted and chatted.
Kusadasi/Ephesus: Mine Taner
Mine Taner was our guide for Kusadasi and Ephesus. We love her cheerful, happy enthusiasm. The kids LOVED her so much think they would have gone home with her! She discussed our options for the day and we made adjustments along the way. Her ability to make adjustments on the fly made her perfect. We happened to be out exploring on a very hot day and needed to explore at our own pace with the intense heat in mind. She suggested a restaurant for lunch and helped choose local specialties – the owner of the place is a wrestler! The craziest show was on the TV in the dining room which she helped us appreciate by translating. It was the equivalent of the show “Funniest Home Videos” that we have in the United States. This international version of it had the kids in stitches. What an unexpected relaxing break during a hot day of sight seeing. Some might think watching a few minutes of that TV show is a ‘waste of time’ but it wasn’t. It was a peek into the culture of the country and the kids will never forget it!
What made Mine the best travel guide EVER was that she had the kids entertained while we bought a rug. Buying a rug is a pretty long process and she had them sitting on the rugs imaging they were taking a magic carpet ride. “Where are you going on your magic carpet ride?” she asked. Then she took them outside and introduced them to the store’s pets (All stores and restaurants seem to have cats and kittens around. The Turks LOVE animals.) including a three legged dog. She talked to them about school and shared the differences about son’s school in Turkey.
How much does Lale, of SRM Travel, know about Istanbul? Well, she and her husband literally helped write the book!
Check out the inside back cover of Rick Steves’ Istanbul book:
If you have questions large or small in Turkey or nearby Iran call Lale at SRM Travel Agency. She will help make your family stay a once in a lifetime experience! Tell her The Educational Tourist sent you! Lale extended us discounted rates for her guides, but NOT in exchange for me writing anything – just as a perk for a fellow traveler. The review was my idea and SHE is fantastic!
Happy family travels!
Natalie, The Educational Tourist