There are often trade-offs when it comes to budget travel. Obviously it saves you money which is the biggest plus when on a budget trip, but also entails some sacrifices that need to be made along the way.

This was the case when we booked a flight on Wizz Air, a budget carrier from Luton to Istanbul. We were both excited and nervous at the same time as there were many negative reviews about the airline.

However our experience with Wizz Air was actually quite positive. For a start, nobody made you push your carryon case in the template to see if you are overweight or oversized. Staff was a lot more polite and professional and we did not feel any intimidation from anyone. 

Wizz Air, known for its no-nonsense attitude, did not deviate from expectations. The lack of basic facilities was compensated for by an extensive range of paid services, which included selecting seats together as a family to getting prized window seats. Despite the no frill banner, the seats and legroom were surprisingly good for a budget airline. The entertainment options were limited, but with a four-hour flight ahead, we brought our own distractions.

Upon arrival at Istanbul International Airport, the immigration and visa procedures went pretty well. A quick appearance before an immigration agent and a few passport stamps later, we were ready to start our journey in this marvellous city. The airport’s huge architecture was impressive, and there were literally hundreds of outlets for food, currency exchange, customer service and sim card outlets.

Navigating the minefield of currency conversion proved to be a financial challenge.  Similarly, the idea of obtaining a local SIM card was shelved in favour of frugality, a decision that would soon create its own set of challenges.

As experienced travellers, we recognised the critical need of internet connection in an unfamiliar country. However, our unwillingness to purchase a SIM card left us facing communication and logistical challenges. We were in Istanbul for only four days and were going to meet our local guide in a day’s time, so the idea of parting with a $45 sim card for 4 days did not push any urgency.

However, what followed was more challenging as obtaining an Istanbul Card, which is required for going through the city’s extensive public transit system, became a difficult undertaking until a kind stranger intervened. Helping hand of an English speaking Algerian student made this possible without any hitch and he even helped us board the right metro to start our journey in the city.

We travelled the maze of Istanbul’s transportation infrastructure, weaving between metro stations and bus terminals until we arrived at our rented property , thanks to the kindness of  many locals. The next 45-minute walk from the bus station to our property, burdened with luggage and linguistic difficulties, highlighted the need for internet access, in a country where English is not so widely understood. Every step we took through Istanbul’s congested streets, we encountered friendly individuals with sincere hospitality that removed linguistic barriers and made human compassion the universal language.

Finally, our experience with Wizz Air highlighted the difficulties that come with budget travel. While the cost-cutting tactics involve some sacrifices, it also encourages resiliency and creativity in the face of hardship. As we engage ourselves in Istanbul’s rich culture, each hurdle serves as a stepping stone to a better understanding of the city and its people.


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