Wander Or Bust: 5 Days In Cappadocia, Turkey For $500

By AnnaMarie Houlis

Wander or Bust is an Elite Daily travel series that follows young women/femme-identifying travelers all over the globe to record their journeys as they experience the thrill of the far-flung and unknown.

They'll track their budgets, where they stay, where they eat and drink, and where they took that amazing Instagram that got them ~maximum exposure~. The internet is full of travel advice, but none from young millennials just like you. Read on for the tips no one else gives you, and when in doubt, get on the plane.

Here's AnnaMarie Houlis' Wander Or Bust guide to Cappadocia, Turkey.

THE BASICS

My Name: AnnaMarie Houlis

What I Do: Travel Journalist

Where I Live: Nowhere and everywhere at the same time — I’m a homeless nomad currently living in a 1991 van somewhere on the East Coast of Australia.

Where I Went: Cappadocia, Turkey

How Long I Stayed: Five days and four nights

My Spending Style: I travel like a budget backpacker but like to treat myself (i.e. when in Cappadocia).

THE GAME PLAN

Where I Got My Recommendations: Instagram introduced me to Cappadocia, and I chatted with my local hotel owner about recommendations once I arrived.

Exchange Rate At Time Of Travel: $1 USD = $.16 Turkish Lira

What That Looks Like IRL: $50 USD = $303.22 Turkish Lira

Preferred Payment Method: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card (for the travel points)

Phone Bill: I bought a local SIM through Vodafone because I was spending a lot of time in Europe. I also have a backup international Verizon plan that costs me $10 per day if I need to switch SIMs.

Luggage Type: Carry-on Fjällräven Kajka 65L W trekking backpack

WHAT I PACKED

The 10 Most Important Items I Packed...

For my electronics:

1. SAUNORCH International Power Adapter

2. Skyroam Portable Wi-Fi

3. AC Outlet Portable Power Bank

The item you never knew you needed:

4. Tile Mate tracker

For exploring:

5. Birkenstocks

6. Hydro Flask Water Bottle

For my carry-on:

7. Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Cubes

My extra essentials:

8. YETI Rambler Insulated Wine Tumbler

9. The FinalStraw reusable straw

10. Master Lock Bluetooth Padlock

What Shoes I Brought: Birkenstocks. They're comfortable for exploring on foot by day, and debatably trendy enough to venture out by night.

HOW I GOT THERE

Mode of Transport: My partner at the time and I took a local overnight bus from Istanbul (around 12 hours). We were already traveling, so I flew into Istanbul from Dubai and he flew in from England.

Price: The bus cost us $120 Turkish Lira each ($20 USD)

Extra Costs: No extra costs

Transport Total: $120 Turkish Lira ($20 USD)

WHERE I STAYED

AnnaMarie Houlis

Accommodation: Star Cave Hotel

Location: Göreme, Turkey, 50180

Price: We got a discount on our stay because I was blogging about our time in Cappadocia. That being said, most accommodations will cost you about $40-$150 USD a night.

Extra Costs: No extra costs

Would I Recommend It To Someone Else: Absolutely. The Star Cave Hotel was conveniently located in the center of Göreme. The cave suites are stunning, adorned with antique-style knickknacks, ornamented glass lamps, cozy fireplaces and gorgeous Turkish rugs. Plus, the panoramic terraces surveying the valleys of Cappadocia are even more breathtaking. The breakfast is also worth a shoutout, and it’ll fill you up for the day of adventures ahead.

You really can’t go wrong with hotels in Cappadocia. Many of the conical caves and clandestine chambers have been converted into boutique hotels. And while vestiges of the region’s past are well preserved, the cave hotels all feature modern day comforts.

Accommodation Total: For an average four-night stay in Cappadocia, you’re likely looking at about $200-$400 USD.

THE FOOD SITUATION

AnnaMarie Houlis

Breakfast-Lunch Cost: Breakfast was included at the Star Cave Hotel. Lunch cost about $10 Turkish Lira ($1.65 USD), depending on where we ate.

Dinner Cost: Dinner also cost about $10 Turkish Lira ($1.65 USD), depending on where we ate.

Average Total Cost: About $20 Turkish Lira ($3.30 USD) per day

Tip Situation: All across Turkey, most people tip about 5% to 10% in cash (in Turkish Lira).

Food Situation: Turkish food is, by a long shot, my favorite cuisine — and I didn’t know that until I got there. While Turkish raviolis reign supreme in my book (I still dream of that yogurt sauce), travelers in Turkey are spoiled for choice of mouthwatering meals. (Read: kofta, kebabs, baklava…)

Favorite Restaurant: It’s hard to pick a single favorite, because the food all over Cappadocia (and Turkey, in general) is so good. Topdeck Cave and Organic Cave Kitchen are both wonderful.

Location: All over the Göreme area in Cappadocia

Price: You can buy a meal for about $10 to $20 Turkish Lira ($.82-$3.30 USD)

Honorable Mentions: Go anywhere with a rooftop or terrace in Cappadocia. Turkish food is delicious no matter where you eat it, but the views you can enjoy of the fairy chimneys really make the meal that much better in this spectacular place.

Food Total: I spent about $100 Turkish Lira ($16.48 USD) on food throughout my entire time in Cappadocia.

THE NIGHTLIFE SCENE

Nightlife Situation: Cappadocia is quite quiet at night. Your best bet is to grab a bottle of wine and head to Göreme’s Sunset Point. My then-partner, who is a musician, and I made friends with locals with whom we jammed most nights. Cappadocia is a wondrous destination, but it’s certainly not a party place (that’d ruin its quaint charm, after all). That being said, there are some local bars like Fat Boys and One Way Cafe.

What People Wear Out: Most restaurants and bars are casual, and you can get away with wearing whatever you want.

Average Cost Of A Pint: About $5 to $10 Turkish Lira (.82-$1.65 USD)

Extra Cost To Know About: While it’s generally OK to drink the tap water in Cappadocia, if you order water at a restaurant, you’ll likely be given a bottle, which will cost about $3 Turkish Lira (about $.50 USD).

Last Call: This depends on the place. Most places close around midnight or earlier, I’d say.

Average Total Cost Of A Night Out: A meal and a few drinks will probably cost you about $20 Turkish Lira ($3.30 USD).

Cheapest Bar I'd Actually Go Back To: I didn’t go to any bars, as my partner at the time and I spent the bulk of our nights in Cappadocia drinking store-bought wine and playing music under the stars with other travelers.

Going Out Total: I spent about $80 Turkish Lira ($13.18 USD) going out in Cappadocia during my time there, as I didn’t go to bars but did eat out for most meals.

HOW I SPENT MY DAYS

AnnaMarie Houlis

What I Spent A Lot On That Was Totally Worth It: A Royal Air hot air balloon ride over the famed fairy chimneys at sunrise

What I Spent A Lot of On That Was Totally Not Worth It: Nothing — every bit of this place is worth it.

What I Spent Little Or No Money On That Was Awesome: A handmade, woven choker necklace from a little old lady who welcomed me into her home, fed me a bunch of food, and gave me a necklace for a few bucks. I also bought some handwoven socks from here, but I wear the necklace way more often.

Favorite Thing I Did, Regardless Of Cost: Royal Air hot air balloon ride over the famed fairy chimneys at sunrise

Hidden Gem I Found: Göreme Sunset Point is hardly a “hidden” gem, but most people make the 15-minute walk up to watch the sun descend over the fairy chimneys. If you go after dark, however, you’ll have the place probably to yourself. Head up with a blanket and a bottle of wine and witness the cave homes come aglow and the stars sparkle over the magical landscape.

The Photo I Took That Got The Most Attention:

Excursions/Extras Total: Wandering around Cappadocia is a dream — you don’t even need to go on any excursions to explore, as you’re already immersed in ethereal beauty. You could spend no money at all and enjoy yourself.

That being said, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to take a hot air balloon ride. We went through a company called Royal Balloon, which offers two different daily balloon flights — a Royal King Flight and a Royal Queen Flight — both from which guests can take in Cappadocia’s undulating topography. The Royal King Flight is a 90-minute flight with a maximum of 12 passengers, and the Royal Queen Flight is a 60-minute flight with a maximum of 16 passengers.

You can usually find rides for about $200 to $300 per person, more or less, depending on the season, number of passengers, duration of flight and company.

A van picked us up from the Star Cave Hotel around 4 a.m. and chauffeured us to Royal Balloon’s headquarters for a hearty breakfast and some necessary Turkish coffee among our fellow aeronauts. Promptly on time, we all left for the launch site, where ground crews were finishing up their safety checks and firing up the balloons.

Then we floated over rippling waves of blush-tinged rock, rising in the balloon with the sun. Upon landing — tactfully on a moving truck, no less — we were met with chocolate-covered strawberries and champagne with which to toast to a magical morning.

Beyond the hot air balloon ride, we also meandered through Göreme National Park and the Kaymakli Underground City on our own time. My then-partner and I had rented a car to explore on our own for about $30 USD per day, but there are a ton of tours that take you to these destinations.

AnnaMarie Houlis

When we weren’t exploring the caves, we were exploring the boutiques full of Turkish lanterns and rugs. There’s one Insta-famous rug shop, Galarie Ikman, that has a drone and they’ll snap your photo for you laying in a heap of rugs like royalty for $20 Turkish Lira ($3 USD).

TAKEAWAYS

Best Cappadocia Hack: Rent a car so you can wander around on your own, getting lost in Cappadocia’s mind-boggling landscape well beyond Göreme. You can rent a car for about $30-$50 USD/24 hours depending on brand, size and transmission type.

Advice For Anyone Who's Traveling Alone: Cappadocia appeals to a variety of different travelers, but Göreme, the tourist town, is very much a quaint little town. This means that it’s more difficult to meet others in comparison to a lively backpacker town or big city like Istanbul, so you have to be willing to put yourself out there — join some tours and strike up conversations with locals. After all, they have endless stories about their home.

Total Trip Cost: About $500 USD

Worth It? 100% worth the trip to Cappadocia