Hands-down, Turkey’s most popular summer vacation destination Bodrum may be best known for its luxurious hotels, trendy beach clubs and magnificent marinas; however, it is still possible to visit this mega-town and peninsula off the southwestern tip of Turkey without breaking the bank.
We have all heard the stories of the 100 TL ($13.35) lahmacun and döner being sold for 350 TL ($46.73) a pop in Bodrum’s paparazzi hot spot of Türkbükü; however, such situations are few and far between and cater to a specific crowd. After all, Bodrum is also home to the likes of the Qatari royals and Russian billionaire and Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, whose mega yachts have both been anchored off Yalıkavak this week. Yet, the backpackers and budget travelers reading this can relax, as while Türkbükü and Yalıkavak just happen to be the chicest and most upscale regions in the peninsula, there are also a number of different neighborhoods that offer much more affordable holiday options.
WHERE TO STAY
I bet you didn’t know that Bodrum actually offers a number of comfortable camping possibilities. That’s right, some of the most popular regions in Bodrum have campsites that also rent out bungalows, have shared barbequing areas and offer social activities for guests. The following are five of the best and most popular campgrounds serving as affordable accommodation options in Bodrum.
Wanderheaven in Gümüşlük
The newest addition of campsites in Bodrum is Wanderheaven, which is located in the heart of Gümüşlük, one of the most picturesque and popular regions in the entire peninsula. Just a stone’s throw from the sea and colorful stretch of gourd lamps that line the cafes and restaurants along the shore, Wanderheaven is a welcome addition as an affordable and comfortable accommodation option as a base in Bodrum. You can bring your own tent or rent one of theirs, or stay in a bungalow all of which are spaced out under the shade of tangerine trees.
Volo in Gürece
Volo Camping offers campsites as well as a variety of budget accommodation options ranging from en suite bungalows to converted caravans. Set in the forested hilltop of Gürece and located right off the main road, Volo Camping is easily accessible by public transport; however, an approximately 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) walk from the sea. There is a pool overlooking the peninsula and ample chill-out areas on the premises, so you don’t actually have to go anywhere to get a good dose of relaxation and nature.
Zetaş in Gümbet
Zetaş Camping is a true and tried camp and caravan grounds located in Gümbet, a neighborhood in Bodrum that in the past was known for being popular with British package tourists and having a rowdy nightlife. While this year is a bit different with nightclubs pretty much closed, the usual downside to this destination is it can be loud and close to the crowds on the beach. However, it is located in a wonderful forested area near the sea as well as the bustling Gümbet neighborhood and thus offers the best of both worlds.
Ecofarm & The Camp in Turgutreis
Situated nearly side-by-side, but separate campsites in their own right, both Ecofarm and The Camp are located in Kadıkalesi, a coastal neighborhood that connects the more well-known regions of Gümüşlük and Turgutreis. Both venues are spread out in citrus gardens parallel to the sea and offer a calm environment in a farm-like setting. Ecofarm operates more as an international backpackers’ hostel, with dorm rooms and tent options, sprawled over 7,000 square meters (75,347 square feet). It is much more established and well-known among the international and organic-lovers’ community, whereas The Camp is more for families with various animals roaming the premises and the option to stay in either tents or bungalows.
WHERE TO EAT AND SHOP
Luckily in Turkey, there is a wonderful array of healthy, delicious and affordable street food that will not empty out your pockets. Despite the daunting headlines of prices in Bodrum in summer, from lahmacun to döner to çiğ köfte, for the most part, neighborhood establishments will serve up these delectable meals at extremely low prices. If one hangs out on the beach long enough, you will inevitably hear the call for corn on the cob or stuffed mussels, both items of which are regularly sold from carts that roam the shore. Head to any one of the dozen or so weekly farmers market where you can not only purchase your own produce, cheese and olives but many of times you can find fresh gözlemes being prepared, which are stuffed flat phyllo pastries that are grilled on an iron plate by a local woman and can contain anything from cheese and fresh herbs, to potatoes and eggplant. Other local delights include lokma, which are fried balls of dough soaked in a sweet syrup, ice cream of which Bodrum has a number of local brands and waffles, which are topped with everything sweet you can think of except the kitchen sink are all affordable desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth.
As for shopping, many of the weekly farmer’s markets also have clothing and gift sections or there are separate markets held solely for these items on specific days of the week. You can find loads of fun gift options and souvenirs such as clothing and textiles, accessories and household decorations that will be authentically Turkish and inexpensive. Bodrum also has a weekly flea market held in Bitez on Sundays that is fun to peruse as there is pretty much anything you can imagine, spanning from antiques to second-hand clothes and jewelry with some stalls also set up by expats who donate the proceeds to help street animals.
The top tip... ask first
The best advice to ensure you stick to your budget is to ask the prices first before you indulge in anything, whether it be laying down on a sunbed or downing a döner. This is just wise and good practice anywhere in the world to make sure you know what you are spending before you are handed over a hefty bill. Check to see what the prices are on the menu and if there are none visible, then ask away and don’t be shy, because there can be a vast variation in prices and venues that is not discernible to the naked eye. While two fish restaurants could be located side by side, one could very easily be much pricier than the other and there is no way of knowing necessarily unless you ask. Also never assume that a sunbed is free of charge and make sure to find out what the cost is to simply lounge or what you may be obligated to spend while sunbathing.