If there is one thing you should take away from this blog, it is to put Istanbul at the top of your travel list. This city has everything a traveler could want: ancient history, distinct culture, delicious food, interesting religious buildings and so much more. I absolutely enjoyed my time here and cannot wait to come back.
Turkey is a fascinating country in and of itself. It is considered the bridge between the east and the west, having contained multitudes of empires and cultures over the centuries. If I could compare the level of history in Istanbul to another city, it would certainly be Rome, as both were part of the Roman Empire at a point. The level of importance of both cities can more be underscored enough.
While I would love to write more at this time, I want to continue to take in this holiday in Turkey, so I’ll only note some general tips now. Later I will add pictures and more thoughts and ideas of what was spectacular. For now…
- What to wear: While Istanbul is a cosmopolitan city by most standards, I would advise women to dress more conservatively/modest. I had men taking pictures when I wore shorts, which was obviously was unsettling. If you’re a woman visiting a mosque, they will have a skirt and scarf to use to cover yourself. Men, you will have to wear a skirt if you don’t cover your knees. So think about wearing longer shorts, to avoid the public ally used skirt.
- Transportation. There are lots of options for getting around: walking, ferry, tram, and metro. You should get one IstanbulKart for your group, it cost 6 TL for the card and you are charged only for use and not distance. It’s about 2.60 TL for tram use. I always recommend using the CityMapper app, which will give you fast and cheap ways to get to your destination. It does this by combining options for walking, a tram and a ferry to get somewhere.
- Where to stay: I personally would recommend staying in either galata tower area or in Sultanahmet area. These places would allow for the greatest access to sights and cut down on travel time.
- Paying for Sights: If you are spending close to or more than 5 days in Istanbul, I would recommend getting the museum pass (something like 76 TL). It allows for fast tracked entry, and if you visit a lot of museums, you will save money. Most of the main museums are included on this pass. I also found it helpful for narrowing down what to do, it gives me an itinerary of sorts.
- Getting out of the tourist area: Make sure to visit the Asian side, Taksim square, Prince’s Island, Maiden Tower, the Moda neighborhood, Cihangir Neighborhood, etc.
- Budgeting: Keeping things within your budget is easy. The lira is quite weak against the dollar. It was almost $1 USD to 6 TL. Make sure you have some cash on you, but most places accept credit card and if you don’t have a transaction fee associated with foreign charges, this is your best option.
- See a sunset in this hilly city: Make sure to check out a Terrace bar. (Rooftop = Terrace). The sunsets over Istanbul are legendary, so try to go a little bit before the sun starts to set to see Istanbul in an orange glow. The city is expansive, so you won’t have a bad view anywhere you look.
- Airports: IST is the new airport about half an hour from Sultanahmet. SAW is a bit of a jaunt, over an hour long bus ride, with possible ferry ride as well.