Are you planning on visiting Istanbul? Then keep on reading! Istanbul is a city full of history, culture, amazing colours and fascinating scents. It will intrigue any and every traveler with it’s chaotic charm. If you’re in a city for the first time, especially one as big as Istanbul, it can be quite difficult and confusing to know the how-to’s, so any advice is valuable. So here’s the top 10 things you need to know when visiting Istanbul.
1. Location is key.
Istanbul is a huge city with approximately 17 million habitants and is situated on two continents – Asia and Europe. Choose a central location to explore the city. Good spots on the European sides are Beyoglu and Besiktas and Kadiköy on the Asian side.
2. Plan enough time
When you’re crossing the famous Bosphorus bridge, you will most likely get stuck in a traffic jam. It’s very common that you need more time than planned to get from one place to another in Istanbul. Always schedule more time.
3. Wear appropriate clothes when visiting religious sites
Respect the local culture and religion by dressing modestly. That means knees and shoulders should be covered. In addition, women need to cover their hair, too. Before entering, you should also remove your shoes. You can enter mosques outside the prayer times.
4. Do you need a visa?
As a German citizen, I can stay without a visa in Turkey for 90 days. However, most visitors will need a visa to enter Turkey. Make sure to check the requirements before traveling. Usually you can apply for an e-Visa, which is easy to acquire. You can find more information here.
5. Use the Istanbul Kart.
You will use some of Istanbul’s public transportation possibilities such as the famous red tramway near Taksim or the sloping Tünel. Whichever one you decide to use, the Istanbulkart will be a great acquirement. It’s a rechargeable boarding pass for all transport options and you get a 10% discount on all fares.
6. Make an itinerary.
Istanbul has a lot to offer to it’s visitors, so that it’s a good idea to make a plan before your trip. Write down all sightseeing sites, museums, restaurants and other places that you want to visit. The goal is to experience as much as you can without wasting your precious time in Istanbul.
7. Take loose change with you.
Have some coins in your pocket becomes it comes always in handy. You will use it when tipping in a restaurant, buying some water on the streets or if you’re in need of a public bathroom.
8. Istanbul has two airports.
There are two airports: one of the European side, called Atatürk International Airport (IST) and one on the Asian side, the Sabiha Gökcen International Airport (SAW). Choose an airport according to the place of your accommodation.
9. Where to exchange currency?
The currency exchange rates differentiate across town. You will get less for your money at the airport and near touristy attractions like the famous mosques. It’s better to exchange your money at offices off the beaten track.
10. Break the language barrier.
Locals will appreciate it, if you try to speak their language. Turkish is definitely not easy, but you should give it a try!
Merhaba – Hello!
Güle güle! – Bye!
Evet, hayır – Yes, no
Teşekkür ederim! – Thank you.
Do you have any tips for first time visitors to Istanbul?