If you’re for the first time in a city, especially one as big as Istanbul, it can be quite difficult and confusing to know the how-to’s, so any advice is valuable. This post won’t tell you about the best sightseeing places in Istanbul, but rather I collected a few tips and tricks that should help you to explore Istanbul easier.
1. Behavior in the Bazaar
Visiting the bazaar was one of my favorite experiences in Istanbul. Before entering and getting into this giant oriental shop, my boyfriend set up some rules to follow when making purchases: always bargain, don’t be too excited and impressed (I had some trouble with this one) when purchasing something, try to buy only products that have written price tags and don’t be the typical naive tourist. These rules will help you to make better deals, aside from that: have fun and take as many impressions with you as possible!
2. Language Essentials
Locals will appreciate, when you try to speak their language although your pronunciation will not be the best. Just give it a try!
Merhaba – Hello!
Güle güle! – Bye!
Evet, hayır – Yes, no
Teşekkür ederim! – Thank you.
3. Getting Around
You will probably use some of Istanbul’s public transportation possibilities such as the famous red tramway near Taksim or the sloping Tünel (which I recommend you take one time in the European part). 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.
A special kind of transport is the so-called Dolmuş bus. It is a shared minibus that drives pre-determined short routes but has no assigned stops. You can hop in, say where you want to stop and get out there. It can seem a bit like a wild ride, but the buses are safe to use and I was excited during my first drive.
4. Ask the Locals
As in every place the locals know the best places to shop, eat, party and more. Don’t be afraid of asking. Turkish people are known for their hospitality and they will gladly help you. One of the best restaurants that we ate at in Istanbul was actually an insider tip of a local. We wouldn’t have found this great little family restaurant, which was hidden in a side road, by ourselves.
5. Currency Exchange
Eventually you will need to exchange your money into Turkish Lira. To get the best value for your money, make sure that you exchange at an office, which is not located in the touristy places. Go to currency exchange offices that do not show their exchange rate displayed in big and bright red letters and as always: ask the locals.
Usually you tip around 10% in a restaurant in Istanbul, but some places have service fees already included, so that no tipping is necessary. Make sure to check the receipt before paying in order to save money, which can better be spent somewhere else.
7. Try New Food
You have probably eaten or have at least heard of Turkish food like kebabs and baklava. Although they are very tasty, you should give other specialities a chance. For example, I tried Manti (Turkish dumplings) for the first time in Istanbul and I liked them so much that I had Manti three times during my week there. Don’t be afraid to try new dishes even when it sounds weird at first, maybe it’s your next favorite food. You never know until you’ve tried it.
What are your experiences in Istanbul? Have you some valuable tips for future Istanbul travelers?