© All Rights Reserved jikgoe
Istanbul, the city which divides Asia and Europe, is the only city in the world which is situated on two continents. This city of (officially) 13 million inhabitants - the largest city in Turkey - celebrates a unique culture which fuses eastern and western influences and a history stretching back as far as 5500 BC. It's a city which can easily compete with the most beautiful cities in Europe or even the world and walking around its historic streets and along mosques and bridges, you will soon see why. Be sure to spend at least 3 or 4 days here, as there is a lot to explore, especially on the European side, though don't forget to pay a visit to the lesser known Asian side.
Most visitors to Istanbul spend little if any time on the Asian side. This is a real shame because Kadikoy and the other suburbs along the Bosphorous have a lot to offer. Istanbul is quite literally where Europe and Asia meet. The Asian side reflects its name and stands in its own right as worthy of a visit.
© All Rights Reserved DiegoJesus
The Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofia is a former mosque, and former church in the old European part of Istanbul. It was the leading church for the Eastern Orthodox church for over 900 years, until the sack of Constantinople in 1453, after which it was converted into a mosque. It remained a mosque for almost 500 years, as in 1935 it was converted into a museum by orders from the first president of Turkey: Atatürk. The builing has suffered a great bit of damage during the centuries (especially the dome), because of earthquakes and fires, but has always been rebuild soon after. A large numbers of the christian mosaics became visible in the 1930's, during restaurations.
The area around the Bosphorus is a treat, especially if you book a cheap ferry ride from the local companies on the terminal. Once on the ferry, you can easily savour the different architecture of the Anatolian and the European side, highlighting the way in which the blend of these two cultures underpins the nature of Istanbul. The bridge over the bosphorus is also a great landmark.
There are many ferries that crisscross the strait, the longest distance is the popular public ferry service that leaves from Eminonu and traverses up the strait for 1 hours and 30 minutes to reach Anadolu Kavagi, stopping at a number of small village stops along the way. The same ferry returns back to Eminonu after a halt of 3 hours. This costs 13 YTL for a single trip and 20 YTL for round trip. Many of the tourists get down at Sariyer (70 minutes from Eminonu), have a seafood lunch at one of the restaurants and then proceed by bus/minibus for a 30 minute ride to the Black Sea resort of Kilyos. Check the official Istanbul Ferry website for more information on ferry routes, schedules and fare. This cheaper alternative is often confused with the touted tourist cruise up the strait, whilst a good service and with English commentary it is more informative, it is a lot more expensive.
Once you are finished with the ferry trip you can easily go around the area where there are lots of small clothing stores and electronic outlets as well as restaurants. The food tastes great and so do the Turkish desserts like baklawa. The Turkish people love their ice cream and you can easily observe the ubiquitous ice cream stalls. Kadikoy is the commercial centre of the Asian side suburbs. Whether you arrive by bus or ferry, you will disembark a short 5-minute walk from the centre of the action in Kadikoy. Both the main (Eminonu - Kadikoy) ferry terminal and the bus / minibus terminal are collocated adjacent to the main traffic intersection on Kadikoy.
© All Rights Reserved Derdia
The Galata Bridge in the European part of Istanbul spans the Golden Horn at the entrance of the waterway, just west of the famous Bosphorus. The current bridge is already the 5th bridge at this location. There had been plans since the early 16th century, but the first one opened only in 1845. The current 490-metre-long Bascule type bridge opened in 1994. Until 1930, there was a toll fee to cross the bridge. The longest span of the bridge is 80 metres and it's 42 metres wide. There are walkways, roads and recently even a tramway across the bridge, making the bridge one of just a few moveable bridges in the world with electrified rail.
Kilyos is a seaside resort located in the north coast and Sariyer district of Istanbul. Kilyos is well-known for its beautiful and famous beaches, nice hotels, restaurants and summer activities. In Kilyos you may have a nice weekend activity such as having a nice dinner in its seaside restaurants, having an excellent relaxing holiday in its great hotels or having silent and calm moments with the company of endless seas and nature. Kilyos is surrounded by the Black Sea from north region and the forests from the south region. It is ideal for weekend activities for every season. Especially in summer population increases. With its specialties, Kilyos became one of the most important vacation and tourism towns in Istanbul. Kilyos is 11 kilometres to Sariyer, 32 kilometres to Taksim and 50 kilometres to Istanbul Ataturk Airport.
Everybody knows Istanbul, its beauty and history. But not many people know about the old Polish village located just inside the city with its heavenly nature, culture and history. It is time to discover Polonezkoy, where still Polish people live.
It was founded by Adam Czartoryski in 1842. Polonezkoy-Adampol, within Istanbul is a cultural and historical event that has never before been seen in the world. Lets check out the brief history of the village. The village is the one and only place in Istanbul that is very close to the city centre and it makes the town easy for arrival. The village is very popular especially for the weekend activities and attractions. Polonezkoy's Club Hotels, Pensions and Restaurants are serving great opportunities for their guests. There are many hotels, pensions, restaurants and garden barbecue places within Polonezkoy. "House of the Memory of Zofia Ryży" where the village's history and photographs are exhibited; "Częstochowa's Church" which was built during the years 1900-1914; "Polish Cemetery"; " Polonezkoy Culture House"; "Open air exhibition center of wooden carving art"; "Apiculture Museum and Souvenir Shops"; "BMX Bicycle Track" and "5 kilometre walking and jogging track" are the places of interest.
Istanbul has a temperate climate with maritime influences. Summer is hot and humid averaging around 28 °C during the day and around 18 °C at night, but is mostly below 30 °C. Winter is cold and wet averaging 2 °C at night and 8 °C during the day, and although rarely below freezing during the day is also unpleasant like the summer. The humidity of the city is constantly high which makes the air feel much harsher than the actual temperatures, particularly during summer and winter, even though the temperatures during both seasons are rarely extreme. That is why cold waves (below 0 °C during the day) during winter and heat waves (above 32 °C during the day) during summer are not common; while cold spells (below 15 °C during the day) during summer and warm spells (above 15 °C during the day) during winter are even rarer and therefore exceptional.
Snowfall, which occurs almost annually, is common between the months of December and March, with an annual total snow cover of 19 days, but average winter snowfall often varies considerably from year to year, and snow cover usually remains only for a few days after each snowfall, even if it snows a lot. The second half of May to the first half of June and the second half of September to the first half October are very pleasant and therefore the best times to visit: as it is not cold and nor hot, and still sunny, though the nights can be chilly and rainfall is common.
For visitors an umbrella is essential during spring, autumn and winter, and during the summer to avoid the sun and occasionally the rain.
Light clothing is recommended during summer and a light jacket and/or light sweater if the summer evenings do become chilly, warm clothing is essential during winter and a mixture of the two during spring and autumn. Also take note that due to its huge size, topography and maritime influences, Istanbul exhibits a multitude of distinct microclimates. That is why different parts of Istanbul can experience different weather conditions at the same time. For example, at the same moment, it can be heavily raining in Sarıyer in the north, mildly raining in Levent (northern terminus of metro line), while Taksim, the southern terminus of metro line, is having a perfectly sunny day.
|Avg Max||8.7 °C||9.1 °C||11.2 °C||16.5 °C||21.4 °C||26 °C||28.4 °C||28.5 °C||25 °C||20.1 °C||15.3 °C||11.1 °C|
|Avg Min||2.9 °C||2.8 °C||3.9 °C||7.7 °C||12 °C||16 °C||18.5 °C||18.7 °C||15.5 °C||12 °C||8.5 °C||5.3 °C|
|Rainfall||87.3 mm||71.3 mm||63.2 mm||44.9 mm||32.6 mm||25.3 mm||23.7 mm||23.6 mm||44.3 mm||70.7 mm||84.7 mm||106.7 mm|
There are two international airports serving Istanbul. They are both served by taxi and public transport. Most hotels will provide a transfer service for approximately €20. This is expensive when compared to public transport but for two people it is similar to the taxi fare. Consider the hotel transfer if you arrive late at night or are with more people.
The Atatürk International Airport (IST) is located on the European side of Istanbul, 25 kilometres northwest of Sultanahmet. It is one of the busier airports in Europe and in the top 25 regarding international passengers. Most of the main airlines for international destinations arrive and depart from Ataturk International.
To/from the airport:
The smaller Asian side airport, Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW), is further out of town. Some 50 kilometres or so from Sultanahmet (on the European side) this is where many of the domestic airlines and budget airlines arrive and depart.
Both of the airports have shuttles, Havas, to Taksim, Kadikoy, and Levent, which cost 10 YTL for a single journey. However Sabiha Gokcen has a local bus E-10) which gets you to Kadikoy for YTL 2.60. A 30-minute ferry ride will then get you to the European side: Eminonu. Look for a tram and take the one going left for YTL 1.40 2 stops to Sultanahmet (display with state the stop you will be at) to get your (cheap) accommodation if this is where you are headed. Street name signs are not common in Istanbul.
There are no mainline trains in central Istanbul. Trains to Europe via Bucharest or Sofia historically ran from the 3 Sirkeci station, but this line is disrupted by the Marmaray project and by other work in Bulgaria. There are replacement buses from Sirkeci, at the usual departure time of 10 pm, to link with the westbound train, and returning from the incoming train around 8 am (but often very late). As the engineering work grinds on this link has variously been at Halkali at the city’s edge, at Cerkezkoy 115 km away, or at Kapikule on the Bulgarian border. This project has been interminably delayed and (as at 2016) no completion is in sight. Sirkeci was also the terminus for international trains to Thessaloniki and these too are suspended indefinitely. So the station has no trains, but the ticket office remains open, and the escalator just outside gives access to Sirkeci Marmaray station for metro services across the Bosporus. Also from July 2016, a regional train to Edirne runs once a day from Halkali.
You probably need a visa in advance to enter Turkey by train – see the note on visas in the separate page on Ataturk airport.
Trains east to Ankara and beyond historically ran from 4 Haydarpaşa, Asian side of the Bosporus, but this closed in 2012. High speed trains (“YHT”) now run from 5 Pendik, 25 km east of city centre. The simplest way there is by Marmaray line under the Bosporus then metro to Pendik metro station, then walk or taxi 1.5 km south down Adnan Menderes Bvd to Pendik mainline station. Allow 90 minutes for all this, and note that the first metro of the morning will not get you there in time for the first Ankara train at 6.30 am. To return into the city, exit Pendik mainline station north side via the subway to emerge at the transport drop-off / pick-up point. You could take a taxi from here to Pendik metro station, or on foot turn right (east) along the highway which then turns north up Adnan Menderes Bvd towards the metro; or if a westbound 251 bus is just about to depart, take it as far as Kartal metro station on the same line. (Until October 2016, the metro terminated at Kartal, so this was the usual route between city centre and YHT.)
Pendik has a frequent YHT service to Eskişehir (2 hours) and Ankara (3½ hours), and a twice daily service to Konya (4½ hours). Also Pendik is convenient for Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen airport (10 km, taxi or bus) so consider this route if you intend to fly in and immediately head east.
For timings and reservations (strongly recommended) see TCDD (Turkish Republic State Railways). For destinations in eastern Turkey, take the YHT to Ankara and change, but see that page for disruptions to those services, expected to last till 2018. For Adana, travel via Konya and Karaman. The international trains to Iran, Syria and Iraq are suspended indefinitely, but the train to Georgia may resume in 2017.
The YHT line between Pendik and Haydarpaşa is due to be completed in 2018, so Haydarpaşa will again become the Asian terminus, and travel times to Ankara and other cities will be reduced by over an hour. At some future date, mainline trains will also run through the Marmaray tunnel to a European terminus at Halkali.
It's not advised to drive into Istanbul if you are not used to the heavy traffic and sometimes hazardous driving conditions by locals.
Buses and coaches terminate at the colossal 6 Esenler bus station (Esenler Otogar, also called Bayrampaşa Otogar, albeit rarely), about 10 km west of the city centre, located on the European side. With 168 ticket offices and gates, shops, restaurants, hotel, police station, clinic and mosque, the Büyük Otogar ("big bus station") is a town in itself, although lacking a central information desk, so you will have to ask around the individual offices for prices and timetables for your destination. Courtesy minibuses (servis) provided by the bus companies for free or taxis will easily get you into the centre. The metro (M1A, M1B) also stops at the otogar.
In addition to any city and sizeable town across the country, there are several daily buses to/from cities in Bulgaria, Greece, Republic of Macedonia and Romania. From/To Thessaloniki (Greece): ticket prices are around €45 (one way), €80 return. From/To Sofia and Varna (Bulgaria): c. €25 (one way). From/To Skopje (Macedonia): c. €40 (one way).
A secondary hub for the European side is at 7 Alibeyköy near the outer beltway of Istanbul. Despite its orderly and cool steel-and-glass look, and much smaller size compared with Esenler, this is an unexpectedly chaotic bus station. With no convenient public transport connecting it to the city centre, you may find it useful only for getting to/from the offices of the bus companies around the Taksim Square, provided that a servis bus is available (better to ask in advance than to stuck in the middle of nowhere).
Right on the banks of the Bosphorus, 8 Harem (not to be confused with the ladies' quarter of the Topkapı Palace with the same name) is the major hub for the buses on the Anatolian (Asian) side, which can be reached easily from Sirkeci on the European side with a ferry. However, instead of driving into this station, some bus companies (especially the larger ones offering a long list of destinations) nowadays put up their own hubs in scattered locations in the suburbs of this side, taking the passengers out with servis buses from central areas such as Kadıköy.
Bus from Georgia terminates at Aksaray bus terminal, near Yenikapi metro station.
In Taksim, Sultanahmet and Kadikoy you will find many bus options for the whole country, and ferries along the Bosphorus and out to the Princes Islands. As you leave the ferry terminal, Kadikoy appears to the front and left of you. Along the coast to the left you will find the other ferry terminals and over the busy road to the left you will find a myriad of small tourist offices providing transfers and bus services to most other cities in Turkey. The main bus terminal on the left of the ferry terminal, also provides a central location for minibuses and city buses to most parts of the city, including the airport on the Asian side. You’ll also notice another significant difference: a lot less tourists.
Istanbul's public transit system can be difficult to figure out; the lines connect poorly, maps are rare and you often have to transfer, and pay another fare, to get where you are going. However, if you put some effort into it, you can avoid taxis and not walk too much.
Each time you use a tram, metro, bus, or boat on the public transport system, you will need to use a token. The small plastic tokens cost 4 TL (Jan 2016) and can be bought at various ticket kiosks & machines at bus, railway and metro stations. Ticket fares across buses, trams and metros are at a flat rate (i.e. not dependent on how far you go). Only cash in Turkish lira is accepted at ticket kiosks of public transport, no credit cards or foreign currency. Also be aware that the Istanbul subway system does not offer transfer tickets and as such each new line requires a new fare, unless you use an Istanbulkart.
The İstanbulkart is Istanbul's public transport smart card, which can be used as a ticket on buses, trams, suburban trains, metro, local ferries, etc. If you are in Istanbul for more than a day or two and intend to use public transport, it will pay for itself in a few trips.
You touch the Istanbulkart to a reader when you get on the bus or enter the tram or metro platform. The great advantage for a group of travellers is that you can buy only one and touch it as many times as there are passengers (unlike London's Oyster card, there is no need to touch out). You can buy or refill them at designated booths located at any major bus, tram, to metro station, as well as some other places such as newspaper stands close to bus stops. There are refill machines located at most metro or tram stops and ferry terminals. An Istanbulkart provides significantly discounted rates (almost twice as cheap) compared to regular single tickets, as well as discounts on transfers and short round trips (when used multiple times within a limited period, roughly an hour and a half since the last time you used it). For instance, a trip with Istanbulkart costs c. TRY2.15, while a single ticket is c. TRY4.0. The round trip to the airport pays for more than half the cost of this card. You must purchase the card (TRY10) with TRY4 as its balance, the card is not refundable, and neither is any credit left on the Istanbulkart. The card can be purchased at a number of small corner shops throughout the city.
Istanbul's first underground system dates back to 19th century, when the funicular subway "Tünel" was constructed to operate from Karaköy to Istiklal Street in 1875, travelling 573 metres up a steep hill. It's still running to this day and is handy for going from Galata Bridge (Beyoglu side) to the famous Istiklal Caddesi (main street).
Istanbul's modern metro consists of five lines, only the first two of which are of much use to the casual visitor:
Heavy construction on extensions and new lines continues apace, with the gap between the M1 and the M2 plugged with Yenikapı station. You can connect M4 via Marmaray from Yenikapı station.
There is also a funicular system connecting Taksim to Kabataş where you can get on ferries and cross to the Anatolian side, and also transfer to trams bound for the old city.
Nowadays, most metro stations do not have a staffed ticket booth, so you will have to obtain your token from automatic token dispensers. Insert coins or notes and then press the button marked onay/okay. A token costs 4 TL on any urban rail in Istanbul though an Istanbulkart (see above) may be more cost effective during your trip.
For destinations within Istanbul, IETT buses service most of the city and all of the areas frequented by tourists. Intra city transit generally cost less than 3 YTL. In Taksim square, Eminonu and Kadikoy buses leave frequently. Routes are described on the shelters next to the halts and advertised on the destination rollers on the front and side of the buses. Some drivers on common routes speak some English.
The blue minibus routes are generally fixed, different colours depict different routes. Though initially very confusing, the minibus system is a godsend for the thrifty traveller. Provided you understand the general direction of your destination you can flag down a minibus, pay the fare (approx 1.50 YTL) and you will be on your way. Frequently overcrowded and always a little unpredictable, the minibus ride is a typical (sometimes hair raising) Istanbul experience not to be missed.
Dolmuş (Dolmush), the yellow mini vans, smaller than a minibus, are also a convenient, but expensive methods of quickly getting around. The destinations are advertised in the front window and will generally wait until they are full to depart. The fares are less than taxi but more than minibus – generally it will cost about 5 YTL to cross the river.
As in many cities, taxi rides can be expensive and, unless you are in a group, or on business, not an ideal way to travel. They are however, the most convenient and direct path to your destination – most of the time. There are stories of the old taxi scam known the world over being played out in Istanbul, where a taxi driver takes a ride around the same block 3 or 4 times and passes the full fare on to the customer.
© All Rights Reserved adamandmeg
Trams service a variety of routes around the city. There is currently a link between Besiktas on the European side, and Sultanahmet in the heart of the Golden Horn. There is also a route that navigates the length of Istiklal Caddesi in Taksim. In Kadikoy there is a circular route that provides a welcome diversion to the constant pedestrian traffic and is a good way of seeing much of the Moda and Kadikoy suburb.
A ferry to Eminonu (Sultanahmet) or Karakoy (Taksim) will cost 1.3 YTL. Great views of the city, Maidens Tower, Galata Tower and Sultanahmet. A trip over the river provides magnificent views (especially by night) of the city. Be aware that the last ferry from Europe to Asia and vice versa leaves at 8:30pm. After that time, you are restricted to the longer road trip over the bridge. Check the Istanbul Ferry website for more information about routes, schedules and prices.
A great way to see the city and also window shop. Public transportation is a mere pace away and cheap enough should your feet not last days pounding the pavements (a Turkish massage may help).
Unfortunately bikes are not very popular in Istanbul. The traffic is crazy! The drivers are not even friendly to other drives thus bikers are not even part of the question.
Although not recommended, Istanbul can be negotiated by car. Be prepared for sometimes chaotic situations, drivers that really don't care and busy traffic and difficult parking.
Most Istanbul restaurants offer a high standard of food, as anything less wouldn't satisfy the locals. A good opportunity to watch local performances and belly dancing while eating some traditional Turkish dishes is possible at Sultana's Dinner and 1001 Nights Show in Elmadag, Taksim, which is central Istanbul.
Sultanahmet Koftecisi is a famous restaurant that makes Turkish meatballs, köfte, and has been around for nearly a century. It's located in Sultanahmet.
A good idea is to stay over in the Sultanahmet area, since this is the heart of where most backpackers stay. It can also be classified as the centre of the city as most of the monuments in Istanbul are within walking distance or easily accessible through the transport network.
In summer, many hostels fill up and offer rooftop beds with no security and limited services (but the best views of the city) for as little as 5 USD a night.<
Visa requirements change regularly so you should check out the current situation from your country foreign office.
There are no shortages of language schools willing to employ native English speakers as teachers. While many will request qualification in TEFL, TESOL or other ESL courses, most will also hire on the spot. Pay is relatively good and, for the shrewd negotiator, there are some good deals to be had. Be wary of contracts offering a deal too good to refuse, they often come with a sting in the tail. Common ESL sites online can provide points of contact and advertisements / job offers.
Istanbul University - next to the Grand Bazaar. Handy as next to the Book Bazaar for cheap text books. Many Turkish students study there.
Undoubtedly Istanbul is the center of Turkish LGBTT (Lesbian and Gay) life. Like many other cities in the world, Istanbul may not be all that comfortable for LGBTT travelers but it definitely has a big LGBTT community and culture behind the scenes. Everyday more LGBTT people are becoming outspoken. One has to know where to go in order to explore such culture and has to be careful when meeting new people in this culture. Taksim is considered to be the center of LGBTT life in Istanbul, as well the center of night life in general. There is a list of places friendly to the LGBTT community.
Internet cafes can be found everywhere except small rural villages. The cost of an hour use of internet ranges from 1 YTL to 1.5 YTL. Wireless internet is becoming popular in some cafes in big cities such as Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, and at airpots. But in many other places it's still not available, or sometimes at a very high cost.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Turkey's international country code is 90. Dial 112 for an ambulance anywhere, from any telephone, without a charge. In case of a fire, dial 110; for police, call 155. However, in rural areas there is not a police coverage, so dial 156 for gendarme, a military unit for rural security. All these numbers are free of charge and can be called from a telephone booth without inserting a calling card, or any phone including cell phones.
There are telephone booths owned by Turk Telekom in major parts of cities. public phones now operate with chip telekom cards which are available in 30, 60 or 120 units and can be obtained at post offices, newspaper and tobacco kiosks.
It is estimated that approximately 98% of the population of Turkey lives within the coverage areas of Turkey’s three cell phone line providers. Line providers from most countries have roaming agreements with one or more of these companies. Pre-paid mobile phone SIM cards can be purchased for approximately TRY20-50. These can be purchased at the airport on arrival or from the many outlets in Istanbul and other large cities. Providers include Vodaphone.
PTT is the national post service in Turkey. Services are generally moderately fast but quite reliable. There is an extended price list on the PTT website, where you can see the costs of sending items within Turkey, countries in Europe and further afield. For sending packages one might also use international companies such as DHL and UPS and local companies such as Yurtici Kargo. Post offices bear the distinctive yellow PTT sign and are generally open between 9:00am to 12:00 noon and 1:30pm to 5:00pm from Monday to Friday. Some might keep longer hours or be open during the weekend as well, but this mainly applies to the larger ones or those in central places and tourist areas.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Istanbul searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Istanbul and areas nearby.
Ask turtlesmarch a question about Istanbul
i lived in istanbul for 10+ years
Ask fatihy a question about Istanbul
I live in here almost 15 years and I like to discovering city still. I enjoy to help people coming around.
Ask cyesilkaya a question about Istanbul
I was born in istanbul. I have been almost all the traveller locations here. I was guide for my foreign friends
I am also a traveller who travel around of the world, so I can understand what a traveller needs
I can speak turkish,english,portuguese and spanish so can help more people
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License