Istanbul is an amazing city with a long and interesting history, during which it has changed its name several times. Byzantium (the first name of Istanbul) was established by the ancient Greeks in the 7th century BCE. Later, Roman Emperor Constantine made it its capital and renamed the city New Rome. The same Emperor changed the title of this new Roman capital again, to Constantinople. After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, the city received its modern name.
Istanbul looks very intriguing and attractive, especially for people who like traveling and learning more about cultural and historical background. However, it is also a great chance to change the routine and see some new landmarks and sites. If you are looking forward to travelling to one of the key Turkish cities, you might need some recommendations. Below, you can find a lot of hints for visiting one of the most magnificent locations in Europe and Asia.
When to Go to Turkey
Visitors who plan to do sightseeing in Turkey and do other interesting things, should think about the appropriate season to attend Istanbul. It should be mentioned that summer can be extremely hot, with temperatures hitting 100 F (38 C), which is great for laying on the beach before the heat becomes unbearable or after it abates. However, this is not the best season of the year to go to some interesting places in Istanbul due to exhausting weather conditions.
Winter can be cold. Not extremely cold like in some regions of the north, but you might not feel comfortable when sightseeing in Istanbul at this time. It would be a good idea to do what you have planned from September to November and from February to May, when temperatures are comfortable.
Main Travel Tips for Tourists
Those arriving in Istanbul should pick the optimal way to reach this fascinating city in Turkey. Plenty of options that one can choose to get there are available. In particular, visitors can make a trip there by plane, train, bus, or even boat. This option totally depends on the initial points and preferences. For those who travel to Istanbul from abroad, you might choose a plane or a boat, while those who are already in Turkey and are looking forward to spending a couple of days in the city of Istanbul, you will definitely choose a bus or a train.
Meals to Taste
If you ask someone who has just returned from this country about his or her best impressions of it, you will definitely hear not only about monuments, natural beauties or other things related to sightseeing. You will also hear a lot about local meals that will leave no one unsatisfied. Once you find yourself in Istanbul, you should definitely taste Kestane. Roasted chestnuts are very popular in this part of the world and the country is famous for this food.
For fast-food fans there is another delicious meal that they should definitely try in this city. A so-called Islak Hamburger, which is made with a special tomato sauce, is good as a snack. However, you can also eat it as a breakfast in Istanbul.
If you have never been to Istanbul before, you will definitely be advised to taste Lahmacun, which is a kind of local pizza. Lahmacun is often served together with ayran, a local yogurt drink.
There are plenty of other meals that tourists should try when they are visiting Istanbul. The list of delicious meals also includes kumpit (which is one of the most appetizing kinds of baked potato), pilav (a dish made of rice), kokorex (which is made of sheep intestines), etc.
Istanbul Travel Tips: How to Prepare for the Trip in Advance
For those new to Istanbul, some things should be done beforehand in order to enjoy a smooth and seamless experience. First and foremost, you should better plan your stay in advance and book a place in a hotel. Devote some hours to monitor hotels or apartments and read reviews. Keep in mind that the famous Booking website is not available in Turkey.
Before heading to Istanbul, take care of planning the tours and other things in advance. If you are short in time and don't have weeks to spend in the largest city of Turkey, you can pick a special Istanbul cruise with dinner on a boat. For those who are looking for modern art, there is an excellent opportunity to admire street art. Gourmets can participate in the Istanbul Food Tour that takes place at night where they will taste local meals and buy some food that they will never find in other regions.
Purchase travel insurance beforehand. It would also be an excellent idea to buy a 2-day Istanbul E-pass that will provide you with access to some locations of interest as well as allow you to join all tours across one of the most fascinating cities in Turkey. With travel insurance you have nothing to worry about as it make your stay in Istanbul safer.
Last but not least, it is a good idea to plan all the things in advance. Istanbul is rich in incredible historical sites and it is better to know in advance what exact landmarks you are going to look at.
Do I Need a Visa for Traveling to Turkey?
It depends on your starting point and country of residence. Some nations don’t need to get permission to travel to Turkey, while others will have to obtain it to visit one of the greatest cities of the region. Anyway, you can visit the Turkish Visa Information website to apply for one or to find out more about whether you will have to obtain this permission to travel to Turkey.
Experiences Not to Miss in Istanbul
There are plenty of landmarks to look at in Istanbul, one of the largest Turkish cities. One of those tours that tourists buy when they are in Istanbul for the first time is cruising the Bosphorus. This is a great opportunity for tourists to have a glance at both parts of the state and to admire the magnificent Turkish city from the water.
For those who prefer shopping in Istanbul, it would be an excellent solution to visit the local bazaar, which is among those famous and attractive markets in the region. It includes 61 streets and 3,000+ shops, which can be a true challenge even for experienced shopaholics. Therefore, it is a good idea to plan the exact timing of visiting the Bazaar beforehand.
Some Suggestions for First-Time Travellers
Istanbul is a Turkish city with a plethora of locations to admire and to visit. Therefore, those who are going to travel to this place have some difficulties or even waste their time on unnecessary procedures and steps. To make a trip to one of the most exciting Turkish cities unforgettable, you can go through the tips below in order to get the most out of it.
Plan your Schedule Carefully
It is not a good idea to try to cover all sites in one single trip. Istanbul is rich in landmarks, and it is almost impossible to visit all of them, even if a visitor has a whole week and tries to make it within this timeframe. Moreover, some places require more than one hour to be explored and admired. Therefore, tourists are better off making a decision about which sites they are going to see in the first place.
In some cases, it is better to start learning about Istanbul with the Bosphorus cruise, which allows visitors not only to admire one of the oldest and most beautiful Turkish cities. This is also a good chance to see the European and Asian parts of this state from the deck of a comfortable boat. By looking around, visitors will be able to see breathtaking scenery as well as the beauty of the water's surface.
Buy an Istanbul Kart (Card)
Being among the most visited and populated Turkish cities, Istanbul has recently upgraded its public transport system, which is very comfortable and allows tourists to reach any parts of former Constantinople. Therefore, it is a good idea for tourists to buy a local card to have access to all means of transportation instead of a car for rent or attempting to hire a taxi.
Purchase the Museum Pass
This is a very popular option among tourists visiting Istanbul, which is also very useful, if visitors plan to admire several museums or historical places that charge an entrance fee. You can acquire this special museum pass at any historical site or even order it via the Internet before you travel to this Turkish city. There are two types of such passes: local (regional) and nationwide. The first allows you to explore museums and historical places in Istanbul, for instance, while the latter is valid throughout Turkey.
Carry Some Cash with You
While cards are widely spread in Istanbul and you will find terminals in a majority of shops, restaurants and historical venues, sometimes you will need cash. Those who visit smaller markets, local bars, or even want to hire a taxi will have to have some coins in their pockets. Moreover, some shops in Istanbul set a minimum amount that they can write off from cards, meaning that if your purchase is below this sum, you will also be required to use cash.
The good news is that there are plenty of ATMs here, meaning you are unlikely to have any problems with withdrawing cash. Save it for some smaller buyings during the trip.
Use All the Benefits of Your Smartphone or Tablet
There several pieces of mobile software nowadays that are designed to help tourists find various locations or even learn some basic information about places they are going to make a stop at. If you have plans to arrive in Istanbul, you will find tons of useful insights about the city itself or its most attractive locations. For those who plan to make their first voyage to this Turkish city, such applications may be of particular use.
It should also be mentioned that some international services are not available in Istanbul. You can’t book a room in a hotel or an apartment on booking.com, as the website is banned in Turkey. PayPal is also unavailable on the territory of this state. Last but not least, Wikipedia is also not available here. If you are using your own provider, you will have access to it, but if you switch to a local one, prepare yourself to use other sources of information.
Buy a Sim Card
A Turkish SIM card is a must-have for those who travel across the country or plan to stay in Istanbul for some time. The two most popular mobile services are Vodafone and Turkcell. By opting for one of those cards, you will have both the opportunity to make calls and an Internet connection that will allow you to use any of your applications at any time. Keep in mind that Wi-Fi is not available everywhere in Turkey. You can find it on some sites, but sometimes it is not available for foreigners.
Istanbul’s Traffic is Something Terrible
While public transportation is well developed in Istanbul and you can travel to any part of the city by using local city buses or trams, visitors always complain of traffic. Therefore, if a site that you are trying to arrive at is located close to the location where you stay, make the route on your own. Also, you should also be aware of the fact that Istanbul has right-hand traffic, so visitors from places with left-hand traffic should double-check when they cross the road.
Learn a Couple of Words in Turkish
While most people that you are going to meet in hotels or in historical places speak English, and even salesmen are pretty good in English, you should better learn a couple of expressions in Turkish to melt local hearts down. This is one of the secrets of how to receive some discounts in Istanbul and show locals that you are thankful for some services.
Avoid Renting a Car in Istanbul
It was already explained that Istanbul has terrible traffic, which may lead to a bad travel experience. While there are a plethora of companies that offer cars for rent there, you should think twice about accepting such offerings. Moreover, it was also mentioned that Istanbul has a well-developed public transport network, which allows tourists to get into each part of the city during the day.
Think about Comfortable Shoes
Or even take a couple of pairs for your trip to Istanbul. The city is too big, and you will have to walk too much. Shoes should be comfortable enough for you to run miles in them. Otherwise, you risk wasting the best moment of the trip to Istanbul.
Places to Visit in Istanbul
One of the most popular cities in this country has a lot to offer tourists. It can boast a history rich in events, which can be divided into several periods where different cultures were layering on each other. Therefore, Istanbul suggests a plethora of sites that are likely to attract the attention of visitors from wherever they are:
Galata Tower. This monument from the 14th century is considered among the most significant landmarks in Istanbul. With 220 feet of height, it is also one of the tallest historical buildings in the city. Visitors may enjoy its beauty or simply stay here to have a dinner in one of the cafes and restaurants that are located on the top of the tower;
Istanbul Archaeological Museum. For those who are keen on artifacts, this is one of the best sites to explore. The museum houses various items and sculptures that will allow you to make acquaintance with the culture of the country and the Middle East;
Chora Church. This representative of Byzantine culture is among the most interesting locations to visit in Istanbul. The walls of the building contain various frescoes that depict biblical stories;
Basilica Cistern. One of the biggest cisterns in Istanbul testifies marvel engineering skills of Byzantine craftsmen. By visiting the Basilica, tourists have an opportunity to learn more about prominent people of the past. Moreover, here you can also rely on a delicious dinner, which is offered by a local café;
Dolmabahçe Palace. This ornate palace is among the most magnificent places in Istanbul. Formerly an administrative center of the Ottoman Empire, nowadays it opens its doors to all visitors. Being magnificent from the outside, Dolmabahçe Palace has a lot to offer once you go through the gates of the building.
Is Istanbul Safe and Friendly for Tourists?
In general, Istanbul is safe for visitors from wherever region they come. Turkish people are friendly to guests, and they can come to help you even if they have their own affairs to do. However, you should never lose vigilance (like in any other tourist city in the world), as not all of those who you will meet there will try to assist you.
Security is the key, whether you come to Istanbul for the first time or visit it frequently. Whatever activities you are planning for your trip, stay vigilant and think about everything you are going to do there twice.
How Many Days to Stay in Istanbul
Tourists who have plans to visit Istanbul should think about how much time they are ready to devote to make this trip. In general, there is no rule to follow that will provide you with any hints on how much you can devote to this voyage. You should think about such things as how much money you can spend, places to visit, etc.
The minimum required to cover most sites is five days. This will allow you to discover Istanbul a little more. For those who are not short on time or funds, it would be a good idea to plan a longer stay in Istanbul so that they can enjoy more landmarks without being pressed.
Istanbul is one of those places where visitors can combine active outdoor activities with tasteful meals. The city still hides several secrets that will be revealed one-by-one to tourists. Before visiting Istanbul, you should think about what you are going to do there in advance. Visitors should take care of accommodation, clothes, shoes, and other things beforehand. Istanbul is a great place to spend several days, so you should prepare to discover all sides of this city and the whole state that stands on the crossroads of Asian and European cultures.