Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul) is Turkey's most populous city, and its cultural and financial center. Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both literally and figuratively. Istanbul's population is variously estimated between 12 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest cities in Europe.
Sultan Ahmet Mosque at dusk
Founded by Constantine the Great in 324 CE on the site of ancient Byzantium (going back to 650 BC), Istanbul was the capital, successively, of the Eastern Roman Empire (324-476), the Byzantine Empire (476-1453) and the Ottoman Empire (1453-1922) - this almost unrivalled heritage, as well as its dynamic modern existence, makes Istanbul a fantastic destination for many travellers.
Expanding the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium by the order of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the imperial city of Constantinople was for nearly a thousand years the last remaining outpost of the Roman (later termed Eastern Roman or Byzantine) Empire before finally falling to the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in May 29th, 1453, an event often taken to mark the end of the Middle Age. It was the nerve center for military campaigns that were to enlarge the Ottoman Empire dramatically. By the mid 1500's, Istanbul, with a population of almost half a million, was a major cultural, political, and commercial center. Ottoman rule continued until it was defeated in WWI and Istanbul was occupied by the allies. When the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 after the War of Independence, Kemal Ataturk moved the capital to the city of Ankara. But Istanbul has continued to expand dramatically; today its population is approximately 13 million and increases at an estimated 700,000 immigrants per year. Industry has expanded even as tourism has grown. It continues to be a city that creates its own history at the intersection where both Continents meet.
Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus Strait (Istanbul Bogazi), the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the estuary of the Golden Horn (Haliç) bisecting the western part and the Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi) forming a boundary to the south. Most sights are concentrated in the old city on the peninsula of Sultanahmet, to the west of the Bosphorus between the Horn and the Sea. Across the Horn to the north are Galata, Beyoğlu and Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul, while Üsküdar is the major district on the comparatively less-visited Anatolian side of the city. The Black Sea forms the northern boundary of Istanbul.
Duty Free area, inside Ataturk Airport
Planes arrive at Istanbul Atatürk Airport  (IST), 20 km west of the city centre. From the airport, there are various options for getting into Istanbul: you can take a taxi (about $20 which equals approx. 30 Turkish Lira), the express bus service (run by the local airport service called "HAVAS", half-hourly, about $5 to Taksim), or by metro to Aksaray and a tram on to Kabataş, which also passes through Sultanahmet, Eminönu and Tophane, among others for 1.3-2.6 YTL (0.88-1.74$).
Foreigners arriving in Istanbul will need to purchase tourist visas. This can be done upon arrival just before passport control, but you must pay using foreign currency, no Turkish money and no credit cards. In 2007, the fee was 20 US dollars or 15 pounds. Euros are also accepted.
Note that food and drinks at the airport may cost up to five times more than in the city proper.
If you are travelling on a budget and plan to spend some time at the airport, it may be wise to take your own meals from town instead of buying them there.
A smaller airport is the Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) , located in the Anatolian side of the city. Mostly charter flights as well as European low cost carriers operate from here. A "HAVAS" bus connects this airport with Taksim in the city center for about £3.50 or 7$ (6 € ~ 9.5 Lıra). A cheaper option is to take bus E10 which brings you to Kadıkoy in 70 minutes (3 Lira). From there take a ferry to Eminonu or Karakoy.
Inside Sirkeci Train Station
International trains from across Europe arrive at the station in Sirkeci, close to Sultanahmet. Asian trains arrive at Haydarpasa station. To get between the two, catch a ferry across the Bosphorus (see Get around). Marmaray, the Rail Tube Tunnel and Commuter Rail Mass Transit System is being built, and is being projected as one of the most challenging infrastructure projects in Turkey.
International Trains: There are daily overnight trains to Sofia (Bulgaria) - continuing to Belgrade (Serbia) and Budapest (Hungary) - as well as Bucarest (Romania), and less frequently to Chisinau (Moldova). Twice a day there are trains to Thessaloniki (Greece) - the slow morning train that almost takes a whole day and the fast night train that is quicker but more expensive. There are also weekly trains to Aleppo (Syria) and Teheran (Iran) from Haydarpasa station. The train to Teheran drives on wednesday, it is also a good way to drive in the eastern part of Turkey.
Schedule and price list of railway trips can be gathered from TCDD (Turkish Republic State Railways)
Buses and coaches terminate at the colossal Esenler Otogar, about 10 km east of the city center, located on the European side. Courtesy minibuses or taxis will easily get you into the center. The metro also stops at the Otogar.
"Harem" is the major hub for the buses on the Anatolian (Asian) side, which can be reached easily from the European side with a Ferryboat.
International ferries, carrying tourist groups from outside Turkey stop at Karakoy Port. The port is ideally located close to Sultanahmet and Taksim.
Traffic in Istanbul can be manic; expect a stressful drive. The city currently holds more than 1,500,000 automobiles and there is a strong demand for building of new or alternate highways.
If you've arrived in Istanbul by car, and you're not keen on the routes, it's better to park your car in a safe place and take the public transportation to get around.
The city, lying on two different continents and separated by the Bosphorus, connects with two bridges. The bridge on the south, closer to the Marmara Sea, is called the "Bosphorus Bridge".
The bridge closer to the Black Sea is named "Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge" and is longer than the first one. Both bridges have tolls, since you have to pay a certain fee to cross to the Anatolian side.
After the regulation in 2006, the Bosphorus Bridge does not carry cash tolls, and the payment is made via electronic cards either manually (KGS) or automatically (OGS) by a card holder located in front of the cars. Drivers who do not hold any of these two cards must take the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.
During the week days, drivers should be aware of the traffic jam on the highways towards both of the bridges, since the majority of public live on the Anatolian side but work on the European side.
There is a great lack of autoparks in Istanbul, and the current ones are quite expensive.
Drivers unfamiliar with the city should also be aware that street signs are comparatively rare.
Taxis are an easy and cheap way to get around. Start off rate is YTL 1,73 (€ 0,90) and then YTL 0,1 (€ 0,05) for each 1/10 km afterwards. A one-way travel from Taksim to Sultanahmet costs approximately 7-10 YTL. Tipping is generally unnecessary. Occasionally drivers will refuse to start the meter and try to negotiate a fixed prize. You should avoid these cabs and simply take another one, as you will almost certainly end paying too much.
Beware riding a taxi other than "yellow-colored" since the other colored taxis are of different cities and have a different rating system.
Taxis have a fixed rate; the night rate is 50 % more expensive than during the daytime. The night rate starts at midnight and lasts until 6AM. If you are riding during the day, makes sure the fare begins at 1.73 YTL, the day rate, and not 2.55 YTL, the night one.
Be careful on what note you hand them for payment, more than one have tried to pretend that the 50 lira note handed was just a 5 lira one!
Dolmuş (Turkish: "it's full") is a shared taxi, travelling on a fixed route, which costs more than a city autobus but less than a normal taxi. They can carry up to 8 passengers. They are easy to recognize, because they also have the yellow painting as taxis and carry a Dolmus sign on its top. They will only start driving when all eight places are filled, which is also where the name derives from.
The main and most important routes for Dolmuses are :
- Taksim - Eminonu (Taksim stop, near the Ataturk Cultural Center, in Taksim square)
- Taksim - Kadiköy
- Taksim - Aksaray (Taksim stop, Tarlabasi Avenue, close to Taksim square)
- Kadikoy - Bostanci (Bostanci stop, in front of the Bostanci ferry port)
- Taksim - Tesvikiye (Taksim stop, in front of Patisserie Gezi, in Taksim square)
- Besiktas - Nisantasi (Besiktas stop, in front of the Besiktas - Uskudar ferry port)
If you want the driver to make a stop, you can say İnecek var.(EE-neh-djek war!) (Someone's getting out.) or Müsait yerde.(mU-sa-EEt yer-deh.) (At a convenient spot.).
- IETT, . There are two types of public buses in Istanbul; those run by the private sector and those run by the city-owned IETT. You can differentiate these two types by their colors. Private run buses are blue-green with yellow non-electronic destination signs while IETT-run buses come in many flavors including old red-blue ones, newer green ones and red double-deckers. The Akbil is valid universally while tickets that can be obtained in kiosks near busstops for 1.30 YTL (approximately €0.72 as of August 2007) are valid only on IETT buses and cash payment only on private buses.
As a relatively quick tourist, you will end up using the T4 bus the most. It connects Sultanahmet to Taksim Square (and so to Beyoglu and Istiklal Caddesi, the nightspots). The last bus from Taksim runs at about 11.30pm, though that's not fixed.
- see also on AKBIL in the tram writeup
Unique Istanbul liners, sea-buses, or mid-sized private ferries travel between the European and Asian sides of the city. The crossing takes about 20 minutes and costs 1,30 Yeni Türk Lirasi (New Turkish Lira), and gives great views of the Bosphorous. Be aware that sometimes the ferry when arriving at a dock can bounce off the pier accidentally, even on calm days. This can cause people to fall over quite dramatically if they are standing up, so it is advisable to remain seated until the ferry has come to an absolute stop.
Istanbul liners travel on the following routes
- Uskudar-Karakoy-Eminonu-Eyup (The Golden Horn Route)
- Istinye-Emirgan-Kanlica-Anadolu Hisari-Kandilli-Bebek-Arnavutkoy-Cengelkoy (The Whole Bosphorus Route)
- Anadolu Kavagi-Rumeli Kavagi-Sariyer
- Eminonu-Kavaklar (Special Bosphorus Tour-Recommended For Tourists)
- Sirkeci-Adalar-Yalova-Cinarcik (The Princess Islands Route)
Furthermore, the sea-buses follow the same (or more) routes, please visit the link above for extra information.
Four main private ferry routes for travelling between Asia and Europe sides are :
- Besiktas - Uskudar
- Kabatas - Uskudar (close to tram and funicular system in Kabatas)
- Eminonu - Uskudar (close to tram in Eminonu)
- Eminonu - Kadikoy (close to tram in Eminonu)
Very useful are the fast ferryboats (travelling at 55 kilometres) running from several points, such as the Yenikapi - Yalova one, that allows you (with a connecting bus in Yalova) to be in Bursa centre in less than three hours. Prices are marginally higher and the gain in time is considerable, though the view is not as nice.
- see also on AKBIL in the tram writeup
Istanbul's first underground system lies back to 19th century, when the funicular subway "Tunel" was constructed to operate from Karakoy to Istıklal Street in 1875. The distance travelled was 573 metres.
In 1990's, a modern tram line was constructed in the European side of the city, and now it's being extended to the inner parts of the city, as well as to the Anatolian side with a sea-tunnel named "Marmaray" crossing below the Bosphorus.
Istanbul's metro consists of two lines, the northern line is currently just a short stub connecting Taksim to 4.Levent. There is also a funicular system connecting Taksim to Kabatas where you can get on ferries and cross to the Anatolian side. The southern line is most useful for visitors, connecting Aksaray (with its connections to the tram line) to Ataturk Airport, via the Otogar.
- see also on AKBIL in the tram writeup
- Istanbul Metro & Tram, .
A fast tram was put in service in 1992 on standard gauge track with modern cars, connecting Sirkeci with Topkapi. The line was extended on one end from Topkapi to Zeytinburnu in March 1994 and, on the other end from Sirkeci to Eminönü in April 1996. On January 30, 2005 it was extended from Sirkeci to Kabataş crossing Golden Horn after 44 years again. The line has 24 stations on a length of 14 km. 55 vehicles built by ABB run on the line. An entire trip takes 42 minutes. The daily transport capacity is 155,000 passengers.
(Hızlı Tramway stations are: Zeytinburnu, Mithatpaşa, Akşemsettin, Seyitnizam, Merkezefendi, Cevizlibağ, Topkapı, Pazartekke, Çapa, Fındıkzade, Haseki, Yusufpaşa, Aksaray, Laleli (Üniversite), Beyazıt (Kapalıçarşı), Çemberlitaş, Sultanahmet, Gülhane, Sirkeci, Eminönü (ferryboats), Karaköy, Tophane, Fındıklı, Kabataş)
Between Taksim and Kabatas, there is a recently opened (June 2006) modern underground funicular to connect this line to metro in Taksim.
It is connected to the southern metro line (for the Otogar and Ataturk Airport) at Aksaray station, though the metro and tram lines are a short walk from each other.
Buying an AKBİL (AKıllı BİLet - Turkish acronym for Smart Ticket) is a good idea if you are in Istanbul for more than a day or two, and intend to use public transport. AKBİL is a small electronic device serving as a ticket which may be used on buses, trams, suburban trains, metro, local ferries, etc. The great part for travellers is that you can buy only one and buzz it as many times as there are passengers. Ticket fares across buses, trams and metros are standard (i.e not dependent on how far you go), so you just buzz the Akbil when you get on the bus or enter the tram/metro platform. You can buy or refill them at designated booths located at any major bus, tram, ot metro station, as well as some other places. An Akbil provides discounted rates compared to regular single tickets, as well as discounts in transfers (when used multiple times within a limited period). A deposit for the device itself is to be paid when you buy it, which is paid back if you choose to return it later.
You may also have it loaded with daily, weekly, two-weekly or monthly subscriptions for fixed prices.
The European Side
There are many historical places in Istanbul.
- Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya), Sultanahmet Square (by tram: Sultanahmet), 0212 5221750. Tu-Su 9:00AM-7:30PM. Dating from the sixth century, originally a basilica constructed for the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. A masterwork of Byzantine engineering, the huge 30 m diameter dome covers what was for over 1000 years the largest enclosed space in the world. The basilica was looted in 1204 during the fourth Crusade, and became a mosque in the 15th century when the minarets were added. It was turned into a museum in 1930's. Don't miss the excellent mosaics, including those in the gallery, reached by a stone ramp to the left of the entrance. 10 YTL (no concessions, no cards accepted). NOTE: the inside is undergoing a major refurb and there is a huge amount of scaffolding in a gigantic tower going up to the top of the dome.
- Topkapi Palace (Topkapi Sarayi), Bab-i Hümayün Caddesi (by tram: Gülhane/Sultanahmet), 0212 5120480. M,W-Su 9:00AM-5:00PM. The imperial enclave of the Ottoman emperors for three centuries. Lavishly decorated, with four courts of increasing grandeur. In the second court in the entrance to the Harem (admission extra, only by joining a guided tour) and the State Treasury, housing a weaponry display. The third court has the Imperial Treasury. The views from the Fourth Court over the Bosphorus are spectacular. 10 YTL (no concessions, cards accepted, Harem 10 YTL extra).
- Sultanahmet Mosque (Sultanahmet Camii, aka Blue Mosque), At Meydam Sokak 17, Sultanahmet (by tram: Sultanahmet), 0212 5181319. May-Oct 9:00AM-9:00PM, Nov-Apr:9:00AM-7:00PM. With its six minarets and sweeping architecture the Sultanahmet or 'Blue' Mosque impresses from the outside. Unlike Haghia Sophia, this is still a working mosque, entry is through the courtyard on the SW side. No shorts or bare shoulders (shawls are provided) and you will need to remove your footwear. Free.
- Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici). Yerebatan Cad., Sultanahmet, . It doesn't sound like much, but this giant underground cistern built by Justinian in 532 to provide water to the city in cases of siege, and later consacrated as a basilica, is one of the most fascinating places to visit in Istanbul. A wooden walkway winds between the pillars, and lights and piped music add to the eerie atmosphere. Bring some type of fish food as you'll see enormous fish swimming below your feet. 10 YTL (no concessions).
- Hippodrome, adjacent to the Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. This was the center of Roman and Byzantine Constantinople, and is a great place to begin one's tour and to people watch. The building no longer stands, but the obelisks and sculptures that have been collected here since Theodosius' time in the fourth century remain.
Galata Tower from across the Golden Horn
- Galata Whirling Dervish Hall (Galata Mevlevihanesi). Galipdede Caddesi (near Tünel's Galata station). A dancing hall of the mystical Mevlevi order, shut down in 1925 along with all other 'reactionary' movements in Turkey. Today the building houses the Museum of Divan Literature, but the best time to come Sundays between 3 to 5 pm when sema dervish ceremonies are staged. (Buy tickets in advance, as space is limited.) Also check out the small graveyard next door, where the carved fez perched upon the gravestone indicates the occupant's rank in the dervish hierarchy.
- Ortakoy A shore line of the bosphorus beside the Ortakoy mosque. Filled with nice cafes and a perfect view crowded and fun.
- The Museum of Archeology A must see! One of the best, including a great collection of Sumerian tablets! Close to Sultanahmet.
- Museum of Modern Art At Karakoy. A nice, organized museum with contemporary installations.İncluding a cafe with a top notch menu and view.
- Dolmabahce Palace See the Ottoman Palace centered close to Taksim at the Dolmabahce shore. Build on 110.000 meter square ground with 285 rooms and 43 halls where the Ottoman empire was administered in the last 150 years. Guided tours in major spoken languages available.
- Galata Tower Ride an elevator to the top, then walk the parapet for a 360 degree view of Istanbul, including the entire Sultanahmet peninsula: crowned by Topkapi Palance, the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. A beautiful spot for using up a lot of film!
- Chora Church, a 1000 year old Byzantine church, with precious mosaic frescoes and a captivating mood inside. The early church frescoes had been covered with plaster for nearly 500 years, as the building had been converted to a mosque, but were uncovered in the mid-twentieth century and have been partially restored.
The Asian (Anatolian) Side
View of Istanbul from Camlica Hill, at night
- Beylerbeyi Palace Lying under the legs of the Bosphorus Bridge, the palace was built between 1861-1865 by Sultan Abdulaziz. Guided tours in major spoken languages available.
- Camlica Hill is one of the highest hills of Istanbul (268 metres high) and almost major broadcasting antennas are located on this hill, since the hill dominates a great part of the city. On the top of the hill, a public park with cafes remind the visitors of an Ottoman atmosphere.
- The Princes' Islands lies on the southeast of Istanbul, and consists of 8 islands, Buyukada being the largest of them all. Buyukada is also the highest island among the others; its peak reaches to 202 mt (Yucetepe) where the ruins of a monastery remains.
The rest of the islands are; Heybeliada, Burgazada, Kinaliada, Yassiada, Sivriada, Tavsan Adasi and Yassiada.
Buyukada and Heybeliada both have a limited range of hotels, some of which serve in a boutique style, preferred by many tourists.
A visit to a hamam (Turkish bath) is an essential part of any trip to Istanbul and one of the things you'll like to repeat before leave.
- Suleymaniye Bath, +90 212 520 34 10, . Sultan Suleyman had this Hamam built by the famous Architect Sinan in 1550. Architect Sinan build this hamam for himself. He used this hamam for washing. Suleymaniye hamam is the only mixed hamam in Istanbul. There are no different sections for each sex, thus the families may comfortably enjoy this hamam together. Hamam also has two ways free shuttle services for the hotel guests if the booking comes through their reception. Entry 31.50 euro.
- Cağaloğlu Bath, +90 212 522 24 24, . The Cağaloğlu hamam was constructed in 1741 and is the last hamam to be built after a long period during the Ottoman Empire. It was constructed in İstanbul Eminönü. It has separated sections. Popular and normally visited by tourists. Entry 20 euro.
- Cemberlitas Bath, +90 212 511 25 35, [[email protected]]. The Cemberlitas Bath is located on Cemberlitas Square in the midst of some of Istanbul's greatest monuments. It was also built by Architect Sinan in 1584. It has 2 sections, female and male. Entry 15 euro. (28 YTL for self-service, 40 for Turkish massage, 68 for Turkish massage and oil massage)
Once upon a time, the narghile, or Turkish water pipe, was the centre of Istanbul’s social and political life. Today the locals still consider it one of life’s great pleasures… want to give it a try? Most of the places where you can smoke a hooka are in
Yaniceriler Caddesi, near the Grand Bazar: Corlulu Ali Pasa and Koca Sinan Pasa Turbesi
are both in secluded internal courts, just round the corner from some tomb yards, while
Rumeli Kahvesi is actually inside the cemetery of an old medersa, though it’s not as
spooky as you might think. In the south of Sultanahmet, near the sea, is Yeni Marmara
(Cayiroglu Sokak), where you can also sit in the terrace and enjoy the view. In Beyoglu, at the Ortakahve (Buyukparmakkapi) there’s even the choice of a wide range of flavours....
Walk! Some suggestions for a couple of "walks". But there are many to be made on your own, so do.
Museums and such: Haghia Sophia, then on to the Topkapı museum (these two should take care of three to five hours), preferably along the road in the back of the Haghia Sophia, where there are some nicely restored houses. Then on to the Blue Mosque and the square with the obelisks on it (At Meydani). Along its side is the very good Museum of Islam Art. Descend slightly and find the Small Haghia Sophia with its nice garden (it was under restoration, but you probably can get in). Then uphill to the Sokollu Mehmet mosque complex: top notch tiles inside.
Take a tram or walk to Eminönü (where the boats leave for trips to Asia or up the Bosphorus). Visit the New Mosque in the back of it, then the Egyptian Bazaar next to it, and going further in that direction, locate the Rüstem Pasha mosque with its excellent tiles. It's on a raised platform near an old clothes market, you may have to ask directions. Then take a cab or find a bus to Eyüp mosque complex, a mile or three up the Golden Horn. Visit this Eyüp complex at your leisure (the mosque is not particular, the court is, and the milling of believers, with many boys-to-be-circumcised amongst it; a Friday might be a good day to do this). Then, if you have the stamina, it might be nice to walk back to .. well, maybe all the way (five miles or so), but taking a route along part of the city wall to first the famous Kariye Church with its mosaics, then on to Selimiye Mosque with its great view on the Golden Horn (and a fine mosque by itself), then the Fatih Mosque (passing through some very religious and lively neighbourhoods), then on to the well-restored Sehzade mosque, and next to Süleymaniye (don't forget to enjoy the view from the Golden Horn side). If you have some energy left you might go on to the University complex, and by then you are very close to the Beyazit mosque. A book market (it’s small) is behind this good, unexceptional (nice courtyard though) mosque.
Once again go to Eminönü, but this time take the boat (those large ferries) to Üsküdar. You will arrive with a fine mosque in front, another one four hundred meters off to the right, slightly inland behind a traffic roundabout, a third, very small, at the sea front,. See the market stretching inland, walk about and don't forget to walk along the shore, maybe eating a fish meal in one of the bobbing boats along it. This is a good visit for late afternoon, early evening, fleeing the city. You will be joined by thousands of people going home from "town" but the way back will be on a near-empty ferry. The frequency of ferries will go down in the evening, so make sure there is a connection back
Go to the railroad station and find a Sirkeci-Halkali suburban train, and get out at (from memory, Yenikapi station). You will be quite close to Yedikule, a nice fortress, and will have fine views of the city walls from that. The trains leave every 15 minutes or so, the ride is peculiar (the material is bad, but if you are in luck every second stop another salesman will enter and try selling his wares, its fun. The ride is twenty minutes, half an hour. You may back from Yedikule into the city, just drifting. This is not a "must", but it can be great fun.
You will have missed the covered bazaar in all this. That is because you will get there anyhow. If you go to Beyazit and the book market you are almost at two of its many entrances. Try and find the Nuruosmaniye Mosque and its complex at the other side, its worth it. And after having explored the covered part, take a relaxing walk downhill, into the general direction of Eminönü, where it is "uncovered bazaar" all the way. And then cross the Galata bridge to see some things on the Northern side (for instance take the "tünel" teleferik ride up much of the hill (entrance close to the opposite side of Galata bridge, ask around), then continue to Taksim. Shops are of the international variety.
Many foreigners visiting or living in Istanbul decide to study Turkish formally in a language school. Two of the biggest and most respected Turkish language schools in Istanbul are Dilmer in Gümüşsuyu  and Ankara University affiliated Tömer . Another very good school is Concept Languages in Etiler .
Boğaziçi University runs a summer long intensive Turkish language course for all levels.
Both Boğaziçi University and Bilgi University have well established Study Abroad programs in English for foreigners.
There is always a high demand for qualified ESOL/EFL teachers in Istanbul. Many teachers work with private instructional companies. Others contract out on a freelance basis.
The currency used in Istanbul is the New Turkish Lira (YTL) though the euro is also accepted at places frequented by tourists. Fortunately, currency exchanges and banks are plentiful in Istanbul and offer extremely competitive exchange rates with no commission. If you are planning to visit Istanbul, bring hard foreign currency and exchange them after you arrive, preferrably at a bank or a currency exchange. Exchange only what you need as you will find difficulty exchanging your leftover YTL back to foreign currency after you leave the country. Alternatively, withdraw money from ATMs whenever you need cash.
Shops may be closed on Sundays. Most major shopping malls have security checkpoints you usually see in airports and museums prior to entry.
The Grand Bazaar during Republic Day
- Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı). Istanbul's grand old bazaar with an estimated 4400 shops lined along covered walkways. It is said to be the world's oldest shopping mall, covers several blocks and features a labrynth of side streets to keep you lost for the better part of a day. The shops are organized around their wares, e.g. the silver jewlers are clustered together, the carpet shops are clustered elsewhere and the shoe shops are bunched together somewhere else. Parts of it now are rather touristy and you're likely to pay a little more for your purchase than elsewhere but with the vast selection you'll find what you're looking for and it's one of Istanbul's character pieces.
- -Polisajci Brothers Antique Show, 37-39 Yaglikcilar Sokak, Ic Cebeci Han, tel: +90 212 5261831 You will find Ottoman and other antique metalware - copper bowls, jugs, pots and the like - once used in hammams and kitchens.
- -Derviş, 33-35 Keseciler Sokak, tel: +90 212 514 4525  Turko-Californian spa shop with raw silk and cotten clothing made to last a long time.
- -Chalabi, 6 Sandal Bedesten Sokak, tel: +90 212 5228171 Grand Bazaars's oldest family antiques dealer offers Ottoman silver, furniture and jewelry from old Ottoman families, and other oriental treasures.
- -Deli Kızın Yeri, 82 Halıcılar Çarşısı, tel: +90 212 526 1251  Deli Kızın Yeri (The Crazy Lady's Place) was founded by The Crazy Lady herself, an American who has retired in Turkey, who specializes in creating flat, useful, packable items using traditional Turkish motifs, handicrafts and fabrics. Items produced by local artists suiting the flavor of the shop comprise the rest of their inventory. The selection of items changes constantly, but generally includes items such as placemats, tablecloths, purses, doorstops, plastic bag holders, napkin rings, tea cozies, Turkish-flavored teddy bears and dolls, luggage tags, aprons, pillows, and limited edition clothing.
- -Deli Kızın Yeri Junior, 42 Halıcılar Çarşısı, tel: +90 224 757 4229 The Grand Bazaar's first and only children's store, filled with Turkish inspired toys and games for kids of all ages. Your kids will love it!
- Turkish Delight or Lokum (as the locals call it) is also a good buy since you're in Turkey. It is advisable to buy it fresh rather than in pre-packaged boxes and to get a variety of flavours rather than the stereotypical rose-water or lemon flavours bought abroad. Pistachio in particular is very good. The best place to buy lokum in Istanbul is from a store. Istiklal Caddesi in particular features a number of stores that sell Turkish sweets by the kilogram including lokum and helvah.
- Turkish Tea (çay, CHAI) is the national drink, brewed from leaves grown on the steep, verdant mountain slopes of Turkey's eastern Black Sea coast. Traditionally, Turkish tea is brewed samovar-style, with a small pot of very strong tea sitting on a larger vessel of boiling water. Pour a small amount of strong tea into a little tulip-shaped glass and cut it to the desired strength with hot water. Turks usually add cube sugar (never milk , although you can often get milk if you ask.) Having fresh, hot tea always available everywhere is one of life's splendid little luxuries in Turkey. Elma Çay: apple tea, like hot apple juice (EHL-mah chah-yee) is the flavor of preference.
- Rugs & Kilims
- -Mevlana Rug Store, Torun sok. 1, Sultanahmet, Istanbul tel: +90 212 5171260 fax:+90 212 5177476  Mevlana Rug store is the only store which is recommended by The New York Times.
- -Bazaar 55 Rug House, Akbiyik Cad. 55, Sultanahmet, Istanbul tel:+90 212 6382289  The carpet shop known to be most trust-worthy.
- -Mehmet Cetinkaya Gallery, Kucuk Ayasofya Caddesi, 7 Tavukhane Sokak, tel: +90 212 5176808  glorious museum-quality textiles, a feast for the eyes.
- Chalcedony Turkey's only indigenous precious stone is a great buy within Istanbul's many jewelry shops.
- -Chalcedony, 2 Ayasofya Caferiye Sokak, tel: +90 212 5276376  one stop shop for raw rocks, smooth stones and finished jewelry of the pale-blue, semiprecious chalcedony.
- Off the Beaten Path places that offer the best at what they do but are not on any of the traditional tourist paths
- -ArkeoPera, Yenicarsi Caddesi, 16/A Petek Han, Galatasaray, tel: +90 212 2930378  Best antiquarian bookshop in Turkey, owner knows every Turkish excavation site first hand.
- -Gonul Paksoy, 6/A Atiye Sokak, Tesvikiye, tel: +90 212 2360209 peerless one-of-a-kind dresses made for royalty from refined, antique Ottoman-era cloth.
- -Isnik Foundation, 7 Oksuz Cocuk Sokak, Kurucesme, tel: +90 212 2873243  offers neo-Isnik pottery after recreating original formulas from original Isnik kilns, which functioned between 1450 and 1650.
- -Sedef Mum, 50 Irmak Caddesi, Dolapdere, tel: +90 212 2535793 artisans of the time honored art of candlemaking, intricately sculpted and aromatic wares make very portable gifts.
One thing not to be missed is the local ice cream sold on the street stands, called Dondurma. While flavors are relatively standard for the region, the ice cream usually incorporates orchid root extract, which gives it an incredibly chewy and stringy texture, also lending itself to be used for marketing and attracting attention while the sellers do tricks to try to sell the ice cream. Try it!
Also, be sure to try Ayran, a local drink based on yoghurt, although sour and much thinner.
- Meshur Köfteci (Selim Usta): near the Sultanahmet tram stop (150 meters downhill) is the three floor restaurant. Meshur means famous, and they rightly claim that title. Their specialty is meatballs (in a slightly different form, called köfte). Take it with a piyaz (beans salad) and ayran. Service is very swift and attentive, prices ordinary.
- Simit Sarayi: a kind of quick-restaurant chain. You can buy tasty filled pastry here.
- Doner is always a good option for having fast and cheap food. The entrance to Istiklal Street contains dozens of small doner restaurants and they serve almost 24 hours.
- Nevizade: Located behind Istiklal boulevard, you can find it by entering Çiçek Pasajı. It's one of the most famous streets in Istiklal boulevard. It's narrow, and is mostly known for it's meyhane style restaurants, where lively conversation is the main dish on every table, next to fish and Rakı that is.
- Rumeli Cafe, Ticarethane Sokak No:8 (near Divanyolu Caddesi, about one block from the Basilica Cistern), 212 512 00 08. On a quiet street but close to all the attractions of Sultanamet. Serves mostly traditional Ottoman and Turkish dishes, with lots of lamb on the menu. Staff are friendly and there are tables both indoors and on the sidewalk. 20-35 YTL per person (main, appetizer + one drink).
- Set Kebap at Nispetiye Cad. No:13 in Levent has a wonderful meze table and delicious Adana Kebab. The staff speaks very little English but are most anxious to be helpful.
- Kosebasi Kebap This Zagat-rated kebab joint serves traditional Turkish kebabs in modern/ upscale atmosphere. Levent is the main branch but they have 7 more locations (including 3 express versions) in Istanbul.
- Hai Sushi sushi restaurant.
- Sosa Fairly priced salads and wraps among others.
- Leb-i Derya a nice cafe-restaurant with a splendid view of the Bosphorus and the Topkapi Palace in Tunel, Beyoglu
- Zencefil a vegeterian cafe serving healthy and home-style dishes in Beyoglu
- Balikci Yuksel Great sea food for around 50 USD per person. They can give great advise on what is the best fish for the season and other dishes in general. Tel 90 (212) 663 97 42
- The Four Seasons Hotel does a spectacular, but pricy, Sunday Brunch featuring a range of Turkish and international dishes. (January 2005 price - 70 YTL, 11.30AM-3PM). , T: 90 (212) 638 82 00, Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, Sultanahmet-Eminönü.
- Park Fora  Great sea food, located in Kuruçeşme park right on the edge of the sea, it has a very nice view of the Bosphorus and Bosphorus Bridge.
The waiters know English. Prices range from 50 - 150 ytl per person.
- Beyti Restaurant  Simply, one of the best restaurants in Istanbul, favoured by diners thanks to its delicious meat in the 45's at Küçükçekmece, in a pleasent environment, is like a monument of tradition remembered by people at every age. It has an honourable and respectable level on Turkish and international press. (Closed on Mondays) Prices range from 50 - 150 ytl per person.
- Beyoğlu is notoriously known for its night life; it's full of café's and bars with live music. People from all classes and ethnicities can be found here.
- Nişantaşı is the place for young entrepeneurs and artists, the prices are higher than Taksim.
Reassürans Pasajı houses many bars and cafés and is a good place for bar hopping on a saturday night.
- Taps,  is a bar, restaurant and brewery in one. The crowd is the general Nişantaşı crowd, it also attracts a lot of expatriates.
- Cheers, Akbiyik Caddesi 20, in Sultanahmet, ph. +90 5324096359. Daily, 10AM-2AM, offers the cheapest beers in town to a crowd of travellers.
- For something more typical, the Cagaloglu Hamami Café, Prof. K.I. Gurkan Caddesi, Gagaloglu. is a café located in a former hammam, dating 1741, where you can listen to live traditional Turkish music.
- Sal, Buyukparmakkapi Sokak 18, ph. +90 212 243 4196. Very popular with tourists seeking a true Turkish experience. Here low coffee tables bump your knees while you sip raki and watch some rowdy musicians.
The liveliest part of the city is definitely Beyoglu and again the area of Istiklal Caddesi. Many clubs offer live music:
- Indigo, Akarsu Sokak 309, Galatasaray, ph. +90 212 2451307, . Live music.
- Balans & Balans Tonique , Istiklal cad. Balo sok. 22 Beyoğlu. , [www.balanstonique.com/]. Live music in Balans, Experimental Live music and electronic music in Blans Tonique.
- Babylon, Seyhbender Sokak 3, ph. +90 212 2927368, . Jazz and world music.
- Mojo, Buyukparmakkapi Sokak 25, \ ph. +90 212 2432927. 9PM-4AM. Rock music.
- Caravan Rock Bar, Duduodalari 19, Balik Pazari. Rock music.
- Dulcinea, Meselik Sokak 20. M-Sa 3PM till late. Popular bar, café, restaurant and art gallery during the week, but on Friday and Saturday it’s club night with trance and techno music.
- Jazz Café, Hasnun Galip Sokak 20. For some fine jazz, on the top level of the two-floored club there's a performance space where you can enjoy live funk/acid jazz/ blues Tuesday through Thursday.
- Q Jazz Club, Ciragan Caddesi 84, Besiktas, ph. +90 2122362121). 10AM-4AM. Jazz lovers cannot miss this a 17th century brick cellar style bar that caters to the whims of jazz fans.
- Biz Jazz Bar, Topcu Caddesi 18, Talimhane Taksim, ). 14PM-4AM. Cozy Bar with live music evernight.
- Riddim, near Taksim square, Cool hip-hop club.
Two of the hottest clubs of Istanbul are in Ortakoy.
- The Scene, Muallim Naci Caddesi 109, ph. +90 212 2611988. Midnight-5AM. One of Istanbul’s biggest underground clubs: house and techno can be heard on Fridays, deep trance on Saturdays and garage and jazzy house on Wednesdays.
- Reina, Muallim Naci Caddesi 10, . Actually a vast playground filled with bars, restaurants and dance floors.
- Sark Kahvesi'. Yaglikcilar Caddesi 134 (in the Grand Bazaar). . The most famous cafe in the market and a time warp into days gone by, full of traders playing backgammon. Turkish coffee NTL 1,5.
- Melekler Kahvesi Melekler Kahvesi which is a backstreet cafe is located in Taksim. Its address is Ayhan Işık Sk No:36 Taksim, and phone number is 212 251 31 01. It is a very popular place among young people. You can play games such as Scrabble and you can drink Turkish coffee (6 YTL). After drinking Turkish coffee fortunetellers will look the coffee grounds and tell your future for free.
- Istanbul Hotel Guide www.istanbulhotelsnet.com
- Harbiye is the nicest place to stay because it is in the main center of the new city on the European side, contains a variety of international standard aparts, hotels, apartments for rent and moderate hotels for budget travellers. Nişantaşı and Taxim is 5 min. from Harbiye so you can stay in Harbiye and benefit from all activities in Nişantaşı and Taxim.
- Taksim is the main center of the new city on the European side, mainly the locals and tourists are going for shopping and entertainment, and contains a variety of international standard bars, clubs for enternatinment and moderate hotels for budget travellers.
- Sultanahmet the main center for the old city the European side. It has a high number of stray cats, so in some parts of Sultanahmet in March-April you may be rocked to sleep by a lively feline chorus. Your sleep may also get interrupted by the morning call to prayer emanating loudly from the Blue Mosque.
- Istanbul Budget Hotels www.istanbulhotels.bz
- Tulip Guesthouse, Akbiyik cad. Terbiyik Sok. No:15/2 Sultanahmet, ☎ +212 517 65 09 ([email protected]). Very friendly and helpful staff, two guys both university educated, intelligent, well aknowledged about Turkish history and Middle East politics, always eager to let you know about Istanbul's cultural events and highlights. Kitchen has a great view to Marmara with free coffee and Turkish tea. Dorm beds €10, en-suite rooms from €25
- Hostel Orient, Yeni Akbiyik Cad 13, Sultanahmet, +90 212 517 9493 (fax: +90 212 518 3894; email: [email protected]), . Okay hostel in a good location in Sultanahmet. Staff pretty unfriendly, but Istanbul will make you forget all that. Cafe/bar upstairs, rooftop lounge area overlooking the Golden Horn, Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the oldest mosque in Istanbul (it's small and has one minaret -- just go down the street towards Topkapi). Pretty cheap rooms, but the travel agency downstairs is overpriced, as is the beer in the bar. Bellydancers two or three nights per week in the basement bar, but expect competition for her affections from older local businessmen. 18/20 YTL for 8 bed/4 bed dorm rooms, private rooms 40-70 YTL.
- Istanbul Hostel Sinbad  offers budget accommodations for backpackers. It is located in Kucuk Ayasofya Mh., Demirci Resit Sk., Sultan. Sinbad Hostel,which offers excellent budget accommodation and great atmosphere is ideally situated in the heart of Istanbul. They offer discounts for students and hostels' card holders, together with some other amenities as free breakfast.Sinbad has a total 22 rooms - 92 beds.Dorm rooms are six beded,only female dorm, single, double, triple, quad rooms are available.
- Bahaus Guesthouse, Bayramfirin Sokak No:11 (near Akbiyik Caddesi, not far from the Orient hostel) Sultanahmet, +90 212 638 65 34 (fax: 90 212 517 66 97). Staff friendly. Dorm room around U$ 10. Breakfast extra. Rooftop bar beer YTL 3,5. Free Internet on old computers (Wındows 98) Connection Ok.
- Mavi Guesthouse, Kutlugün Sokak No:3 (near Ishakpasa Caddesi) Sultanahmet, +90 212 517 72 87 (fax: +90 212 516 58 78, email: [email protected]), . Staff friendly, breakfast included, close to the Four Seasons Hotel and many other backpackers and within 2 minutes slow walk of the Blue Mosque and Aya Sofia. Staff can arrange transport to and from airport (approx 12 YTL). Internet for a nominal fee or free wıth wıreless LAN Laptop. Small (cosy) tv room etc. €10/11 for 6 bed/4 bed dorm rooms, private rooms for €20-33.
- Hostel World House, Galipdede Caddesi No:85, Beyoğlu, +90 212 293 55 20 (email: [email protected]), . Two mınutes walk from the restaurants and bars of Istiklal Street in Taksim. Nice and friendly new hostel, popular with long-term stayers. Free Internet. €10/12/14 for 8/6/4 bed dorm rooms, private rooms for €35-40 in high season.
- Star Holiday Hotel, Divanyolu Street No:10, Sultanahmet, +90 212 512 29 61 (fax: +90 212 512 31 54, email: [email protected]), . Staff is really friendly, breakfast on a nice terrace (right in front of the Blue Mosque) is included! Rooms include air-con, TV and minibar. Starts at €40/50 for singles/doubles in high season.
- Yeni Otel, at a side street 100 m from Sirkeci station. Go towards Sultanahmet and turn into the first street on the left. Shared basic bathrooms, hot water. No English spoken. 20 YTL for a basic double (summer 2005).
- Mavi Onur Hotel, Küçük Ayasofya Mahallesi | Aksakal Sokak no. 28 | 34410 Sultanahmet, ☎ +90 212 4580690 ([email protected], fax: +90 212 4580692), . from 11 euro for a dorm bed to 42 euro for a triple room (high season prices).
Istanbul City Tours
All Istanbul Tours: www.allistanbultours.com
Istanbul Tour Guide:www.istanbultourguides.com
- Romantic Hotel,MimarMehmetağa cad.Amiraltafdil Sokak No:29,Sultanahmet,+90 212 638 9635 (fax: +90 212 638 9634, email: [email protected]), .The hotel is situated on Istanbul’s historic peninsula, Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque). You can see the synthesis of east and west in this part of Istanbul. The city was the capital of two successive empires the Byzantine and the Ottoman you can also feel that synteses .
- Pera Rose Hotel, Mesrutiyet Caddesi No 201, Tepebaşı, Beyoğlu. Nice little hotel about ten minutes walk from Taksim square, close to the British consulate-general. Good value for money. Single room USD 80-100.
- Sultanhan Hotel Piyerloti Caddesi No:15/17 Sultanhamet, +90 212 516 32 32 (fax: +90 212 516 59 95, email: [email protected]), . This five-floor hotel features 40 guestrooms, all of which have Ottoman-style decor with patterned fabrics and chestnut furnishings. All are equipped with Internet connections, satellite television and minibars. €190/230 for single/double in high season.
- Ottoman Hotel Imperial, Caferiye Sokak No:6/1 Sultanhamet, +90 212 513 61 51, . An unbeatable view of Hagia Sophia Museum and Sultanahmet Square and a blend of Ottoman and Istanbul cuisine is what you'll experience at the Ottoman Hotel Imperial. With its exquisitely furnished guest rooms reflecting the Ottoman art, trend-setting restaurants and bars, extensive guest services and in-house amenities, Ottoman Hotel Imperial responds to the needs of the most demanding leisure and business travellers. Rooms start at €100/120 for single/double in high season.
- Blue House Hotel (Mavi Ev), Dalbasti Sokak No:14, Sultanahmet, +90 212 638 90 10/11/12/13/14/15/16 (fax: +90 212 638 9017, email: [email protected]), . Opened July 1997 and located at the heart of old city center, steps away from world famous Blue Mosque. €120/140 for single/double in high season.
- Empress Zoe, Adliye Sokak No:10 (near Akbiyik Caddesi), Sultanahmet, +90 212 518 2504 (fax: +90 212 518 5699, email: [email protected]), . A wonderful little hotel in a quiet street just off Sultanahmet, with spartan but elegant rooms decorated in Turkish style and beautiful views over the Hagia Sophia from the rooftop terrace. All mod cons including bathroom, air-con, safe. Rooms from €50 and suites from €100, including breakfast.
- Ibrahim Pasha, Terzihane Sok. No. 5, Adliye Yani, Sultanahmet, +90 212 518 0394 (fax: +90 212 518 4457, e-mail: [email protected]), . A lovely boutique hotel just steps away from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. The room rates include a full Turkish breakfast in the dining area off the main lobby. The hotel has a rooftop sitting area with direct views of most of the major sites in Sultanahmet - an incomparable vista as the moon rises on a clear evening. The comfortable rooms have all mod-cons, including WiFi. The staff is attentive, courteous and helpful. Highly recommended. Rooms from €125 for a standard.
- Dersaadet Hotel, Kapiağasi Sokak No:5, Sultanahmet (one block below Kucukayasofya Caddesi), +90 212 458 07 60 (fax: +90 212 518 49 18, email: [email protected]), . Boutique hotel on a quiet street 5-10 minute walk from the Blue Mosque and Ayasofya. Rooms are decorated in 19th century Ottoman-style and come with air-con, TV, mini-bar and safe, and all guests can use the high-speed internet/Wifi in the lobby. The rooftop terrace looks out over the Sea of Marmora and part of the Blue Mosque. Room rate includes breakfast. €95/105 for single/double in high season, suites are €120 - 240 depending on time of year and room (10% discount if paid in cash).
- Hotel Niles Istanbul, Dibekli Cami Sokak No:19, Beyazit, +90 212 517 32 39 (fax: +90 212 516 07 32, email: [email protected]), . Another Ottoman mansion converted to a hotel, it is located five minutes from the Grand Bazaar. Rooms come with air-con, TV, mini-bar and Wifi, and there is high-speed internet in the lobby. Complimentary breakfast is served in the rooftop terrace, which overlooks the Sea of Marmora. €55/65 for single/double in high season (10% discount if paid in cash).
- Hotel Inter Istanbul (Budget rates on mid-range facilities), Mithatpasa Cad. Buyuk Haydar Efendi Sok. No: 29 Beyazit, Tel: (+90 212) 518 35 35 Fax: (+90 212) 518 35 38, [email protected] . Away from the crowd and touts of Sultanahmet yet within walking distance (approx. 7-10 minutes). Located on a quiet street stone-throw away from the Grand Bazaar, Beyazit tram station and buses that goes to Taksim and other parts of Istanbul (2-minute walk). Modern-style rooms, comfy beds, TV with english programs and news, WIFI connection in rooms and a free PC use at the lobby, helpful staff that makes-up rooms and replaces towels daily. €35/40 single, €45/50 double, €55-60 triple, €65-80 family (winter/summer) inclusive of breakfast. 10% discount on cash payments and free airport-hotel pick-up (min. 3 days stay).
- Istanbul Suites, Harbiye Çayiri Sokak No:111, Harbiye, +90 212 224 53 10, . Ranging from duplex to studio apartments which are all furnished with modern appliances. It's located in the city center and is within a 5 minute walking distance to Taksim, nişantaşı and the metro. Possibility for short and long term rentals.
- Ciragan Palace Kempinski, Çiragan Caddesi No:32, Besiktas, +90 212 326 4646 (fax: +90 212 259 6687, email: [email protected]), . Located on the Bosphorus coast just south of the main square of Ortakoy, this hotel is in a residence of the last Sultan. Rooms come with air-con, TV, minibar and safety deposit box. Hotel has several restaurants and lounges, pools, jacuzzi, Turkish baths, gym and other amenities. Rooms start around $450 (USD) and can get much higher.
- Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, Tevkifhane Sokak No:1, Sultanahmet-Eminönü, +90 212 638 82 00 (fax: 90 212 638 82 10), . A converted prison in the historic Sultanahmet district. Offers stunning views of the Haghia Sophia, but no pool. Standard rooms start around $420 (USD).
- A'jia Hotel, Çubuklu Caddesi No:27, Kanlica, +90 216 413 9300 (fax: +90 216 413 9355, email: [email protected]), . A unique boutique hotel located on the Asian side of the city facing the beautiful Bosphorus. Rooms include air-con, TV, safe, Wifi. Rooms range from €250-850.
- Hilton Istanbul, Cumhuriyet Caddesi, Harbiye, +90 212 315 6000 (fax: +90 212 240 4165), . Hotel offers business center, fitness facilites, pool and Turkish baths. Rooms have high speed internet access. Basic room starts at €175, most rooms between €250-350.
- Ceylan Intercontinental Istanbul, Asker Ocağı Cad. No:1, Taksim, +90 212 368 44 44 (fax: +90 212 368 44 99, email: [email protected]), . Situated in the heart of the city, its fantastic location ensures all rooms have the views of the city or of the Bosphorus.
- Swissôtel The Bosphorus Istanbul, Bayıldım Caddesi No:2 Maçka, Beşiktaş, +90 212 326 1100 (fax: +90 212 326 1122, email: [email protected]), . Located on a hill behind the Dolmabahce Palace, the last residence of the Ottoman Sultans. Swissôtel The Bosphorus Istanbul commands panoramic views of the Bosphorus, the Asian coast and the old city of Istanbul.
- Hyatt Regency, Taskisla Caddesi, Taksim, +90 212 368 1234 (fax: +90 212 368 1000, email: [email protected]), . Located in Taksim overlooking the city and the Bosphorus. Hotel has formal dining, outdoor pool, Turkish bath, fitness center and business center. Some rooms overlook the Bosphorus.
- The Marmara Istanbul, Taksim Meydani Taksim Istanbul 34437 (Taksim metro station is right across the street.), ☎ 90 212 251 46 96 ([email protected]), . 5 star hotel
Cafés with free wireless internet (WiFi):
- Several of the nargile places in Tophane
- Leyla, Cihangir
- Kahvedan, Cihangir
- Most Starbucks and Gloria Jean's Coffee stores throughout the city
- Most cafés and restaurants are in Istiklal Caddesi, Beyoglu
- There is one upstairs by the restaurants facing the side of Aya Sofia and behind the entrance to the Basilica in Sultanahmet.
In the recent years, the number of cafes and shopping centers with WiFi Internet access has increased dramatically, most of them still being free. Most Internet cafes have high speed ADSL connections, and they are very inexpensive compared to Europe (about 0.50-1.50 euros per hour).
In general, it is advisable not to mention you are a tourist if people in the streets ask you where you're from, even if it is completely clear you're not from Istanbul. Be careful with any (personal) information you supply to them. The best you can do, is to develop a talent to ignore strange people talking you up.
Also, beware of spending expensive Lira notes (50 Lira and more). Do not do this if you can pay with cheaper notes. Only try to "change" your money like this into cheaper notes in places guarded by policemen, like a ticket-office of a museum. Or just introduce yourself to your hotel receptionist and ask him/her to change your notes. They will be glad to do this for you.
As with most European cities, but especially with crowded areas of Istanbul, watch your pockets and travel documents as pickpockets have devised all sorts of strategies to obtain them from you. Do not rely too much on the safe feeling you get from the omnipresence of policemen.
Also, in crowded areas, watch your hands and arms out for outward-pointing lit cigarettes and don't get burned.
Taksim bar/club scams
Tourists must be aware of aware of high-drink price scams encountered in so-called night-clubs mostly located in Aksaray, Beyazit and Taksim area. These clubs, usually charge overpriced bills, based on a replica of the original menu.
Also be aware of friendly behaving groups of young men or male-female couples striking up a conversation in the street and inviting you to a "good night-club they know". This has frequently been reported as a prelude to such a scam. The person(s) in on the scam may offer to take you to dinner first, in order to lull your suspicions.
In either of these scams, if you refuse to pay the high prices or try to call the police (dial #155) to file a complaint, the club managers may use physical intimidation to bring the impasse to a close.
A recently encountered variant of this involved an invitation in Taksim to two male tourists (separately, within an hour of one another) to buy the tourist a beer (as they were "guests"). At the club, two attractive ladies, also with beers, joined them. When the time came for the bill, the person inviting the tourist denied having said he would pay for the drinks, and a bill was presented for 1500 Lira; when the tourists in question expressed an inability to pay such a high amount, burly "security" personnel emerged, who the manager explained would accompany the tourist to an ATM machine (presumably to clean out their bank account). In one of the above examples, the tourist escaped by shouting for the police once on the street; in the other, a much lower amount was accepted from the tourist. This points to these scams in Taksim becoming more serious, and likely the involvement of organized crime. Be careful.
A frequent scam, often in smaller hotels (but it can also happen in a variety of other contexts), is to quote prices in Lira and then later, when payment is due, claim the price was given in Euros. Hotels which reject payment early in a stay and prefer you to "pay when you leave" should raise suspicions. Hotels which operate this scam often offer excellent service and accommodation at a reasonable price and know most guests will conclude as much and pay without complaint - thus (ironically) this can be a sign of a good hotel.
Another scam is coin-related and happens just as you're walking into the streets. A Turkish guy holds you and asks where you are from. If you mention a Euro-country, the guy wants you to change a 50 Euro note from you into two-Euro coins he is showing. He is holding the coins stack-wise in his hands. For the trouble, he says he will offer you 30 two-Euro coins, so being worth 60 Euro. Do not agree with this exchange of money, as the first coin is indeed a two-Euro coin, but (many of) the rest of the coins will probably be 1 Lira coins (looking very similar), worth only 1/3 of the value of 2 Euro (in August 2007).
If you intend on travelling around Istanbul by taxi, follow all the advice below.
Firstly, you should follow these guidelines when trying to fetch taxis:
- Check how old you think the car is. The newer, the better.
- Look at the person driving the taxi. If (s)he looks unsafe and/or potentially hazardous, (s)he probably is.
- Before stepping into the car, take a picture of all that information on the side of it. This information includes the car's licence plate number, the name of the company which the taxi driver works for and the company's telephone number. Don't worry if the driver catches you doing this - it'll persuade him/her to drive more carefully.
Unfortunately, many taxi drivers tend to cheat when payment is due. Certainly do not offer the taxi driver a note that is unnecessarily expensive, e.g. giving 50 Lira when you only need to pay 20 Lira. What can happen is that the driver quickly moves his hand with the 50 Lira note towards his pocket and then shows you a 5 Lira note as if you've given him that 5 Lira, waiting for you to pay the rest of the 20 Lira. A useful advice is just to keep sitting in the car like he is doing, after all he cannot continue his road as long as you're still sitting in your seat. Finally he will (hopefully!) give up and give you the remainder.
What also already happened is the taxi driver who accepts your 20 Lira note and again performs a quick move with his hand. Then he looks suspiciously at the note and tells you it is a fake one. Becoming troublesome, he asks you for another. Do not give another note (if you're sure you're money was not fake), because the note you actually gave is not the same as the one he returns to you, which indeed is a fake one. If you do give him another note anyway, you've paid him double of the price. More importantly, you're walking now in the streets with a fake note in your pocket, which can be a problem when you spend it afterwards and it is discovered. Tourists have already spent time in prison because of being in the possession of fake money.
In general, it is a good advice to memorise the taxi's licence plate number before you enter the vehicle. This number is also mentioned on the sides of the car. Since the licence plate numbers of Istanbul's taxis all start with "34 T...", this task seems harder than it really is.
Stalking, unfortunately, happens quite a lot in Turkey. The most common reasons for stalking are either for sex or to steal from you. Turkish men commonly think that as the west is more socially liberal, western women are an easy lay. Women shouldn't travel alone or dress too provocatively. Being accompanied by a male partner or even a group of women (especially Turkish women) will assure your safety - in addition to the fact that there's more than one of you, you're also more likely to catch a possible stalker this way. If you do find someone intimidatingly following you, call the police immediately, or if there's a policeman or security guard within reach, go up to him/her and ask for the stalker to be taken away or removed from the premises. If they come up to you, create a public scene and shout really loudly either:
- "Ayıp!" - "Rude!"
- "Bırak beni!" "Leave me alone!"
Or to really ruin him:
- "Lütfen beni takip etmesene, ya?!" - "Can you please stop stalking me?!"
He'll leave you alone out of public humiliation, and strangers will probably feel inclined to take action, too.
Similar to many European countries tap water is mostly drinkable, but it may not be healthy depending on where you drink it. Although the tap water itself is clean, many local water tanks are not maintained properly, suggesting one should try to avoid tap water if possible. Locals widely prefer bottled water and the same applies for the restaurants.
Food and drinks are mostly of international standards. Some Turkish foods are known to use a variety of spices which may affect international tourists who may not be accustomed to such ingredients, although most of it is edible for any tongue.
Use common sense when buying certain foods, particularly from street vendors. Delicacies such as "Firin Sutlac" (a kind of rice pudding) can go bad rapidly on a hot day, as can the oysters occasionally for sale on the streets.
It is difficult to escape the smell of cigarette smoke in downtown Istanbul, so those with allergies should take caution.
Keep in mind that Istanbul's less-than-scrupulous hotel and restaurant owners are as market savvy as they come—they actually read the popular travel guides to Istanbul and when they get listed or favorably reviewed, they raise prices through the roof and skimp on costs. For mid-range and cheap hotels/restaurants, you may actually have a better time if you avoid places listed in your guide! Trust your nose.
- Kilyos Located by the Black-sea shore on the European side, Kilyos is an half-hour drive to Taksim under normal circumstances.
The village has more almost a dozen private and public beaches, some of which require membership. Though there are ways of transportation to Kilyos with buses and dolmus, the best way is to use a private car, since the journey will take longer than usual when in summer.
- Polonezkoy – a village in the Asian side of Istanbul, about 20 km away from central parts of the city. It was founded by Polish settlers in 19th century.
- Sile (Şile) Located by the Black-Sea shore on the Anatolian side, Sile is a 45 mins. drive to Taksim. It is a village, growing rapidly, famous for its fish and special cotton fabric Sile Bezi (cloth of Sile). Similar to Kilyos, Sile also has its own private and public beaches. However, the dangerous sand type of the sea, and tides make it difficult and somewhat dangerous to swim for people who are not expert and cautious. Drownings occur every year.
- The Princes' Islands are a group of islands across the Anatolian side of Istanbul. "Buyukada", the biggest and most famous of them all, has ferry lines to Eminonu (on the European side) and Bostanci (on the Asian side) every day, on various hours.
- Silivri It's a place of choice for people to relax & take a break from their hectic lives. Silivri is a 45 minutes drive to Levent. The best way to commute is to use a private car, since the journey will take longer than usual during summer. The summer is a popular time when people move into their summer homes in Silivri and enjoy beach activities. In fact, many new and spectacular villages have also been built there.