Monday, 19 March 2018
Although France has indubitable administrative control of the territory and it is part of the territory of the EU, Comoros claims the island as one of the Autonomous Islands of Comoros.
Mayotte was ceded to France along with the other islands of the Comoros group in 1843. When Comoros voted for independence in the 1970's, Mayotte decided to remain a French collective.
In March 2009, the islands voted overwhelmingly (95.2%) to become France's 101st departement effective in 2011.
The island is 95% Muslim and many Muslim customs such as polygamy, Islamic-inspired law, and male dominance are commonplace, although all was reversed in accordance with French law in 2011.
A large number of the island's population is composed of illegal aliens from neighbouring Comoros.
Mayotte is an insular department and region of France officially named the Department of Mayotte or Departement de Mayotte in French.
It consists of a main island, Grande-Terre or Maore, a smaller island, Petite-Terre or Pamanzi, and several islets around these two.
The archipelago is located in the northern Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southeast Africa, between northwestern Madagascar and northeastern Mozambique.
The department status of Mayotte is recent and the region remains the poorest in France.
Mayotte is nevertheless much more prosperous than the other countries of the Mozambique Channel, making it a major destination for illegal immigration.
Mayotte's area is 374 square kilometres (144 sq mi) and, with its 256,518 people at the 2017 census, is very densely populated at 686 per km² (1,777 per sq mi).
The biggest city and prefecture is Mamoudzou on Grande-Terre. However, the Dzaoudzi–Pamandzi International Airport is located on the neighbouring island of Petite-Terre.
The territory is geographically part of the Comoro Islands. The territory is also known as Maore, the native name of its main island, especially by advocates of its inclusion in the Union of Comoros.
The language of the majority is Shimaore, a Bantu language variety closely related to the varieties in the neighbouring Comoros islands.
The second most widely spoken native language is Kibushi, a Malagasy language variety most closely related to the Sakalava dialect of Malagasy with influences from Shimaore. The vast majority of the population is Muslim.
The island was populated from neighbouring East Africa with later arrival of Arabs, who brought Islam.
A sultanate was established in 1500. In the 19th century, Mayotte was conquered by Andriantsoly, former king of Iboina on Madagascar, and later by the neighbouring islands Moheéli and then Anjouan before being purchased by France in 1841.
The people of Mayotte voted to remain politically a part of France in the 1974 referendum.
Mayotte became an overseas department on 31 March 2011 and became an outermost region of the European Union on 1 January 2014, following a 2009 referendum with an overwhelming result in favour of the department status.
The term Mayotte or Maore may refer to all of the department's islands, of which the largest is known as Maore or Grande-Terre and includes Maore's surrounding islands, most notably Pamanzi or Petite-Terre, or only to the largest island.
The main island, Grande-Terre or Maore, geologically the oldest of the Comoro Islands, is 39 kilometres (24 mi) long and 22 kilometres (14 mi) wide, and its highest point is Mount Benara, at 660 metres (2,165 ft) above sea level.
Because of the volcanic rock, the soil is relatively rich in some areas. A coral reef encircling much of the island ensures protection for ships and a habitat for fish.
Dzaoudzi was the capital of Mayotte and earlier the capital of all the colonial Comoros until 1977. It is situated on Petite-Terre or Pamanzi, which at 10 square kilometres (4 sq mi) is the largest of several islets adjacent to Maore.
Mayotte is surrounded by a typical tropical coral reef. It consists in a large outer barrier reef, enclosing one of the world's largest and deepest lagoons.
Followed by a fringing reef, interrupted by many mangroves. All Mayotte waters are ruled by a National marine Park, and many places are natural reserves.
In 1500, the Maore or Mawuti sultanate was established on the island. In 1503, Mayotte was observed by Portuguese explorers, but not colonized.
In 1832, Mayotte was conquered by Andriantsoly, former king of Iboina on Madagascar; in 1833, it was conquered by the neighbouring sultanate of Mwali or Moheli island in French.
On 19 November 1835, Mayotte was again conquered by the Ndzuwani Sultanate, a governor was installed with the unusual Islamic style of Qadi or judge in Arabic. However, in 1836 it regained its independence under a last local Sultan.
Mayotte was purchased by France in 1841. It was the only island in the archipelago that voted in referenda in 1974 and 1976 to retain its link with France and forgo independence with 63.8% and 99.4% of votes respectively.
The Comoros continue to claim the island. A draft 1976 United Nations Security Council resolution recognizing Comorian sovereignty over Mayotte, supported by 11 of the 15 members of the Council, was vetoed by France.
It was the last time, as of 2011, that France cast a lone veto in the Council. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a series of resolutions on the issues, under the title Question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte up to 1995.
Since 1995, the subject of Mayotte has not been discussed by the General Assembly.
Mayotte became an overseas department of France in March 2011 in consequence of a 29 March 2009 referendum.
The outcome was a 95.5 per cent vote in favour of changing the island's status from a French overseas community to become France's 101st departement.
Its non-official traditional Islamic law, applied in some aspects of the day-to-day life, will be gradually abolished and replaced by the uniform French civil code.
Additionally, French social welfare and taxes apply in Mayotte, though some of each will be brought in gradually.Comoros continues to claim the island, while criticising the French military base there.
Mayotte is an overseas department and region of France officially named Departement de Mayotte.
Unlike the other overseas regions and departments of France, Mayotte possesses a single local assembly, officially called the departmental council or conseil departemental, which acts both as a regional and departmental council.
The situation of Mayotte proved to be awkward for France, while the local population very largely did not want to be independent from France and join the Comoros, some international criticism from post-colonial leftist regimes was heard about Mayotte's ongoing ties to France.
Furthermore, the peculiar local administration of Mayotte, largely ruled by customary Muslim law, would be difficult to integrate into the legal structures of France.
Not to mention the costs of bringing the standards of living to levels close to those of Metropolitan France.
For these reasons, the laws passed by the national parliament had to state specifically that they applied to Mayotte for them to be applicable on Mayotte.
The status of Mayotte was changed in 2001 towards one very close to the status of the Departments of France, with the particular designation of departmental collectivity.
This change was approved by 73% of voters in a referendum. After the constitutional reform of 2003 it became an overseas collectivity while retaining the title departmental collectivity of Mayotte.
Mayotte became an overseas department of France or departement d'outre-mer, DOM on 31 March 2011 following the result of the March 2009 Mahoran status referendum, which was overwhelmingly approved by around 95% of voters.
Becoming an overseas department will mean it will adopt the same legal and social system as used in the rest of France.
This will require abandoning some customary laws, adopting the standard French civil code, and reforming the judiciary, educational, social and fiscal systems, and will take place over a period of about 20 years.
Despite its domestic constitutional evolution from the status of an overseas collectivity to that of an overseas department, effectively becoming a full constituent territory within the French Republic.
However following a directive of the European Council in December 2013, Mayotte became an outermost region of the European Union on 1 January 2014.
This successful agreement between the 27 member states follows a petition made by the French government for Mayotte to become an integral territory of the European Union nonetheless benefiting from the derogation clause applicable in existing Outermost regions.
This namely Article 349 TFEU, as favoured in a June 2012 European Commission opinion on Mayotte's European constitutional status.
In 2015, the GDP of Mayotte at market exchange rates was €2.25 billion (US $2.5 bn). In that same year the GDP per capita of Mayotte at market exchange rates, not at PPP, was €9,477 (US $10,516).
This was 14.5 times larger than the GDP per capita of the Comoros that year, but only 44% of the GDP per capita of Reunion and 27% of the GDP per capita of Metropolitan France.
As of the September 2017 census, there were 256,518 people living in Mayotte.
According to the 2007 census, 63.5% of the people living in Mayotte were born in Mayotte, 4.8% were born in the rest of the French Republic either metropolitan France or overseas France except Mayotte.
28.3% were immigrants from the Comoros, 2.6% were immigrants from Madagascar, and the remaining 0.8% came from other countries.
Most of the inhabitants of the island are Comorians. The Comorians are a blend of settlers from many areas, Iranian traders, mainland Africans, Arabs and Malagasy.
Comorian communities can also be found in other parts of the Comoros chain as well as in Madagascar.
The main religion in Mayotte is Islam, with 97% of the population Muslim and 3% Christian.
The main religious minority, Roman Catholicism, has no proper diocese but is served, together with the Comoros, by a missionary jurisdiction, the Apostolic Vicariate of Comoros Archipelago.
Mayotte Climate is tropical; marine; hot, humid, rainy season during northeastern monsoon (November to May); dry season is cooler (May to November).
Mayotte Landscape is generally undulating, with deep ravines and ancient volcanic peaks.
Cities of Mayotte
- Mamoudzou, capital of the island
Planes fly daily between Reunion and Dzaoudzi, the airport/military base in Mayotte. For a return flight from Paris to Mayotte, expect to cash out at least €800.
Kenya Airways has flights from Nairobi to Mayotte. This is an extension of their Paris-Nairobi flights.
The primary port for boat transport is Dzaoudzi.
The easiest way to get around Mayotte is with bush taxis or taxi brousse who will take you around the island for a few euros.
French is the official language and is spoken by around 63% of the population. Few people over the age of 65 speak French.
The vernacular languages are Shimaore, a language closely related to Comorian and Swahili and Kibushi a language related to Malagasay and heavily influenced by Shimaore and Arabic.
Kibushi is spoken in the south and north-west of Mayotte, while Shimaore is spoken elsewhere.
French is the only official language of Mayotte. It is the language used for administration and the school system.
It is the language most used on television and radio as well as in commercial announcements and billboards. In spite of this, knowledge of French in Mayotte is lower than in any other part of France.
Local languages of Mayotte are:
- Shimaore, a dialect of the Comorian language close to Swahili.
- Kibushi, a western dialect of the Malagasy language (the language of Madagascar) heavily influenced by Shimaore and Arabic
- Kiantalaotsi, another western dialect of the Malagasy language also heavily influenced by Shimaore and Arabic
Kibushi is spoken in the south and north-west of Mayotte, while Shimaore is spoken elsewhere.
Besides French, other non-indigenous languages are also present in Mayotte namely:
- Arabic, essentially learned in the Quranic schools
- Various dialects of the Comorian language essentially imported by immigrants who have arrived in Mayotte since 1974
- Shindzwani, the dialect of Anjouan, or Nzwani,
- Shingazidja the dialect of Grande Comore, or Ngazidja,
- Shimwali the dialect of Moheli, or Mwali
Shingazidja and Shimwali on the one hand and Shimaore on the other hand are generally not mutually intelligible. Shindzwani and Shimaore are perfectly mutually intelligible.
At the 2007 census, 63.2% of people 14 years and older reported that they could speak French although 87.1% of those whose age was 14 to 19 years old reported that they could speak it.
Whereas only 19.6% of those aged 65 and older reported that they could speak it.
93.8% of the population whose age was 14 or older reported that they could speak one of the local languages of Mayotte - Shimaore, Kibushi, Kiantalaotsi, or any of the Comorian dialects, which the census included in the local languages.
6.2% of the population aged 14 and older reported that they spoke none of the local languages and could speak only French.
A survey was conducted by the French Ministry of National Education in 2006 among pupils registered in CM2 equivalent to fifth grade in the US and Year 6 in England and Wales.
Questions were asked regarding the languages spoken by the pupils as well as the languages spoken by their parents.
According to the survey, the ranking of mother tongues was the following, ranked by number of first language speakers in the total population; note that percentages add up to more than 100% because some people are natively bilingual.
- Shimaore: 55.1%
- Shindzwani: 22.3%
- Kibushi: 13.6%
- Shingazidja: 7.9%
- French: 1.4%
- Shimwali: 0.8%
- Arabic: 0.4%
- Kiantalaotsi: 0.2%
- Other: 0.4%
When also counting second language speakers e.g. someone whose mother tongue is Shimaore but who also speaks French as a second language then the ranking became:
- Shimaore: 88.3%
- French: 56.9%
- Shindzwani: 35.2%
- Kibushi: 28.8%
- Shingazidja: 13.9%
- Arabic: 10.8%
- Shimwali: 2.6%
- Kiantalaotsi: 0.9%
- Other: 1.2%
With the mandatory schooling of children and the economic development both implemented by the French central state, the French language has progressed significantly on Mayotte in recent years.
The survey conducted by the Ministry of National Education showed that while first and second language speakers of French represented 56.9% of the population in general.
This figure was only 37.7% for the parents of CM2 pupils, but reached 97.0% for the CM2 pupils themselves whose age is between 10 and 14 in general.
Nowadays there are instances of families speaking only French to their children in the hope of helping their social advancement.
With French schooling and French language television, many young people turn to French or use many French words when speaking Shimaore and Kibushi.
This has lead to some fears that these native languages of Mayotte could either disappear or become some sort of French-based creole.
Approximately 26% of the adult population, and five times as many women as men, report entering trance states in which they believe they are possessed by certain identifiable spirits or Djinns who maintain stable and coherent identities from one possession to the next.
Other languages spoken by smaller numbers include Kiantalaotsi which is closely related to Kibushi, Arabic and Comorian.
Mayotte currency is the euro (€). Local food and items like bananas, manioc, fish rice are inexpensive, imported items dairy products, manufactured products are expensive.
Activities and adventures to explore in Mayotte:
- Hike or climb to the summit of Mont Choungui will offer a spectacular panorama of the island.
- Makis a ring-tailed lemur can be found in remote regions of the island.
- Diving is mandatory. Expect spectacular sights in the world's largest lagoon.
- Sea turtles come to roost on the southern beaches.
- In August-September, humpback whales can be found with their calves in the lagoon.
Voluntary service or Volontariat Civil a l'Aide Technique (VCAT). Conditions: you must be French or from another EU-member state or a country belonging to the European Economic Area.
You must be over 18 and under 28 years old. You must not have had your civic rights revoked by a court or have been convicted of certain offences.
Cyclones do occur during rainy season.
Mayotte is a malaria-infested zone considered to be high risk. Consult your physician for anti-malaria medicine, take it, and pile on mosquito repellent to avoid bites.
90% of the population is Muslim, following a very tolerant Islam. Greeting others while perambulating about, or a pleasant expression of recognition, a smile, is considered respectful.
Sunday, 18 March 2018
Located on both sides of the Bosphorus, the narrow strait between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, Istanbul bridges Asia and Europe both physically and culturally.
Istanbul's population is estimated to be between 12 and 19 million people, making it also one of the largest cities in Europe and the world.
Districts in Istanbul
Sultanahmet-Old City - Essentially the Constantinople of the Roman, Eastern Roman/Byzantine, and much of the Ottoman periods, this is where most of the famous historical sights of Istanbul are located.
Galata - Housing many of the nightlife venues of the city, this district includes Beyoglu, Istiklal Street, and Taksim Square also its own share of sights and accommodation.
New City - Main business district of the city with many modern shopping malls and districts such as Elmadag, Nişantaşı, and Etiler.
Bosphorus - European bank of the Bosphorus dotted by numerous palaces, parks, water-front mansions, and bohemian neighbourhoods, such as Beşiktaş and Ortakoy.
Golden Horn - Banks of Golden Horn, the estuary that separates the European side into distinctive districts. Eyup, with an Ottoman ambience, is located here.
Princes’ Islands - An excellent getaway from the city, made up of an archipelago of nine car-free islands—some of them small, some of them big—with splendid wooden mansions, verdant pine gardens and nice views—both of the islands themselves, and also on the way there.
Asian Side - Eastern half of Istanbul, with lovely neighborhoods at the Marmara and Bosphorus coasts.
Western Suburbs - Western chunk of the European Side.
Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus Strait or Istanbul Bogazi, the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the estuary of the Golden Horn or Haliç bisecting the western part and the Sea of Marmara or 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, Beyoglu and Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul, while Kadıkoy is the major district on the comparatively less-visited Anatolian side of the city. The Black Sea forms the northern boundary of Istanbul.
Istanbul has a temperate oceanic climate which is influenced by a continental climate, with hot and humid summers and cold, wet and occasionally snowy winters.
Istanbul has a high annual average rainfall of 844mm which is more than that of London, Dublin or Brussels, whose negative reputation Istanbul does not suffer, with late autumn and winter being the wettest, and late spring and summer being the driest.
Although late spring and summer are relatively dry when compared to the other seasons, rainfall is significant during these seasons, and there is no dry season as a result.
If there is a negative reputation that Istanbul does suffer from, it is the high annual relative humidity, especially during winter and summer with the accompanying wind chill and concrete-island effect during each respective season.
Summer is generally hot with averages around 27ºC during the day and 18ºC at night. High relative humidity levels and the concrete-island effect only make things worse. Expect temperatures of up to 35° C for the hottest days of the year.
Summer is also the driest season, but it does infrequently rain. Showers tend to last for 15-30 minutes with the sun usually reappearing again on the same day.
Flash floods are a common occurrence after heavy rainfalls especially during summer, due to the city's hilly topography and inadequate sewage systems.
Winter is cold and wet, averaging 2ºC at night and 7ºC during the day. Although rarely below freezing during the day, high relative humidity levels and the wind chill makes it feel bitterly cold and very unpleasant.
Snowfall, which occurs almost annually, is common between the months of December and March, with an annual total snow cover of almost three weeks, but average winter snowfall varies considerably from year to year.
Snow cover usually remains only for a few days after each snowfall, even under intense snow conditions.
Late spring - late May to early June - and early autumn - late September to early October - are very pleasant and therefore the best times to visit the city.
During these periods it is neither cold nor hot, and still sunny, though the nights can be chilly and rain is common.
For visitors an umbrella is recommended during spring, autumn and winter, and during the summer to avoid the sun and occasionally the rain.
However, it’s not such a big problem, since streets of Istanbul are suddenly filled by umbrella sellers as soon as it starts raining.
Although the umbrellas they provide are a little shoddy, going rate is only TRY5 which is about USD3- per umbrella, though you can find much better umbrellas for that price at shops if you look around a bit.
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 micro-climates.
Thus, different sections 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 at the northern terminus of metro line, while Taksim, the southern terminus of metro line, is having a perfectly sunny day.
Most planes arrive at Istanbul Ataturk Airport (IST), 20km west of the city centre. From the airport, there are various options for getting into Istanbul, you can take a taxi which is about TRY60 to Taksim.
There is no night fare in Istanbul anymore, the price would be the same at midnight or midday.
About the same to Sultanahmet, the express bus service run by the local airport service called Havataş which departs half-hourly between 4AM-midnight and costs TRY11 (July 2016) to Taksim and Aksaray.
The public bus run by İETT costing TRY5 or TRY3.50 with İstanbulKart, which has fewer departure times now, due to Havatas, which is also a municipality engaged bus service.
At the bus stop of your final destination, be wary of taxi drivers that come up to you or are overly friendly. Follow locals to a corner where most of the taxis are picking up customers.
Then, there is the metro signposted light rail in the airport, when you get outside the baggage claim it's about a 10 minute walk in the airport to the metro line.
Just follow the signs, which will take you directly to the Otogar or bus station, or to numerous stops within Istanbul Aksaray in the city centre is the last stop, transfer stations for tram heading for deeper into old city is available at Zeytinburnu and Aksaray.
It costs TRY3, by token plus an extra TRY4 when boarding the tram and getting to Aksaray takes around 45 minutes. It is possible to be at your bus departing from Otogar within less than one hour after landing by taking the metro.
Actual travel time on the metro from the Aksaray station to the Airport station was 35 minutes and cost TL 2.15 with the Istanbulkart, January 2016.
Allow more time if you need to transfer on the way to the airport and keep in mind that you will have to pay for the transfer.
When entering the metro station, you need to buy a jeton or token for TRY4. Just hand the cashier TRY4 and he'll give you a token, or use the automatic dispenser or Jetonmatik, which accepts banknotes TRY5, TRY10, TRY20 as well as coins.
Use select to choose the number of jetons and then push ok. They don't accept credit card or foreign currency here.
This will get you on the red metro line towards Aksaray. From this line, if you are going to Sultanahmet, you can transfer at Zeytinburnu and buy another jeton (TRY4).
Note that the jeton token here is different than the first one. From Zeytinburnu, take the blue tram line T1, towards Kabataş which passes by: Sultanahmet, Eminonu and Tophane. The trip from the airport to Sultanahmet takes about 45min.
To get from Ataturk to the Asian side of Istanbul, the quickest way is to take a taxi to Bakikoy IDO Iskele the ferry pier, which takes about 10m and costs 20TL, and then take an IDO high-speed catamaran to Kadikoy (20m) or Bostanci (40m) for 7TL.
This is much faster and cheaper than a taxi, which could take up to 2 hours if there is a lot of traffic. The boat runs from 7am to 9pm.
Be aware that people are working on commission at the airport trying to make you use special shuttle buses for very high fees (TRY30+), so for people who wish to travel more economically the Metro/tram-combination is easy and fairly quick, and offers very good value.
Travel by metro/tram cost 1 token per trip which is equal to TRY3. No matter how long you travel, it costs 1 token per trip.
You probably need a visa to enter Turkey, which can usually be obtained online. Check if this applies to you, and apply in advance.
Do not rely upon any other website, as the rules may change suddenly as the security situation in Turkey evolves. Also some websites charge extra for no additional service.
In general EU Schengen passport holders need no visa to enter, North American and UK residents need a visa costing US$ 20 valid for 90 days, residents of China pay US$ 60 for 30 days, and visa duration and price varies for other nations.
Some travelers are not eligible for an evisa and must apply for a conventional visa via their local Turkish Embassy.
Apply at the same time as you book your trip, your 90 or other day visa validity will start from your stated arrival day in Turkey.
Print it out and keep it with you, as well as a soft copy on your phone. As well as checks when flying, it could be demanded at an internal police check.
In theory you are permitted to arrive at Ataturk airport without a visa and use the visa office or machine to apply there.
Food and drink at the airport may cost up to five times more than in the city proper, like in other international airports.
If you are travelling on budget and plan to spend some time at the airport, it may be wise to bring your own meals from town instead of buying them at the airport.
If you come from the Metro, there is a supermarket in the tunnel leading to the elevators / stairs to the airport proper where you can do some last-minute shopping.
Sabiha Gokçen Airport - Istanbul also has a second airport, Sabiha Gokçen International Airport (SAW), located in the Anatolian side of the city Sabiha Gokçen International Airport.
The cheapest way to arrive from Sabiha Gokçen to the European side of Istanbul is by bus at E10 or E11 lines, from Sabiha Gokçen to Kadikoy ferry from Kadikoy to many ferry stations, including some in the Sultanahmet area.
Using Istanbulkart or Akbil, the price is less than TRY7. That's about €2.50 in total. Every other option priced at €10 and above TRY23 and above, makes sense only if you can't use this.
Be aware that last ferries are between 10 and 11pm, yet the E10 continues throughout the night.
A pricier option is the Havatas bus connects this airport with Taksim in the city centre for TRY14 and takes about an hour and a half closer to two or more in heavy traffic.
There is also a Havatas service to the ferry pier in Kadıkoy, a transportation hub of Asian Side, which costs TRY 10.
If you arrive in the middle of the night, you can move to the departure hall after passing customs and rest on very comfortable seats, you will even find coin-operated Japanese massage chairs.
Then, at 05:00 the first Havatas bus will take you to town. The Havatas bus schedule is sometimes linked to the arrival/departure times of planes.
Various private operators offer internet bookable shared minibuses to central locations, a good choice when arriving late. A typical price being €90 for 4 people to a hotel in Laleli.
A taxi to Sabiha Gokçen airport from Taksim, which lies around 50km from the airport, takes c. 35 minutes at 03:30 with no traffic. The meter will show c. TRY75, plus there is c. TRY6 in tolls.
Note the security screening is before the check-in counters, so add some extra time to make the cut-off times, 45 minutes for international, 30 for domestic.
Beware of the company running the Hotel Information office in the Sabiha Gokçen airport which offers shuttle-to-hotel services from €15.
They pretend to make a discount based on your group size, you can get it as low as €12.50 for 4 people because their drivers are totally uninformed about any hotel address and they may get lost/the trip may take 2-3 times more than normal because of their lack of knowledge with hotel addresses.
There are no mainline trains in central Istanbul. Trains to Europe via Bucharest or Sofia historically ran from 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, often very late.
You probably need a visa in advance to enter Turkey by train.
High speed trains the YHT now run from Pendik, 25 km east of city centre. The simplest way there is by Marmaray line under the Bosporus then metro to Kartal, then bus 251 or taxi the final 5 km to Pendik station.
Allow at least 90 minutes for all this, and note that the first metro of the morning will not get you to Pendik in time for the first Ankara train at 6.30 am.
However once Pendik is reached, it has a frequent 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.
Road transport for Pendik sets down, and picks up to return towards city centre, on the north side of the station. Walk through the subway to south side and turn right for the ticket office, platform access and other station facilities.
For timings and reservations see Turkish railways website. 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. The international trains to Iran, Syria and Iraq are suspended indefinitely.
It is not known when the YHT line might be completed from Pendik into the centre of Istanbul, nor whether there will be a single central terminus or separate European and Asian stations as before.
But the Marmaray line was designed to take mainline passenger and freight trains as well as the metro.
Most buses and coaches terminate at the colossal Esenler Otogar, about 10 km west of the city center, located on the European side. The station can be easily reached via the Otogar stop on the M1.
Companies may also have courtesy minibuses or taxis which will allow you to easily access the center of the city.
Buses depart/arrive for all regions of Turkey as well as for international destinations including cities in Bulgaria, Greece, Republic of Macedonia and Romania. The terminal is huge and each company has a separate office.
The area can be a tourist trap with people wanting to help get you to the right office for a fee. It is easiest if you know who you want to travel with when you arrive.
With 168 ticket offices and gates, shops, restaurants, hotel, police station, clinic and mosque, the Buyuk Otogar is a town in itself. From/To Thessaloniki (Greece): ticket prices are around €45 (one way),€80 with return .
From/To Sofia and Varna (Bulgaria): ~30€ (one way). From/To Skopje (Macedonia): ~40€ (one way). Ticket prices may change related with petrol costs but on an avarage 100 kilometers costs 5€ (Euros).
Some bus companies selling online tickets from their individual webpages. Varan, Ulusoy, Pamukkale and KamilKoç are considered as best bus companies of Turkey.
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.
Turkish bus companies mostly don’t have a toilet inside the bus. Buses stop for rest and needs usually every 4 or 5 hours. Rest duration is 30 minutes.
International ferries, carrying tourist groups from outside Turkey stop at Karakoy Port. The port is ideally located close to Sultanahmet and Taksim.
Cruise ships often dock close to downtown. Passengers not on tours will find taxis readily available at the port entrance, and modern streetcars a short walk away.
Traffic in Istanbul can be manic; expect a stressful drive because you will be cut off and honked at constantly.
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 familiar with the streets, it's better to park your car in a safe place and take public transportation to get around.
The city, lying on two different continents and separated by the Bosphorus, is connected by 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 are toll bridges, and you must pay a fee to cross.
Since 2006, the Bosphorus Bridge toll stations do not accept cash, and payment must be made using electronic cards, either manually (KGS) or automatically via a transponder mounted on the front of the car (OGS).
The Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge does not accept cash either, only KGS or OGS. The minimum amount of credit which can be purchased for a KGS card is 50 Turkish Lyra.
On weekdays, drivers should be aware of potentially hour-long traffic jams on the highways leading to both bridges, particularly heading west in the mornings and east in the evenings, since most people live on the Anatolian side but work on the European side.
There is a great shortage of parking in Istanbul, and existing lots are quite expensive. You will see many cars parked on the sides of the road, in front of garage doors even.
Drivers unfamiliar with the city should also be aware that street signs are rare. It is a common thing to pull over and ask for directions, something the natives and taxi drivers do quite often.
Istanbul's public transit system can be difficult to figure out; 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.
There is an extensive bus system, including city-run and private buses, as well as one high-speed Metrobus line; an extensive light rail system including four Metro underground lines.
Four Tramvays aboveground, two Funikulers ascending/descending, two mini-lines called Teleferik, and the Marmaray underwater lines; and the ferries which travel the Bosphorus.
An important supplement to all of this particularly late at night is the fleet of private dolmuş minivans, which follow prescribed routes and wait until they fill up before departing.
They range in price from 2-8 lira which must be paid in cash, depending on how far you're going. They run all night long, unlike most of the public transport lines.
So if you find yourself stranded at Taksim at 4am, a dolmuş is your way home. Look for the yellow minivans, and ask them where they're going.
Each time you use a tram, metro, bus, or boat on the public transport system, you will need to use a token or a magnetic card.
The small metal/plastic tokens cost 4 TL 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, 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.
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 an Istanbulkart or Akbil.
Buying an Istanbulkart is a good idea if you are in Istanbul for more than a day or two, and intend to use public transport. This is a plastic card that looks like a credit card.
It can be used as a ticket on buses, trams, suburban trains, metro, some cross-Bosphorus ferries, and even some public toilets. You touch the Istanbulkart to a reader when you get on the bus or enter the tram/metro platform.
The great part for groups 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.
An Istanbulkart provides a flat fare of 2.15TL for the first ride, which is a cheaper option in comparison to tokens used in Metro and speed trams (jeton, 4TL).
It is also 3,85TL to the Prince's Islands, instead of 6TL for a token, 4,15TL to Sabiha Gokçen airport instead of 5TL.
Istanbulkart also allows discounts in transfers when used multiple times within a limited period, roughly an hour and a half since the last time you used it.
A deposit for the device itself is payable when you buy it 7 TL + any top-up, which is not refundable, and neither is any credit left on the Istanbulkart when bought at the Ataturk airport metro terminus, 4TL deposit will be already on the card when bought.
There are different booths for buying the card and for charging it, and charging booths accept only 5, 10, and 20 lira banknotes.
Once you have bought and loaded the card, your first journey costs 2.15TL except for Metrobus, which costs around 3TL.
Then, any change within approximately 2 hours costs progressively cheaper: the second journey is 1.45TL, the third is 1.15TL, the fourth and fifth are 0.85TL.
When several people are traveling using one card, the fare paid for the second, third etc. passengers may differ.
Changing metro line or travel type, i.e., ferry to bus, or metro to tram, requires you to go out of the turnstiles and then back in to the new line or travel type.
Therefore, this is extremely more economical than buying individual jetons at 4TL per journey.
The Istanbulkard is relatively new, and is replacing the older Akbil metal touch-token which is being phased out but is still in wide use. It is now just about impossible to buy an Akbil.
However, there are still some places that do not yet accept the Istanbulkart, so if you have an Akbil token left over from previous trips to Istanbul, keep hold of it: they still work.
Some Kiosks still have Akbil signs rather than Istanbulkart signs - but you can usually buy or top up your Istanbulkart at any kiosk where the Akbil sign is displayed.
There are two types of public buses in Istanbul; those run by the private sector and those run by the city-owned İETT. You can differentiate these two types by their colors.
Privately run buses are blue-green with yellow non-electronic destination signs while İETT-run buses come in many flavors including old red-blue ones, newer green ones and red double-deckers.
The Akbil Transit Pass is valid universally while tickets that can be obtained in kiosks near bus stops for 1.40 TL are valid only on İETT buses and cash payment only on private buses.
Although if you get on an İETT bus the driver will normally accept cash, normally 1.50 TL but this is dependent entirely upon what the driver wishes to charge and hand you his Akbil for you to use.
Recently installed Metrobus, long hybrid buses running on their special lanes separated from all other traffic and thus saving lots of time in Istanbul's usually congested roads.
Connect western suburb of Avcılar with Kadıkoy in Asian Side via Bakırkoy, Cevizlibag which is just out of old city walls near Topkapı Gate, and Mecidiyekoy.
Most bus lines operate between 6AM and around midnight, usually with a reduced volume of services after 10PM. Some lines between major centres operate 24 hr, though, as is the Metrobus, with about an hour intervals.
After midnight, buses cost two tickets pp rather than the usual one. Buses and streetcars tend to be very crowded during rush hours, especially on Mondays and Fridays. That can also create opportunities for pickpockets.
24 hr Bus Lines:
- 73 Taksim Square-Ataturk International Airport
- 110 Taksim Square-Kadikoy
- 112 Taksim Square-Bostanci
- 25T Taksim Square-Sariyer
- 40 Taksim Square-Sariyer
- 89C Taksim Square-Basaksehir
- E10 Kadikoy-Sabiha Gokcen International Airport
- 15F Kadikoy-Uskudar
- 130 Kadikoy-Tuzla
- 34A Sogutlucesme(Kadikoy)-Edirnekapi (Metrobus)
- 34 Avcilar-Zincirlikuyu (Metrobus)
As a tourist, you are most likely to use the tram and the metro in the Sultanahmet and Taksim area since there are no bus lines operating in the Sultanahmet area anymore.
Istanbul's first underground system dates back to 19th century, when the funicular subway Tunel was constructed to operate from Karakoy to Istiklal Street in 1875. The distance travelled was 573 metres.
This is a good way to go up the hill from the Beyoglu side of the Galata Bridge to the famous Istiklal Caddesi pedestrian street.
Starting in the 1990's, a modern and extensive and often confusing light rail system has been constructed in all parts of the city.
The newest addition is the Marmaray undersea tunnel, which crosses below the Bosphorus from the the Sultanahmet area to the Anatolian side.
Underground lines are called metro, above ground lines are called tram, and there are also short, uphill lines called funikuler, two tiny teleferik lines, and the undersea Marmaray. There is also a high-speed bus called Metrobus, complementary to this whole network.
There are four Metro lines, the first of which has two branches. The most useful to most tourists will be M1A which visits both Ataturk Airport and the Otogar Bus Station, and the M2 which passes near to Sultanahmet and travels to Galata/Taksim and beyond.
There is also a funicular system connecting Taksim to Kabataş, where you can take ferries across the Bosphorus to the Anatolian side, and also transfer to trams bound for the old city.
Another funicular, called Tunel, connects Şişhane to Karakoy, the eastern side of the Galata Bridge.
Nowadays, most metro stations do not have a staffed ticket booth, so you will have to obtain your token from automatic token dispensers called Jetonmatic. Insert coins except 1 or 5 kuruş up to 4 TL and then press the button marked onay which is Turkish for approval, no English translations are given on all the machines.
A token costs 4 TL which is around €1.30 on any urban rail in Istanbul.
A tram connects Zeytinburnu to Kabataş. The line is 14km long, has 24 stations and serves many popular tourist sites e.g. in Sultanahmet and ferries e.g. Eminonu. An entire trip takes 42 minutes.
There are two tram lines running on the same tracks, the line numbered as 38 in front of tram cars runs along the entire T1 line between Kabataş and Zeytinburnu, while significantly shorter line #47 runs between Eminonu and Cevizlibag stations, the latter of which is abbreviated as C.bağ-A.Ö.Y. on the signage of tram cars.
However, both lines call at stations that are of most interest to travellers through the Old City. During morning and evening rush hours every alternate tram runs as #47, while during the rest of the day, most run as #38.
Although you may use the same tokens (2 TL) or AKBİL on the metro and tram, you must pay another fare each time you change lines.
The 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 Eminonu in April 1996.
On January 30, 2005 it was extended from Sirkeci to Kabataş crossing Golden Horn after 44 years again. 55 vehicles built by ABB run on the line. The daily transport capacity is 155,000 passengers.
Tramway stations are: Zeytinburnu, Mithatpaşa, Akşemsettin, Seyitnizam, Merkezefendi, Cevizlibag, Topkapı, Pazartekke, Çapa, Fındıkzade, Haseki, Yusufpaşa, Aksaray, Laleli (Üniversite), Beyazıt (Kapalıçarşı), Çemberlitaş, Sultanahmet, Gulhane, Sirkeci, Eminonu (ferryboats), Karakoy, Tophane, Fındıklı, Kabataş.
Between Taksim and Kabatas, there is a modern underground funicular to connect this tram line to the Taksim metro.
The tram is also 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.
During morning and evening rush hours, roughly between 7AM-9AM and 5PM-7:30PM respectively, tram cars run jam-packed so if you intend to take it for a couple of stations down the way, don't even bother walking.
Instead it is not only less tiresome than standing in a crowded than a sardine can, it's also quicker as you will most likely be able to get in the second or even third tram calling at the station due to the crowd.
There are also two other tram lines linking residential and industrial suburbs in the northwest with the city centre: T2, which heads for Bagcılar, and T4, which is more like metro-tram systems of northwestern Europe, as it lies underground for part of its route.
This heads for Sultançiftligi, connecting to the Zeytinburnu and Topkapı stations of the T1 line respectively. However, these lines are of very little, if any, use to the average traveller.
The process of replacing old buses with newer ones accessible for people using a wheelchair is ongoing. Many buses on central lines have a low floor and a built-in ramp, consult the driver to lean the bus down nearer to the ground, to open the ramp, and to assist into the bus.
This though may unfortunately be impossible during peak hours in interval stops. Think of a sardine-packed bus unloading all of its passengers to lean down.
LCD screens showing the stop names while approaching to the stop, and voice announcement is made.
Trams are accessible for people using a wheelchair from the station platforms if you can manage to get into the station in the first place.
Some of the stations are located in the middle of very wide avenues and the only access to them is via underground passages tens of stairs or overpasses more stairs.
Otherwise, platforms in tram stations are low and equipped with gentle ramps right from the street or sidewalk level. Moda Tramvay and Nostaljik Tramvay run older cars which are not wheelchair-accessible.
All stations are announced both on a display and by voice in the trams.
All stations and trains in the northern metro line are accessible for people using a wheelchair. Look around the station entrances for handicapped lifts/elevators.
Only some of the stations in the southern metro line are equipped with such elevators among the stations which have elevators are Aksaray the main station of the city centre, Otogar-the main bus station, and Havalimanı Airport station.
But whether there is an elevator or not, if you manage to get into the station there is a good chance that you can do with a little assistance because the stations in the southern line aren’t located as deep as the stations of the northern line are; only about one floor’s height under the ground.
All trains are accessible from the station platforms, though a little assistance more will be helpful for passing over the narrow gap between the train and the platform.
You can ask the guys in grey/black uniforms or security guards, they can be seen in the entrances of the station platforms if not elsewhere) for assistance, it’s their duty.
All stations are announced by voice in the metro trains. In northern line it is also announced on a display, but not in the southern line. Instead, you should look at the signs in the stations, which are big and common enough.
Unique Istanbul liners the large conventional ferry boats, sea-buses or high speed catamarans, or mid-sized private ferries travel between the European and Asian sides of the city.
The crossing takes about 20 minutes and costs 1.50 TL, and gives great views of the Bosphorus. 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 if they are standing up, so it is advisable to remain seated until the ferry has come to an absolute stop.
In Istanbul, liners from any given quay generally take only a certain route, and these quays are signposted ‘X Iskelesi’ X Landing stage/pier.
For instance, Eminonu alone has more than 5 landing stages including the ones used by other ferries apart from liners, so if you should head for, say, Uskudar, you should take the ferry which departs from Uskudar Iskelesi. Replace Uskudar with the destination of your choice.
Istanbul liners travel on various routes as follows:
Karakoy - Haydarpaşa - Kadıkoy
Kadıkoy - Eminonu
Uskudar - Eminonu
Uskudar - Karakoy - Eminonu - Eyup (The Golden Horn Route)
Kadıkoy - Besiktaş
Kabatas - Uskudar - Harem
Istinye - Emirgan - Kanlıca - Anadolu Hisarı - Kandilli - Bebek - Arnavutköy - Çengelkoy, The Whole Bosphorus Route.
Anadolu Kavagı - Rumeli Kavagı - Sariyer
Eminonu - Kavaklar, Special Bosphorus Tour-Recommended For Tourists.
Sirkeci - Adalar - Yalova - Cınarcık, The Princes' Islands Route.
Furthermore, the sea-buses or deniz otobusu follow the same or more routes, usually much faster than liners.
Returning to Yenikapi from Kadikoy by sea-bus is a fast and convenient way to cross the Bosphorus; at Yenikapi there is a railway station with frequent trains to Sirkeci/Eminonu and the Yenikapi fish restaurant area is close by or one stop on the train.
Four main private ferry routes for travelling between Asia and Europe as follows:
Besiktaş - Uskudar
Kabataş - Uskudar, close to tram and funicular system in Kabataş.
Eminonu - Uskudar, close to tram in Eminonu.
Eminonu - Kadıkoy, close to tram in Eminonu.
Very useful are the fast ferryboats travelling at 55 kilometers 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.
All of the ferries, including private ones, can be paid for using the AKBIL system or the new Smart RFID Card that is in the process of introduction.
A new metro line extension crossing the Bosphorus in a tunnel is under construction. This will change the ferry provision and is perhaps a good reason to visit Istanbul before it is completed.
Suburban/commuter trains or banliyo treni using somewhat dilapidated stock and running on national rail network, connect suburbs along the European and Asian coast of the Sea of Marmara to main stations at Sirkeci and Haydarpaşa, respectively.
These trains are one of the fastest connections between the old city and western suburbs, especially Bakırkoy, although they, especially the line on European Side, are best avoided late at night.
Taxis are an easy and cheap way to get around. Start off rate is 3.40 TL (€1.1) and then 2.1 TL (€0.6) for each km afterwards. A one-way travel from Taksim Square to Sultanahmet costs approximately 10-15 TL.
Tipping is generally unnecessary. Occasionally, drivers will refuse to start the meter and try to negotiate a fixed price but most drivers will start taximeters at all times.
You should avoid these cabs and simply take another one as you will almost certainly end paying too much. To be sure, before getting in, just ask how much to go to,since the price they tell then is quite accurate.
Tell them then to put the taximeter on. Drivers do normally work with the taximeter, so they will not be surprised at all when you ask them to put it on. The price at the end will be quite close to the one they tell you at the beginning.
There is now, as of October 2009, just one fare unit, it means, there is no extra fare at night.
Taxis that wait near a bus station are usually a tourist trap. They start the meter but charge you 20 TL at least. Emphasize to the driver that you will pay for the meter price before getting in.
Do not buy their quick-sell tricks. Always try to stop a taxi that is passing by on the road or find a legitimate taxi stop.
Insist on going to the destination that you want because some drivers are payed by commission for each time they have someone go to a certain site.
Beware riding a taxi other than the yellow-colored ones since the other-colored taxis are registered under different cities and have a different rating system.
Be careful on what notes you hand them for payment; some drivers have tried to pretend that the 50 lira note that was handed was just a 5 lira note.
Occasionally taxi drivers may actually also rip notes you give them, and tell you it is no good, in order to make you hand them a 50 lira note. So, make sure the notes are not ripped, and is actually the right one before you hand them over.
Also, if you are not familiar with the city the taxi driver may drive a detour in order to charge you more.
Traffic can be very bad, it can take an hour for a few km through the old city. You might be better off taking the metro out of the old city and then a taxi from there.
Some important routes with distances:
Ataturk Airport (IST) - Taxim Square ~ 21 km.
Ataturk Airport (IST) - Sultanahmet Square (Old City) ~ 18 km.
Taxim Square - Sultanahmet (Old City) ~ 5,5 km.
Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) - Kadikoy (Chalcadonia) Ferry Terminal ~ 36 km.
Esenler (Bus Terminal) - Topkapi Palace (Sultanahmet) ~ 10,5 km.
Esenler (Bus Terminal) - Ataturk Airport (IST) ~ 15 km.
Dolmuş 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 aksim stop, near the Ataturk Cultural Center, in Taksim square.
Taksim - Kadıkoy
Taksim - Bostanci
Taksim - Aksaray (Taksim stop, Tarlabasi Avenue, close to Taksim square)
Kadıkoy - Bostanci (Bostanci stop, in front of the Bostanci ferry port)
Taksim - Tesvikiye (Taksim stop, in front of Patisserie Gezi, in Taksim square)
Beşiktaş - Nisantasi (Beşiktaş stop, in front of the Beşiktaş - Uskudar ferry port.
Kadıkoy - Uskudar (Uskudar stop, Near the Uskudar - Beşiktaş and Üsküdar - Kabataş ferry port)
With its long history at the center of empires, Istanbul offers a wealth of historic and religious places to take in.
The bulk of these ancient monuments, dating back to Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, including the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque), and Basilica Cistern are located around Sultanahmet Square, while some others are dispersed throughout the peninsula of old city.
Church of St Savior in Chora (Kariye Muzesi), entire inside of which is covered by mindblowing frescoes and mosaics.
An impressive section of mostly intact Theodosian walls, which mark the full length of western boundary of the peninsula, is right next to this particular church.
North of the peninsula of old city, across the Golden Horn, is Galata, crowned by the Galata Tower. Istanbul Modern, with its exhibitions of contemporary Turkish art, is on the nearby waterfront of Karakoy.
Another sight of religious significance close by is the Galata Whirling Dervish Hall of Sufi Mevlevi order, just north of the Tower.
Further north is the Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul's prominent pedestrian street running from near Galata Tower to Taksim Square, the central square of whole city.
Heading west rather than north from the old city brings you deeper into the banks of the Golden Horn estuary. A neighbourhood perhaps well worth a visit here is Eyup, to visit city’s holiest Islamic shrine and just to see what daily life in Ottoman Istanbul was like.
On the opposite shores of the Horn, in Sutluce is the Miniaturk, the first miniature park in the city, with models from around the former Ottoman Empire.
North of Taksim Square is New Istanbul, main business district of the city. If venturing out to this direction, don't forget to check out Military Museum, where Ottoman military music concerts (Mehter) are held every afternoon.
Most of the skyscrapers of the city are located in the north of this district, around Levent and Maslak, with a totally different skyline from that of the old city.
However southern reaches of the very same district has some fine neo-classical and Art Nouveau buildings from the turn of the 20th century, around the neighbourhoods of Osmanbey, Kurtuluş, and Nişantaşı.
Just east from here, with a little drop in elevation as you approach the shore, is the banks of Bosphorus, that is lined by pleasant neighbourhoods full of waterfront mansions and a number of waterside palaces where you can admire what money could buy in times gone by.
Across the Bosphorus to east is Asian Side, centred around the historical districts of Kadıkoy and Uskudar, and perhaps best symbolized by Maiden’s Tower, located at about the halfway between these districts, on an islet just off the shore.
Bosphorus and Marmara coasts of this half of the city is characterized by quite picturesque neighbourhoods, overlooked by Çamlıca Hill, one of the highest hills of the city which has a view of much of the rest of the city as well, with a cafe and a pleasant park on its summit.
Southeast of the city, off the southern coast of Asian Side are the Princes’ Islands, an archipelago of nine car-free islands, characterized by stunning wooden mansions and pine groves.
Long ignored for their bad connotation with the Tulip era of 1700s, a period of ostentation and costly parties conducted by state elite amidst large gardens full of tulips, which was later accused of economic destruction and the eventual dissolution of Ottoman Empire.
Tulips have regained much of their former popularity in the last decade and now serve as some sort of symbol of both Istanbul and the whole Turkey.
They bloom from late March to early May,best bet is early to mid April and while they can be seen on many avenues of the city wherever there is enough space for planting at the sides and the central strip of the road.
If you are after admiring and/or photographing large patches of tulips with relatively exotic varieties, head to Sultanahmet Park and Gulhane Park in Sultanahmet; Emirgan Park near the northern Bosphorus neighbourhood of Emirgan; or Çamlıca Hill in Asian Side.
There is also a Tulip Festival throughout April organized at Emirgan Park.
Visit Sinan Pasha Complex, a 4 century-old Ottoman madrasah which is now used as a tourist information center between Beyazit and Cemberlitas tram stations.
Tourist-friendly staff provides you with free information about the complex and Turkish-Islamic culture while you are enjoying free refreshments. Don't worry! They don't try to sell you anything.
A visit to a hamam (Turkish bath) is an essential part of any trip to Istanbul and is something you'll be sure to repeat before leaving. There is at least one historical hamam in each neighborhood of Istanbul.
Take care in selecting a hamam, as they can vary greatly in cleanliness.
Most places will offer a scrubbing and/or a massage. Just being in the Hamam (as a sauna), is enough for seeing and experiencing the place, but the scrubbing is a great experience.
The massage is not necessarily better than those found in western countries.
Sultanahmet has many historical hamams. Some are very extravagant and cater mainly to tourists.
An example of a hamam frequented by locals is the Buyuk Hamam where a full session, massage plus scrub will cost you TRY35 instead of the €60 of the tourist ones. The experience is true Turkish so don't expect any western standards.
Aziziye Hamam is on the Asian side of Istanbul. It's a very traditional, clean and cheap Hamam.
Once upon a time, the nargile, or Turkish water pipe, was the centre of Istanbul’s social and political life.
Today some of the locals still consider it one of life’s great pleasures and is something interesting to try. Most of the places where you can smoke a nargile are in Yeniçeriler Caddesi, near the Kapalı Çarşı or Grand Bazaar.
Çorlulu Ali Paşa and Koca Sinan Paşa Turbesi are both in secluded internal courts, just around the corner from some tomb yards, while Rumeli Kahvesi is actually inside the cemetery of an old medrese, though it’s not as spooky as you might think.
In the south of Sultanahmet, near the sea, is Yeni Marmara or Çayıroblu Sokak, where you can also sit in the terrace and enjoy the view. In Beyoglu, at the Ortakahve or Buyukparmakkapı, there’s even the choice of a wide range of flavors.
Another area with few big good looking places is the Rıhtım Caddesi, between Galata bridge and Istanbul Modern Museum.
Museums and such: Haghia Sophia, then on to the Topkapı museum, these two should take at least 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 Eminonu where the boats leave for trips to Asia or up the Bosphorus. Visit the New Mosque at the back, 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 Eyup mosque complex, a mile or three up the Golden Horn.
Visit this Eyup complex at your leisure, the mosque is not particular, the court is, and the milling of believers, with many boys to get 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 too,; 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.
Go then to the well-restored Sehzade mosque, and next to Suleymaniye, 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 is behind this good, unexceptional mosque.
Once again go to Eminonu, but this time take the boat to Uskudar. You will arrive before a fine mosque in front, another one four hundred meters off to the right, slightly inland behind a traffic roundabout, and 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 railway station and find a Sirkeci-Halkali suburban train, and get out at Yedikule station. You will be quite close to Yedikule, a nice fortress, and will have fine views of the city walls.
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, it’s fun.
The ride is takes anywhere from twenty minutes to half an hour. 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, it’s worth it. And after having explored the covered part, take a relaxing walk downhill, into the general direction of Eminonu, where it is uncovered bazaar all the way.
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 is close to the opposite side of Galata bridge, ask around, then continue to Taksim. Shops are of the international variety.
From 408 AD the original walls of Constantine were replaced in the reign of Theodosius. These walls then became the critical point of defence of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and their Ottoman successors.
They are still almost completely intact, marking the western border of the peninsula of Old City, with some sections suffering from somewhat unsightly restoration done in early 1990s.
The section around the Topkapı Gate can be easily accessed from Pazartekke tram station, which lies about 300 metres east of the walls. Some remoter sections may not be very safe and may require some caution.
A 7km walk along and on these remaining portions of the city wall offers a window into antiquity and puts emphasis on Turkey’s terrible historic monument legacy.
Download and print a scholarly historical and technical description of the walls before you visit Istanbul; this will certainly add to the pleasure. From Eminonu, take the Golden Horn ferry to Ayvansaray.
This ferry terminal is separate from the Bosphorus terminals adjacent and east of the Galata Bridge. Walk west through the Galata bridge underpass, then through the bus station to a pedestrian laneway which leads to the small terminal building.
The fare is TRY1.50. Leave the ferry at Ayvansaray and cross the park to the wall on the other side of the main road.
You have a choice of walking up the outer wall or the inner wall but access to the top of the battlements is usually on the inside naturally enough, so go up the small street across the road which then cuts back behind the wall and the towers.
Here you can climb up onto this section of un-restored wall on crumbling brick and stone and continue on some hundreds of yards climbing as necessary. This path comes to an obvious end and one can short cut back to the street.
Sometimes there are dwellings and commercial enterprises hard up against the wall, sometimes a bus depot, a rubbish dump or often just the road.
These walls replaced the earlier walls of Constantine in 408 AD after which they went through constant upgrade and repairs to earthquake damage. The different work done over the centuries was all of varying style and quality.
Quite surprisingly there are a number of small streets still using the narrow gates. At Hoca Çakır Cd one comes across a restored section of the wall where the heights are accessed by stairs, some along the top of the wall of the steeper variety.
This restoration from the 80s is in conflict with the original. The wall is then breached for the main road Fevzi Paşa Cd. Cross this and continue along the street at the back of the wall. Look for foot pads and breaks in the wall which allows access and a good look around.
The wall is breached again for Adnan Menderes Blv unofficially and widely known as Vatan Caddesi. Past here one see here quite clearly the double line of defence with outer moat.
The next breach is for Turgut Ozal Cd unofficially and widely known as Millet Caddesi which hosts the tram line heading back to Sultanahmet for those who have run out of steam.
Walking now on the outside of the walls, various breaks in the outer wall allow access via broken stonework or later via modern sets of steps in disrepair. Between the walls is the disquieting evidence of the number of people sleeping rough in Istanbul.
Persevere in staying between the walls because soon you will arrive at another impure restoration project at Mevlanakapı Cd gate. Note that entry to the gate towers has been closed at the gate, so entry is only from the walls.
From here it is better to proceed on the outside of the walls because market gardens occupy the moat and the city side abuts buildings. These couple of kms will give a further perspective of the ravages of time and earthquake on the walls.
Finally you will arrive at the Golden Gate and Yedikule Fortress which fronts the Marmara Sea and was Byzantium’s triumphal point of entry. This is in excellent condition not least because the Ottomans upgraded it and then used it right up to the 19th century.
There is an entry fee and it boasts a loo. The high walls and towers are all accessible, and one tower still has internal wooden floors.
So you have now surveyed the protective land walls which kept Byzantium and the Eastern Roman Empire safe for all those years after the fall of Rome, breached only by the 4th Crusaders and the Ottomans. What of their future?
Given that recent restoration work is fairly suspect scholars may think it is better to leave them be. Now return to the city either in the Eminonu Bus (#80) from the village square outside the main gate, just wait there.
Or walk down Yedikule Istasyonu Cd about 300m to the railway line to Sirkeci, both heading for centres close to Sultanahmet.
Around the city you will see various touts for private companies offering Bosporus cruises for €30 or more, often disappointingly short in duration and on rickety boats.
A safer, cheaper and more reliable option is to take the official Bosporus cruise from the state-run company Sehir Hatlari which offers a three hour cruise for TRY2, 90 minutes each way with a break of several hours at Anadoli Kavagi or a shorter non-stop 2 hour cruise for TRY10.
From the Eminonu terminal immediately east of the Galata Bridge starts the large ferry cruising to Anadolu Kavagi at the northern entrance of Bosporus to the Black Sea via various stops. The fare is TRY25.
The departure time is early, there are three daily departures during the high season and is very popular, so arrive early and queue.
The open decks are hugely popular, so unless you have an outside seat expect people to be standing all around you constricting the view. The ferry waits some hours in Anadolu Kavagi so as you alight you are confronted by a numerous restaurants and their spruikers.
Firstly take the very steep walk to the Yoros Kalesi, a strategic castle overlooking and controlling the entry to the Black Sea. This important fortification with a commanding view has been fought over for many years and was last in use in the 19th century.
It has fallen into serious disrepair, but Christian engravings are still visible in the stonework. There are restaurants actually in the castle surrounds and naturally have spectacular views.
There is plenty of time left to wander back to the village for lunch. It is late afternoon before arrival back at Eminonu, but a day well spent. A cheaper and faster Bosphorus cruise alternative is a TRY10 trip on a shorter cruise.
Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Turkey, and Turkish football fans are known for their passion. Many teams from other parts of Europe consider the atmosphere to be very intimidating when they have to play away matches in Turkey.
The most intense rivalries in Turkish football are between Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray, and matches between these sides are always played in front of sell-out crowds; getting tickets requires booking way in advance.
As the atmosphere is extremely hostile to the away teams, spectators should avoid wearing away team colours after the match, and avoid any signs of crowd trouble.
Many foreigners visiting or living in Istanbul decide to study Turkish formally in a language school. Some of the biggest and most respected Turkish language schools in Istanbul are:
- Easy To Transport in Kadıkoy
- ITI Istanbul in 4.Levent.
- A.B.D in 4.Levent.
- EFINST Turkish Center in 1.Levent.
- Dilmer in Gümüşsuyu.
- Tomer, Ankara University affiliated.
- Concept Languages in Etiler.
Bogaziçi University. Runs a summer long intensive Turkish language course for all levels. Both Bogaziçi University and Bilgi University have well established Study Abroad programs in English for foreigners.
If you already speak Turkish, Ottoman Turkish may also be interesting to learn. Ottoman Turkish was the courtly form of Turkish spoken during the era of the Ottoman Empire, and is significantly different to the form of Turkish spoken today.
Approximately 80% of Ottoman Turkish words were loanwords from other languages, mostly Arabic, Persian and French.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, language reforms were implemented, including the establishment of the Turk Dil Kurumu the Turkish Language Association, which is the official regulatory body of the Turkish language.
This association, with a philosophy of linguistic purism, decided to cleanse the Turkish language of loanwords and replace them with more Turkic alternatives. As such, only about 14% of modern Turkish words are of foreign origin.
Ottoman Turkish is the key to learning about Turkey's Ottoman past. With Ottoman Turkish, not only can you read historical archives, but you can also read Ottoman literature and letters dated back to the Ottoman period.
There is always demand for qualified ESOL/EFL teachers in Istanbul. Most teachers work with private instructional companies or private schools.
Private schools are notorious for the spoiled, nouveau riche families that send their children there and remember: you, the teacher, are always wrong and the student always right at such establishments.
The days when a would-be English teacher teacher without a certificate could get a job, however, are long gone, even for under the table jobs.
While Istanbul may seem charming to a first-time visitor, actually living in a city that has far more people than it was designed to support is simply excruciating after a while, and the turnover rate is exceptionally high.
Also keep in mind that the market is quite saturated. You will probably find a job, but not a very good one at first. Making contacts is key. Some English teachers work under the table and pay is generally enough to live on.
Some university English preparatory schools at institutions such as Sehir, Koc, Sabanci and a few other private schools, provide decent salaries, and about 10 to 50 percent if you are frugal can be saved.
State universities have higher quality, more motivated students, but pay as little as half their private counterparts, albeit with more holiday time.
Late payment is not uncommon, and there are plenty of horror stories of bosses cheating their employees.
If you want to live and teach in Turkey, a calmer alternative is to live in a smaller city where you will be in higher demand and the cost of living is lower. However, cultural and entertainment opportunities can be limited, especially for women.
Connecting east and west, the will to control the major trading routes was the reason why Istanbul was founded in the first place, so shopping should definitely not be overlooked in your Istanbul experience.
The currency used in Istanbul is the Turkish Lira (TL or TRY) though the euro and US dollar are also accepted at places frequented by tourists, although certain tourist attractions such as the Hagia Sophia only accept liras.
Currency exchanges or doviz burosu and banks are plentiful in Istanbul and offer extremely competitive exchange rates with no commission charged.
If you are planning to visit Istanbul, bring hard foreign currency and exchange them after you arrive, preferably at a bank or a currency exchange.
Exchange only what you need as you will find difficulty exchanging your leftover TL 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.
Istanbul's historical bazaars with an oriental ambience, once sitting firmly on the western terminii of the Silk Road and spice routes, all dating back to Ottoman era, are all located in the the peninsula of Old City.
However, expect extreme price rises in the Grand Bazaar as it's become a mere tourist attraction. Just moving by few meters outside of it you can see prices drop quickly. If you plan on shopping a lot, a flight to Gaziantep may be worth it.
On the other hand, modern shopping malls alışveriş merkezi, usually shortened to AVM, popping all around the city in the last three decades, are mostly to be found in New Istanbul and western suburbs, though they are by no means exclusively located in these districts.
If you are after top quality upmarket garments, then you may better head for Nişantaşı in European Side and Bagdat Avenue in Asian Side.
Here are some of what are popular to buy while in the city:
Turkish Delight, or Lokum as the locals call it. A good buy since you're in Turkey. It is advisable to buy it fresh rather than in pre-packed boxes and to get a variety of flavours rather than the stereotypical rose-water or lemon flavors available 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.
There are quite a few shops selling Turkish Delight in the Grand Bazaar, although unless you are very good at haggling better prices can be found elsewhere. Highly recommended for Lokum is the Malatya Pazari stall in the Spice Market.
The Turkish delight there was fresh, had great flavors including some offbeat ones and the prices were fair.
Don't buy the 10 TL Turkish delight boxes, the ones that come sealed sold in any tourist shop or all along Istiklal Avenue. Once you get home and open them, it is a major disappointment.
It is much less quantity than the what look like as the size of the box and it tastes horrible. Only buy the ones that you can taste before hand and you see what they are putting inside the box. It will be probably twice the price, but it shall be worthwhile.
There are two kinds of lokums. The first kind is the ones that are made with sugar and sold in small pieces. As of April 2016, these are about 40 TRY per kg. The second kind is the ones that are made with honey.
They usually look like a long stick then cut in to pieces when you buy them. The prices are vary depending on where you buy them. Some people mention that spice market is the best place to buy, but it is also most expensive place to buy, about 95 TRY per kg.
Even the oldest lokum shop in Istanbul, Ali Muhiddin Haci Bekir founded 1777 in Ottoman period, sells for 85 TRY per kg. But no one really goes there any more. Hafiz Mustafa is one of the most popular lokum shops that both locals and tourists go.
It has many locations. The price, as of April 2016, is around 85 TRY per kg. I recommend Baklavaci Muhammed Said. It is not as old as others but it is a family run business, has the best quality, and yet still keeps the cheapest price too.
Turkish Tea (çay, CHAI). The national drink of Turkey, 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 but 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 is the flavour of preference, although it's more for tourists; Turks prefer Siyah Çay (black tea).
Rugs and kilims can be a good buy while in the city. Most rug-specialized stores in the city, though, are aimed at tourist trade, so pick up basics of haggling to avoid being ripped off at these stores. They are mostly located around Sultanahmet.
Chalcedony. A semi-precious gemstone named after the near-by town of Chalcedon, and is sold in many of Istanbul's multitude of jewellery shops.
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. Best antiquarian bookshop in Turkey, owner knows every Turkish excavation site first hand.
Gonul Paksoy, 6/A Atiye Sokak, Tesvikiye. Peerless one-of-a-kind dresses made for royalty from refined, antique Ottoman-era cloth.
Iznik Foundation, 7 Oksuz Cocuk Sokak, Kurucesme. Offers neo-Iznik pottery after recreating original formulas from original Iznik kilns, which functioned between 1450 and 1650.
Sedef Mum, 50 Irmak Caddesi, Dolapdere. Artisans of the time honoured art of candle making, intricately sculpted and aromatic wares make very portable gifts.
Real Estate. Places in Fatih since 1990 to buy or rent an every type real estate.
Yigitsan,Universite Mh. Baglariçi Cad.
Kuruoglu gayrimenkul, Akşemsettin Mahallesi, Fevzipaşa Caddesi, No:11, Dinçay Han, Fatih. Old real Estate office in Fatih in İstanbul since 1990 with two branches.
Teksen Çamlıbel, Ota Jinemed Nüzhetiye Cad. Deryadil Sk. No:1 Beşiktaş / İstanbul.
When having a look for a restaurant, there will be a lot of restaurants, where the staff will try to make one come inside. There is really a kind of competition between the restaurants to make one come inside.
However, the best restaurants are not always the expensive tourist restaurants, but those small Lokantas where even the turkish people go for having dinner.
Doner. 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 around the clock.
Though for a better experience and a better food quality, you may want to wander about in residential neighbourhoods, since anything near a commercial or tourist area can be highly overpriced and greatly reduced in quality.
Balık-Ekmek. or fish and bread is a fish sandwich served in small boats and little buffets in Eminonu. It is also increasingly popular in buffets in Kadıkoy coast. A regular sandwich consists of one small fried fish, slices of tomatoes and onion.
However, the taste is beyond expectations for such a basic menu. The price 6 TL right off the docks at Eminou. Again, it's a local favorite.
Hamsi. In Autumn and Winter the Black Sea Anchovy migrate through the Bosphorus, the local fishermen coming out in force to take advantage. All fish restaurants have them on the menu in season.
It seems the classic serving is a handful of deep fried fish with raw onion and bread. Eat the fish whole, it's a winner. Look for the small restaurants behind the fish merchants on the Karakoy side of the Galata Bridge, western side. Expect to pay TL8.
Patso. Patso is a type of sandwich consisting of hot dog and french fries. It's usually served in small buffets along the Uskudar coast and a sandwich costs 1.50 TL. The cheap price can raise eyebrows but these buffets are open 24/7 and they serve around 1000 sandwiches per day.
Even though the profit margin is low, they make a fortune, so they don't lower the quality too much except hamburgers, don't touch those in Uskudar, but definitely try the spicy hamburgers in Taksim.
One thing not to be missed is the local ice cream sold at the street stands, called dondurma. While flavors are relatively standard for the region, the ice cream usually incorporates orchid root extract.
This 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.
Kumpir is a snack which can easily be a full meal. It is originated from Albania but is quite unique to Istanbul in its present form.
It consists of a baked potato with various fillings such as grated cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, sweetcorn, sausage slices, carrots, mushrooms, and Russian salad among others, any of which can optionally be added to or omitted from the mix.
While kumpir can be had at many cafes throughout the city, it is best had from one of the cafes in Ortakoy, which have a long tradition of preparing kumpir and offer really filling and tasty ones. About 8 TL each.
Roasted chestnuts, kestane Kebap, as locals call it are sold from carts around the city, and is a very nice snack to have when the weather is cold, as it keeps your hands warm.
Quality and flavour is generally good but can vary Between batches, even from the same stand. 5Lr for 100 grams, 10Lr for 200 grams and so on - same prices citywide.
Boiled and roasted corn on the cob known as Sut Misir and Kozde Misir in Turkish, respectively is sold from carts around the city, and is a fantastic snack to walk around. Price varies from cart to cart and area of the city. 2 Lr.
Don't miss the simit, a warm bread sold from carts around the city, and is a fantastic snack to walk around. The texture and taste is a bit like a sesame bagel. 1 Lr.
Also, be sure to try Ayran, a local drink based on yoghurt, although sour and much thinner. It isn't always on the menu or displayed, but it's there, so ask for it. 2Lr.
Freshly squeezed juice and juice blends are sold from stands and small shops all around the city, and are a refreshing treat especially in the warmer months.
The combinations range from a simple orange juice to the more rare options like pomengranate or kiwi. Price varies from shop to shop, area of the city and complexity of your order, between 2 and 4 Lr.
Beyoglu is notoriously known for its night life; it's full of cafes and bars with live music. People from all classes and ethnicities can be found here.
Nişantaşı is the place for young entrepreneurs and artists, the prices are higher than Taksim.
Kadıkoy also has a nightlife scene, serving mostly locals of this part of the city. It is usually has more easy-going style of nightlife, usually with local pubs and wine houses and traditional meyhanes.
If you are not staying on that side of the city, it may not worth the trouble to make an inter-continental trip just to have a drink, but drop by if you are around and thirsty.
Nightclubs, while there are night clubs all over the city, two of the hottest clubs of Istanbul are in Ortakoy.
Istanbul/Galata A local hotspot for those who want to avoid the clubs of Taksim. The steps going down from the Galata Tower are heaving at night so grab some beers/raki from the local shops and an interesting mix of about 90% local to 10% tourist.
In general, it's possible to find some kind of accommodation in any district of Istanbul.
Harbiye is a popular place to stay, as in the main centre of the new city on the European side, and contains a variety of international standard apartments, hotels, and moderate hotels for budget travellers.
Nişantaşı and Taksim are 5 minutes from Harbiye so you can stay in Harbiye and benefit from all activities in Nişantaşı and Taksim.
Taksim is the main centre of the new city on the European side. Locals and tourists go to Taksim for shopping and entertainment, as well as moderate hotels for budget travellers. There are also two hostels in this area.
Sultanahmet the main centre for the old city on the European side. It has a selection of quality, reasonably priced hotels, many with terraces overlooking the Golden Horn, or with views of the Marmara Sea and the Blue Mosque.
Most hostel-type accommodation frequented by independent travellers are located in this district, although it is possible to find a few upmarket hotels.
Quite pricey hotels can be found in western suburbs, especially around the airport, as well as on/overlooking the banks of Bosphorus.
With the closure of relatively central Atakoy caravan park, the place where you can tow your caravan nearest to the city is now located in Selimpaşa, a far outer western suburb of the city, though it is still a good 40km away from central parts of the city.
Avrasya Hostel, Cankurtaran Mahallesi Seyit Hasan Sokak No:12, Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey. Avrasya Hostel is a family owned hostel in the centre of Sultanahmet.
Its central location makes it an ideal place to stay in the city and explore all the prime attractions by foot. They have a nice open terrace where they serve breakfast. from USD 8.
Istanbul has numerous shopping centers, from the historic to the modern. The Grand Bazaar, in operation since 1461, is among the world's oldest and largest covered markets.
Mahmutpasha Bazaar is an open-air market extending between the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar, which has been Istanbul's major spice market since 1660. Galleria Atakoy ushered in the age of modern shopping malls in Turkey when it opened in 1987.
Since then, malls have become major shopping centers outside the historic peninsula. Akmerkez was awarded the titles of Europe's best and World's best shopping mall by the International Council of Shopping Centers in 1995 and 1996.
Istanbul Cevahir has been one of the continent's largest since opening in 2005; Kanyon won the Cityscape Architectural Review Award in the Commercial Built category in 2006.
Istinye Park in Istinye and Zorlu Center near Levent are among the newest malls which include the stores of the world's top fashion brands.
Abdi Ipekçi Street in Nişantaşı and Bagdat Avenue on the Anatolian side of the city have evolved into high-end shopping districts.
Istanbul is famous for its historic seafood restaurants. Many of the city's most popular and upscale seafood restaurants line the shores of the Bosphorus, particularly in neighborhoods like Ortakoy, Bebek, Arnavutkoy, Yenikoy, Beylerbeyi and Çengelkoy.
Kumkapı along the Sea of Marmara has a pedestrian zone that hosts around fifty fish restaurants. The Prince Islands, 15 kilometers (9 mi) from the city center, are also popular for their seafood restaurants.
Because of their restaurants, historic summer mansions, and tranquil, car-free streets, the Prince Islands are a popular vacation destination among Istanbulites and foreign tourists.
Istanbul is also famous for its sophisticated and elaborately-cooked dishes of the Ottoman cuisine.
However, following the influx of immigrants from southeastern and eastern Turkey, which began in the 1960s, the foodscape of the city has drastically changed by the end of the century.
With influences of Middle Eastern cuisine such as kebab taking an important place in the food scene. Restaurants featuring foreign cuisines are mainly concentrated in the Beyoglu, Beşiktaş, Şişli and Kadıkoy districts.
Istanbul is famous for its nightlife, as well as its historic taverns, a signature characteristic of the city for centuries if not millennia. Along the İstiklal Avenue is the Çiçek Pasajı, now home to winehouses known as meyhanes, pubs, and restaurants.
Istiklal Avenue, originally famous for its taverns, has shifted toward shopping, but the nearby Nevizade Street is still lined with winehouses and pubs.
Some other neighborhoods around Istiklal Avenue have recently been revamped to cater to Beyoglu's nightlife, with formerly commercial streets now lined with pubs, cafes, and restaurants playing live music.
Other focal points for Istanbul's nightlife include Nişantaşı, Ortakoy, Bebek, and Kadıkoy.
Emergency numbers - Dial 155 for police, 110 for fire, 112 or 911 for medical
Istanbul is the only city/province in Turkey which has more than one telephone code: 212 for European side, 216 for Asian side and Princes’ Islands.
When calling from one continent to the other, the usual dialing format used for intercity calls should be used, as if it’s an intercity call: 0+area code (212 or 216)+7-digit telephone number.
It may appear as an intercity call, but it will be treated as a local call in respect to payment. When making an intercontinental call, if you forget to dial the code, your call will not be automatically routed to the other continent number.
It is likely that you will be connected to the wrong number which is in the same continent with you, because much of the number sets are used on both continents inspite of different codes of course.
When dialing a number that is on the continent you are already standing on, only 7-digit number is enough.
Don’t forget to dial the code first no matter which continent you are in if you are calling a landline number from a cell phone, even if it’s a number that is in the same continent with you.
Prepaid SIM cards can be bought for around 30 TL with 5TL usable balance at Vodafone, Avea or Turkcell kiosks at the airport or in shops around town.
At the Airport, the Avea, Vodafone and Turkcell shops are respectively to the left, right and across from the exit. For about 90TLY Avea offers a 250 minute in Turkey, 100 minute to Europe, 1GB of data plan, the other two have similar plans.
Ask the salesperson to set it up for you and check by calling his phone and opening up a webpage. For iPhone, it may be necessary to download Turkish script before the phone can be used. They ask to make a copy of your passport.
However, to be able to use your phone you need to get it unlocked for use in Turkey. With a bit of luck the guy in the shop can do it for you, though that may violate the rules of your contract, depending on the country you are from.
Having your phone unlocked officially can happen through your operator in your home country.
Internet Cafés with free wireless internet (wi-fi):
- Several of the nargile places in Tophane
- Several cafes in Cihangir, including Kahvedan, Meyva, Komşufırın and Kahve Altı
- Many cafes and restaurants along Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu
- Both the large American fast food restaurant chains
There is one upstairs by the restaurants facing the side of Aya Sofia and behind the entrance to the Basilica in Sultanahmet.
Starbucks has quite a few shops around, and at least those at the touristic zones, has a free wireless connection.
In the recent years, the number of cafes and shopping centers with wi fi 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.
Most hostels and hotels of the Sultanahmet area have wi-fi Internet access in thier lobby, and often in the rooms. They can be overpriced, though.
Every hotel has their own Wi-Fi. Some hotels do have trouble with their network setup or the connection due to the historical location however at the least you will have free wi-fi at your hotel.
All you have to do is to learn the wifi password to access the internet.
Every cafe, bistro, restaurant share their internet with their guests. Even the small restaurants now have internet access. Stability and speed depend on where you are and what kind of cafe, bistro or restaurant you are in.
Starbucks, Nero etc. typically have stable wi-fi unless very crowded. If you are in a Starbucks all you have to do is connect your device, SSID should be TTNET or DorukNet, AND if you are in Nero DorukNet and fill out some basic information for verification that you have to fill.
After that, you are ready to go. And if you are in the other restaurant or cafes you can just ask to your waiter to get SSID and Password and after that you are ready to go.
Public Center and Squares, Municipality of Istanbul recently announced that free public wi-fi will be available in most common city centers and squares.
All you have to do is, when you near of one of these centers of course register your id via your cell phone and you will get an access password.
Wi-Fi on the Go, You can rent a mobile wifi hotspot during your stay in Turkey. It works based on 3G connection in the whole country, and you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time. These pocket sized devices can be easily booked online.
While there are plenty of international companies that rent a mobile hotspot, mainly three local companies are operating:
- Rent 'n Connect
As with most European cities, but especially in 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. Taksim Square, Sultanahmet Square, Istiklal Avenue, Kadikoy Square etc. are observed by security cameras monitored by police 24/7 non-stop.
Also be wary of men in Taksim who splash water on the backs of your neck. When you turn around, they will try to start a fight with you as another man comes in and robs you. These men tend to carry knives and can be very dangerous.
Slums which host number of scammers are located between Suleymaniye and Ataturk avenue.
Appearance in these areas even during daylight could result in aggressive behavior of locals who could try to throw away strangers from their territory. Avoiding these dangerous urban blocks is highly recommended.
Istanbul is home to three of the biggest clubs in Turkey and arguably European football: Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray.
It is advisable not to wear colours associating yourself with any of the clubs black and white, blue and yellow, and red and yellow, respectively particularly on the days of matches between the sides due to the fearsome rivalry they share.
Be respectful of the Turkish flag. Don't put it on places where people sit or stand, don't drag it, don't wrinkle it, don't contaminate it, don't use it as a dress or uniform.
Not only will Turks be very offended, furthermore the desecration of the Turkish flag is a punishable offence. The flag is extremely important and well respected in Turkey.
Istanbul is full of scams. They may be discouraging however, of all these scams, the most common is the overpriced taxis, which also happens to be the most common scam in the world.
In other words, use traveler's common sense and caution and you'll be safe. And do not be afraid of the police; if you think you are being scammed or robbed, the police will take the utmost care of you.
Blue Mosque scam, when walking through the gates of the Blue Mosque, beware of smiling, friendly chaps who offer immediately to be your de-facto guide through the mosque and its surroundings.
While they are informative on just about anything relating to the mosque etiquette, history, Islamic practices they eventually demand a price for their services, a quotation that can be as high as 50TL about EUR 25 or GBP 20.
One would be better off booking a private tour online; or not at all, since the mosque is free to all anyway.
For Hagia Sophia it is, however, reasonable, especially if you travel within a group, to use guide's services.
Since the audio-guides cost 20 TL p.p. it could be even cheaper with a guide. He will also put you straight to the ticket office so you don't have to wait on a line.
Just be careful, when negotiating the price, that he will require 50 TL as a whole, and not per person.
There are also many helpful guys in the area who will let you know that the Blue Mosque is closed, either for prayers or some other reason.
While the prayer hall may be closed briefly at such times, the mosque courtyard remains open all day and well into the evening, and you can happily sit there and enjoy the surroundings while you wait for prayers to finish, if indeed they are happening.
These guys are really just agents for carpet and art dealers who will happily lead you away from the sights to their shop. Always ignore them. Honest Turkish people will not approach strangers unless they are in evident need of assistance.
Be aware of high-drink price scams in night-clubs located mostly in Aksaray, Beyazit and Taksim areas.
These clubs can charge overpriced bills hundreds or thousands of lira based on a replica of the original menu or even simply a menu lying upside down on the table.
Be especially aware of friendly young men/groups of young men/male-female couples inviting you to a good nightclub they know, this is frequently a prelude to a scam.
Scammers often work to earn your trust, striking up a conversation or even taking you to a legitimate restaurant and covering the bill.
In another variation, the scammer will talk to you in Turkish, and when you reply in your own language, they will be surprised you're not Turkish and offer to repay you for their accident with a beer.
Some scammers are very, very patient, working for hours to gain your trust before finally taking you to a bar.
The conversations may start very naturally that you may lose your scene of awareness. Scammers may dress very smart and look high educated. They also pretend to be a tourist like you, not the local with the same interest to discover Istanbul and inviting you too.
Believe me, you will be surprised with various ways of stating a conversation with you: Do you have a lighter? Could you help me to take a photo?
In the middle of a walking conversation, they may stop in an exchange office to change some Euros to Lira just to make you believe that they are also tourists like you. Normally, the key question to get access to you is - Where are you from?.
In any of these scams, if you refuse to pay the high prices or try to call the police dial #155, the club managers may resort to physical intimidation. In general, use caution: scams in Taksim are becoming more serious, and organized crime may be involved.
The following tips will not guarantee protection from bar/club scams, but may help you avoid the most common traps:
Beware of unsolicited advice or conversation from locals. The best option is to ignore such conversation and move to a more populated/well-lit area, no matter how friendly the local seems.
Be aware of friendly Tourists as well. They may be very talent actors/actresses and you only realise this when you receive a very high bill from the bar that you go together with them.
Beware of bars and clubs where you seem to be the only tourist. In addition, any bar that looks like it could be a strip club is likely a scam joint.
Always ask for the exact price of drinks before ordering. Of course, scammers will not be honest, but any hesitation, evasiveness, or ambiguity is a good sign of foul play.
Remember the location of nearby public areas with lots of people preferably police. The best place to get away from scammers is in a crowd monitored by law enforcement.
Carry only minimal cash. If the scammer takes your money, you can cut your losses. Some scammers will even escort you to an ATM to obtain more cash; if the ATM is in a public area, it will be easier to get the attention of law enforcement.
Never indicate where you are staying. The last thing you need is for the scammers to follow you to your own bed.
If you are caught by scammers and faced with an impossible bill, keep the following in mind:
The safest option is to comply with the scammers while finding a way to get out of the situation.
When possible, head to a safe i.e., public place and call the police, dial #155.
There are many police in Taksim and other public areas, including undercover operatives. Do not be shy about yelling Polis! Polis! (Police! Police!). The police will be very willing to assist, and younger police are generally university graduates capable of some English or German.
Suggest that you need to visit an ATM; this will give you a chance to leave the club, head to a more public area, and attract the attention of police.
In a few situations, tourists have run away when faced with an exorbitant bill. This is risky, due to the physical fitness required as well as possible physical retaliation should the attempt fail.
However, those who succeed follow the basic strategy listed above: comply with the scammers until you find an opportunity to get away, and head towards a public area with police.
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, as you walk across the streets, a guy with his wife and a cute kid would come and abruptly hit on you giving handshakes and exchanging greetings.
They will identify your nationality/region somehow and will talk about your region's famous actors/singers and make you feel comfortable. Then they will talk about your currency and ask how much of your currency is worth one dollar or one lira.
They will very politely request you to show them your currency notes. The moment you open your wallet, the guy would very gently put his hands on the wallet pretending to just see all the possible denominations.
Meanwhile his wife or himself would talk something else to divert your attention and your largest 2 denominations would disappear.
This is purely con-art and is very common in Eminonu square, Taksim square and is reported by Asian looking people.
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 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, making €60 in total'.
Do not agree with this exchange of money, as the first coin is indeed a two-Euro coin, but the rest of the coins will probably be 1 Lira coins, but worth only 1/4 of the value of €2.
Many bars in the Taksim area give you counterfeit bills. They are usually well-made and hard to identify as fakes in the dark. One way to verify its authenticity is to check its size against another bill.
Another is to hold the bill up to a strong light, face side up, and check for an outline of the same face which is on the bill. The value of the bill (20, 50, etc) should appear next to the outline, light and translucent.
If either if these two security features are missing, try to have the bill changed or speak to the police.
Some currency exchanges might give you fake turkish lira notes. Try to see whether the numbers of the notes are different, although if only one out of many is fake, it will be hard to recognise.
Usually newer notes should be looked at with a suspicious eye, especially if the silver part of the note is very reflective and colorful.
One currency exchange in Taksim area on the road to the left of Istiklal street, the one with Ottoman palace hotel and Hafiz Mustafa has placed 2 fake notes in the middle of real ones.
It would be wise to avoid him, First currency exchange on the road leading southwards, left of istiklal street.
Also happens at Metro stations, with a helpful person offering to help with the ticket machines, they are slightly complicated, and then asks for smaller change for his large fake note.
Some people will walk around Taksim or other tourist-frequented areas with a shoeshine kit, and the brush will fall off.
This is a scam to cause some Western tourist with a conscience to pick it up and return it to the owner, who will then express gratitude and offer to shine your shoes for free.
While doing that, he will talk about how he is from another city and how he has a sick child. At the end, the shiner will demand a much higher price for the free services provided than is the actual market norm.
Another type of scam is used especially by children-shoebrushers. On rainy days they act like they dropped and broke their shoeshine kit and literally paint the floor, then they start to cry and sob.
Then, they wait for some emotional people especially touriststo help them and/or pay them.
If you actively decide that you would like your shoes shined, then expect to pay not more than 5 lira for both.
Taxis are plentiful in Istanbul and inexpensive by Western European and American standards. They can be picked up at taxi hubs throughout the city or on the streets.
Empty cabs on the streets will honk at pedestrians to see if they would like a ride, or cabs can be hailed by pedestrians by making eye contact with the driver and waving.
Few taxi drivers speak languages other than Turkish, but do a fair job at deciphering mispronounced location names given by foreign riders.
It is advisable to have the name of the destination written down and try to have a map beforehand to show the driver, to avoid any misunderstanding and also potential scams.
Though taxis are plentiful, be aware that taxis are harder to find during peak traffic hours and traffic jams and when it is raining and snowing. They are also less frequent during nights, depending on the area and and are hard to find after midnight.
Try to avoid using taxis for short distances 5-10 minutes of walk, if possible. Some taxi drivers can be annoyed with this, especially if you called the cab from a taxi hub instead of hailing it from the street.
If you want taxis for short distances, just hail them from the street, do not go to the taxi hub.
Few taxis have seatbelts, and some drivers may seem to be reckless. If you wish for the driver to slow down, say yavash lutfen meaning slow down please. Your request may or may not be honored.
Unfortunately, as in any major city, tourists are more vulnerable to taxi scams than locals. Be aware that taxi drivers use cars affiliated with a particular hub, and that the name and phone number of the hub, as well as the license plate number, are written on the side of each car.
Noting or photographing this information may be useful if you run into problems. In general, riding in taxis affiliated with major hotels like Hilton, Marriot, Ritz, etc. is safe, and it is not necessary to stay in these hotels to use a taxis leaving from their hubs.
Others may take unnecessarily long routes to increase the amount due although sometimes alternate routes are also taken to avoid Istanbul traffic, which can be very bad.
Some scams involve the payment transaction; for example, if the rider pays 50 TL when only 20 TL are needed, the driver may quickly switch it with a 5 TL note and insist that the rest of the 20 TL is still due or may switch the real bill for a fake one and insist that different money be given.
How to avoid taxi scams in Istanbul:
Preferably sit in front passenger seat. Watch the meter. Watch the driver's actions beeping the horn, pumping the brakes, etc and note what the taximeter does. Try to avoid putting your luggage in the boot.
While it is rare, some drivers will wire parts of their controls to increase the fare upon activation. If you're with your significant other, do it anyway. Save the cuddling for after the ride. Check if the seal on the taximeter is broken. Use your phone for light.
This will make the driver realize that you are cautious. Be very careful when the driver touches the meter or when you can't see the meter. Challenge the driver right away to see if there's any unusual jumps in the price.
Note that for women it is better to sit in the back seat where you can see the meter from the middle, as there are occassionally problems with taxi drivers getting overly friendly, and sitting in the front is a sign that a woman welcomes such behavior.
Ask How much to go to...?, before getting in the taxi. Price will be quite accurate to the one in the taximeter at the end of the ride. If the price sounds ok for you, get in the cab and tell them to put the Taximeter on.
Since 2009, the rate they are applying is same during night and day. Also you can use this useful and up-to-date cab fare estimation tool for Istanbul.
Understand the route. If you have a chance, find a map and demand that the driver take your chosen route to the destination. Often times they will drive the long way or pretend not to know where you're going in order to get more money out of you.
If the driver claims not to know the route to a major landmark or gathering place, refuse his services as he is likely lying.
Opt for an elderly driver. Elderly taxi drivers are less likely to cheat passengers.
Let taxi driver see money on your hands and show values and take commitment on it. This is 50 Lira. OK? Take this 50 Lira and give 30 Lira back OK?. This guarantees your money value. Otherwise, your 50 Lira can be 5 Lira immediately on his hands.
Try to have always 10 Lira or 20 Lira bills in your wallet. This makes money scams in general more difficult. If you realize that the driver tried to use the 50 Lira to 5 Lira trick on you, call the police (#155) immediately and write down the license plate.
Create a big scene if there is a problem. If you are absolutely positive you have been subject to a scam, threaten to or call the police and, if you feel it will help, start yelling.
Taxi drivers will only rip off those they think will fall for it; creating a scene draws attention to them and will make it easier to pay the correct rate.
Watch the menu carefully in street cafes for signs that prices are not discriminatory, if prices are clearly over inflated, simply leave.
A good indication of over inflation is the circulation of two different types of menu the foreigner menu is typically printed on a laminated card with menu prices written in laundry marker/texta, i.e., prices not be printed; in these cases, expect that prices for foreigners will be highly inflated at 300% or higher.
While this is not really a problem in Beyoglu or Ortakoy, avoiding the open air cafes toward the rear courtyard of the Spice Bazaar in Sultanahmet is wise. The area immediately north of the Spice Bazaar is also crawling with touts for these infamous cafes.
Having nargile (water pipe) is a famous activity in Istanbul. Tophane (top-hane) is a famous location for this activity where a huge number of nargile shops are available and can easily be reached by the tram, avoiding a place called Ali Baba in Tophane is wise.
Usually you will be served there with plates you did not ask for — like a nuts plate, and expect to have a bill of around $50 for your nargile.
You should be carefull also when ordering food in some restaurants. For example, in a restaurant called Konak Kebap, located in Istiklal street, the waiter will take your order in English and then ask about the size of the portions in a confusing mixture of Turkish, Arabic and/or English.
In that way, you will very probably ask for larger portions or non-wanted extras that will raise the price of the bill more than 300%. For example, a medium kebap has the same price as 4 normal kebaps, the menu only shows the price of the normal portions.
Avoiding Konak kebap in Istiklal; and Kebap Saray in Takseem Square is wise. You should also be careful in other restaurants near touristic areas, to avoid any surprises.
Men intent on stalking foreign women may be present in tourist locations. Such men may presume that foreigners have a lot of money or liberal values and may approach foreign women in a flirtatious or forward manner looking for sex or for money either by theft or selling over-priced goods.
If you are being harassed, use common sense and go to where other people are; often this is the nearest store. Creating a public scene will deter many stalkers, and these phrases may be useful in such cases:
Occasionally try not to use Turkish as the stalker will like it more, just scream and run and find a safer place with crowd and police.
Istanbul PD has a Tourism Police department where travelers may report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity by which they are victimized. They have an office in Sultanahmet and can reportedly speak English, German, French, and Arabic.
Tourism Police or Turizm Polisi, Yerebatan Caddesi 6, Sultanahmet in the yellow wooden building between Hagia Sophia and the entrance of Basilica Cistern, few meters away from each.
Tap water may not be safe depending on where you drink it. Although the tap water itself is clean, many local water tanks are not maintained properly, and one should try to avoid tap water if possible.
Locals widely prefer bottled water and the same applies for the restaurants. Expect to pay for water in 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 which is a kind of rice pudding, can go bad rapidly on a hot day, as can the oysters occasionally for sale on the streets.
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.
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.
Istanbul's mosques are beautiful and safe to visit provided you're dressed appropriately and cover what you're supposed to cover, and the locals welcome outsiders.
Ataturk Airport, You can easily connect to Ataturk airport via the Metro possibly with a tram transfer. However, if your flight is before when the Metro starts working, you can use the Havaş airport shuttle which departs from various points of the city from as early as 04:00.
Scheduling information can be found here and clicking on the airport you need: Havataş airport shuttle information. An example would be from Taksim Square, which leaves as early as 04:00, costs 11 TL, and takes 40 min.
Sabiha Gokçen Airport, Most of the hotels offer private bus transportation, sometimes overpriced, 15€ instead of 10. The cheaper option is to take one of the Havataş buses departing every 30 min from taksim square for as low as 14 TL.
Kilyos, Located by the Black-sea shore on the European side, Kilyos is a half-hour drive from Taksim under normal circumstances. The village has more than a dozen private and public beaches, some of which require membership to enter.
Though there are ways to get to Kilyos with buses and dolmus, the best way is to use a private car, since the journey will take longer than usual during summer.
Note, that the sea is rough, and high waves and currents make it difficult and somewhat dangerous to swim for people who are not expert and cautious.
Drownings occur every year. For your safety, do not swim outside the limits of the designated swimming area, which are marked by buoys.
Ataturk Arboretum or living tree museum is the place for nature lovers. Easily accessible by public buses from various locations in the city.
The arboretum near the Black Sea coast in a verdant forest offers gorgeous scenery which reaches its zenith in autumn,leaves change to crimson, golden, purple, or anywhere inbetween—and a spectacular view of Bosphorus, which is seen like a turquoise lake from an observation tower, which also serves well as a spot for birdwatching.
Anadolu Kavagı, While officially the northernmost district of the city, Anadolu Kavagı also known simply as Kavak on the Asian bank of Bosporus is in reality a separate town, accessible only by a windy and narrow road through the forest, by infrequent public buses, or by ferries the best way to go there.
Ferries depart from Eminonu once or twice a day, from the pier named Bogaz Iskelesi and Sariyer,much more frequently, which is the northernmost district on European side to get to Sariyer, you should take public bus #40 from Taksim.
While in Anadolu Kavagı, climb up to the citadel on the hill, follow the signs starting from the square near the quay, it takes about 20 minutes on foot, free admission.
The citadel is named Yoros and it’s unclear who built it, maybe Byzantines or the Genoese perhaps, but it’s pretty obvious that it was built to protect the northern entrance of Bosphorus.
The castle offers a perfect view of the entrance of Bosporus and the Black Sea beyond, as if not much has changed since Jason and the Argonauts sailed through here in pursuit of Golden Fleece.
When you turn your back to Black Sea on the other hand, you’ll have a distant view of business district of the city, full of skyscrapers.
When you’re done in the castle, return back to town centre, and before boarding the ship that will take you back to the city, have a waffle and a hot coffee in one of the cafes near the shore if it’s winter.
Recently a number of open-air cafes just across the street from the citadel has been opened as well, overlooking the pleasant wooded vale, the village, and the Bosphorus below.
Citadel and surrounding areas get really crowded at weekends during summer months, which makes falling into mythical dreams a little difficult. Also avoid staying around the castle after the night falls in winter, as scarily large dogs occupy all over the place.
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.
Şile, Located by the Black-Sea shore on the Anatolian side, Şile is a 45 minutes drive to Taksim. Though, it will take ca. 1.5-2 hours to get there if you take the bus from Uskudar.
It is a village growing rapidly, famous for its fish and special cotton fabric Şile Bezi (cloth of Şile). Similar to Kilyos, Şile also has its own private and public beaches.
Note, that the sea is rough, and high waves and currents as well as the dangerous sand type of the sea, make it difficult and somewhat dangerous to swim for people who are not expert and cautious.
Drownings occur every year. For your safety, do not swim outside the limits of the designated swimming area, which are marked by buoys.
Agva, Lying to the east of Şile, you can get to Agva by bus or car. By car, it will take 20-30' and by bus ca. 1 hour. Ağva is a tourist-attracting, small holiday village. It has less make-up for tourist.
You can observe the local life. Although it is less crowded than Kilyos and Şile due their relative proximity to Istanbul, its beach became due to the increase of visitors dirty recently.
But if you ask locals, you can find wonderful, hidden beaches such as Kilimli. Note, that the sea is rough, and high waves and currents make it difficult and somewhat dangerous to swim for people who are not expert and cautious.
Drownings occur every year. For your safety, do not swim outside the limits of the designated swimming area, which are marked by buoys.
The Princes' Islands, A group of islands off the southern coast of the Asian Side of Istanbul. Buyukada, the biggest and most famous of them all, has fairly frequent ferry connections to Eminonu and Kabatas, on the European side and Bostanci and Kadikoy on the Asian side depending on the time of year,
Check out the IDO and Mavi Marmara ferry services. Out of season it might be necessary to travel via Bostanci using the Mavi Marmara ferries.
At Buyukada you can rent bikes and find some very secluded spots perfect for a picnic, highly recommended for when you're tired of being in a huge city with millions of people.
Marmara Islands further out in the Sea of Marmara is a less urban alternative to Princes' Islands, and with connections to Asian mainland to Bandırma via Erdek can be a stopover on the longer route to Izmir.
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.
Edirne in the west/northwest is a two-hour car drive or bus ride away train is also an option but it takes much longer. This beautiful city served as the capital city of Ottoman Empire before the capital was moved to Istanbul, thus is full of history.
Visiting this city can be a long day trip if you have a car at your disposal, or if you can get up very early and catch, say, 7 o’clock in the morning bus. It’s better to stay overnight to see all the sights though.
If you have one more day to spare, instead of taking the shortest route, you can head to Edirne via the slightly longer northern route and visit Kıyıkoyancient Medea.
Nowadays a fishing village on the Black Sea with some traditional architecture, preserved city walls, and rock-cut St Nicholas Monastery—and Vize, site of a very well preserved Byzantine cathedral, 20 km west of Kıyıkoy on the way.
Bursa to the south/southeast, about the exact opposite direction of Edirne, can be another long day-trip, possibly combined with a de-tour to Iznik on the way. Bursa is another former Ottoman capital with many earlier historical sights, as well as Uludag National Park just south of the city.
Çanakkale, about three hours away in the southwest, is a pleasant city on the banks of the Straits of Dardanelles, and is the hub for visiting many nearby sites, such as Gallipoli World War I memorials, ancient Troy, and charming island of Bozcaada.
Sofia, Bulgaria, Using a night bus each way could even make this an interesting if tiring day trip to the capital of Bulgaria.
Istanbul to New Delhi over land, a.k.a. The Hippie Trail over land route deep into South Asia.
Istanbul to Cairo over land, over land route deep into Middle East.
You can buy bus tickets to other cities at the Varan / Ulusoy offices, one of which is near Taksim square - see this map
Istanbul is geographically huge, spanning two continents, so it is hard to hit the road with your thumb up immediately, although not entirely impossible. Here are a few ideas for spots accessible by public transport where to raise your thumb up when leaving the city.
#448 takes you to the highway leading to west, to a highway on-ramp out of city, near Mimarsinan town. Don’t get off the bus until it leaves the highway by turning right in the on ramp junction.
If you intend to head east or south by hitchhiking, however, it may be best to get to the neighbouring city of Izmit first. The cheapest train ticket costs 3.75 TL 3.00 TL if you have a valid student ID, this is the rate for Dogu Express, which departs 08:35 every morning from Istanbul’s Haydarpasa station to Izmit currently.
Near the train station in Izmit is a major highway junction, take east for Adapazari/Ankara/Central Anatolia/Black Sea Turkey, south for Yalova/Bursa.
If you are eager for more southern locations such as Antalya, take eastward road to Adapazari first, then hit the southward road there which eventually reaches Antalya after hundreds of kilometers.
Another option to leave the city is to take the not-so-cheap fast ferries to Yalova, if you don’t object to pay much for public transport.
There are also public buses from Kadikoy, Istanbul’s main centre on Asia, to Tuzla (#130 and #130A; fare: TL 1.50/person, 7days/24 hours service , which is the easternmost district of the city.
If you take one of these buses, get off as soon as the bus leaves the highway colloquially known as E-5, pronounced eh besh in Turkish, 4-lane one-way, you can easily recognize what is this highway and what is not.
Where you will get off is as far as you can get on that highway with a public bus, though most of the cars passing there will be too fast to be able to stop right beside you.
Enjoy your Holiday in Istanbul.