In this Destination Guide you will find information for : Istanbul
🌎Currency: Turkish Lira (TRY)
🌎Time Zone: +3 GMT
🌎Phone Code: +90
🌎Best time to visit: Mar-June/Sept-Nov
🌎Must eat: Turkish Döner Kebab
🌎Must drink: Turkish Coffee
🌎Don't miss: Views from Galata Tower
Getting there and transportation: Turkey is located on the edge of Europe, and is the only country on two Continents, 5% is located in Europe with boarders to Greece and Bulgaria, whilst the remaining 95% is in Asia with boarders to Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq and Syria. Travelling to Turkey has improved substantially in the last decades, with safer and a more reliable transport infrastructure, both by road and air. Turkey is one of the most popular places to travel to for those seeking a warmer climate year round. It's easy to travel by air with direct flights not only to the main city, Istanbul, but to the coastal cities of Bodrum, Antalya and Izmir.
The national airline of Turkey is Turkish Airlines, which provides the best connections to the country, either direct to Istanbul or making a stopover to another city in the country. They offer the best service, a high quality product with frequent flights to the popular holiday cities and very reasonable fares. Turkish Airlines is also a major global airline now a days, with over 300 destinations worldwide flying a modern fleet or aircraft direct to many capitals across 4 continents. Flying direct to Istanbul is possible from cities like New York, Los Angeles, Havana, Sau Paulo, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta and many more long haul destinations. At the same time, from Europe it flies from nearly every major city, not only the capitals but smaller airports as well, which makes Turkey Airlines a very attractive airline to fly direct to Istanbul or as a transit hub.
It's also possible to fly with other major European airlines from the main capitals, Asian airlines and from the Middle East. However if you are coming from Europe, it's easy to get package holidays to turkey and most likely charter flights which take you directly to the destination. Airlines like Thomson or Condor can offer seat only reservations on the charter flights, specially during the Summer timetable. (March to October).
Low cost airlines flying from Europe to Turkey are a good option as well when going for a short period, or don't have much luggage, Easyjet, Pegasus, Atlasjet Airlines, Sun Express or Onur Air are a good choice.
Once in the country, travelling by air is the best option when going from Istanbul to other cities with flying times of one hour to popular cities. Fares are also cheap, making it an ideal option when time is tight when travelling. Turkish Airlines provides the most frequent flights, best times and good fares. Alternatively, trains are a good option linking major cities in about 3 hours from Istanbul with high speed trains getting each time more popular to use. Busses connect to all major cities by road and smaller areas, specially in the Cappadocia region. Bus rides can be long, though the scenery you travel by is very interesting and worth the ride if you have ample time and want to save money.
Weather and temperature:Turkey has very different climates depending where you are located in the country. As a general rule, the country enjoys hot weather most of the year specially down south and on the Mediterranean coast line, where many tourists opt to spend their winter holidays. During the peak season, July and August, Turkey is very crowded with holidaymakers and tourists. Temperatures can reach easily above 35C in a dry climate.
During the rest of the year, temperatures are more moderate and pleasant. The best time to visit Turkey is from March to June and from September to November. However it's also possible to experience some typical European Winter weather in the north of the country, specially in Istanbul it can get very foggy (due to the proximity of the Bosphorus Straight) and it can snow during the colder months in January or February with temperatures below freezing and not much higher than 10C or 12C.
Food and drink: Turkish food is one of the tastiest in the Mediterranean, with influence from Central Asia, the Middle East and Mediterranean cuisine. Meat is a large component of the Turkish diet, with lamb featuring heavily and dishes tend to be fragrantly spiced, although they are not as hot as those found in Indian cuisine. Vegetarians will find they are easily catered for, as meze, a selection of sauces, dips and vegetables, can be found on almost every menu. A wide range of international cuisine is also available in the major cities, and standard German and British dishes along the coasts due to the heavy tourism industry.
Specialities include: Döner Kebab, a traditional snack or main dish, made from different meats mounted onto a skewer and cooked slowly to a hot fire source. (see below) Köfte, spicy sausage-shaped meatballs made of minced lamb. Shish kebab, pieces of meat threaded on a skewer and grilled. Pide, the Turkish equivalent of pizza topped with cheese and eggs. Dolma, vine leaves or vegetables stuffed with pine nuts and currants. Lokum, Turkish Delight, originally made from dates, honey, roses and jasmine bound by Arabic gum and designed to sweeten the breath after coffee.
As for drinks, you can find: Raki, anisette, known as ‘lion’s milk’, which clouds when water is added. Drinking raki is a ritual and is traditionally accompanied by a variety of meze. Ayran, a refreshing yogurt drink. Cay, tea, usually drunk black and strong and served in small tulip-shaped glasses. Strong black Turkish coffee, traditionally brewed over hot coals and served very sweet. Turkish beer is also popular to drink as well as red and white wines.
The Turkish Döner Kebab: The most popular thing to eat whilst in Turkey is the traditional Turkish Döner Kebab, it's called this way because of the way it is cooked, Döner is a Turkish word, from dönmek ("to turn" or "to rotate"). It can be translated literally into "rotating roast". You will find them all over the country, sold by small snack bars, market style stalls or seat-in restaurants. You will instantly recognise the Döner Kebabs, as big chunks of meat are slowly cooked mounted on a large skewer rotating to a hot fire. The image of a Döner Kebab or a man cutting through the meat is also a popular one to identify those establishments selling it.
Kebabs are a popular form of snack in many countries especially Middle East, Arab countries, South and Central Asia, and some parts of Europe. Kebabs are essentially different kind of meats cooked traditionally on skewers over a coal fire, BBQ style or a hot grill. You can find them made out of lamb, chicken,beef or even goat and fish. However you will not find Pork Kebab in Turkey due to religious reasons.
They are an ideal snack when feeling hungry during the day and many casual eateries provide a good quality Döner Kebab to grab in just a few minutes. However there are also many restaurants that have them as part of a more elaborate menu. Try as many as you can, flavours vary as the sauces and spices used can make a big difference!
Introduction: Istanbul is the main city in Turkey for tourism, commerce and business, however the capital of the country is Ankara. Istanbul is the bridge, literally, from Asia to Europe with the impressive Sultan Mehmet Bridge connecting the two continents.
The city is a very interesting cosmopolitan metropolis, where cultures come together in so many ways. Within the last yeas Istanbul has become a major transit stop for many tourists, who opt to stay in the city for extra shopping, rest or eating before heading to their own countries in the Middle East or Asia. Istanbul offers culture, cuisine, history, shopping and entertainment at very good value for money, which makes it a very popular city to establish new businesses. Weather it is for tourism or business that takes you to Istanbul, you are never far from some good restaurants, local bazaars or markets and with the city offering a great infrastructure on transport, it's easy to move around and travel.
Transportation: when arriving to Istanbul by plane there are two airports in the city, Istanbul Attaturk, (IST) the main international gateway to the country and Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen. (SAW).
From Attaturk the easiest and cheapest way to make your way into the city is by bus. There are direct busses which leave to the city centre at Taksim Square and cost 12 LTR.. Click on this link for timetables. Alternatively you can also take a train from the airport to the city centre, the metro line M1 (red) takes you to the city, but you need to change to M2 if you are going into the centre.
Note that from 2018 there will be a new airport opening to replace the current Attaturk airport, as it suffers from major delays during the Winter season due to weather factors and traffic restrictions. (We will publish the transport options once they become available).
If you are arriving at Sabiha Gökçen, take the bus from the airport to the city centre. There are shuttles working between Taksim (centre) and Sabiha Gokcen Airport every half an hour. The duration of the trip is about an hour and a half depending on the city traffic, the shuttle fee is 15 TL. Click on this link for timetables.
Once in Istanbul, the transport infrastructure is very similar to any other major European city. Metro, trams and busses offer quick and reliable services across the entire city. Below you will find the transport maps for Istanbul.
What to see and do?: The old city of Istanbul reflects cultural influences of the many empires that once ruled there. In the Sultanahmet district, the open-air, Roman-era Hippodrome was for centuries the site of chariot races, and Egyptian obelisks also remain. The iconic Byzantine Hagia Sophia features a soaring 6th-century dome and rare Christian mosaics. You can find castle remains from the Topkapi Castle and city walls, which protected the city from the many invasions over time. Not to be missed from any visit Istanbul is it's food, a central part of the culture, be sure to check out some of the many bazaars and markets. The most famous is the Gran Bazaar, also popular for hand made crafts, souvenirs, ceramics, carpets, spices, aromatics and even natural aphrodisiacs! You can choose to visit the city either by tour or alone, but note that in the high season (June to September) wear sun protection and carry water as temperatures are hot. Below you can find the highlights to your visit to Istanbul:
Accommodation: Istanbul is one the cheapest cities for Hotels and hostels as it offers very reasonable prices for all budgets. It's not hard to find good value for money Hotels located in the city centre at short walking distance to the major attractions. Staying nearby the Istanbul Grand Bazaar is a very central location and Hotels are very reasonable and offer even breakfast and free WIFI from under €15 per night. Other Hotels around the popular tourist areas and Taksim Square are about €25-30.
Additionally many hotel's offer tour services and give good information in English in what to see and do. Also it's advised to stay close to tram or metro stop if you're travelling around. Private accommodation is not as popular as other countries but with time sites like Airbnb or Holidayaway are becoming more popular in Turkey.
Recommended duration: Istanbul offers a lot of culture to explore, either by foot seeing majestic buildings, visiting in depth into museums and galleries, or by joining several tours which can take a whole day. The city centre is worth exploring without tours, taking your time to endulge for Turkish coffee or snacks and relax as you see life passing by in one of Europe's most diverse cities. Visiting Istanbul for a first time is best away from a weekend for less queues and people at popular tourist attractions. A stay of up to 5 nights would be suggested to take in all Istanbul has to offer in a relaxed manner.