Travel Guide: Istanbul, Turkey

Arrival

Istanbul has two international airports. The old Istanbul Ataturk International Airport is the main airport in terms of international travels. It is located at the European side of Istanbul. The newer Sabiha Gokcen (named after the First Turkish Woman pilot, also an adopted daughter of Ataturk) is located in the Anatolian side of the city.

Both have good connections to the town centres. If your flight lands at Ataturk airport, the most convenient way of getting to the city is via HAVATAS shuttle buses.

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The cost is around 10 TL (August 2016 around 3.2 USD). The shuttle service route is to Taksim where you can find connection lines to other parts of the city. Alternatively, you can take metro to Yenikapi which is the first station of M1 metro line to the rest of the city. More transportation options are available.

If your flight lands at Sabiha Gokcen Airport (mostly budget airlines uses this airport) then the best option is again, the municipality’s shuttles, HAVATAS.

There are 3 lines run by Havatas, E9 (Airport to Bostanci via costal road), E10 (Airport to Kadikoy via circular road) and E3 (Airport to Levent – Business district of the city).

Transportation

Istanbul has very large and developed transportation system which mostly relies on public buses. There are also Metro lines available but their reach is limited. If Bosporus needs to be crossed, best option is using ferries or boats since bridges are usually busy with heavy

traffic and buses would be delayed.

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The map illustrated below represents all the available public transport lines inclusive of metros, trams, metro bus (long buses with dedicated lines), funicular and cableways. Dashed lines are under construction or planned.

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Check map here.

Istanbul Municipality runs this extensive system. There are also privately run buses and boats available also included in the transportation system infrastructure. Fare is reasonable as long as you use city`s smart card called Istanbul Card. If you are staying in Istanbul longer than a day, I advise you to buy one of these cards. They are easy to find and purchase. It costs around 3 dollars and you can deposit as much money as you like in it. Not having this card could cost you a lot. Cash is not accepted in public transport thus you will need to buy tokens which is nearly 2 times the normal fare. Besides if you need to use more than one vehicle (bus, ferry, metro etc.) second and following vehicles would cost you less by this card. To be able to get advantage of this discount you need to use your smart card. Topping up can be done by kiosks or automated machines. Automated top up machines do not give change so put exact amount is and do not expect any change.

Transfer discount is also valid for ferries, metros privately run public buses, funiculars and other means of transportation. Shortly first use of the card would deduct 2,30 TL from your card (same for all transportation mods) second usage within 90 minutes will deduct 1,65 TL and 3rd one 1,25 TL following usages are fixed to 0.85 TL.

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Let`s make a sample, if you have a flight landing to Sabha Gokcen airport and your accommodation is in Taksim. First go to the kiosk at the airport, ask for an Istanbul Card and also ask for top amount (at least 10 TL) toped up and pay in TL to the kiosk. From the stops nearby take the bus E3 to Levent (this trip would cost you 4.60 TL these buses cost double), from Levent take metro to Taksim (would costs 1.65 TL since this is a first transfer). So total costs is 5.25 TL (less than 2 USD). Alternatively, there is a direct shuttle bus to Taksim which is 15 TL one way from Sabiha Gokcen Airport.


Accommodation

Like many other European countries Istanbul has a large number of hostels and B&B hotel. These are mostly gathered around old peninsula area and Taksim square. Old peninsula area is where all the historical sites are in, Taksim is the centre of nightlife. Both has advantages and disadvantages so it’s upto you which one to pick.

Finding a budget accommodation is difficult in the Asian part of Istanbul. There are many hostels in this side of the city, however,  prices are not as cheap as the European Istanbul. If you are group of people travelling together, renting a flat might be the best option for you. Especially on the low season luxurious apartments in very central locations are free for renting. Istanbul does not have a local renting or booking website but all large international booking sites operates in Turkey as well.

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Food

Turkish kitchen is large and diverse thanks to its Ottoman roots. Turkey has 7 geological regions and each has different food culture. For instance, South East Anatolia region has expertise in meat such as kebaps and pastry deserts, Black Sea region is good at small fish dishes (anchovy dishes), Aegean Region has a kitchen dominated by live oil and herbs and vegetables etc. However, Istanbul is a combination of all these plus international kitchens.

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When it comes to the budget food, Doner Kebap (Shwarma) takes the lead. It is fast food of Turkey. Can be made of meat or poultry. It’s usually priced reasonably usually around 1.5 USD for poultry and 2.5 for meat. Of course you do not need to eat kebap every day, lahmacun can offer you a different option. Lahmacun is known as Turkish pizza. It is very thin dough base and minced meat seasoned with prices. For 1.5 USD you can eat one of these.

 

0be67f_693679158eb3483782d1ae50fbd28ad4-mv2Traditional soft drink is called  Ayran, a yogurt drink with salt and water. It is refreshing and best drink to be consumed with spicy food.

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Night Life

Istanbul offers a vibrant nightlife. From rock to pop, from Turkish folk to indie, there are hundreds of pubs, clubs and live music stages in Istanbul. Taksim is known as Istanbul`s entertainments district. Taksim has a large square and a pedestrian street (Istiklal street) which is surrounded by classical buildings, shops, cafes and restaurants.

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In the high season street is usually over crowded with people visiting. There is a historical tram line along the street can take you from one end of the street to the other.

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Pubs and clubs are not on the Main street of Istiklal but smaller streets connection to Istiklal has numerous of them. They are responsibly prices a half a litre glass of beer would cost around 3 dollars or less.

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Most of the pubs in Taksim also have an open space in front of them. They usually offer seats in front outside for the people who smokes. In Turkey, smoking in close spaces are banned since 2008 but since this law is not forced properly you can still find some pubs let you smoke inside.

Some pubs also have terrace at the top with a perfect view of Golden Horn (Halic) or Istanbul Strait. However they tend to charge you more with their advantageous locations and scene. Sanat Pub is one of them in Nevizade street of Taksim. It has view of Halic from the terrace.

Anemon Hotel near famous Galata Tower has a terrace bar too but not overpriced.

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The Marmara Hotel near Taksim Square has a bar and a restaurant at the top. Pub is moderately priced, however, restaurant is quite expensive but the scenery is priceless from the restaurant.

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Alternatively, Istanbul’s Kadikoy neighbourhood has been home of numerous pubs, restaurants and cafes. Kadikoy can be busy too but still a good retreat for people who are tired of Taksim’s crowded streets. Prices in Kadikoy are lower than European counterpart’s. Places are mostly new and has a character.

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There are several Irish themed pubs there too, Dublin, Zeplin and Harp are among them. However these pubs are usual more expensive than regular ones.

 

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