To be honest, Turkey was never really on the top of my list for places to visit. Since we were going to Greece and wanted to check out another country nearby, my sister suggested Istanbul and I was down since I love exploring new places. Now that I have gone, I would totally recommend it! The food, the culture, the views are all great things to experience while you’re there.
If you’re coming from the United States, you will need a Visa to go to Turkey. Once you get it, you’ll be allowed to go back for 90 days.
You can go online and fill out a quick application. All you really need is your name, date of birth and passport number. They will email you a confirmation an an attachment with your visa and you can just print it out and bring it with you when you go through passport control at the airport. Once you fill out the application, it takes less than 48 hour to process and receive. This is one of the quickest and easiest Visas I’ve gotten on was only about $20.
- To get to Istanbul, the main airport is IGA.
- Istanbul has a pretty decent transportation system – you can get around by subway, bus or ferry (there is a European and Asia side), Uber or Taxi.
- For the subway, you will need to purchase a Istanbul Kart and put money on it to be able to take rides.
- Since we didn’t stay in the city, we actually took Uber to most places. If you are traveling with a big group or are staying outside of the city, Uber is pretty affordable. The only option for Uber is a 7 seater. Ubers are not really common so it might take about 10 minutes to get one. Also, there are a lot of streets that public cars can’t drive on so you might be dropped off a couple of blocks away sometimes and have to walk a little bit.
- There are taxis pretty much everywhere. We just didn’t want to deal with having cash for them.
- Istanbul has hot summers and cold winters. The best time to go is Spring (April to May) or Fall (September to mid November).
- We went in early May and the weather was suppose to be cool and warming up. It was cloudy and cool most of the time, but unfortunately it rained a couple of the days.
- The currency in Istanbul is the Turkish Lira.
- I would recommend bringing your ATM card if you’re doing to the main parts of Istanbul. There are plenty of ATM machines everywhere and you can find one with a low exchange rate. You can also bring cash and find a cash exchange. The exchange rate is usually a lot better than when you exchange at the airport. I always recommend exchanging some before your trip though because you’ll never know what you might need cash for.
- A lot of well established places, restaurants and attractions take credit card (mostly Visas and Mastercard). A lot don’t though and I would highly recommend carrying some cash just in case.
- It is not safe to drink the tap water in Istanbul. Do yourself a favor and buy bottle water instead, which you can find almost anywhere. However, it is safe to brush your teeth or cook with tap water.
- It’s generally safe to eat the street food in Istanbul, but use your discretion if it looks shady.
- If you’re eating at a restaurant, they usually offer you free tea (usually black) after you eat. Some places also offer you apple tea which is delicious, but we found out that it’s a tourist-y thing.
- Tipping at restaurants is anywhere between 5%-10%. If you pay by credit card, sometimes they don’t take tip on there so it’s nice to have some cash to tip on the side.
- If you get a chance, book a food tour. You get to trying pretty much everything Istanbul is known for and all the food is amazing.
- For the most part, you can wear whatever you feel comfortable in.
- Unless you REALLY care about how you look, I recommend wearing your most comfortable sneakers. The roads are built on uneven and cobblestone like roads and there are occasional hills depending on where you are.
- If you’re going to visit/tour any churches, make sure that you are dressed more conservatively and that your shoulders and knees are covered. Also, bring a scarf or a hood for your head if you’re going to any mosque.
What to Pack
(Besides from the obvious)
- Converter – our hostels/airbnbs were not international plug in friendly. I’m sure some might be, but just in case. We were glad we had one. They have European outlets.
- Portable battery pack – if you’re using your phone a lot.
- Super comfortable walking shoes
- [Women] Scarf – to cover your head if you’re going into a mosque. Also clothes that cover your arms and legs.