1. What's the best time of year to visit Istanbul?
Istanbul is a popular destination all year round, although summer can get very hot and winter is usually cold and rainy with the occasional snow flurry. Spring and autumn months are best advised for a pleasant temperature and less crowding at the major sites.
2. What is the local currency in Turkey?
Turkish Lira is the local currency of the Republic of Turkey. Visitors can exchange their cash money for Turkish Lira at exchange offices and banks.
3. How should I dress in Istanbul?
Turkish dress sense is generally westernized although revealing clothing is not very common in Istanbul (nightclubs along the Bosphorus are more of an exception). As a secular state, Turkey is tolerant of other cultures and religions. Female visitors are not expected to don a headscarf unless they are visiting a mosque and scarves are usually available to borrow. Shorts tend to be kept for the beach and not commonly seen in the city. When visiting the mosque, men must wear trousers or long shorts covering the knees.
4. Is alcohol available in Istanbul?
Yes. Although the majority of Turks are Muslims, alcohol is readily available in Istanbul. The national drink, raki, is especially popular, along with beer and wine - of which there are numerous local brands. Istanbul also has some of the best nightlife in Europe with a seemingly never-ending supply of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
5. Do I need to exchange money? Are there any ATM's in Istanbul?
Although Euros are accepted at some larger stores and in the tourist areas, it is generally better to trade in the Turkish currency - the Turkish Lira. Exchange rates are almost always better if your currency exchange is done in Turkey, and a good strategy is to take enough local currency for your first day or so, and change the rest once you arrive. Alternatively, there are ATM machines all over the city, and those with a credit/debit card should have few problems accessing money.
6. Is the internet widely available?
Most hotels throughout Turkey have internet installed and they open it up for use by customers. The password can be obtained from reception. You should always check whether there is a charge before using it. Otherwise, in most of the busy cities and towns, there are internet cafes.
7. What is the best time of year to visit Turkey?
Istanbul is a city operating all year round so any-time is good to visit. If you like sunshine, come between April to October as winter in Istanbul can be cold and rainy with the occasional snowfall.
The tourism season on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts run from May to October but tourist sites like Ephesus are open all year round. Gulet cruises are more enjoyable when refined to the months of June to September.
Cappadocia is also a region operating all year round, although, in the wintertime, snowfall is usual. The snow does provide a pretty landscape view and the hot air balloons rides will still operate as long as weather conditions are advisable.
If you travel between the months of December to March, bring an umbrella as this is when the country receives the most amount of rain
8. Can I use my mobile phone in Turkey?
Many international GSM operators provide coverage in Turkey in addition to local GSM operators such as Turkcell, Avea, and Vodafone. You may ask your GSM operator to activate the international roaming function of your mobile phone before traveling to Turkey or just obtain a new SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card from local operators in Turkey.
9. Time Difference
The United Arab Emirates is 1 hour ahead of Turkey
10. What language do they speak in Istanbul? Will it be hard to get by with only English?
Turkish is the official language of Turkey and English is widely spoken in Istanbul; visitors are often surprised by the relatively high level of English spoken by most Turks. An attempt to use Turkish is very much appreciated and considered good manners, though
Here are some of the words that you need to know in the Turkish language.
a. Hello – Merhaba
b. Good morning - Günaydınc. Taxi - taksid. Bus - otobüse. Train - tren
11. The Best Ways To Get Around Istanbul
a. Ferry - The vapur (ferry) is the best way to get from the European to the Asian side (or vice versa) when the bridge is absolutely full of cars. Rush hour starts at around 8 AM and ends 6 PM on weekdays, so lots of people commuting to and from work prefer to glide over the Bosphorus instead. There are three main ferry stations on the European side: Besiktas, Kabatas, and Karakoy. There is also Eminönü, from where ferries go directly to the Kadıköy Ferry Station on the Asian side. You can check out the timetables for all Istanbul ferries (including Bosphorus tours) via the Şehir Hatları website. As an alternative, the Ido and Dentur Avrasya deniz otobüsleri (sea buses) also take off from Beşiktaş and Kabataş and go to different areas of the Asian side, as well as the islands.
b. Metro bus - Metro bus is a 50 km (31.1 mi) bus rapid transit route in İstanbul, Turkey with 45 stations which follows the city's ring-road via Avcılar, Zincirlikuyu and the Bosphorus Bridge to Söğütlüçeşme using dedicated bus lanes for much of the route.[3
c. Metro - Istanbul’s metro system has grown at an incredible rate over the last years, with more lines that were opened last 2018. Even though the metro lines can get very crowded during rush hour, they are one of the best alternatives for getting around. The European side has plenty of metro lines that connect all the major neighborhoods. Make sure to ride Tünel, which connects Karaköy and Beyoğlu and is the world’s second-oldest subterranean urban rail line (inaugurated in 1875).
d. Marmaray - It was a pretty big deal when Marmaray opened because of its rail tunnel that goes under the Bosphorus strait. At the moment, Marmaray only runs from Kızılçeşme on the European side to Ayrılık Çeşmesi on the Asian side, but it’s already become quite the popular alternative for avoiding the bridge. During construction, Byzantine shipwrecks dating from the fifth to the eleventh century were discovered (something that happens often in Istanbul) setting back the opening date by four years. If you do plan on taking the Marmaray, make sure to check out the old Sirkeci train station for a taste of the past before you get on board this brand new mode of transportation.
e. Taxis - You’ll soon realize that there are taxi cabs all over Istanbul just driving around empty, looking for passengers. If the traffic isn’t at its peak, cabs are a good way to get around if you’re feeling a bit lazy. Make sure to get into a cab that has a logo on its car doors, which means it’s connected to a taxi stand, which eliminates the chance of getting swindled. If you want to be extra careful, use the BiTaksi app, which sends the nearest trusted cab your way.
12. SOUVENIRS IN ISTANBUL WITH A BREATH OF CULTURE
a. TURKISH TEAS - Turkish tea, locally known as çay, is an integral part of Turkish culture. Throughout history, this was served to guests as a trademark of Turkish hospitality.
The original Turkish tea is a variant of black tea and consumed straight without milk. It is traditionally prepared in a special kettle, called a çaydanlık.
Over the years, variations of herbal tea have become popular in Turkey, especially among tourists.
You can find these teas sold in mounds alongside spices at the Turkish bazaars. Popular flavors include apple, rosehip, linden flower, pomegranate, and hibiscus.
B. TURKISH DELIGHT - It’s hard not to salivate over Turkish delight (lokum), which is a sweet delicacy made of starch and sugar added with nuts or fruits. Popular flavors include pistachio, rosewater, cinnamon, orange, and lemon.
These sweet bites are available in different sizes, shapes, and flavors, but each promises to be a delicious and delightful treat.
C. BLUE EVIL EYE - Blue Evil Eye, locally called nazar, is one of the most popular souvenir items from Turkey. It is easily recognizable through its eye shape and blue color.
The Blue Evil Eye was originally used as an amulet to protect the wearer from the bad curse. Today, it is used for aesthetic rather than superstitious reasons.
Aside from the amulets, the blue evil eye design is also used in key chains, refrigerator magnets, bags, bracelets, and other souvenir items.
D. TURKISH SPICES - If you have come to love Turkish cooking, then you should bring back some spices and cook your own Turkish meals that you can share with your loved ones back home.
Choose from a wide array of different spices at the Spice Bazaar or Grand Bazaar. You can buy them fresh and have them vacuum-packed by the vendors. The pul biber (red pepper flakes) is a constant bestseller.
e. TURKISH KILIM RUGS AND CUSHION COVERS - Turkish kilim rugs are among the most sought after souvenir items from Istanbul. These beautifully designed rugs can be hung on the wall or used for its original function.
The best, and more expensive, kilim rugs are the hand-woven pieces that often tell a story. Some carpet sellers can interpret the symbols on the rug for you. Machine produced rugs are also widely available at lesser prices. Check the quality of your wanted item and always haggle to get a better price.
F. TURKISH LAMPS - Turkish lamps can be a hassle souvenir to bring home. However, once you see their beautiful designs, you might find it hard to resist the idea of buying one and you will surely regret it if you pass up the opportunity.
You can find these Turkish lamps in most souvenir shops in different shapes, sizes, and colors.
G. TURKISH COFFEE POT - Turkish coffee can be brewed using your coffeemaker at home but the taste pales in comparison with the coffee brewed in a Turkish coffee pot.
The traditional Turkish coffee pots, locally called cezves, are made of copper. Turkey has a long tradition of copper pot-making and if you buy from local artisans, you are assured of high-quality handmade copper pots.