- Istanbul is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — consider printing them all.
Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul) is Turkey's most populous city, and its cultural and financial center. 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 Western Asia.
Expanding the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium by the order of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the imperial city of Constantinople was for nearly a thousand years the last remaining outpost of the Roman (later termed Eastern Roman or Byzantine) Empire. It was finally conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II on May 29th, 1453, an event often used to mark the end of the Middle Ages. It was the nerve center for military campaigns that were to enlarge the Ottoman Empire dramatically. By the mid 1500s, Istanbul, with a population of almost half a million, was a major cultural, political, and commercial center. Ottoman rule continued until it was defeated in WWI and Istanbul was occupied by the allies. When the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 after the War of Independence, Kemal Atatürk moved its capital to the city of Ankara. However, Istanbul has continued to expand dramatically; today its population is approximately 16 million and increases at an estimated 700,000 immigrants per year. Industry has expanded even as tourism has grown. It continues to be a city that creates its own history at the intersection where both continents meet.
Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus Strait (Istanbul Bogazi), the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the estuary of the Golden Horn (Haliç) bisecting the western part and the Sea of Marmara (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, Beyoğlu and Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul, while Üsküdar is the major district on the comparatively less-visited Anatolian side of the city. The Black Sea forms the northern boundary of Istanbul.
Forget the stereotypical Istanbul image of a city of 1001 Nights situated in the desert amidst date palms. Despite its fairly southerly latitude (which is about the same as Naples or Barcelona), it snows in this city - a lot occasionally. Some winters go by only with rain, though.
Summers are as hot as expected. High relative humidity levels and the ‘concrete-island effect’ only makes things worse. Expect temperatures of up to 40° C for the hottest days of the year. Rainfall is a very remote possibility during summer. Even if it rains, you only need to wait 10 minutes for the sun to reappear again.
Springs (April-May) and autumns (late september-early november) are the most pleasant times to be in this city, as it’s neither too cold nor too hot. Although not a “rainy season” in a typical sense, be prepared to experience rainy days. 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 YTL 5 –about US$ 3- per umbrella (though you can find much better umbrellas for that price at shops if you look around a bit).
Also take note that being a huge city, different parts of Istanbul may 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 (northern terminus of metro line), while Taksim, the southern terminus of metro line, is having a perfectly sunny day. In general, northernmost parts of the city (nearer to Black Sea) have higher levels of humidity and thus tend to be more rainy. The Asian Side (at least its southern coastal part) tends to have milder conditions than the European side (i.e. warmer in winter, cooler in summer). In fact, the Princes’ Islands have even milder weather than the Asian Side (which lets subtropical plants such as bananas or bougainvilleas, which can’t grow anywhere else in Istanbul because of winter lows, to flourish there).
Planes arrive at Istanbul Atatürk Airport  (IST), 20 km west of the city centre. From the airport, there are various options for getting into Istanbul: you can take a taxi (about 30 YTL), the express bus service run by the local airport service called "Havas"  which departs half-hourly and costs about 10 YTL to Taksim, the IETT bus (96T) costing 2.5 YTL or by Metro to Aksaray and a tram on to Kabataş, which also passes through Sultanahmet, Eminönu and Tophane, for 1.4-2.8 YTL. The trip from the airport to Sultanahmet takes about 45 min.
Note that people are working on commission at the airport trying to make you use special shuttle buses for very high fees (30+ YTL per person), so for people who wish to travel more economically the Metro/tram-combination is easy and fairly quick, and offers very good value.
Depending on nationality, foreigners arriving in Istanbul may need to purchase tourist visas. This can be done upon arrival before queuing for passport control. The windows for purchasing the visa are located immediately to the left of the main passport control booths. You must pay using foreign currency - no Turkish money or credit cards are accepted. The fee varies depending on the visitor’s nationality. As of March 2008, the fee was $20 (or €15 or 10 GBP) for visitors travelling with U.S. passports. As of September 2008, Canadians pay US$60 (or €45).
Note that food and drinks at the airport may cost up to five times more than in the city proper. 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 there. 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.
Istanbul also has a smaller airport Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) , located in the Anatolian side of the city. Charter flights as well as European low cost carriers operate from here most of the time. A Havas bus connects this airport with Taksim in the city center for 10 YTL and takes about an hour. A cheaper option is to take bus E10 which brings you to Kadıkoy in 70 minutes (3 YTL). From there take a ferry to Eminonu or Karakoy.
International trains from across Europe arrive at the station in Sirkeci, close to Sultanahmet. Asian trains arrive at Haydarpasa station. To get between the two, catch a ferry across the Bosphorus (see Get around). Marmaray, the Rail Tube Tunnel and Commuter Rail Mass Transit System is being built, and is projected to be one of the most challenging infrastructure projects in Turkey.
International trains to and from Sirkeci:
- Daily overnight trains from Sofia (Bulgaria) - coming from Belgrade (Serbia) and Budapest (Hungary)
- Daily overnight "Bosphorus train" from Bucharest (Romania) (departure at 12.16pm from Bucharest, arrival at 8.30am in Istanbul, but expect about 2 hours delay) Cost: 146 Lei for a second class sleeper. No restaurant.
- There may be trains from Chisinau (Moldova).
- Twice a day there are trains to Thessaloniki (Greece) - the slow morning train that takes almost a whole day and the fast night train that is quicker but more expensive.
International trains to and from Haydarpasa:
- Weekly trains to Aleppo (Syria)
- Weekly train to Teheran (Iran) (from Haydarpasa station) every Wednesday 10.55pm, costing 105 Turkish lira. It is also a good way to drive in the Eastern part of Turkey. You change trains on Friday at Lake Van which requires a four hour ferry ride to get across. Both the Turkish and Iranian trains are comfortable and clean. Waggon restaurants are rather cheap. Arrival in Tehran on Saturday at 6.45pm (but expect up to 10 hours delay…).
Schedule and price list of railway trips can be gathered from TCDD (Turkish Republic State Railways) .
Buses and coaches terminate at the colossal Esenler Otogar, about 10 km west of the city center, located on the European side. Courtesy minibuses or taxis will easily get you into the center. The metro also stops at the Otogar. There are several daily buses to/from cities in Romania and Bulgaria.
With 168 ticket offices and gates, shops, restaurants, hotel, police station, clinic and mosque, the Büyük Otogar is a town in itself. From/To Thessaloniki(Greece): ticketprices around 35€ (one way) Sofia (Bulgaria): 10-15€
"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.
International ferries, carrying tourist groups from outside Turkey stop at Karakoy Port. The port is ideally located close to Sultanahmet and Taksim.
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). Drivers without either of these two methods must take the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.
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.
Each time you use a tram, metro, bus, or boat on the public transport system, you will need to use a token. The small metal tokens cost YTL 1.40 and can be bought at various ticket kiosks at bus, train, and metro stations. Ticket fares across buses, trams and metros are at a flat rate(i.e. not dependent on how far you go).
Buying an AKBİL (AKıllı BİLet - Turkish acronym for Smart Ticket) is a good idea if you are in Istanbul for more than a day or two, and intend to use public transport. AKBİL is a small electronic device serving as a ticket which may be used on buses, trams, suburban trains, metro, local ferries, etc. You buzz the AKBİL when you get on the bus or enter the tram/metro platform. The great part for travelers is that you can buy only one and buzz it as many times as there are passengers. You can buy or refill them at designated booths located at any major bus, tram, to metro station, as well as some other places. An AKBİL provides discounted rates compared to regular single tickets, as well as discounts in transfers (when used multiple times within a limited period). A deposit for the device itself is payable when you buy it, which is refundable if you choose to return it later.
You may also have AKBİL loaded with daily, weekly, two-weekly or monthly subscriptions for fixed prices.
IETT, . There are two types of public buses in Istanbul; those run by the private sector and those run by the city-owned IETT. You can differentiate these two types by their colors. Privately run buses are blue-green with yellow non-electronic destination signs while IETT-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 1.4 YTL are valid only on IETT buses and cash payment only on private buses, although if you get on an IETT bus the driver will normally accept cash (normally 1.5 YTL but this is dependent entirely upon what the driver wishes to charge) and hand you his Akbil for you to use.
As a tourist, you are most likely to use the T4 bus the most. It connects Sultanahmet to Taksim Square (and so to Beyoglu and Istiklal Caddesi, the nightspots). The last bus from Taksim runs at about 11.30PM, though that's not fixed.
Istanbul's first underground system dates back to 19th century, when the funicular subway "Tünel" was constructed to operate from Karakoy to Istıklal Street in 1875. The distance travelled was 573 metres.
In 1990's, a modern tram line was constructed in the European side of the city, and now it's being extended to the inner parts of the city, as well as to the Anatolian side with a sea-tunnel named "Marmaray" crossing below the Bosphorus.
Istanbul's metro consists of two lines, the northern line is currently just a short stub connecting Taksim to 4.Levent. There is also a funicular system connecting Taksim to Kabatas where you can get on ferries and cross to the Anatolian side. The southern line is most useful for visitors, connecting Aksaray (with its connections to the tram line) to Atatürk Airport, via the Otogar.
- Istanbul Metro & Tram, .
A tram connects Zeytinburnu (connection to the metro line to the airport) to Kabataş (connection to the underground funicular to Taksim). The line is 14km long, has 24 stations and serves many popular tourist sites (e.g. in Sultanament) and ferries (e.g. Eminönü). An entire trip takes 42 minutes.
Although you may use the same tokens (1.40 YTL) 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 Eminönü 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.
Hızlı Tramway stations are: Zeytinburnu, Mithatpaşa, Akşemsettin, Seyitnizam, Merkezefendi, Cevizlibağ, Topkapı, Pazartekke, Çapa, Fındıkzade, Haseki, Yusufpaşa, Aksaray, Laleli (Üniversite), Beyazıt (Kapalıçarşı), Çemberlitaş, Sultanahmet, Gülhane, Sirkeci, Eminönü (ferryboats), Karaköy, 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.
Information for disabled travellers
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, though any of these might unfortuately be impossible during peak hours in interval stops. Think of a sardine-packed bus unloading all of its passengers to lean down).
Unfortunately, no stops are announced on a display or by voice in the buses.
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.
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 (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, sea-buses, or mid-sized private ferries travel between the European and Asian sides of the city. The crossing takes about 20 minutes and costs 1.40 YTL, and gives great views of the Bosphorous. 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 Quay”). For instance, Eminönü alone has more than 5 quays (including the ones used by other ferries apart from liners), so if you should head for, say, Üsküdar, you should take the ferry which departs from ‘Üsküdar Iskelesi’. Replace ‘Üsküdar’ with the destination of your choice.
Istanbul liners  travel on the following routes:
- Karaköy - Haydarpaşa - Kadıköy
- Kadıköy - Eminönü
- Üsküdar - Eminönü
- Üsküdar - Karaköy - Eminönü - Eyüp (The Golden Horn Route)
- Kadıköy - Besiktaş
- Kabatas - Uskudar - Harem
- Istinye - Emirgan - Kanlıca - Anadolu Hisarı - Kandilli - Bebek - Arnavutköy - Çengelköy (The Whole Bosphorus Route)
- Anadolu Kavağı - Rumeli Kavağı - Sariyer
- Eminönü - Kavaklar (Special Bosphorus Tour-Recommended For Tourists)
- Sirkeci - Adalar - Yalova - Cınarcık (The Princes' Islands Route)
Furthermore, the sea-buses follow the same (or more) routes, please visit the link above for extra information.
Four main private ferry routes for travelling between Asia and Europe sides are:
- Besiktaş - Üsküdar
- Kabataş - Üsküdar (close to tram and funicular system in Kabataş)
- Eminönü - Üsküdar (close to tram in Eminönü)
- Eminönü - Kadıköy (close to tram in Eminönü)
Very useful are the fast ferryboats (travelling at 55 kilometres) 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 by AKBIL system.
Taxis are an easy and cheap way to get around. Start off rate is 2.05 YTL (€1.00) and then 0.1 YTL (€0.05) for each 1/10 km afterwards. A one-way travel from Taksim to Sultanahmet costs approximately 7-10 YTL. Tipping is generally unnecessary. Occasionally drivers will refuse to start the meter and try to negotiate a fixed prize. You should avoid these cabs and simply take another one, as you will almost certainly end paying too much.
Taxis that wait near a bus station are usually a tourist trap. They start the meter but charge you 20 YTL at least. Emphasise to the driver that you will pay for the meter price before getting in. Don't buy their quick-sell tricks. Always try to stop a taxi that is passing by on the road or find a legit taxi stop.
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.
Taxis have a fixed rate; the night rate is 50 % more expensive than during the daytime. The night rate starts at midnight and lasts until 6AM. If you are riding during the day, makes sure the fare begins at 2.05 YTL, the day rate, and not 2.90 YTL, the night one.
Be careful on what notes you hand them for payment, more than one have tried to pretend that the 50 lira note handed was just a 5 lira note!
By shared taxi
Dolmuş (Turkish: "it's full") 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 - Eminönü (Taksim stop, near the Ataturk Cultural Center, in Taksim square)
- Taksim - Kadıköy
- Taksim - Aksaray (Taksim stop, Tarlabasi Avenue, close to Taksim square)
- Kadıköy - 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 - Üsküdar ferry port)
- Kadıköy - Üsküdar (Üsküdar stop, Near the Üsküdar - Beşiktaş and Üsküdar - Kabataş ferry port)
If you want the driver to make a stop, you can say İnecek var.(EE-neh-djek war!) (Someone's getting out.) or Müsait bir yerde.(mU-sa-EEt bir yer-deh.) (At a convenient spot.).
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 are located in Sultanahmet-Old City, including the Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace and the Sultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque). Galata has the Galata Tower and the Galata Whirling Dervish Hall, while the Bosphorus has a number of waterside palaces where where you can admire what money could buy in times gone by. These places are all on the "must-see" list of Istanbul. Other districts also has a number of less significant, but interesting nonetheless, sights as well.
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. Take care in selecting a hamam, as they can vary greatly in cleanliness.
- Suleymaniye Bath, +90 212 520 34 10 . Sultan Suleyman had this Hamam built by the famous Architect Sinan in 1550. Architect Sinan build this hamam for himself. He used this hamam for washing. Suleymaniye hamam is the only mixed hamam in Istanbul. There are no different sections for each sex, thus the families may comfortably enjoy this hamam together. Hamam also has two way free shuttle services for the hotel guests if the booking comes through their reception. Entry €31.50.
- Cağaloğlu Bath, +90 212 522 24 24 . The Cağaloğlu hamam was constructed in 1741 and is the last hamam to be built after a long period during the Ottoman Empire. It was constructed in İstanbul Eminönü. It has separated sections. Popular and normally visited by tourists. You can get a "service" which mean one of the staff helps you get scrubbing, and the most expensive option contain scrubbing AND massage. It should be said that the atmosphere is very touristic, and everything has a price. Entry €20.
- Cemberlitas Bath, +90 212 511 25 35 . The Cemberlitas Bath is located on Cemberlitas Square in the midst of some of Istanbul's greatest monuments. It was also built by architect Sinan in 1584. It has 2 sections, female and male. Entry €15. (28 YTL for self-service, 40 for Turkish massage, 68 for Turkish massage and oil massage).
Once upon a time, the narghile, or Turkish water pipe, was the centre of Istanbul’s social and political life. Today 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 hooka are in Yaniceriler Ceaddesi, near the Grand Bazar. Corlulu Ali Pasa and Koca Sinan Pasa 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 medersa, though it’s not as spooky as you might think. In the south of Sultanahmet, near the sea, is Yeni Marmara (Cayiroglu Sokak), where you can also sit in the terrace and enjoy the view. In Beyoglu, at the Ortakahve (Buyukparmakkapi), there’s even the choice of a wide range of flavours. Another area with few big good looking places, is the Rihtim Cad, between Galata bridge and Istanbul Modern.
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 Eminönü (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 Eyüp mosque complex, a mile or three up the Golden Horn. Visit this Eyüp complex at your leisure (the mosque is not particular, the court is, and the milling of believers, with many boys-to-be-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), then on to the well-restored Sehzade mosque, and next to Süleymaniye (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 (it’s small) is behind this good, unexceptional (nice courtyard though) mosque.
Once again go to Eminönü, but this time take the boat (those large ferries) to Üsküdar. 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 railroad station and find a Sirkeci-Halkali suburban train, and get out at (from memory, 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 Eminönü, 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 close to the opposite side of Galata bridge, ask around)), then continue to Taksim. Shops are of the international variety.
- OneNation Travel Agency +90 212 458 21 91 Binbirdirek mah klodfarer Cad No:3/36 Eminönü .
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:
- Dilmer in Gümüşsuyu .
- Tömer, Ankara University affiliated .
- Concept Languages in Etiler .
- Boğaziçi University . Runs a summer long intensive Turkish language course for all levels.
Both Boğaziçi 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 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 Türk Dil Kurumu (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. See the major difference now?
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. In Istanbul, you can learn Ottoman Turkish from the following places:
- İsmek +90 212 531 01 41 İskenderpaşa Mahallesi, Ahmediye Caddesi, Hacı Salih Efendi Sokak, 6 Fatih.
- Tarih Vakfı +90 212 522 02 02 Zindankapı Değirmen Sokak, 15 Eminönü .
There is always a high demand for qualified - and, to a lesser extent, unqualified - ESOL/EFL teachers in Istanbul. Many teachers work with private instructional companies. Others contract out on a freelance basis.
Istanbul is Turkey's financial capital. All big investment banks, commercial banks, large foreign retail and consumer companies have offices in Istanbul. The business district has been coming up with high-rise buildings and business centers in the last decade.
The currency used in Istanbul is the New Turkish Lira (YTL) 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 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 YTL 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.
- Grand Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı). . Istanbul's grand old bazaar with an estimated 4400 shops lined along covered walkways. It is said to be the world's oldest shopping mall, covers several blocks and features a labyrinth of side streets to keep you lost for the better part of a day. The shops are organized around their wares, e.g. the silver jewelers are clustered together, the carpet shops are clustered elsewhere and the shoe shops are bunched together somewhere else. Parts of it now are rather touristy and you're likely to pay a little more for your purchase than elsewhere but with the vast selection you'll find what you're looking for and it's one of Istanbul's character pieces.
- Polisajci Brothers Antique Show, 37-39 Yaglikcilar Sokak, Ic Cebeci Han, +90 212 5261831. You will find Ottoman and other antique metal ware - copper bowls, jugs, pots and the like - once used in hammams and kitchens.
- Derviş, 33-35 Keseciler Sokak, +90 212 514 4525 . Turko-Californian spa shop with raw silk and cotton clothing made to last a long time.
- Chalabi, 6 Sandal Bedesten Sokak, +90 212 5228171. Grand Bazaars’ oldest family-run antiques dealer offers Ottoman silver, furniture and jewelry from old Ottoman families, and other oriental treasures.
- Deli Kızın Yeri, 82 Halıcılar Çarşısı, +90 212 526 1251 . Deli Kızın Yeri (The Crazy Lady's Place) was founded by The Crazy Lady herself, an American who has retired in Turkey, who specializes in creating flat, useful, packable items using traditional Turkish motifs, handicrafts and fabrics. Items produced by local artists suiting the flavor of the shop comprise the rest of their inventory. The selection of items changes constantly, but generally includes items such as placemats, tablecloths, purses, doorstops, plastic bag holders, napkin rings, tea cozies, Turkish-flavored teddy bears and dolls, luggage tags, aprons, pillows, and limited edition clothing.
- Deli Kızın Yeri Junior, 42 Halıcılar Çarşısı, +90 224 757 4229. The Grand Bazaar's first and only children's store, filled with Turkish inspired toys and games for kids of all ages. Your kids will love it!
- Egyptian Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı, also known as Spice Bazaar) in Eminönü is also a covered bazaar, which is a lot smaller than Grand Bazaar, and as its name implies, houses herbalist and spice shops.
- 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 flavours 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 delicious Turkish Delight in the Grand Bazaar, although I wouldn't recommend buying from them unless you have advanced haggling skills, or you don't mind being ripped off.
- 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 (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 (EHL-mah chah-yee) is the flavor of preference.
- Rugs & Kilims
- Mevlana Rug Store, Torun sok. 1, Sultanahmet, +90 212 5171260 (fax:+90 212 5177476) . Mevlana Rug store is the only store which is recommended by The New York Times.
- Bazaar 55 Rug House, Akbiyik Cad. 55, Sultanahmet, +90 212 6382289 . The carpet shop known to be most trust-worthy.
- Mehmet Cetinkaya Gallery, Kucuk Ayasofya Caddesi, 7 Tavukhane Sokak, +90 212 5176808 . Glorious museum-quality textiles, a feast for the eyes.
- Best Carpet Gallery, Binbirdirek Caddesi No. 3/36 , +90 535 722 01 75 . buy online Rugs and Kilims.
- Chalcedony. Turkey's only indigenous precious stone is a great buy within Istanbul's many jewelry shops.
- Chalcedony, 2 Ayasofya Caferiye Sokak, +90 212 5276376 . One stop shop for raw rocks, smooth stones and finished jewelry of the pale-blue, semiprecious chalcedony.
- 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, +90 212 2930378 . Best antiquarian bookshop in Turkey, owner knows every Turkish excavation site first hand.
- Gonul Paksoy, 6/A Atiye Sokak, Tesvikiye, +90 212 2360209. Peerless one-of-a-kind dresses made for royalty from refined, antique Ottoman-era cloth.
- Isnik Foundation, 7 Oksuz Cocuk Sokak, Kurucesme, +90 212 2873243 . Offers neo-Isnik pottery after recreating original formulas from original Isnik kilns, which functioned between 1450 and 1650.
- Sedef Mum, 50 Irmak Caddesi, Dolapdere, +90 212 2535793. Artisans of the time honored art of candle making, intricately sculpted and aromatic wares make very portable gifts.
For restaurant listings, see individual district articles.
- 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 24 hours. In Besiktas neighborhood, Karadeniz is a non-touristy, small place but local favorite for not using minced meat but full chunks of beef (the place is near fish market in Besiktas). It costs slightly more (8 liras per portion) but it is probably one of the best in the entire country. Also, in the Sultanahmet area, "Sedef" is a small buffet-type restaurant which has quality Turkish fast-food.
- Balik-Ekmek. Balik-Ekmek (literally "fish and bread") is a fish sandwich served in small boats and little buffets in Eminonu. It is also increasingly popular in buffets in Kadıköy 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 is around 2-3 YTL. Again, it's a local favorite.
- 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 YTL. 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 on the street stands, called Dondurma. While flavors are relatively standard for the region, the ice cream usually incorporates orchid root extract, which 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!
- roasted Chestnut is sold at trolls here and there, and it is very nice snack to take when the weather is cold, as it keeps your hand warm. 3 Lr for 100 gr.
- Also, be sure to try Ayran , a local drink based on yoghurt, although sour and much thinner. it is not always on the maniu or displayed, but its there, so ask for.
TURKISH RAKI - This special drink from fermented grapes and anis is a must try.
- Beyoğlu is notoriously known for its night life; it's full of cafés 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.
- Kadıköy also has a nightlife scene, serving mostly locals of this part of the city. 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. Most of the locals in Kadıköy go to Taxim mostly.
- Nightclubs - While there are night clubs all over the city, two of the hottest clubs of Istanbul are in Ortaköy.
In general, it is possible to find some kind of accommodation in any district of Istanbul. Here is a quick list of the districts where they are concentrated most:
- Harbiye is a popular place to stay, as in the main center 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 Taxim are 5 minutes from Harbiye so you can stay in Harbiye and benefit from all activities in Nişantaşı and Taxim.
- Taksim is the main center 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 center for the old city on the European side. It has a selection of quality, reasonably priced hotels, many with terraces overlooking the Golden Horn.
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 located in the same continent with you, because much of the number sets are used on both continents (albeit with different codes of course). When dialing a number that is located 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 located in the same continent with you), though.
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 cafés and restaurants along Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu
- Most McDonald's and Burger King restaurants
- 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 wierless conaction.
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).
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 bar/club scams
Tourists must be aware of high-drink prices scams encountered in so-called night-clubs mostly located in Aksaray, Beyazit and Taksim areas. These clubs usually charge overpriced bills, based on a replica of the original menu.
Also be aware of friendly behaving groups of young men or male-female couples striking up a conversation in the street and inviting you to a "good nightclub they know". This has frequently been reported as a prelude to such a scam. The person(s) in on the scam may offer to take you to dinner first, in order to lower your suspicions.
In either of these scams, if you refuse to pay the high prices or try to call the police (dial #155) to file a complaint, the club managers may use physical intimidation to bring the impasse to a close.
A recently encountered variant of this involved an invitation in Taksim to two male tourists (separately, within an hour of one another) to buy them beer (as they were "guests"). At the club, two attractive ladies, also with beers, joined them. When the time came for the bill, the person inviting the tourist denied having said he would pay for the drinks, and a bill was presented for 1500 Lira; when the tourists in question expressed an inability to pay such a high amount, burly "security" personnel emerged, who the manager explained would accompany the tourist to an ATM machine (presumably to clean out their bank account). In one of the above examples, the tourist escaped by shouting for the police once on the street; in the other, a much lower amount was accepted from the tourist.
Another recent incident occured at a bar/club named SIA, located near the interception of Acara and Istiklal Streets. 3 tourists were approached by 2 men, asking them to go for "drinks together". The tourists were led by the men into the club named SIA (these three letters appear in silver beside the club's entrance), and ordered drinks. Later, some ladies working for the club joined the group and ordered drinks, which the club put on the tabs of the 3 tourists. Overall, they were cheated of over 600 Lira. The original bill was much higher, and the tourists suffered verbal and physical intimidation when they did not have enough money to pay up. Finally the people at the club gave up and let them go. Travellers are advised to avoid the above-mentioned club, for their own safety.
All these point to these scams in Taksim becoming more serious, and the possible involvement of organized crime. Be careful. If you find yourself in a situation for any reason, do whatever they want you to do, pay the bill, buy the things they are forcing you to buy, etc. Try to get out of situation as soon as possible, go to a safe place and call the police (dial #155). 
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 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 Euro 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 Euro in total'. Do not agree with this exchange of money, as the first coin is indeed a two-Euro coin, but (many of) the rest of the coins will probably be 1 Lira coins (looking very similar), worth only 1/3 of the value of 2 Euro (in August 2007).
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 people will walk around Taksim 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.
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 riders. It may help to have the name of the destination written down to show the driver. Be aware that taxis are harder to find when it is raining.
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.
Few taxis have seatbelts, and some drivers may seem to be reckless. If you wish for the driver to slow down, say "yavaş lutfen" (slow 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 licence 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 (Hilton, Marriot, Ritz, etc.) is safe, and it is not necessary to stay in these hotels to use a taxis leaving from their hubs.
Taxis have a meter that will say "GUNDUZ" if daytime rates are being charged (until midnight) and "GECE" if nightime rates are being charged (until 06:00). Some drivers may try to charge a higher rate by setting their meter to "GECE" during daytime hours. 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 YTL when only 20 YTL are needed, the driver may quickly switch it with a 5 YTL note and insist that the rest of the 20 YTL is still due or may switch the real bill for a fake one and insist that different money be given.
The best way to avoid the taxi scams is to SIT IN THE FRONT PASSENGER SEAT. Watch the meter. Watch the driver (especially when you're paying). If you're with your significant other, do it anyway. Save the cuddling for after the ride.
Men intent on stalking foreign women will, obviously, 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:
- "Ayıp!" - "Rude!"
- "Bırak beni!" "Leave me alone!"
- "Dursana!" - "Stop it!"
Or to really ruin him:
- "Lütfen beni takip etme?!" - "Can you please stop stalking me?!"
- "Polisi ariyorum- "I am calling the cops!"
Old City is tolerant towards tourists of all ethnic backgrounds. New City, however, has a different attitude. Some nightclubs and bars will deny entry to black people (especially single males) without giving a "reason".
Istanbul PD has a "Tourism Police" department where travellers 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(Turizm Polisi), Yerebatan Caddesi 6, Sultanahmet(in the blue wooden building between Hagia Sophia and the entrance of Basilica Cistern, few metres away from each), ☎ +90 212 527 45 03(fax: +90 212 512 76 76).
Similar to many European countries tap water is mostly drinkable, but it 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.
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" (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 and 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.
- 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.
- Ataturk Arboretum (living tree museum) is the place for nature lovers. It’s about one hour bus ride away from central parts of the city, near Bahcekoy in the north of the city, near the Black Sea coast (buses: 42T from Taksim and Besiktas, 42M from 4. Levent metro station; entrance of the arboretum is a 15-min walk away from the last stop of aforementioned lines). It’s located in an oak forest and includes many non-native tree species (some of which go increasingly photogenic with crimson/golden/purple leaves as winter approaches), and a pond complete with ducks. There is also a wooden observation tower on one of the hilltops, offering a view of the surrounding forests and a spectecular sight of Bosporus which is seen as a turquoise lake from that point. That same tower can also be used for birdwatching during autumn, as these hills are on one of the major routes of migratory birds on their way from Europe to Africa. During weekdays arboretum is open to public for a token fee (about 2 YTL), however weekends are exclusively for members. Remember, no eating, no picnicing, and no smoking.
- Anadolu Kavağı— While officially the northernmost district of the city, Anadolu Kavağı (also known simply as Kavak) on the Asian bank of Bosporus is in reality a separate town, accesible 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 Eminönü (once or twice a day, from the pier named Boğaz İskelesi) 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 Kavağı, 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 Bosporus. 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 cafés near the shore if it’s winter. (note: Citadel and surrounding areas get really crowded at weekends during summer months, which makes falling into mythical dreams a little difficult).
- 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.
- Sile (Şile)— Located by the Black-Sea shore on the Anatolian side, Sile 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 Sile Bezi (cloth of Sile). Similar to Kilyos, Sile also has its own private and public beaches. However, the dangerous sand type of the sea, and tides make it difficult and somewhat dangerous to swim for people who are not expert and cautious. Drownings occur every year. From Sile, you can get to Agva (Ağva) by bus or car. By car, it will take 20-30' and by bus ca. 1 hour. Agva is a tourist-attracting, small holiday village. It has less make-up for tourist. You can observe the local life. 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"). Every year, more international tourists buy/build houses in Agva.
- The Princes' Islands— A group of islands across the Anatolian side of Istanbul. "Buyukada", the biggest and most famous of them all, has ferry lines to Eminonu (on the European side) and Bostanci (on the Asian side) every day, on various hours. At Büyükada 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.
- 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 is a two-hour car drive or bus ride away (train is also an option but it takes much longer). The 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.
Possible hitchhiking spots
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.
- If you intend to head west (towards Europe) by hitchhiking, take public bus HT48 (Yenibosna Metro-Mimarsinan) which departs from the bus stops located next to the ‘Yenibosna’ station of southern metro line. HT48 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. (fare: YTL 1.30/person, though you’ll have to buy multi-use cards (at least 5 uses for YTL 6.50), which makes a bad investment assuming that you are leaving the city. You can pay directly to the driver inside the bus the single-use fare, though)
- 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 YTL (3.00 YTL if you have a valid student ID, this is the rate for Doğu 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 kilometres). 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 Kadiköy, Istanbul’s main centre on Asia, to Tuzla (#130 and #130A; fare: YTL 1.30/person), 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 “ay 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.
This page was last edited at 03:20, on 29 March 2009 by Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel. Based on work by Onur Keskin, Peter Fitzgerald and cz, Wikitravel user(s) Vidimian, Hokiesvt and Superrod29, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.