Welcome to our comprehensive guide to Istanbul! If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul, you’re in luck – this vibrant city is full of culture, history, and delicious food. As your go-to tourist guide, we’ll provide you with all the travel tips you need to know before traveling to Turkey’s largest city. Our guide covers everything from what to see and do in Istanbul, to how to get around, and even if you should tip while you’re here. Whether you’re traveling to Istanbul for vacation or visiting Istanbul as an American, our travel blog Istanbul has got you covered. Read on for our top tips for Istanbul, and get ready for an unforgettable trip!

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Don’t Forget to Check the Weather

Istanbul has a moderate climate, but it can get hot in the summer and chilly in the winter. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you go and pack accordingly. Read more…

The temperature in Istanbul can vary throughout the year, with the hottest months being July and August, and the coldest months being January and February.

During the summer months, make sure to pack lightweight clothing and a hat to protect yourself from the sun. In the winter, you’ll need to pack warm clothes, a jacket, and a scarf to keep yourself warm.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Istanbul?

The best time to visit Istanbul is in the spring (April to May) and autumn (September to November), when the weather is pleasant and the crowds are thinner.

However, Istanbul has its charm in every season, and you can enjoy it even in the winter when the city is covered in snow.

During the summer months, the city can get very crowded and hot, and it can be challenging to get around. Spring and fall are the best times to explore the city, as the weather is mild, and the crowds are smaller.

Still not sure? Read our article “How to Choose the Best Time to Visit Istanbul”

How Many Days Are Enough for Istanbul?

You need at least three days to do Istanbul justice. Anything less than that, and you will miss out on some of the best experiences that the city has to offer.

With three days in the city, you’ll have enough time to visit the top attractions, try the delicious food, and explore the different neighborhoods.

But even if you live in Istanbul for a year, you will never run out of things to do. The city offers a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity that will keep you engaged and fascinated. From exploring the ancient sites to trying new foods to shopping in traditional markets, there is always something to discover in Istanbul.

Here are our itineraries that would help you not to miss the must-see places in Istanbul:

Apply for an E-Visa to Save Time and Potentially Money

To enter Turkey, you will need a visa. You can apply for an e-visa online, which is quick, easy, and can save you time and money.

The e-visa is valid for up to 90 days and can be used for tourism, business, or transit purposes. You can apply for the e-visa on the official website of the Turkish government or through a travel agency.

The cost of the e-visa is $50, and it can be paid online using a credit or debit card.

Don’t Forget to Check Travel Restrictions

Before you book your trip, make sure to check the travel restrictions that are in place.

As of March 2023, there are no travel restrictions in place for Istanbul. However, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest information as travel restrictions can change quickly.

Check out our guide for more information on travel restrictions for tourists entering Turkey in 2023.

Purchase Travel Insurance Before Your Trip

Travel insurance is always a good idea, but it is especially important for international travel. Be sure to purchase travel insurance before your trip to Istanbul.

Don’t Forget about Public Transport from the Airport to Save Money

Taking public transport from the airport is the cheapest way to get to the city center. You can take the metro, bus, or private transfer.

Avoid Taxi Scammers and Book Transfer

Be cautious while using taxis: there are a lot of scammers here! If you prefer a more comfortable and private travel option from the airport, you better book a private transfer.

Our personal recommendation for a hassle-free airport transfer experience in Istanbul: Welcome Pickups.

Welcome Pickups provides reliable and affordable private transfers from Istanbul Airport straight to your accommodation. Their friendly, English-speaking drivers will greet you with a warm smile at the arrivals hall, holding a sign with your name on it. It’s like having a local friend waiting to welcome you to their city!

Check out this guide for more information on private transfers from Istanbul airport.

Don’t Mix Up Airports

Istanbul has two airports: Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. Make sure you know which airport you are flying into and plan accordingly.

Istanbul Airport is the newest and largest airport in Istanbul, located on the European side of the city.

Sabiha Gökçen International Airport is located on the Asian side of the city and is used by low-cost airlines.

Both airports are well-connected to the city center, and you can easily get to your destination using public transport or a private transfer.

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Book Hotel Online to Save Time and Avoid Stress

Booking your hotel online will save you time and avoid the stress of finding a place to stay once you arrive in Istanbul. There are many options available, from budget-friendly hostels to luxurious hotels.

Hotel Recommendations:

  • Pera Palace: Historic hotel in Beyoğlu with luxurious accommodations, rich history, and famous guests like Ernest Hemingway and Agatha Christie.
  • White Corner Hotel: Modern boutique hotel in Istanbul’s historic district with stylish rooms and suites, perfect for exploring major attractions.
  • Loka Suites: Spacious and comfortable apartments in the trendy Kadikoy neighborhood, fully equipped with amenities like a kitchenette and washing machine, ideal for exploring the nightlife and cultural scene.

Don’t Forget That ATMs Can Take a Fee

ATMs in Istanbul can charge a fee for withdrawing money. Be sure to check with your bank about any international fees before you withdraw money.

Some banks may charge a flat fee or a percentage of the withdrawal amount for using foreign ATMs. It’s essential to know the fees in advance to avoid any surprises when you arrive in Istanbul.

Buy a SIM Card or Rent a Wi-Fi Device

Buying a local SIM card or renting a Wi-Fi device will keep you connected during your trip. You can easily purchase a SIM card at the airport or any mobile phone shop. Check out this guide for more information on how to buy a tourist SIM card in Istanbul.

You can also rent a Wi-Fi device online to be sure you would lost in Istanbul without the internet!

What Special to Pack for Turkey?

  • Pack comfortable clothing and shoes, as you will be doing a lot of walking
  • Also, be sure to bring a travel adapter, as the electrical outlets in Turkey are not the same as in the US or Europe.
  • If you plan on visiting a mosque, pack modest clothing that covers your shoulders, arms, and legs, and a scarf or shawl to cover your head and shoulders if you’re a woman.
  • Don’t forget to pack warm clothes, a jacket, and a scarf if you’re visiting during the winter, and lightweight clothing and a hat to protect yourself from the sun during the summer months.

Hop up on Public Transport

Public transport is the best way to get around Istanbul. It is cheap, efficient, and easy to use. Read more…

The public transport system in Istanbul consists of buses, trams, metro, and ferries. You can use the Istanbulkart, or The City Travel Card to pay for your trips.

Buy a City Travel Card

The Istanbul City Card is a great way to save money on public transportation in Istanbul. With the Istanbul City Card, you can take unlimited trips on buses, trams, metro, and ferries for a fixed price!

The Istanbul City Card comes with 1-3-5-7-15 day options for you to choose from, so you can tailor your experience to the length of your stay and explore Istanbul to your heart’s content. Say farewell to ticket queues and embrace the freedom to roam, as this indispensable pass propels you on an unforgettable urban adventure.

Easily purchase it online and have it delivered to your hotel for ultimate convenience. To buy a transport card, click on the link below and click “Book this attraction” after that:

Be Cautious with Taxi in Istanbul

Taxis can be expensive and sometimes unreliable in Istanbul. Check our guide Outsmarting Taxi Scams in Istanbul: Your Ultimate Guide for 2023 to avoid being ripped off by taxi scammers!

Does Uber Work in Turkey?

Uber does not officially operate in Turkey (officially), but it still works somehow. There are also alternatives like BiTaksi or Maxim. These apps work similarly to Uber and allow you to book a taxi with your smartphone. You can pay for your ride with cash or credit card.

Be Aware Of Istanbul’s Traffic

Istanbul’s traffic can be chaotic and congested, especially during rush hour. Plan accordingly and give yourself extra time to get to your destination. If you need to get somewhere on time, it’s best to use public transport or walk. Read more…

Bring Travel Adapter to Turkey

The electrical outlets in Istanbul are not the same as in the US. Be sure to bring a travel adapter so that you can charge your electronic devices.

Buy A Museum Pass Or Istanbul E-Pass and Save Money

If you plan on visiting Istanbul’s museums and historical sites, consider purchasing a Museum Pass or Istanbul E-pass, which will save you time and money.

The Museum Pass allows you to visit 12 museums in Istanbul, including Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Archaeological Museum.

Enjoy Free Entry to the Famous Museums and Guided Tours with Istanbul E-Pass

The Istanbul E-Pass is a valuable option for travelers, as it offers free entry and guided tours to the famous museums, along with 50+ other attractions, providing a convenient and cost-effective way to explore the city.

Don’t Forget About Tips

Tipping is customary in Istanbul, especially at restaurants and cafes. The standard tip is 10% of the total bill. If you receive good service, you can leave a higher tip.

Some restaurants may include a service charge in the bill, so make sure to check before you tip.

Can You Drink the Tap Water in Istanbul?

It is generally safe to drink tap water in Istanbul, but it is recommended to drink bottled water to avoid any potential health risks.

You can buy bottled water at any supermarket or convenience store.

Don’t Worry About English or Use Google Translate

English is widely spoken in Istanbul, especially in tourist areas.

However, it is always a good idea to have a translation app like Google Translate on hand, just in case. You can use Google Translate to translate signs, menus, and other important information.

Pharmacies Are Called Eczane

If you need to buy medicine or other health-related products, look for a pharmacy, which is called “Eczane” in Turkish.

Be Ready for Lots of Uphill Walking

Istanbul is a city of hills, and you will be doing a lot of uphill walking. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and take breaks when needed.

If you need to get up the steeper hills in Istanbul, you can use public transport like funiculars or cable cars. These options can be more convenient and less tiring than walking uphill, especially in the hot summer months.

Don’t Forget Comfortable Shoes

Comfortable shoes are a must for exploring Istanbul. You will be doing a lot of walking, so be sure to bring shoes that are comfortable and supportive. Sneakers or hiking boots are a good choice.

Enjoy Turkish Breakfast

When you’re in Istanbul, trying a Turkish breakfast is an absolute must. You will not regret it! A typical Turkish breakfast consists of fresh bread, a variety of cheeses, sliced olives, juicy tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, and of course, hot tea.

This breakfast is not only delicious but also gives you a glimpse into the local cuisine and culture. You can enjoy a traditional Turkish breakfast at a cozy café or restaurant, while gazing at the stunning views of the city or the sea. Furthermore, the breakfast can be accompanied by other delicacies like sucuk (a type of spicy sausage), eggs, honey, and jams. Don’t miss out on this amazing experience that will make your trip to Istanbul even more unforgettable!

Read Best Turkish Breakfast in Istanbul Right Now: 12 Excellent Places

Don’t Skip Food in Turkey & Turkish Cuisine

Turkish cuisine is delicious and varied, with influences from Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Balkan cuisines. Don’t be afraid to try new dishes, like mezze, kebabs, and baklava. You can find great food in Istanbul at both casual eateries and high-end restaurants.

Don’t Be Afraid to Travel Solo

For a solo traveler, Istanbul is a safe and welcoming city. You’ll never feel alone, and you can easily meet other travelers or locals. The people are friendly and hospitable, and you’ll find that they are more than happy to share their culture and traditions with you.

You can find more information on the safety of Istanbul, specifically for women traveling alone, in our article Is Istanbul Safe?

Don’t Miss Shopping Heaven

Istanbul is a city of many delights for shopaholics. Not only does it offer a wide range of trendy boutiques and traditional markets, but it also boasts a unique shopping experience that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

One of the most famous shopping destinations in Istanbul is the Grand Bazaar, a labyrinthine covered market that has been around for centuries. It’s a place where you can find anything from spices to rugs to jewelry to Turkish delight. You can easily spend hours wandering through the maze of shops and haggling with the friendly vendors.

If you’re looking for something a bit more exotic, head to the Spice Bazaar, where you’ll find rows upon rows of colorful spices, teas, and sweets. This market has a long history, as it was once the center of the spice trade in the Ottoman Empire.

Finally, Istiklal Street is another great place to shop in Istanbul. This bustling pedestrian street is lined with shops ranging from high-end boutiques to local souvenir shops. It’s the perfect place to grab a coffee and spend a lazy afternoon browsing the stores.

And Haggle at the Bazaar

When shopping at a market or bazaar in Istanbul, don’t be afraid to haggle. Bargaining is a common practice, and you can often get a better deal by negotiating with the seller. Read more…

Don’t Fall for the ‘Shoe Cleaner Trick’ and Other Scams

Be aware of common tourist scams in Istanbul, like the “shoe cleaner trick,” where a stranger will offer to clean your shoes and then demand an exorbitant fee. Always be cautious and keep an eye on your belongings.

Meet New Friends Between Istanbul Cats

Istanbul is famous for its many stray cats, which are well-cared for by locals. Don’t be surprised if you see cats lounging in restaurants or cafes. They are a beloved part of Istanbul’s culture.

Don’t Miss Must-See Places

Some of Istanbul’s must-see places include the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and the Basilica Cistern. These attractions are all rich in history and culture and are not to be missed.

Discover Modern and Traditional Districts

Istanbul is a city of contrasts, with both modern and traditional neighborhoods. Some of the best areas to explore include Beyoğlu, Karaköy, Besiktas and Kadıköy.

And See Contemporary Turkish Art in Museums

The city has a thriving art scene, with many local and international artists showcasing their work. You can visit galleries like Arter, Istanbul Modern, and SALT for a taste of modern Turkish art. Read more…

The city also hosts many cultural events throughout the year, such as the Istanbul Biennial, which showcases contemporary art from around the world.

Consider Signing up for a Food Tour

A food tour is a great way to explore Istanbul’s culinary scene and try new dishes. There are many food tours available, and they typically include visits to local markets and eateries.

And Don’t Miss Bosphorus Tour

A Bosphorus tour is a must-do when you’re in Istanbul. The Bosphorus is the strait that separates Europe and Asia and is a scenic and historic waterway. You can take a boat tour to see the city from a different perspective.

Experience the Mesmerizing Whirling Dervishes Show

The Whirling Dervishes show is a traditional Sufi dance that is performed in Istanbul. The dance is a mesmerizing and spiritual experience that you won’t want to miss.

To make the most of your experience, be sure to read up on the history of the dance and its significance in Sufi culture.

Take a Ride on an Old-Fashioned Tram on Istiklal Street

Istiklal Street is one of Istanbul’s most famous shopping streets. To truly experience the street and its many shops and cafes, we recommend taking a ride on an old-fashioned tram.

Not only will you get to see the sights in comfort, but you’ll also get a taste of the city’s history.

Plan Your Visit to Avoid Crowds

Many of Istanbul’s top attractions can get very crowded, especially during peak season.

To avoid the crowds and make the most of your time, try to get an early start and visit popular sites in the morning. Alternatively, consider visiting less popular attractions or going during off-peak season.

Be Mindful of Prayer Times When Visiting a Mosque

If you plan on visiting a mosque in Istanbul, be sure to check the prayer times in advance.

Mosques are closed to visitors during prayer times, which occur five times a day. To ensure you have ample time to explore the mosque, plan your visit around the prayer schedule.

Catch the Breathtaking Sunset from Galata Bridge

Galata Bridge is a beautiful spot to watch the sunset over the Bosphorus. To get the most out of your visit, we recommend walking across the bridge or taking a ferry to see the stunning views.

Be sure to bring your camera to capture the moment.

Choose the Best Neighborhood for Your Stay

There are many great neighborhoods to stay in Istanbul, depending on your budget and preferences. Some of the best areas to stay in include Sultanahmet, Beyoğlu, and Kadıköy. Each neighborhood has its own unique charm and attractions, so be sure to do your research to find the perfect fit for your trip.

You Would Want to Know About Istanbul: More Travel Tips

  • Turkey uses the Turkish lira as its currency.
  • The official language of Turkey is Turkish.
  • The time zone in Istanbul is Eastern European Time (EET), which is two hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC+2).
  • Smoking is not allowed in most indoor spaces in Istanbul.
  • The emergency number in Turkey is 112.

Conclusion: Last Travel Tips for Istanbul

In conclusion, Istanbul is a city full of history, culture, and beauty that is worth visiting. To fully enjoy your trip to Istanbul, it is important to plan ahead and do your research. This may include knowing the best time to visit, where to go, what to avoid, and how to get around. It is also important to understand the tipping culture in Istanbul and Turkey. By following these tips and taking advantage of available travel resources, such as travel blogs and tourist guides, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip to Istanbul. Whether you are visiting as an American or from any other part of the world, a trip to Istanbul can be a memorable and fulfilling vacation

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