Istanbul, Things to Know Before You Go

Istanbul – the city that spans two continents, A wonderful place to visit, Istanbul is a very interesting and unique. Needless to say, it is always useful to know a few things about a place before you get there. Here are a few pointers that will make your trip to Turkey seamless and enjoyable.

Blue-Mosque-Istanbul

Blue-Mosque-Istanbul

  • A good time to visit Istanbul is in the spring, which means the months of April and May, as well as in autumn, which would take you to mid September and October.  The weather at these times is pleasant and especially great for walking around the city for your explorations.  The period of Ramadan/Ramzaan is an interesting time to visit because the specially organized fairs and festivals really add to the cultural atmosphere of the city.  But it can also be a hindrance since many establishments tend to be closed and the evening mealtime invariably causes traffic jams.  Keep all this in mind while choosing the time slot for your visit, and remember to check with the Istanbul, Turkey holiday guide for international events and Formula One schedules, since these tend to send hotel tariffs skyrocketing.
  • Ataturk International Airport is extremely foreigner friendly.  The staff is bilingual and ever ready to help.  It is also spacious, clean and easily maneuverable.  But it’s a different story at the domestic airport where guidance in case of any confusion is difficult to get, given the language barrier most of the staff faces.  So, get organized with all your papers before you arrive at the domestic airport, figure out your gate and head straight to your flight.
  • Travelers checks are not a good way to carry money in Turkey.  Most establishments do not accept them and those that do, charge exorbitant conversion rates.  Banks in most towns do not understand the concept and make you wait forever.  So just carry cash.
  • Once you arrive in the country, the cheapest and the most common mode of transport is by charter bus.  All routes are covered, getting a ticket is very easy, they are punctual and you can book longer distances in advance.
  • Even the most diligent packer sometimes misses out on packing in something essential.  Everything is available in Istanbul, but some essentials toiletries can be prohibitively expensive.  So recheck that packing list!
  • A good way to stay connected is by pay phone.  Turkey has a very efficient pay phone system where a traveler only has to buy an easily available phone card and use it every time you need to make a call.
  • The best way to explore the city especially the old city area is by walking.  Make sure you throw in a pair of comfortable walking shoes.  They will take you miles, literally!Quick bathroom breaks might not actually be quick unless you are in the habit of carrying change.  Many restrooms in Turkey are a paid convenience, and very often the attendants require you to pay before using the facilities, so keep those coins handy.
  • While visiting mosques, it is a good idea to cover up, especially if you are a woman.
  • Istanbul shopping is a lot of fun, and a part of the experience is the hunting and haggling.  But bargaining is appreciated in Sultanahmet only, not in markets in the other parts of town.
  • Beware of pickpockets.  It is best to use preventive measures like carrying cash and important papers on your person, preferably in a front pack money belt.

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