Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, has a ton of history, culture, and a very up and coming destination for people to head to. A fun fact about this city is that it is partly in Europe, and partly in Asia. And DON’T even get me started on the food scene! ?
When should I go to Istanbul?
Spring and Fall times are when the weather is pleasant, accommodation prices are reasonable, and the attractions are not too overcrowded, each of which is a factor when planning the optimal visit to Istanbul.
What should I pack for Istanbul?
No matter what time of the year you should dress very modestly, especially if you plan on entering the mosques. That means, long, comfortable pants, along with shirts that are not too suggestive, open or closed toed shoes are ok. For women planning on visiting a mosque, make sure their head is covered with a headscarf; Outside of a mosque, your head can stay uncovered.
- Do US citizens need a visa for Turkey? Yes
- How can you get a visa and what are the entry requirements? You can apply for an E-visa and receive an immediate decision on the following website: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/. The e-visa fee is dependent on your nationality, but for US citizens, it is $50 USD. Before leaving for Turkey, you must bring a printed copy of your E-visa and present it at check-in and at Immigration on arrival into arrival/departure in Turkey. For US citizens, the E-Visa is valid for 6 months, it allows multiple entries and each stay cannot exceed 90 days.
What should I budget to go to Turkey?
- Flights – Of course this depends on where your origin is, but you can generally get a flight between 850-1000 USD round trip, but occasionally, you can get deals on flights that range between 550-700 USD per person round trip
- Daily spending budget – Turkey is generally a very budget friendly country, so I would say at least 50 USD/per day, and in the local businesses and open-air markets, you can always haggle your prices to something a lot more reasonable. Food prices in Istanbul are generally reasonable, especially the street food.
- Transportation– Istanbul has light rail, metro, and taxis. You can always haggle with the cab driver to give you a good price on the fare. Uber is also available in Istanbul. You can find more information on the Istanbul Metro at https://www.metro.istanbul/Home
- Accommodations– Airbnb and hotels are available depending on your preference.
- Budgeting tools– I recommend www.budgetyourtrip.com to get a good estimate on how much money to bring. Also, it doesn’t hurt to bring a little extra so that you have a cushion in case something happens.
How is the Culture/Language?
- If you speak English, pretty much everyone you will meet will know some form of English, but if you want to learn some basic Turkish phrases, it could not hurt.
- The culture itself is very vibrant and full of life. The one huge thing I notice about Istanbul is that it is very colorful, The buildings, the markets, the streets, the shops. There is just so much color!
How is the food?
- In general, it is amazing! Turkish food is generally mild, but it has so much flavor in it. My recommendations for food are the Pide, Kabobs, and Doner Kabobs. Pide is an oval shaped flatbread pizza like dish topped with usually meat or cheese. Turkish kabobs are mainly made of either beef, chicken or lamb. They are usually grilled and it can come in either chunks or minced meat. Doner Kabobs are basically the Turkish version of Gyros. The meat is prepared on a spit and it is carved out and topped with a salad mixture and sauce. It is a very popular street food in Turkey.
- Tap water in Istanbul is generally not safe to drink. Buy bottled water!
What do you recommend doing in Istanbul?
Istanbul has something to do for every type of traveler that comes. It is a very diverse city with a lot to see.
A couple of the well-known sights are
Taksim Square: Located in the European part of Istanbul. Famous for having a lot of shops and restaurants. Also, a lot of upper scale hotels are located in this area.
Grand Bazaar: This famous bazaar is flooded with all kinds of shops and stands where you can get souvenirs at amazing prices (with the proper haggling of course!)
Hagia Sophia- A former Greek Orthodox Cathedral turned mosque, now a museum.
Blue Mosque- Mosque built in the 17th century literally hand painted in blue.
Bosporus Strait– The body of water separating the Asian and European parts of Istanbul. If you take a boat ride on the strait, you can get amazing views of Istanbul. Also, you can get some fresh seafood.
Galata Tower– Medieval stone tower that offers panoramic views of Istanbul.
I hope I’ve given enough of a taste of Istanbul for you to consider it on your next trip. Thanks for reading and keep traveling!
-Jet Lagged Jaff