Top 9 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Istanbul

By Kimi Huang | Updated Apr. 16, 2024

Istanbul is one of the most popular tour destinations in the world. As the largest city in Europe, Istanbul has a lot to offer tourists from friendly people and delicious food to historical sites and cultural events. Here are the top things you should know before starting on your tour of this amazing city.

1. Best Time to Visit Istanbul

The weather in Istanbul can vary dramatically. Summers last from June till the middle of September, and can get very hot and humid. The average maximum temperature in summer is 31–35°C (88–95°F). So, drink plenty of water and wear light, breathable clothes when traveling to Istanbul during these months.

Winter starts in November and lasts till the middle of March. The average temperature during these months is between 8°C and 12°C (48°F and 54°F), with occasional showers. It's best to carry a raincoat or umbrella and rain boots.

Keeping the weather conditions in mind, the best time to visit Istanbul is mid-April or the beginning of June, September, and October. The crowds are sparser in these months, and you can watch the famous Tulip Festival, which is held in April. The entire city busts into bright colors, which is truly a sight to behold.

2. Accommodation

Depending on the type of trip you are looking for, there are three central areas that we recommend for your stay.

Sultanahmet, Sirkeci, Eminonu, Laleli, Beyazit

All these areas are historical places in old Istanbul. They are perfect for families and for those who would like to stay in a quiet neighborhood.

Taksim or Istiklal Street

On Istiklal Street, you'll find a much more vibrant atmosphere and some great nightlife options. During the daytime, there are many shops where you can buy food, Turkish delights, and even clothes. At night, it is just as easy to find pubs, bars, and night clubs. This area is particularly popular among young people.

Kadikoy

Kadikoy is on the Asian side of Istanbul, so the prices there are more affordable as compared to those in other areas. The place is very well connected to the European side of Istanbul by ferry. There's also a railway tunnel under the Bosphorus Strait, with a rail line connecting the area to old Istanbul. So, this area is a good option if you want a taste of local life and check out some lively cafes, bars, shops, and restaurants.

3. Transportation in Istanbul

Due to the convenience it offers, travelers often use the public transport system when traveling in Istanbul. Purchase a magnetic card (Istanbulkart) that you tap each time you use public transport. Each trip costs around 3 TRY (Turkish lira).

Taking a taxi is another option, but don't flag down one on the streets, as drivers will charge you three or four times more than the actual fare; they may also take a longer route to justify the higher fare. There are many reports every year of tourists getting ripped off by taxi drivers. So, we suggest you use either Bitaksi or Uber to call a cab.

If you want to travel without worrying about these hassles, booking a private tour with a personal car will give you a more comfortable tour experience.

4. What to Wear

As most people in Turkey are Muslims, many travelers are careful about dressing appropriately while in Istanbul.

There is no strict dress code in Istanbul. Women can wear anything they want; they are also not expected to cover their hair unless visiting a mosque. Turkish women are very fashionable, and most of them dress up as in a Western country.

5. Currency Exchange

If you need to exchange money in Istanbul, do not trade all your money at the airport as the exchange rates are terrible there. Exchange only a small amount so that you can get from the airport to the city center.

You can exchange your cash inside the Grand Bazaar or at any money exchange office around Taksim.

6. Internet Service

Do consider getting a local SIM card so that you can access the internet during your trip. You can buy your SIM from Turkcell, Vodafone, or Turk Telekom. It is easy to find their outlets either at the airport or at tourist spots. You can get a SIM card in the price range of TRY 80–120 (USD 12–17).

7. Power Plugs and Sockets

Turkey uses Type F power plugs and sockets. The standard voltage is 220 V, and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. If your electronic devices are between 220 and 240 V, you can easily use them in Turkey. However, if you are coming from countries such as the USA, Canada, Mexico, or South American countries, you'll need a converter.

8. Visit Other Cities from Istanbul

Here are three recommended options if you want to add an additional city to your tour.

  • If you would like to take the bus, you can opt for KamilKoc, which covers most routes in Turkey. If you want a specific course, such as Istanbul–Cappadocia or Cappadocia–Istanbul, we recommend you go with Nevsehir Seyahat, as it offers excellent prices and fantastic services.
  • If you prefer to fly, in addition to Turkish Airlines, we also recommend the low-cost Pegasus Airlines. Pegasus flights depart only from the airport on the Asian side of Istanbul — Sabiha Gokcen. There are bus services between Taksim and the airport.
  • If you would like to take a train, depending on your choice of route, you can travel on high-speed trains between Istanbul and Ankara or Istanbul and Konya.

9. Warnings

When you are in areas such as Taksim or Sultanahmet, you need to be very careful, especially with people who try to approach you amicably. For example, when you are in Sultanahmet, some people might invite you to have a cup of tea with them. Afterward, they'll try to take you to their store to sell you something.

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