After all what happened in the middle-east and what is happening currently regarding political situations, ongoing wars…ect, you must be wondering whether it’s safe or worth traveling to the middle east.
Turkey is a strategically placed country with part of it located in Europe and the other part in Asia. With a lot of history and diversity it is in my opinion, the best place to travel to nowadays and it is also one of my favorite destinations whether you’re backpacking, traveling as a couple or planning a road trip.
In this article, i made for you a travel plan and guide that you could follow when traveling to Turkey. This plan will suite you if you’re traveling on a budget and you want to see and experience a lot of things with just a small budget.
1- Arriving at Ataturk Airport
You might know this already, but when you first arrive to any country, you go through customs you pick your luggage and you go out of the airport.. most people are so tired and probably so stressed that they don’t think much and just take a Taxi to whatever Hotel or Hostel they’re staying at. Now if you’re traveling on a budget, that is the first mistake you make. Taxis in Istanbul and mostly in major cities are a big ripoff. And they’ll do their best to take your money from you. So instead, you should take a bus or use the Metro straight away from the airport and it will take you wherever you’re going as cheaply as 0.40 Euros per ride.
So the first thing you should do is buy the famous ISTANBUL CARD. this card can be used on every major transportation mean in Istanbul… including TRAMWAYS, METROS, TRAINS, BUSES…
The cost of the ISTANBUL CARD itself is 7TL which is approximately 1 EURO. and you should load the card with a bit of cash, lets say 10 or 20 TL. whenever you use up all your Istanbul card credit, you could reload it automatically and easily at the machines on the tramway stations or metro stations.
2- Where to stay in Istanbul
As for me personally, I usually stay at Hostels or Couchsurfing. So is it usually a matter of preferences. if you care the most about the cost of your stay, you should pick a nice Hostel, it’s usually the cheapest and best option especially if you’re Solo-Traveling so you get to meet new people and make new friends and Travel-Buddies.
The best areas to stay in Istanbul are areas around: Sultan Ahmet, Eminonu, Beyazit, Karakoy, and Taksim square.
3- Istanbul tourist attractions
Istanbul is a huge and diverse city, and you need a lot of time and energy to see most of it. But, there are a few attractions that are a must see when you’re traveling in Istanbul and these are a few of them:
- Sultan Ahmed Mosque or The blue mosque: is an Ottoman-era mosque, it was constructed between 1609 and 1616. it attracts a large number of tourists and it is a must visit. Entrance fee: Free.
- Hagia Sophia: officially the Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque, and formerly the church of Hagia Sophia. built in 537 as the patriarchal cathedral of the imperial capital of Constantinople, it was the largest Christian church of the eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire) and the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is located in front of the Blue mosque, so it is really hard to miss. I did both the blue mosque and Hagia Sophia one after the other in the same day. Entrance fee: it was 100 Turkish lira when it was a museum, but since it got converted into a mosque, the entrance is free of charge.
- Topkapi Palace Museum: is a large museum in the east of the Fatih district of Istanbul. In the 15th and 16th centuries it served as the main residence and administrative headquarters of the Ottoman sultans. It is actually one of my favorite museums. It contains a lot of things that will keep you busy and entertained for hours. Entrance fee: 100 Turkish Lira.
- Galata Tower: called Christea Turris (the “Tower of Christ” in Latin) by the Genoese, is a medieval stone tower in the Galata/Karaköy quarter of Istanbul, Turkey, just to the north of the Golden Horn’s junction with the Bosphorus. It is a high, cone-capped cylinder that dominates the skyline and offers a panoramic vista of Istanbul’s historic peninsula and its environs. my advice to you if you’d like to visit the top of the tower, go early in the morning to avoid the long queues. Entrance Fee: 35 Turkish Liras.
- Princes Islands: the word “princes” is plural, because the name means “Islands of the Princes”) or Kızıl Adalar (“Red Islands”) in Turkish, officially just Adalar (“Islands”), are an archipelago off the coast of Istanbul, in the Sea of Marmara. The islands constitute the Adalar district of Istanbul Province. To go to the princes island, it is pretty easy… just head to Eminönü, and you’ll find ferries that goes to the islands. Ferry ride is only 5 Turkish Liras.
4- Things you should avoid when traveling in Istanbul
Istanbul is a huge city, very diverse and very touristic, and like every other big city, it could be a little bit dangerous if you don’t take care and stay vigilant all the time especially at night.
Always stay on the main popular roads where you can see a lot of people and a lot of stores open at night and avoid exploring dark areas and empty streets at night as they could be dangerous.
Beware of tourist scams, there are actually plenty of scams used with tourists to try and rip them off of their money, so please always stay vigilant and do not let your guard down and do not be afraid of saying no to random people. Avoid street vendors that try and put things in your hands or on you or on your head, because you will eventually end up over paying for those items that you don’t even need. Also beware of the Shoe cleaner scam, the taxi scam, TAXIM scams or “night club scams”, “the good tourist” scam… I will be talking about these scams in detail in another post.
Istanbul is a wonderful and a huge city, it always have things to offer to tourists who come visiting… you could stay for months, and it would still surprise you with what it could offer… But also, the issue that comes with such big cities, are the high risk of getting scammed or overcharged.
And my opinion is, Istanbul is DEFENITELY a place that you should visit and explore because it is very rich with history, diversity, and especially GOOD FOOD!
Please, if you are not sure you want to visit, or already planned your trip, or you’re there and need some help or you want to ask me a question, do not hesitate to comment on this bottom of this article and i will be more than happy to reply to you and help you with whatever questions you have.