Turkey is a historical Eurasian country with its beautiful landscapes and culture. 97% of the country is located on the Asian side while 3% is located on the European side including half of the Istanbul city. My first Turkey tour became a reality on 20 November 2016 when I arrived at Sabiha Gokcen International Airport in Istanbul. Istanbul is a romantic & lively city in Turkey, which is also the cultural, tourism & financial hub of that country. I’m going to share the moments I spent in Turkey throughout this blog post.
How I got to Istanbul?
In my this tour, I visited five countries altogether including Doha Qatar, Bahrain, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. I had a valid US visa on my passport, so I was eligible for eVisa to Turkey which I got from this website. And after the visa, I traveled to Istanbul from Manama Bahrain. It took 6 hours to reach Istanbul from Bahrain via Dubai.
The one way ticket to Istanbul with FlyDubai cost me $250, and I’ll also recommend using Qatar Airways which has daily non-stop flights to Istanbul, and can be cheaper than other airlines. Turkish Airlines also operate flights to hundreds of destinations around the world.
Istanbul Accommodation & Transportation
Istanbul has two Airports, one being Sabiha International where I arrived, and the other one is Ataturk International. On both airports, you’ll find a Bus service going to city center every 30 minutes. I came out from the Airport terminal, and saw the buses on the opposite road. I was not sure which bus is going to the Taksim area, as I had my hostel there, so I asked a guy who guided me to the bus.
The bus will cost 14 Turkish Lira (TL) (USD $4), and will take you to the main areas of Istanbul such as Taksim and Sultanahmet etc (to Taksim it took 40 minutes with no traffic jam). I was staying at Taksim, so that was the last stop, and bus journey was simply awesome, I didn’t explore the city from the bus as it was late at night. But don’t try a Taxi from the Airport, that will be too expensive (100 Turkish Lira) and Taxi drivers are mostly scammers in Istanbul, so I’ll write a different blog post on that.
Coming to the accommodation, it was very affordable for me to book a shared room in a hostel near Taksim Square, it cost me only 54 TL ($15), and it was a basic room with a city view window, WiFi, free water, Tea and Free Coffee.
I stayed in the same hostel for two consecutive days, I could even find more cheaper hostels in the same area due to the low touristic season in November. But I still saw so many tourists in Istanbul on Istiklal street and Sultanahmet etc. I always use Agoda.com to book my hotel rooms in advance. And the hostel name I stayed in Istanbul was “Taksim Cetinkaya Suite” which you can also book if you like.
I found it very interesting that you can find very good deals on AirBNB as well, especially in Turkey. This is simply a website where you can find reliable local hosts who’ll also guide you about the city you are going to visit. A great addition in the traveling industry.
Shopping & Foods in Istanbul
I didn’t do shopping in Istanbul, so I’ll not write anything in-depth on that, but you can find almost everything in Istanbul from Electronics to Traditional handmade carpets & jackets. The prices can be a little higher than Middle East & South Asia.
Coming to the food in Istanbul, I was amazed to see what I like to eat. I like to eat Central Asian food such as Afghani Palao, Indian Masala, Arabic Food & Pakistani Biryani. And I found Turkish Cuisine which made my life easier in Istanbul, as I always struggle to find such food in Thailand or in Malaysia.
However, You can find every Cuisine in Istanbul, from Italian to Chinese and from Burger King to Subway, every international brand exist in Istanbul city. I tasted the Turkish Cuisine in my two days stay in Istanbul. You can find some of the restaurants in the videos I recorded there. Foods & other daily life items are not very expensive in Istanbul, but at the same time not very cheap, comparably, it’s cheaper than US & UK.
Places to Visit in Istanbul
Istanbul is the center of both Islamic & European Architecture and culture. The famous Roman Empire & Ottoman Empire had their bases here. You’ll feel the history and the great powers during ancient & modern times while exploring the Istanbul city. This beautiful city connects Asia with Europe, and that’s the uniqueness of Istanbul.
Taksim Square & Istiklal Avenue
Taksim Square is the center of Istanbul, and very famous place for tourists. The reason being its central location and historical near by places. My hostel was located a few meters away from Taksim square, so I used to visit it by foot. On the right side of Taksim, there is Gezi Park (a big public park).
Istiklal street is very famous for tourists, as it offers shopping & food attractions, it’s linked to the Taksim square, you can see it from anywhere while standing in Taksim Square.
Many hotels and restaurants are also located within the Taksim area, and most of the tourist activities start from here such as the city bus tour starts from here. I’ll suggest you to book your hotel near Taksim if your stay is very short in Istanbul, so you can easily explore most of the city even with one or two days like I did.
Big Bus City Tour
On my first day, I visited Taksim & Istiklal avenue by walking, and the next day I took the bus tour which shows you the historical & popular places in the city including the Asian Side of the city and the European side as well. It cost me $34 (110 TL) to get a 48 hours ticket for the Big Bus tour. You’ll get an earphone to listen the commentary in 8 different languages including English. The Bus Tour will show you all of the attractions including Sultanahmet area and the historical mosques around there i.e Blue Mosque.
I heard a lot about this beautiful Island in Istanbul, but unfortunately, I didn’t visit it during my first tour to Istanbul due to two reasons, 1) it was winter so I thought it’d not be that much fun as in the summer, and 2) I was short on time, so had to skip visiting Princess Island. However, I recommend you visiting it when you are in town.
It was an unforgettable 2 days I spent in Istanbul, in Total it cost me $350 including one way ticket from Bahrain to Istanbul and Big Bus City Tour. I intend to visit this city again in the future, but preferably in summer. You can watch the Istanbul videos below I recorded there during my stay. Happy Traveling!