Before reading my travel guide to Istanbul, I want you to watch my this video about Istanbul which I have made during my last trip to Istanbul. I will explain everything about Istanbul in this video. After watching this video, please read the rest of the post till the end and you will get the whole picture of Istanbul in Turkey.
If you are planning to visit Istanbul then my travel guide to Istanbul will be your best help. I have visited Istanbul more than six times and I have put together this guide for fellow backpackers. I am a budget traveler and I will try share my experience with you on how I always did Istanbul on a budget. Let’s get started.
How to Obtain Turkish Visa?
First thing first, when you want to visit any country, you will need a visa. And same is the case for Turkey. Many countries from Europe and North America do not require Turkish visa. And many countries can get Turkey evisa from the official government website. Those who need a visa can still visit Turkey without visa if they have a valid US visa or valid Schengen visa or UK visa. I had a valid US visa and so I obtained Evisa for turkey.
You Need to Apply for visa here: Turkey Evisa Official Website
When You Arrive at Istanbul Airport
Istanbul has two Airports, one being Sabiha Gokcen International where I arrived. The other one is New Istanbul Airport. 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. I asked a guy who guided me to the bus.
There is a bus company called Havaist Bus, that company operates buses at both Sabiha Airport and New Istanbul Airport. It will cost you around 25 Turkish Lira ($4 USD) from New Istanbul Airport to Taksim area and 21 Lira from Sabiha airport to Taksim area. If you want to go to Sultanahmet then bus also go there. Bus journey from Airport to Taksim and Sultanahmet is around one hour.
You will find many currency exchange shops and ATMs at both the airports. You will also find shops where you can buy local sim card with internet data. I would suggest you to buy sim card at the airport which will cost around $10 to $15 for good data package. Withdraw currency from ATMs or exchange money at the airport only when it’s needed. Airport rate is very low. You will find better exchange rates at Taksim and Sultanahmet.
Using a Taxi service from Airport to Taksim or Sultanahmet is not recommended as it will cost you a lot of money. In case, it’s an emergency or you are four people then you can use it. Otherwise, always use the bus which is very flexible and smooth.
Where Should You Stay in Istanbul?
Istanbul is a massive city. It is located both in Europe and Asia. That is what makes it a unique city in the world. Therefore, it’s very common that people get confused on where to stay in this giant city. The answer is simple. There are two popular tourist places in Istanbul which are always overcrowded but you will still find a place to stay there. Yes, I am talking about Sultanahmet and Taksim. Both of these places are on the European side.
I would personally prefer Sultanahmet over Taksim because that’s a very safe and quite area. Most of the attractions are located near by Sultanahmet including Grand Bazar, Blue Mosque, Haghia Sofia and many other. So my vote goes straight to Sultanahmet. I have stayed at Both Taksim and Sulthanahmet. You can easily go by train from Sultanahmet to Taksim or any other part of Istanbul.
What About Budget Hotels in Istanbul?
Istanbul is one of the most visited cities in the entire world. Therefore, tourism is the focus of Istanbul city. There are thousands of hotels and hostels available. You can find a budget hostel for as little as $10 USD per night with a nice breakfast and you can also find a 3 or 4 star hotel for $50 USD. I have stayed in all kinds of hotels in Istanbul. I would recommend to go to Agoda.com and check hostels in Sulthanahmet area if you are on a budget. I stayed in in a hostel at Sulthanahmet and it was great experience.
If you are looking for hotel options then you can still find very good budget hotels in both Taksim and Sultanahmet. I personally stay for $30 to $40 per night in a 2 or 3 star hotel in Istanbul. Especially at Taksim, I have always spent that amount on budget hotels.
Once again, when you are planning your trip to Istanbul just go to Agoda.com which is the best website for finding cheap hotels in Istanbul. Just put your dates and you will find all the deals. My hostel is below which I got for $10 per night. It was a hostel but turned out to be hotel on the same price. lol
Food Scene in Istanbul
I personally loved Turkish cuisine. They have many dishes which are not that expensive. I have tried Kabab and rice in Istanbul and it was very delicious. They use very light spices in their local dishes. Therefore, if you are from India or Pakistan then expect less spice in everything. But there are Pakistani restaurants in Istanbul where you can go for dining. Arabic restaurants, Fast food chains and other continental restaurants are also present.
Cost of food is just normal. It is less if we compare it to Central Europe and North America. I have done lunch and dinner at a good restaurant for $8 each. There are Shawarma shops everywhere which costs very less.
Top Tourist Attractions in Istanbul
Istanbul is the center of both Islamic & European Architecture and culture. The famous Roman Empire & Ottoman Empire had their bases here for a long time. Istanbul has a mixture of European, Asian and Middle astern lifestyle. There are a huge list of places to be explored in Istanbul but it depends on number of days.
If you are staying at Sulthanahmet then you are at the center of the scene. Most of the top attractions are located within this area. The main attraction is the Blue Mosque. You can come to Blue Mosque and Haghia Sofia everyday if you want because that’s in the same area.
2) Taksim Square / Istiklal Street
Taksim is also the center of the scene in Istanbul. This is a huge area on the upper side of European Istanbul. Istiklal street is just next to Taksim square and that’s a must to visit area in Istanbul especially at night. Most of the nightlife exist within Istiklal street which has hundreds of restaurants, cafes, clubs and shisha bars.
For rest of the places, watch my video below in which I have listed most of the places in Istanbul and you will also find very helpful information about Istanbul city. I hope my travel guide to Istanbul will help you planning your trip to this beautiful city of Turkey. If you have any question for me then simply drop that in the comment section of this post. I will reply you as soon as possible.