Top Tips For Istanbul, Türkiye

  1. Travel and logistics:

Keep on checking your flights (especially if you’re flying out from London Heathrow) as many flights from the UK have been cancelled and rescheduled. Book your transfers online prior to arriving at İstanbul, it’s much easier. Travelling around İstanbul by tram is the most convenient and cheapest mode of travel. You just buy an Istanbul travel card and top it up as you go along. The maximum you can top up is 500 TL within a month. If you exceed this amount, you just simply purchase a new travel card. Taxis are also convenient but Uber rides take a long time to arrive, especially when you have a family of more than 4 people. You’re better off using the local taxis but make sure you haggle and check Uber prices before you agree to a local taxi ride! Whilst travelling around, be vigilant as there are several pickpocketers around, especially on trams! Keep your belongings safe with you at all times.

  1. Sim card and data

It’s more cost effective to buy a Turkish SIM card with data and top up as you need to use it. Using your roaming data and travel boosters works out more expensive for most mobile phone carriers. You will need to present your passport and photo ID when purchasing a Turkish SIM card. Just try to avoid watching videos and downloading content, as it will use up a lot of data. Wherever possible, try and connect to wi-fi so that you save data usage.

  1. Museums & Excursions

The most cost effective option is to purchase the 5 day İstanbul Museums pass. This costs just 700 TL per person and you can pretty much visit any museum with this pass around İstanbul. You can pre-purchase online or simply buy one when you get to Istanbul. The museums we had visited with the pass were: Turkish Islamic and Arts Museum, Turkish Archeological Museum, Topkapi Palace and Museums, Galata Mevlevihanesi Museum, Istanbul Museum of the History of Science and Technology and The Galata Tower (you can experience some stunning skyline views of İstanbul here). You would probably spend the most amount of time at the Topkapi Palace (at least 4-5 hours are needed to maximise your time here). For excursions, there is so much to see! To summarise the main sights to visit: Princes Island is worth a trip by ferry, The Grand Bazaar (the most visited market in the world), Bosphurus river cruise (sunset time is beautiful), Galata Tower and Dolmabahçe Palace (the biggest royal residence of the sultans and the imperial family of the Ottoman Empire). Not forgetting Taksim square, which has a large array of shops and restaurants. The square itself is significant due to the politically motivated failed coup which happened in 2016. There are also several fish and seafood restaurants in Eminönü.

  1. Food & Drink

There are so many delicious and authentic Turkish eateries across İstanbul! The ones that we liked the most were: Ortaklar Kebab Restaurant in Cemberlitas, Sultanahmet Koftecisi 1920, Hafiz Mustafa (there are several branches scattered around Istanbul), Midyeci Yasin (Seafood specliaists), Fortunate Street Food in Princes Island and we didn’t get to try CZN Burak but most people recommend this restaurant over Saltbae! Also, Bombay Masala is a popular Indian restaurant and their Biryani is quite tasty. Do try out their masala tea too. Try out the local fresh juices sold across the street vendors and definitely the Simit (traditional Turkish bread) next to Ayasofya or The Blue Mosque. Also, if you’re a coffee fan, the Turk Kahvesi (traditional Turkish coffee) is a must try. It’s very strong and served in an espresso mug. If you’re a tea fan, Turkish tea is definitely worth trying.

  1. Mosques

There are so many Mosques to visit in İstanbul. The ones that we had visited were: Camlica Camii (largest Mosque in Turkey) with a 63,000 capacity. Praying Jumu’ah is highly recommended and they have a museum, cafe and park too. You can spend a good 4-6 hours here easily with the family.

The Blue Mosque is undergoing construction work at the moment so is only 30% open to the public. As it’s restricted, not many locals or Muslim tourists offer their Jumu’ah prayers here. The Ayasofya Grand Mosque is a popular option for Jumu’ah prayers. Especially as it was recently converted into a Mosque and there is a beautiful history behind this building. Visiting the Ayasofya at night is also recommended as the lightning and atmosphere at night is very unique. The Süleymaniye Mosque is another major mosque within İstanbul. Situated on top of a hill and was built during the reign of The Ottoman empire reign of Suleyman The Magnificent, the building and architecture is very grand. Lastly, the Şakirin Mosque situated in Üsküdar area of İstanbul is a must visit. It is the first mosque in Turkey designed by a woman and its design is very unique.

  1. Hotels & Accomodation

If you’re visiting İstanbul with family, staying close to transport links is very useful. The Cemberlitas or Sultanahmet area is very easily accessible for the main sights of İstanbul. You can get some good hotels with views of The Blue Mosque but those tend to be more pricier than others. Also, do check out recent reviews online before selecting your accomodation. Also, the less further away you are from the SultanAhmet area, the more convenient it will be for you to access the main sights of İstanbul.

  1. Shopping & Money Exchange

You need to haggle as much as possible in order to get the most cheapest price anywhere. For Turkish delights and confectionary, Hafiz Mustafa is the best option. They do gift boxes, wrapping etc and their quality of sweets is out of this world. Never settle for an exchange from the very first Forex shop that you visit. Do some window shopping for exchange rates and convert your currency at the most cost effective shop. Remember, the currency fluctuates daily and try to avoid changing money all at once. You don’t want to be stuck with so many leftover Turkish Liras.

  1. Research & Language

It’s handy to make a brief plan of what you wish to explore in İstanbul prior to visiting. Even if it’s a one-page bullet pointed list. Research which exurcisions or activities you have to pre-book due to popular demand in peak periods. Also, compiling a list of the most common phrases tourists use in İstanbul is very handy! I made a short list of 15-20 most commonly used sentences everyday in İstanbul and these came in so handy. Many tourists prefer to type in a question and have it automatically translated by Google in Turkish but this may not work on the spot at times. Personally, making the effort to learn some of the local language can go a long way in your travels!

  1. Ziyarah

One of the most popular Ziyarah locations to visit is the grave of Abu Ayyub Ansari RA, situated in Eyup Sultan area. He was the first person to host our Prophet Muhammad PBUH when had first arrived in Madinah after migrating from Makkah. The Turkish government have built a huge complex, a mosque and many other facilities around the grave. There is also a beautiful cable car you can take and viewing platforms from the top of the hills overlooking İstanbul. Also, the Holy Relics room within the Topkapi Palace contains rare artefacts belonging to the companions, our beloved Prophet Muhammad PBUH and previous prophets.

  1. Kids’ Activities

Gulhane Park (near SultanAhmet) is a beautiful park for children. It has several water fountains and other water displays towards the entrance of the park. Plenty of benches and grass areas to sit and have a picnic too. Also, we didn’t get the chance to visit the following but for kids there is a: Sea Life Aquarium, İstanbul Legoland Discovery Center and Vialand Theme Park (which has the world’s fourth largest rollercoaster!).

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