10 Things Not to Do in Istanbul

Istanbul is a really great city to visit. However, as in every city, you should be careful in some aspects in order to have a trouble-free vacation. In this article, you will learn about the things that you should NOT do when visiting Istanbul.

In order to avoid overspending and unnecessary expenses as well as to make use of your time well, take a look at the list I’ve prepared for you.
Here are the 10 things not to do in Istanbul:

1. Don’t Stay near the Crowded or Historical Places

It might seem much more favorable to stay close to the historical places because you don’t have to spend time and money on transportation. But if you do so, you may miss the real Istanbul and the authentic local life.

If you are staying near the Blue Mosque or in Taksim, near Istiklal, you will see the crowds of both tourists and locals. It will also be very noisy. For example, you can stay in Fatih, not far from Sultanahmet, and enjoy the neighborhood. It’s also cheaper.

In particular, you should avoid staying in Taksim. Most of the hotels in Taksim (where there are many popular nightclubs) are built up before the nightclubs with extremely loud sound systems, so there’s a lot of noise.

The fact that Istanbul is a touristic city means that the region will not remain silent until the working hours. This is a big disadvantage for you if you are tired. Instead, you can spend the night in central but more quite districts, such as Galata or Cankutaran.

2. Don’t Try to Get to Everywhere on Foot and Be Careful Using a Taxi

When you look at the map of Istanbul, some places can really look very close together. But in reality, it takes a lot of time to get to those places. For example, when you go to Dolmabahçe Palace, you may think that the Yıldız Palace which can be seen from there is not that far.

However, if you don’t take the bus, a long and tiring journey will be waiting for you. If you enjoy long walks, then this is not a great distance for you, but if you try to reach by walking everywhere you will be very tired.

Turkish taxi drivers love to take more money from tourists. That’s why they take you where you need to go by using longer routes. Some of them may even have faulty taxi meters which shows much more price than the normal tariff.

When you take a taxi from a taxi stand you can get rid of these scammers. The logos on the doors of taxis indicate that they are most likely safe. You can download and use the BiTaksi App to call a taxi to any location or to call a taxi from a nearby taxi stand.

3. Don’t Expect Drivers to Follow the Traffic Rules and Don’t Use Tram

Turkish drivers have a really bad reputation about following traffic rules. Therefore, you should be very careful in every situation like when you rent a car or cross the street as a pedestrian. Be sure to always pay attention to the vehicles. Because Turkish drivers generally do not care about other vehicles or people. If you decide to use a car in Turkey, especially a big city like Istanbul where you will be stuck in traffic, you must be someone really patient.

Taking a ride on the historical tram in one of the most famous avenues of Istanbul, Istiklal, may sound quite attractive. But when you get into it you will realize that it is a very disturbing environment due to the crowd. The same crowd will also prevent you from seeing the environment.

So, especially if you intend to see this wonderful street, I suggest you do that without taking a ride on the tram. Many tourists take photos only in front of the trams without going in. But if you’re very tired and there are more places to visit, you can prefer to take the tram instead of walking to the other end of the street.

4. Don’t Shop on Istiklal, and Don’t Only Prefer Shopping at Malls

Don’t shop at Istiklal Avenue. Istiklal has many European brands such as H & M, Bershka, Mango, and some local Turkish brands, therefore it is hard not to fall into the charm of buying fancy pants or shoes. However, people traveling to Istanbul recommend going to large shopping malls where prices are much lower located in non-touristic districts generally away from the city center.

In Turkey, especially when you come to Istanbul, shopping only in the shopping malls that you can frequently encounter in your own hometown would be ridiculous. Because there are many beautiful markets and bazaars in Istanbul that you cannot see anywhere else.

In Istanbul, you will find wonderful handmade and traditional crafts and arts, clothing, and accessories in markets like the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar, which are much more unique than the name brands found in shopping malls.

5. Don’t Buy Everything You See and Don’t Forget to Bargain on the Bazaars

Yes, the Spice and the Grand Bazaars are great and there are many options you can buy, but it is primarily designed for tourists and therefore really expensive. Go to a local bakery or a supermarket if you want to buy a Turkish delight or tea.

Let me give you an example. Assume you want to buy Turkish tea. When you go to the Grand Bazaar or any other touristic market and ask prices to several stores, they will give you different numbers. One might want 40 Turkish Liras while another only wants 15 Turkish Liras. And you can buy the same product from a supermarket, let’s say only for 10 Turkish Liras.

In Turkey, it is very important to bargain the price. You can even reduce the price in half. The products in the bazaars are very expensive and you cannot buy everything in supermarkets or local stores. If you really want to buy a product, feel free to bargain the price.

When the seller says the price, tell him it’s too expensive. They will lower the price a bit, but if you keep saying that it is too expensive, they usually want you to calm down and set the price yourself. Give it a reasonable price and make a deal without getting too exaggerated. In this way, you can even buy a product of 70 Turkish Liras for 30 Turkish Liras.

6. Don’t Eat near Touristic Areas and Avoid Going to the Pudding Shop

This is definitely something you should not do and not only for Istanbul but also for all tourist cities. For example, if you have dinner in a restaurant right next to the Dolmabahçe Palace, you pay a lot of money and the food would not be so good. Walk away 20 30 minutes from the area you tour and you will find really nice places to eat.

The Pudding Shop was once the meeting point of young hippies and adventurous travelers located across the Hagia Sophia. But now, it’s not like as it was 50 years ago. Although the name is the same, the business has a tourist-oriented (and tourist-priced) restaurant, like other places in the area.

7. Don’t Hesitate to Try Street Food and Don’t Diet While Visiting Istanbul

Turkey has an incredibly delightful and composite cuisine and you do not even need to go to a restaurant to try. You can enjoy street food anywhere. You can get yourself a “kumpir” (stuffed baked potato), “balık ekmek” (fish and bread), tombik (similar to a burger, but much better), simit (bread with sesame seeds) and baked chestnuts. And of course, you should try freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juices.

Street vendors are all over the city, so you don’t have the chance to be starved. If you do not like street food and do not think it is hygienic, then you should prefer small Turkish restaurants. Frankly, I don’t suggest you go to McDonald’s or Burger King. Turkish cuisine is not limited to street food, so go to restaurants that serve traditional kebabs and delicacies. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed!

Since Turkish food is great, I don’t suggest you visit Istanbul while you’re on a diet. In such a case, when you walk past the restaurants, you will really suffer. You’ll want to try everything a little without feeling guilty, from the satisfying kebabs to fresh seafood, from fantastic candies and milky desserts to tasty appetizers. So make sure you visit Istanbul at a time when you are not dieting and try as much of Turkish cuisine as you can.

8. Don’t Disrespect the Dress Code Especially in Mosques

Turkey is a Muslim country and this means you need to comply with the dress code. I advise women not to wear short dresses, skirts or revealing dresses. Even if you only wear tights, you may be subject to disturbing looks. Nobody wants that. Therefore, I recommend that you choose your clothes carefully when you visit Istanbul.

Turkey’s historic mosques such as the Blue Mosque, or Yeni Cami are not only touristic places but also the sanctuaries where people pray. Therefore, it is always a good idea to show your respect by not dressing as if you were going to a club. I suggest you have a sweater to cover your arms and shoulders and not go to the mosque in short shorts or a mini skirt. You can be more comfortable by choosing more modest clothes and you can continue your journey without any problems.

It can be seen that the woman visitors entering the mosque are tightly wrapped their heads with the headscarf-style pashminas which can be bought from the bazaars. It is not necessary for women who do not pray to cover their hair completely. Some guides will tell you that you are not required. More importantly, your arms, neck, shorts, and skirts should be of a modest length. You should not wear short skirts or any other revealing dress.

Mosques have certain prayer times, but visitors can enter and pray at any time. This means that even though the mosque is open to tourists, praying is still going on. So, please try to speak quietly, do not use your mobile phone and if you want to take pictures of people praying, at least be careful about it. Also, pay attention to the separate men and women sections.

9. Don’t do the Bosphorus cruise, instead, take a ferry to the Prince’s Islands

Nice tour, yes, but relatively expensive. There are too many seats on the boat, but the seats on the window side are filling up quickly. The 3-hour stop on the Asian side has a view of the ruins of a small Ottoman Empire castle before the Black Sea.

Tour gives you 2 hours and 30 minutes to get you to the seafood shops. Once you’ve got on the islands, you can swim, hike and rent a bicycle. Büyükada, the last stop of the tour, is my favorite island with its vehicle-free streets and worn-out wooden villas consisting of galleries from the old world until the 70s.

There is a better option if u want to take a trip to the islands. Do what local people do and take the ferry to the Prince Islands in the Sea of Marmara. It is much cheaper than a trip to the Bosphorus, but there are still landscapes on the southern coasts and you can watch Istanbul from the middle of the sea.

10. Don’t Deal with the Crowd of Topkapi, Visit Dolmabahçe Palace

I know people don’t agree, but unless you’re a big history enthusiast, Topkapi Palace is not worth that crowd and price. In the middle of winter, even in heavy rain, it looks like a crowded festival. Moreover, although the art and architecture are absolutely magnificent, you can see similar pieces in the old buildings and galleries of Istanbul.

Dolmabahçe Palace, which has all the richness of Topkapı, offers you a guide and a free harem tour. Symbolizing Turkey’s journey from the empire to the republic, the passage from the civilized world to get interior design tips from other cultures, this structure is quite spectacular. The view of the Bosphorus is marvelous and there is a birdcage full of peacocks. In addition, Dolmabahçe has the second largest chandelier in the world.

Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I love Istanbul. I have been to 10 different countries. Istanbul is in the top 3 cities. I like to play soccer too :)

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