Istanbul has always been one of the favorite cities of travelers. It is a city where the history, cultures, and wonders of nature come together. Yet, your Istanbul trip might be quite expensive if you don’t know where to stay, where to eat or where to travel.
So, how much money you should take with you when traveling to Istanbul? I did some research for you and found suitable & budget-friendly options. Let’s do some math!
If you wonder how much money you should bring with you when visiting Istanbul, you should first note that the money you will spend will vary based on your preferences. But, if you want some average numbers in order to make a rough budget plan, I can provide 3 basic average costs for you. First of all, the daily cost of traveling (visiting museums etc.) in Istanbul on average is 35$. Second, the money you will solely spend on food in one day is approximately 15-20$. Third, the average accommodation price for a couple for one night is 50$.
Keep reading this article in order to learn about how to plan your budget before visiting Istanbul, places to visit in Istanbul, when to visit Istanbul, the travel routes, where to stay in Istanbul and Istanbul cuisine. Additionally, I will answer some frequently asked questions at the end of the article!
Budget Planning Before Visiting Istanbul
How much money you need depends on how much you are going to spend. Accommodation cost excluded, about 20 $ per person/day should be sufficient for a budget holiday and it will include lunches, dinners, small gifts, snacks, public transportation, a few drinks at the pubs and cafes, and museum entrance prices. But as I said, I excluded the hotel expenses, as well as night clubs, expensive restaurants or expensive gifts like carpets or jewelry.
If you want to visit all the touristic places, Haghia Sophia (3.5 $/person), Topkapi Palace (6.5 $ each person including the harem which you must visit), Basilica Cistern (3.5 $/person), Blue Mosque (free – but you can donate), the Bazaars (free – still you can shop) and Dolmabache Palace (3.5 $/person) – that will be about 17$ total for entrances per person. Public transportation is quite cheap – and you will want to walk a lot (but you have to pay for the Bosphorus cruise).
Lunches are really cheap (you can eat simple foods such as döner, simit etc) but if you want to sit down and have a rest, it would cost you around I would budget 4$ per person for lunches (assuming you don’t drink wine and prefer inexpensive restaurants).
For dinners, there are some great restaurants in Sultanahmet but those are quite expensive. There are also some really cheap restaurants as well. You can spend 6$ per person in these restaurants and get enough.
That will cost you to around 27$ per person per day in total – excluding accommodation and shopping. It may seem cheap but since shopping is so good and there are so many options to buy, you probably spend a lot on it. There are also very good but expensive dinner/lunch options. Put it in a nutshell, visiting Istanbul for a week will cost you between 150$ – 500$ based on your spending.
Places to Visit in Istanbul
Istanbul is one of the most prominent cities in the world in terms of its historical and natural riches. With its increasing population and the urban fabric that has become chaotic, it has formed its unique order within that chaos. Generally, the tourist spots were collected in the area called the Historical Peninsula. At the intersection of the West and the East, you can see good and bad, beautiful and ugly, old and new in every corner of the city.
Since it is a touristic city, life is quite expensive in Istanbul. There are too many places to visit, yet you need extra time and money to visit all these places.
Istanbul is an 8 thousand-year-old residential area. Many civilizations came out to take this city. The ships of the seven seas docked at the ports of Istanbul and many caravans brought goods from one end of the world to the Istanbul markets. Today, countless historical buildings of Istanbul turn it into a huge open-air museum.
Numerous places, restaurants, cafes or pastry shops that keep the social memory alive also have an important place among the nostalgic places of Istanbul. In a nutshell, Istanbul tells us “Discover me. Again, and again!”.
On the one hand, the crowded Istiklal Street where the crowd flows like floods, and on the other hand the streets of Burgazada which are cheered up only by wave and seagull sounds. Istanbul is still the world’s oldest and most famous city, and more importantly one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Istanbul, known as the Gate to Happiness, opens a door to an adventure to the travelers coming as guests as well as the people born here. Many of the places to visit in Istanbul make different connotations and refreshes memories when people see them again at different ages.
Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar, Basilica Cistern, Cemberlitas, Galata Tower, Rumeli Fortress, Anatolian Fortress, Dolmabahce Palace, Haydarpasa Train Station, Fener Greek Patriarchate and of course the Maiden’s Tower are the primary places to visit in Istanbul.
Other than historical places, if you want to enjoy the nightlife you have many good options as well. Here are the 5 best nightclubs in Istanbul:
- W Lounge, Akaretler – Beşiktaş
- Reina, Ortaköy
- SupperClub, Ortaköy
- Masquerade Club İstanbul, Gayrettepe
- Anjelique, Ortaköy
When to Visit Istanbul and The Travel Routes
Istanbul has a structure that attracts tourists in all months of the year. The city offers a distinct beauty in every period. In the spring, Judas trees bloom purple flowers, and in autumn the yellow vegetation embraces urban streets with a beautiful landscape. Likewise, Istiklal Street, which is under the snow white in winter, has the beauty of Europe’s Christmas cities. Some people love this city in winter, and others in summer. It wouldn’t be right to do such a redirect. I can say that Istanbul is always beautiful.
In terms of prices, it doesn’t matter when you come to visit Istanbul at all. Prices do not vary based on the time of the year. So you do not need to think about visiting time when planning your budget.
There are flights from all airports, bus trips from all bus terminals and train services from all train stations of Turkey to Istanbul. Likewise, there are direct flights between Istanbul and all major cities of the world. Air transportation to Istanbul by domestic and international flights are provided through 2 airports. Sabiha Gökçen Airport reached 31,316,109 passengers in 2017, and Atatürk Airport is the most widely used transportation route with 63,7 million passengers in the same year.
Ataturk Airport is a transportation hub which is used quite intensively with 1,500 aircraft takeoffs a day and it is the easiest place to reach the city center. The flights of many local and foreign airlines are made from both airports. The 3rd airport, which started construction in Istanbul, has much more capacity and it is planned to have a field where 3 planes can land at the same time. The airport is expected to reach an annual capacity of 150 million passengers and is expected to be opened soon.
Esenler Bus Station, where there are many bus companies, has been the main point of access to Istanbul for many years. The historical bus station still serves today. The bus station located in Bayrampasa, has more than 200 bus companies, 168 platforms, 11 thousand square meters with 50 thousand tickets per day, and in service since 1994. Apart from the Esenler bus station, Alibeyköy and Harem Stations are the other major bus stops serving for many years. Nowadays, the Alibeyköy bus terminal has been renovated and the use of the Harem bus station has been reduced. On the Asian side, many private companies have their own mobile bus stations.
Where to Stay in Istanbul
The five-star luxury hotels all around the city offer a sumptuous opportunity for accommodation. Cheap and expensive hotels are located in every district of Istanbul. The most famous hotels in the city are located on Ciragan Street, Maslak and 4. Levent. Besides, if you enjoy taking part in nightlife or crowded places, you can choose Besiktas, Kadikoy, and Taksim. Check out your travel plans before choosing the area to stay on your trip to Istanbul. You should decide which of the districts among Sultanahmet, Galata, Eminönü, Taksim and European Side to visit for your plans.
During your first trip to Istanbul, you can easily walk to tourist spots such as Eminönü, Gülhane, Galata, Sultanahmet, Hagia Sophia, Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. In addition, reaching to Eminönü, Kadıköy, Üsküdar and the Prince Islands by motorboats and ferries is a very nice experience and quite cheap.
The best hotels in this area include the Ayasultan, the Best Western Empire Palace, the Sirkeci Mansion, the Doubletree by Hilton, the Lalahan Hotel, the Orient Express and the Novotel Istanbul Bosphorus. If it is not your first visit to Istanbul and you do not like crowded places, you should not prefer to spend a lot of money on luxury restaurants.
If you are coming to Istanbul to live the nightlife, to see the most beautiful sights and to eat in the most popular restaurants, ie if you will spend a lot of money, you should definitely choose the accommodation in Taksim. You can reach many lively and vibrant places such as Istiklal Street, Pera, Cihangir, Galata and Asmalı Mescit from Taksim area. Here you will find the most favorite fish restaurants, taverns, bars, and cafes.
From the late hours of the night to the early hours of the morning, you can visit many places. The best hotels in the region are The Marmara Taksim Hotel, Innpera Hotel, InterContinental Istanbul, Gezi Hotel Bosphorus, Golden Park Hotel and Divan Hotel. If you’re not coming to Istanbul for nightlife and do not like crowded places, Taksim is not for you. You can choose to stay in other parts of Istanbul.
If you would like to stay in the best hotel, here are the top 5 hotels in Istanbul:
- ST REGIS Istanbul at Nişantaşı: 282$/night
- Four Seasons Istanbul at the Bosphorus: 374$/night
- Raffles Istanbul at Zorlu Center: 445$/night
- Grand Hyatt İstanbul at Harbiye District: 974$/night
- The Ritz-Carlton at Şişli, Istanbul: 367$/night
Istanbul has a culinary culture originating from Byzantines and Ottomans. However, most of the traditional dishes have been forgotten and replaced by new ones. Istanbul, as a meeting point of Turkey, offers a combination of flavors from each region. The culinary culture of the city changes according to the periods, but some flavors have always been popular. In the last 20 years in Istanbul, kebab shops and restaurants of Southeastern Anatolia have become very popular. Urban cuisine varies from region to region.
The fact that the culture called Istanbul culture has been replaced by Anatolian culture has narrowed the borders of Istanbul culture and influenced the cuisine. However, if there is an advantageous part of this, it is that the city has a combination of all the tastes of Turkish cuisine.
In addition to this, Asian and European cuisines take their places in the city, particularly Greek, Chinese, and French restaurants. As an impact of American culture, fast food has become widespread in recent years. In fact, there are fast-food shops that sell products like hamburger, pizza, lahmacun, wraps, sandwiches, toast and hot dogs one after another in the streets of Istanbul. The choice of fast food is generally a cheaper choice and will keep your money in your pocket.
Istanbul is a metropolis where you can find the best examples of world cuisine besides Ottoman – Turkish cuisine. You can find anything that you’re looking for in Istanbul, which doesn’t have boundaries about eating and enjoying.
There are many unique restaurants in Istanbul, like beautiful Greek taverns and the oldest bakeries. Most famous Istanbul Greek taverns where you can taste the delicious tastes of Greek cuisine such as greek salad, octopus & squid grill, bekri appetizer, sesame saganaki, crispy shrimp, lakerda, galaktopoureko, farsala are Maestros-Arnavutköy, Neşemore-Etiler, Ela Maçka Taverna-Maçka, Süreyya Teras-Beyoğlu, Zorba Taverna-Gayrettepe, and Giritli Restaurant-Sultanahmet.
If you want to prefer luxury restaurants, here are a few suggestions that will surely satisfy you:
“Cecconi’s”, The Best Italian Restaurant
Cecconi’s restaurant is a modern Italian restaurant located in Istanbul (based in Venice). Soho House has an on-site restaurant located in West Hollywood, Miami Beach, Brooklyn, Berlin, Barcelona as well. First of all, we would like to point out that Soho House is a part of the hotel, but you don’t have to be a member here to eat.
The prices are:
Plin agnolotti with butter and sage is 10$.
Pizza with black truffles, zucchini flowers, and goat cheese is 20$.
Lamb chops with tomatoes, beans and salsa verde is 20$.
“Lacivert”, The Best Bosphorus View
If you want to taste the tastes of the Mediterranean cuisine in the best view of the Bosphorus, I recommend Lacivert. Since 1999, serving in a historic Bosphorus Mansion, Lacivert has become a classic. Lacivert welcomes its guests with its unique Bosphorus view tables at its terrace in summer, and in the winter months in its glassy halls.
It depends on what you eat and drink, but on average, it costs you 35-45$ per person.
Nusr-et, The Best Steak
Nusr-et, one of the most successful steakhouses in the market have gained great fame with their shows on social media. Meat prices at Nusr-et are as follows:
Veal ribs: 30$ (2 person)
Veal Rib Steak: 18$
Veal Shashlik: 18$
Porterhouse Steak: 32$ (2 person)
Veal Chops: 20$
Chops with mustard sauce: 20$
For a 1 Week Trip to Istanbul, How Much Money Do I Need?
Although prices will vary based on your preferences, the average accommodation price in Istanbul for a couple for 1 week is 300$, where the food cost you around 100$ for a week and the price of traveling is around 250$ for a week. So, you can visit Istanbul 2 people for 1 week with 650$.
What Are the Must Visit Places in Istanbul?
Even though there are so many places to visit, if you have limited time you must definitely visit the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Galata Tower. It will cost you around 30$.