What to Know Before Visiting Istanbul?

If you are willing to be one of the tourists visiting Istanbul, Istanbul will welcome you together with many people: 15 million. Where is İstanbul? It is one of the metropolitan countries in the world, located in Turkey Marmara region.

With its only official language, Turkish, and its currency, that s Turkish Lira, İstanbul is such a unique experience like Napoleon once said, “If the world was only one country, Istanbul would be its capital!”

Although it uses only one-time zone, which is  Eastern European Summer Time (UTC +3) and having located 594 mi² (1,539 km²) the size of the population of local people and foreign tourists might seem a bit scary for you newcomers.

There are many things you should know before visiting İstanbul to make your trip more enjoyable. There are many things not to miss; eating balik ekmek in Eminonu, having Istanbulkart to be able to travel easily, knowing some tips about the history of İstanbul so that you can understand the structures and stories behind.

Where Is Istanbul?

İstanbul is known as a bridge between Europe and Asia with its nearly 303,000-square-mile (783,000-square-kilometer) sprawl.

In fact, it has quiet strategic importance as a location on the Bosporus strait which links Europe and Asia. Also, this position is important because it locates between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara.

As one of the populous city in the world, İstanbul is a historic and commercial center located on its European side and at the same time on its Asian side.

History of Istanbul

There are many historical stories about İstanbul with plenty of cultural backgrounds. Especially the sixth millennium B.C. has a big role in the position of İstanbul today as a modern city.

The Neolithic Revolution during which early humans migrated into Europe from the East has also a big impact on this lovely city.

This area was occupied by Greek settlers in 660 B.C, with the name of Byzantium. Afterward, this place became a city of strategic, economic, and cultural importance so fast.

When it came to 330 A.D., İstanbul was reinvented as Constantinople and remained an imperial capital for a long time, 160 years.

Despite other holders of İstanbul known as the Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires, this city remained famous and strategically important for  merchants, traders, business people, and immigrants over many centuries especially because it locates on the Silk Road, between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, and at the confluence of major rail routes.

The other historical importance is İstanbul is about areligious background. When Byzantine empires and the Roman one came, they build here a big area for the Christian religion.

That is still the biggest reason of why Christians visit every year İstanbul so willingly.

This situation is valid for the Ottoman Turks too. Istanbul changed drastically with their arrival in 1453 A.D. and this city trusted to an Islamic country. You can see many signs and architectural structures marked by Islam in İstanbul.

Best Time to Visit Istanbul

Unlike many countries, Turkey and Istanbul are witness four seasons every year. People there enjoy with snow during the winter, and they have fun with swimming and beach during the summer.

Having plenty of seasons and different weather types might make you confuse. Actually, the best time to visit Istanbul depends on your purposes and preferences.

For the months of June, July, and August is generally preferable by a majority of tourist because of many reasons.

However, it is good to know that they are the hottest three months and you have to deal with large crowds and high accommodation rater if you choose this period to visit İstanbul.

For the spring period, that is March to May and fall times, September to November would be better in term of the population of the city. It will be less crowded and lower temperature. It is also because not tourist seasons, you will see some decreases on prices.

If you think economic reasons, of course, winter months such as December and February would be cheaper but you should be ready for the coldest and rainiest months if you want to do it during those months.

How to Use Public Transportation

Travel in Istanbul is relative to cheap compared to other big cities. Please do not forget an Istanbulkart to get public transportation vehicles such as bus, boat, Metrobus, Marmaray and so on.

There are someone pass tickets to use only one, but if you plan to visit many places, I suggest you have one Istanbulkart since there is such a big city that you will need to use transfer may be more than one time.

In short, having an Istanbulkart from kiosks is the best alternative for your travel.

The second thing you should know about public transportation is about the population. Although Istanbul is such a big city, the schedule of vehicles are so intense, so you can find easily the next one if you miss one bus, for example.

It is still good to know that early morning and afternoon 5 is rush hours because of the majority of the work schedule. You can arrange your travel accordingly.

Airport Arrival Process

There are three airports in Istanbul by October 2018. Apart from Sabiha Gokcen Airport and Ataturk Airport, the new one is the Istanbul Airport. You can fly into one of them as foreign or domestic passengers.

After arriving at the airport, you can take Havas to go to your hotel or wherever you want. For instance, from Sabiha Gokcen Airport you can go Kadikoy or you can go across, European side Taksim by Havas.

Also from the newest airport, İstanbul airport, you can take Havas and go Mecidiyekoy or Basaksehir directly. All services will make your life easier at your first arrival in Istanbul.

Things You Must Do When Visiting Istanbul

  • Eminonu is famous for balik ekmekas you will easily realize the smell of it when you arrive. You should try it with tursu suyu that goes well with balik ekmek.
  • The nostalgic tramway in Taksim gives nostalgia feelings, which you should not miss when roaming Taksim. People generally take a picture when standing near, but I suggest you get on this vehicle through the Taksim street.

  • Rumeli Castle is an enchanted place I have ever seen. Not only roaming the shore of Bebek, but you should also climb Rumeli Castle so that you can take Istanbul and the Marmara Sea under your feet. I am sure it will be a very good experience.
  • The other thing you should try from İstanbul’s famous food is Ortakoy kumpir and waffle. The tastes are so delicious when eating in front of the Bosphorus bridge with the view of Bosphorus.

Yet, other things you will realize there is the behavior of seller of kumpir and Ortakoy. They are very insistence and funny to sell their food to people, especially tourist. You should experience their unique ways of marketing their product and enjoy your meal in front of the blue view.

  • The Marmara sea will be your favorite place to take a deep breathe especially if you will be there during the spring or fall. When inside the boat on the way from the Asian side to Europe side, or from the Europe side to the Asian side, the thing what people living in this city do is to feed seagulls with simit. I did not see any person now enjoying this.

  • Are you planning to visit İstanbul with your girlfriend or boyfriend? You should not miss climbing the Galata Tower. According to the legend, whoever you climb there the first time, that person will be the person you will get married. Who knows?

Some Extra Things to Know Before Travelling to Istanbul

When it comes to travel to another city than your own, especially to a different country, there are some vital pieces of information nowadays to know, which will make your travels easier.

Here are some of them:

  • You should know that you will need a European-style adapter so you’ll be able to use your electronics in İstanbul. Also, if you have some small electronics such as blow dryers and hair straighteners, you need to use them with converters because Turkey’s electrical sockets run at 220 volts.

  • When you need to convert money, it is better to use some local exchange currency places to withdraw. Especially the ones in Eminonu are very trustable.

However, ATMs or places in airports might take more money from you than the others. You should be careful about it but still, it is good to know that you can withdraw large amounts of cash prior to departure.

  • What about language will you need? İstanbul is such a global country with many foreign businessmen and high population of tourists. You will even see some sellers knowing some Asian languages such as Bahasa Indonesia and some Indian dialects.

Therefore, apart from English, you can find some people knowing other languages but it is always good to have online English-Turkish dictionary not to make any unexpected mistakes.

  • For the restrooms, not every one of them, but mostly they will request from you some money like one or two Turkish Liras. In short, it is a good idea to carry a few coins with you when roaming around İstanbul.

  • People in Istanbul are too sincere that might come to you so interesting sometimes. They are ‘too sincere’ because they do not hesitate to ask you some questions about your personal life. You can just take it friendly and helpful behavior. They can even order you or offer you some food.

Moreover, they even can invite you to their home for lunch or a good dinner. There is no need to get worried. It is just a part of Turkish hospitality.


To finalize my words and leave you alone to experience this wonderful city, I want to repeat that you should know about the history of İstanbul in order to understand the reasons behind what is happening now and what the reasons behind some historical buildings together with its unique structures.

It is also necessary to check the cuisine of Istanbul and find some places before visiting İstanbul so that you can taste every famous food which is a big part of a culture.

To make your life easier there, you should arrange all details such as IstanbulKart, convert money issue and electronic devices.

If you feel like you are done with everything, now you are ready to visit İstanbul and take it with your deep breathe inside!

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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