Our aim with this page is to help you avoid being ripped off or falling into expensive tourist traps and to save you money as well as time when visiting Istanbul – we want to share some insider tips with you and make your stay in Istanbul pleasant, easy, cheap and memorable.
You can get a free map of Istanbul with a lot of information from the Tourist Information Centres. They will also give you trustworthy information about where the best places to eat are and other information that will help to have an enjoyable and stress free stay in Istanbul.
One of the easiest and cheapest methods of travelling around Istanbul by public transport (bus, ferry, tram…) is to get an Istanbul Card. This is a card which looks a bit like a credit card with a nice picture of Istanbul skyline on it. You can put credit on it from the machines. When you enter a bus, tram or ferry you just simply run it across the machine by the driver and it automatically devaluates the card for the price of a bus ride.
Transfer time is 2 hours with tickets, that allow transfers. Theres no discount for transfers from other public transport vehicles to Metrobus. But there is discount for transfers from Metrobus to other public transport vehicles.
Istanbul Cards for use on Istanbul’s public transport are available at kiosks as seen in the above picture, a basic card costs 8 TL and can be topped up with credit for as much as you want. Cards can also be bought at Sabiha Gökcen Airport from the kiosk outside after exiting the airport building.
When planning your trip to Istanbul and the following museums please note closing days so as not to be disappointed.
|Basilica Cistern (09.00 – 17.30 [Winter] / 18.30 [Summer])||–|
|Beylerbeyi Palace (09.00 – 17.00)||Monday, Thursday|
|Chora (Kariye) Museum (09.00 – 16.30 / 19.00)||Wednesday|
|Dolmabahce Palace (09.00 – 16.00)||Monday, Thursday|
|Galata Dervish House (09.00 – 17.00)||Monday|
|Grand Bazaar (Kapali Carsi)||Sunday|
|Hagia Sophia (09.00 – 17.00 / 19.00)||Monday|
|Harbiye Military Museum||Monday, Tuesday|
|Istanbul Archeological Museum (09.00 – 17.00)||Monday|
|Istanbul Mosaic Museum (09.00 – 17.00 / 19.00)||Monday|
|Museum of the History of Science and
Technology in Islam (09.00 – 17.00) .
|Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art (09.00 – 17.00 / 19.00)
|Museum of Turkish Calligraphy Art (09.00 – 16.00)
|Naval Museum (09.00 – 17.00)||Monday|
|Rumeli Hisari Fortress (09.30 – 16.30)||Wednesday|
|Spice Bazaar (Misir Carsisi)||–|
|Topkapi Palace (09.00 – 17.00 / 19.00) .||Tuesday|
|Please don’t forget:
The museums, palaces and other historical places are
closed on 1st of January, 29 October, Feasts of Ramadan and Sacrifice.
Watch HQ live cams from the most beautiful places of Istanbul. Some cams are with sound, you can listen to the call to prayer for example (Athan) live.
For mobile devices, please click here.
Useful websites about Istanbul:
You can get to Eyüp Sultan Mosque from the Eminönü bus stop by bus 33ES or 99A and get off at Eyüp Sultan Zal Paşa station. Or you can use bus 36CE, 44B, 48E, 99, 99Y, 399B or 399C and get off at the Teleferik Pierre Loti Station.
See the beautiful view from The Pierre Loti Hill. The cable car transports passengers from Eyup Sultan Mosque to The Pierre Loti Hill.
Heli Sightseeing Istanbul
Helicopter tours are available daily. The helicopter takes groups of up to 7 people. There are 3 different tours to choose from. You can visit the famous sights of Istanbul from the air. Prices are affordable and reasonable.
The tomb of Sultan Sulaiman the magnificent and his wife Hurrem (Roxelana) is open from 9 am till 5 pm every day.
At the seaside of the Suleymaniye Mosque there are a few cafes at the top of the buildings where you can take a nice rest and enjoy the beautiful Istanbul panorama view.
There’s a free WC at:
Mihrimah Sultan Mosque (Uskudar).
Suleymaniye Mosque (suitable for disabled people).
Prince Islands are very beautiful islands with no cars or traffic only horse and cart or bikes. To get there take the tram and get off at Eminönü and take the ferry to Prince Islands and enjoy a relaxing day away from the hustle and bustle of people and traffic. Click here for times of ferries. The cheapest way is to use the Istanbul Card.
If you want to experience the Ottoman Army Band you can watch a free concert every Saturday at Sultan Ahmet open theatre near to Sultan Ahmet Mosque. It starts at 2 pm and is really worth a visit (Summer season only).
Save money with the official company for Bosphorus Short Circle Cruise, they charge 12 TL for 2 hours. The Full Bosphorus Cruises costs 25 TL and they take 6 hours. This trip is well worth it. Tickets are available near the Galata Bridge. An audio guide is also available at an extra cost on the official tour. The private companies use smaller boats than the official company and therefore are not as comfortable.
|Full Bosphorus Cruise||25 TL||10.35/13.35|
|Short Bosphorus Cruise||12 TL||14.30|
Be wary of private Bosphorus tours. As you can see in the picture below, the private companies same short tour cost 8-15 Euro. Buy your tickets directly at the harbour not at other places such as Sultan Ahmet Square near the Blue Mosque.
The nearer you get to the coast, the cheaper the price for the Bosphoros Tour. If you prefer the private company as you can see in the picture below the route is the same only the price is different.
(The privat tours are now 12 TL, like the official company).
When in Istanbul, visit the official and real Sema Performance of the Derwishes at Galata Dervish House (which is controlled by the ministry of culture and tourism, but the entrance is not free). Here you will see the real thing not like at the other “tourist traps” in the tourist areas of Sirkeci. The Sema at Galata Mawlawi House is every Sunday at 5 pm.
The Semazen do Sema in the Yenikapi Mevlevihanesi (Zeytinburnu) every 1st and 3rd Wednesday in the month (except Ramadan and August). The Sema starts at 7.00 pm (7.30 pm summer time) and its free. You can get there easily by tram (T1) and metrobus. Get off at the Cevizlibağ station, the Mevlevihane is on the lefthand side. You have to walk only a few hundret metres.
For the cheapest transportation from Ataturk Airport to Sirkeci, you could use the Metro. But don’t forget, the metro (M1A) is available between 06.00 – 24.00. To go to Sirkeci, take the metro (M1A) from the airport. Get out at Zeytinburnu station. Then change the Tram (T1), which is only a few meters from the metro station. Then take the tram in the direction of Kabataş and get off at the station nearest your hotel. The Tram runs from 06.00 till 23.12.
Compare the price of the tram to a taxi. The metro and tram costs around 4.50 TL and the taxi about 50 TL.
You can use the public bus 96T too from Ataturk Airport to Taksim.
If you want to use the Metrobus after the tram (T1), you have to change at Cevizlibağ station. And to get to Ataturk Airport by Metrobus for example from Kadıköy on the Asian side, you have to get off at Sirinevler station. You’ll see on the left side “Ataköy Metro İstasyonu” (station) and take the metro (M1A) there.
You can see all kinds of transport from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Kadikoy, Pendik, Taksim… on this website. Of course, the cheapest way is to use the public bus and use the Istanbul Card.
(Tram at Hagia Sophia)
If you need to exchange money, check this website for the official exchange rate. Some exchange offices could have a lower exchange rate.
In emergency situations you can call 112 directly (without the international code for Turkey +90) on your mobile phone 7/24. There is always someone available who can speak foreign languages. They can redirect you to other services (police…). If you are in Istanbul, Antalya or Fethiye you can call 179 too. It’s a special line for tourists. They have English, German, French and Russian special educated people. They can redirect you too. And finally, you can call the police line on 155. But they may not always have foreign language speaking people available.
The Tourist Police are situated on the road leading up to Sultan Ahmed Square where the tram goes. Here in the background you can see the minaret of Hagia Sophia
It Pays to Shop Around.
Turkish people like to haggle over the price, practice this with them and get the best price for your souvenirs and other shopping. Do not buy in the first shop you see, only check the prices first and then try to bargain with them when you know what the price should be.
Don’t buy perfume, clothes, shoes, bags etc. from street sellers. They are mostly smuggled or not genuine.
Sometimes people may approach you on the street and offer you help but be wary, they may demand money from you in return. In the museums and in other places of interest you can get an audio guide.
To avoid paying more than the expected price always check the price list or menu prices before ordering. In tourist areas prices tend to be overly priced and this could cause some problems when it comes to paying the restaurant bill. Places that are notorious for excessive prices are Bodrum and other main tourist cities.
Don’t eat food from street stands or kiosks selling meat in sandwiches etc. it may not be healthy or hygienically prepared. Also don’t buy or eat food such as simit rings and other bakery products from street sellers as they are often hard and are not sold in hygienic conditions.
Tourists Beware of Shoeshine Boys’ Tricks.
New tips will be added regularly. Watch out for more tips coming soon. If you need to, you can contact me for more information.