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Istanbul Coronavirus Covid-19 Update – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Turkey

Turkey’s gateway to Europe and western lifestyle, Istanbul features a captivating fusion of oriental charm and western standards. Half the city spreading on European grounds and half on the Asian shore of Bosporus, it balances between traditional bazaars and top-rated international hotels.

This 14-million-resident metropolis has it all, from ancient sites, to typical hammams (Turkish baths), to delightful local delicacies.

Turkey Covid-19 Situation Report
308,069
Confirmed
1,767
Confirmed (24h)
7,711
Deaths
72
Deaths (24h)
2.5%
Deaths (%)
270,723
Recovered
1,027
Recovered (24h)

Ruled by the Greeks, the Persians, the Venetians and the Ottomans respectively, it carries a huge historical and cultural heritage, which is imprinted on the city’s architecture, the regional cuisine and the residents’ cosmopolitan lifestyle.

Istanbul (Turkish: İstanbul) is a city of fantastic history, culture and beauty. Called Byzantium in ancient times, the city’s name was changed to Constantinople in 324 CE when it was rebuilt by the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine. The name “Istanbul”, which – perhaps surprisingly – comes from Greek and could be translated as a corruption of “to the city”. While the term had been in widespread use for centuries, it only became the official name of the city upon the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in the 1920s.

The most populous city in Europe, Istanbul forms the financial center of Turkey and confidently straddles the borders between Asia and Europe as it has for millennia: this is the result when you mix ancient Christendom, a medieval metropolis and the modern Middle East. Situated on either side of the Bosphorus, Istanbul retains its metropolitan status: the city’s population is more than 14 million people, making it one of the largest cities in the world.

Lauded in antiquity as “the second Rome”, this is a city where you most certainly should roam — culture and excitement lie around every corner and more than 2000 years of history await you.

History of Istanbul

While relics of prehistoric human settlement were found in the Yarımburgaz Cave near the Küçükçekmece Lake and during the construction of a subway station in Yenikapı, Greek colonists from Megara, directed by their legendary leader Byzas, have been traditionally accepted as the founders of Istanbul. Expanding the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium by the order of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the imperial city of Constantinople was for nearly a thousand years the heavily-fortified capital of the Eastern Roman (later termed Byzantine) Empire. To this day, the Ecumenical Patriarch, head of the Eastern Orthodox Church continues to be the Archbishop of Constantinople, who is still based in Istanbul. It was finally conquered by the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II on 29 May 1453, an event sometimes used to mark the end of the Middle Ages. It was the nerve centre for military campaigns that were to enlarge the Ottoman Empire dramatically. By the mid-1500s, Istanbul, with a population of almost half a million, was a major cultural, political, and commercial centre. Ottoman rule continued until it was defeated in the first World War and Istanbul was occupied by the allies. When the Republic of Turkey was born in 1923 after the War of Independence, Kemal Atatürk moved its capital to the city of Ankara, strategically located in the centre of the new republic. However, Istanbul has continued to expand dramatically; today its population is approximately 14 million and increases at an estimated 400,000 immigrants per year. Industry has expanded even as tourism has grown. It continues to be a city that creates its own history at the intersection where both continents meet.

Orientation

Istanbul is divided in three by the north-south Bosphorus Strait (İstanbul Boğazı, “the strait of Istanbul”), the dividing line between Europe and Asia, the estuary of the Golden Horn (Haliç) bisecting the western part and the Sea of Marmara (Marmara Denizi) forming a boundary to the south. Most sights are concentrated in the old city on the peninsula of Sultanahmet, to the west of the Bosphorus between the Horn and the Sea. Across the Horn to the north are GalataBeyoğlu and Taksim, the heart of modern Istanbul, while Kadıköy is the major district on the comparatively less-visited Anatolian side of the city. The Black Sea forms the relatively less developed northern boundary of Istanbul.

Climate

Istanbul has a temperate oceanic climate which is influenced by a continental climate, with hot and humid summers and cold, wet and occasionally snowy winters.

Istanbul has a high annual average rainfall of 844 mm (which is more than that of London, Dublin or Brussels, whose negative reputation Istanbul does not suffer), with late autumn and winter being the wettest, and late spring and summer being the driest. Although late spring and summer are relatively dry when compared to the other seasons, rainfall is significant during these seasons, and there is no dry season as a result.

If there is a negative reputation that Istanbul does suffer from, it is the high annual relative humidity, especially during winter and summer with the accompanying wind chill and concrete-island effect during each respective season.

Summer is generally hot with averages around 27°C during the day and 18°C at night. High relative humidity levels and the ‘concrete-island effect’ only make things worse. Expect temperatures of up to 35°C for the hottest days of the year. Summer is also the driest season, but it does infrequently rain. Showers tend to last for 15–30 minutes with the sun usually reappearing again on the same day. Flash floods are a common occurrence after heavy rainfalls (especially during summer), due to the city’s hilly topography and inadequate sewage systems.

Winter is cold and wet, averaging 2°C at night and 7°C during the day. Although rarely below freezing during the day, high relative humidity levels and the wind chill makes it feel bitterly cold and very unpleasant.

Snowfall, which occurs almost annually, is common between the months of December and March, with an annual total snow cover of almost three weeks, but average winter snowfall varies considerably from year to year, and snow cover usually remains only for a few days after each snowfall, even under intense snow conditions.

Late spring (late May to early June) and early autumn (late September to early October) are very pleasant and therefore the best times to visit the city. During these periods it is neither cold nor hot, and still sunny, though the nights can be chilly and rain is common.

For visitors an umbrella is recommended during spring, autumn and winter, and during the summer to avoid the sun and occasionally the rain. However, it’s not such a big problem, since streets of Istanbul are suddenly filled by umbrella sellers as soon as it starts raining. Although the umbrellas they provide are a little shoddy, going rate is 5 TL per umbrella (though you can find much better umbrellas for that price at shops if you look around a bit).

Light clothing is recommended during summer and a light jacket and/or light sweater if the summer evenings do become chilly, warm clothing is essential during winter and a mixture of the two during spring and autumn.

Because of its huge size, topography and maritime influences, Istanbul exhibits a multitude of distinct microclimates. Thus, different sections of Istanbul can experience different weather conditions at the same time. For example, at the same moment, it can be heavily raining in Sarıyer in the north, mildly raining in Levent in the business district, while Taksim further south is having a perfectly sunny day.

Istanbul Museum Card

A very handy museum pass allowing access to many of the key spots on Sultanahmet. A pass valid for 5 days (120 hours) after the first use, and costs 185 TL (Feb 2019). (Separate tickets to Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, and Harem would cost 155 TL alone.) It can be bought at the entrance of every museum listed below or online.

The non-transferable pass allows one free entry to each of these museums:

  • Topkapı Palace and Harem
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Hagia Irene
  • Istanbul Archaeological Museums
  • Istanbul Mosaic Museum
  • Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam
  • Museum of Turkey and Islamic Arts
  • Chora Museum
  • Galata Mevlevi House Museum
  • Yildiz Palace
  • Rumeli Hisar Museum
  • Fethiye Museum

In addition to saving money when visiting these sites, the card allows you to skip the queue for tickets and go straight to the gates at all sites.

Most museums in Istanbul are closed on Mondays or Wednesdays, so checking the website first or ringing is a sensible option before setting off.

Alternatively, you can consider buying much more expensive Istanbul Tourist Pass, 2-day pass costs €95, 3-day pass €115, 7-day pass €145 (Feb 2019). It includes entrance to all of the above museums, couple of boat tours, SIM card, Ataturk airport pickup. However, it consistently receives negative reviews due to bad organisation and intermittent problems with accessing some of its included services.

Get in

By plane

Most international flights use Istanbul Atatürk Airport, 20 km west of the city centre on the European side. It’s the base for Turkish Airlines, with direct flights to most European cities plus many connections across the Middle East, Far East, Africa and North America. There are also domestic flights across Turkey (eg hourly to Ankara). For details of facilities and transport options see the main article on Istanbul Atatürk Airport. In brief, transport to & from the city is a choice of metro, bus or taxi. This airport will close in April 2019 – though that date has already been postponed three times.

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From 6 April 2019 all flights will use  Istanbul New Airport, 20 km further north in Arnavutköy. This airport opened on 29 Oct 2018 with a steadily expanding range of Turkish Airlines flights. As of March 2019 these fly domestically (G gates) to Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Gaziantep, Hatay, Izmir, Kayseri and Trabzon, and internationally (other gates) to Ashgabad, Baku, Bishkek, Chennai, Dhaka DAC, Dubai, Ercan, Frankfurt, Kuwait, London Gatwick, Moscow VKO, Munich, Navoiy, New York & Toronto via Shannon, Paris CDG and Tbilisi. These flights supplement TK services to those cities (and all other operators’ flights) from Atatürk Airport until the airport transfer is complete. Atatürk Airport’s IATA code “IST” will then be reassigned to the new airport. The metro and high speed rail are planned to be extended to reach the new airport by 2020, meanwhile the connection is by bus. These run from several transport hubs in the city including Sirkeci (50 km) and Kadıköy (65 km), with fares around 20-30 TL. There’s also a shuttle bus between the old and new airports. The Arnavutköy site of the airport is a long way from the city district of the same name. All car rental desks are in the Arrivals area of the domestic terminal. Car parking at the airport is free until 7 April 2019.

Istanbul’s Asia-side airport is Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, 30 km east of city centre. It has mostly domestic flights, by Anadolu Jet (the budget offshoot of Turkish Airlines). However it does have international flights across Europe by Pegasus and other carriers, especially in summer when this is a low cost route to the Turkish beach resorts and Northern Cyprus. It’s a large airport, seldom as frenetic as Atatürk, with the full range of passenger facilities ground-side and air-side. The ground-side departure hall is fairly comfortable. If you have a long stopover here, the LGM CIP Lounge is a good deal, with unlimited free beer, wine, soft drinks, light meals and snacks for €12 entry per person. Outbound, there’s a security check just to enter the terminal (they’ll inspect but won’t confiscate liquids) then the usual check after bag-drop to get air-side. There’s a hotel at the airport, some half-a-dozen (eg a Hilton) at Kurtköy two km north, then another dozen at Pendik town (on the Marmara coast near the YHT station) 6 km south. The main transport options to & from the city are:

  • Train: Sabiha Gökçen Airport is 12 km from Pendik YHT railway station, take a taxi or bus 132H to catch fast trains east to Ankara and Konya.
The Metro does not yet reach the airport, but Line M4 has extended as far as Tavşantepe near Pendik.
  • Havabüs runs from the airport to Taksim in the city centre (50 km, 60-90 min, 18 TL), Yenisahra an Asia-side transport hub (50 minutes, 10 TL) and Kadıköy the ferry quay for Eminönü in Sultanahmet Old City (60 min, 14 TL + ferry 3 TL). Buses run every 30 mins between 04:00 and 01:00. Buy your ticket on the bus, Istanbulkart is valid.
  • City bus (İETT bus) are cheapest. The main routes are:
to Kadıköy by bus E-10 (via Kurtköy, runs 24 hours) or E-11, taking 60-90 minutes, more in heavy traffic. You need a two-zone ticket, price 7 TL.
to Taksim and elsewhere on the European side, take bus E-3 to 4.Levent metro station. This runs 24 hours, takes 2 hours and needs a three-zone ticket for 10 TL.
Other routes include E-9 to Bostanci, 16S to Metrobus Uzunçayir, KM-20 to Pendi̇k & Kartal Metro, KM22 to Cevi̇zli̇ Platforms, E-18 to Altuni̇zade & Ümrani̇ye, and 122H via Yeni̇şehi̇r to 4.Levent Metro.
  • Shuttles & transfers: a minibus shuttle to the European side of the city might cost €90 for 4 people.
  • Taxis to Taksim will cost around 120 TL, and to Kadıköy around 90 TL.

None of the airlines that use Sabiha Gökçen have announced plans to relocate to the new airport: it’s big enough to take them, but not convenient for Istanbul’s Asia side.

By train

…and the distinctly Teutonic Haydarpaşa Station, which provided the first sight of Europe for many passengers from faraway parts of Asia since 1908.

Since the heyday of the legendary Orient Express, travelling by train has been the classic way of reaching Istanbul. It’s still an interesting journey, but the trains no longer reach their classic termini. Those from Europe terminate at Halkali west of the city, where you change to the frequent cross-city Marmaray train to reach the centre. Those from the east terminate at Sogutlucesme in Kadıköy on the Asian side.

This means that Istanbul has two large terminus stations that don’t have any mainline trains. Sirkeci on the European side is on the Marmaray network, with cross-city and Metro trains deep underground but nothing at street-level. Haydarpaşa|lat=40.9962|long=29.0188}} in Asia has no trains at all. Both stations are worth a quick visit as monuments to a bygone age of rail travel. And both of them have ticket offices, though it’s usually simpler to buy online from the website of Turkish Republic State Railways, TCDD.

Trains from the east

High speed trains (known as YHT: “yüksek hızlı tren”) now reach central Istanbul once again, temporarily arriving at Söğütlüçeşme on the Asian side, close to the future Haydarpaşa terminus. Two trains a day continue under the Bosphorus calling at Bakırköy in the western suburbs and terminating at Halkali. Currently they don’t stop anywhere in the Sultanahmet / Old City area, and they don’t connect with the Europe trains – change to the frequent Marmaray trains for both purposes.

There are frequent YHT services from Eskişehir (3 hours) and Ankara (4½ hours), and three per day from Konya (4½ hours). Change in those cities for destinations further east, e.g. Adana, Tatvan and Kars – and hopefully Tbilisi and Baku from autumn 2019.

On the eastern edge of the city, the YHT trains also call at Bostanci, Pendik and Gebze. 25 km east of city centre, is a convenient stop for transfers from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen airport (10 km, taxi or bus). Consider this route if you intend to fly into Istanbul and immediately head east. Pendik itself is a small township with hotels and cafes, with the bus station and taxi ranks north side of the YHT station.

Trains from Europe and European Turkey

A sleeper train departs Sofia around 21:00 nightly, running via Plovdiv, Kapikule on the border, and Edirne, to terminate at Halkali at 07:40. From June to Sept another sleeper, the Bosphor Express, departs Bucharest at 12:45, running via Ruse to Kapikule. Here it’s coupled to the train from Sofia, and passengers on both trains have to get out for border procedures, before continuing to Halkali. The westbound service leaves Halkali at 21:40 to reach Sofia by 09:00 and Bucharest by 19:00 next day. From Oct to May the through-train from Bucharest doesn’t run, so you change at Ruse then again at Kapikule, with a similar timetable. Trains from further west (i.e. Budapest and Belgrade) don’t connect with the trains to Turkey, so you need to spend a night in either Sofia or Bucharest.

The Budapest-Belgrade line is disrupted throughout 2019 for engineering works. Belgrade-Sofia trains are running normally, but you’ll struggle to find a sensible connection from Budapest to Belgrade, so it’s better to reach Turkey via Bucharest.

Between Halkali and city centre, use the Marmaray cross-city train, which started in March 2019. Allow an hour; trains run every 15 mins and the fare is about 4 TL (and see “Get around”). The morning trains into the city are busy with commuters, the evening outbound services should be quiet. Until this link opened, TCDD ran a connecting bus: they haven’t announced that it’s been cancelled but it’s safest to assume it soon will be.

There’s also a regional train from Kapikule via Edirne to Halkali once a day. In July 2018 this train derailed near Tekirdağ, killing 24 people. The accident was caused by heavy rain undermining the track. The damage was quickly repaired and trains resumed running as normal.

The terminus Halkali station is 25 km west of central Istanbul. Few facilities here – in particular, nowhere to change currency until you get downtown.

For a luxurious stylish journey, once a year the Venice Simplon Orient Express runs from Paris to Halkali. You travel in lovely restored 1930s luxury coaches and enjoy first-rate cuisine. Tickets start at €13,500; sorry, your Eurail pass won’t help here.

By bus

Buses and coaches from Europe and Gallipoli terminate at the colossal Esenler bus station (Esenler Otogar, also called Bayrampaşa Otogar, albeit rarely), about 10 km west of the city centre, located on the European side. With 168 ticket offices and gates, shops, restaurants, hotel, police station, clinic and mosque, the Büyük Otogar (“big bus station”) is a town in itself, although lacking a central information desk, so you will have to ask around the individual offices for prices and timetables for your destination. Courtesy minibuses (servis) provided by the bus companies for free or taxis will easily get you into the centre. The metro (M1A, M1B) also stops at the otogar.

In addition to any city and sizeable town across the country, there are several daily buses to/from cities in Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia and Romania. From/To Thessaloniki (Greece): ticket prices are around €45 (one way), €80 return. From/to Sofia and Varna (Bulgaria): ~€25 (one way). From/to Skopje (North Macedonia): ~€40 (one way)

A secondary hub for the European side is at Alibeyköy bus station near the outer beltway of Istanbul. Despite its orderly and cool steel-and-glass look, and much smaller size compared with Esenler, this is an unexpectedly chaotic bus station. With no convenient public transport connecting it to the city centre, you may find it useful only for getting to/from the offices of the bus companies around the Taksim Square, provided that a servis bus is available (better to ask in advance than to stuck in the middle of nowhere).

Right on the banks of the Bosphorus, Harem bus station (not to be confused with the ladies’ quarter of the Topkapı Palace with the same name) is the major hub for the buses on the Anatolian (Asian) side, which can be reached easily from Sirkeci on the European side with a ferry. However, instead of driving into this station, some bus companies (especially the larger ones offering a long list of destinations) nowadays put up their own hubs in scattered locations in the suburbs of this side, taking the passengers out with servis buses from central areas such as Kadıköy.

Bus from Georgia terminates at Aksaray bus terminal, near Yenikapi metro station.

By boat

There are Black Sea ferries several times a week to Chornomorske, the main port for Odessa in Ukraine, taking 27 hours. They run all year and take vehicles; indeed trucking is an important part of their business, as so many travellers nowadays fly. The ferry terminal is at Haydarpaşa, by the old railway station. In bygone years these ferries sailed to other Black Sea ports but they no longer do so.

There are no other international ferries to Istanbul – see “Get around” for local ferries around the Sea of Marmara. Cruise ships usually dock on the European side, around Karaköy/Galataport, closer to the historic centre. These ships are on cruise itineraries, check with the operator whether a point-to-point journey ending in Istanbul is possible.

By care

Traffic in Istanbul can be manic; expect a stressful drive because you will be cut off and honked at constantly. Even if you are on a one-way road, always expect someone coming towards to you. The city hosts more than 1½ million cars and there is a strong demand for building of new or alternate highways.

If you’ve arrived in Istanbul by car, and you’re not familiar with the streets, it’s better to park your car in a safe place and take public transportation to get around.

The city, lying on two different continents and separated by the Bosphorus, is connected by two bridges. The bridge on the south, closer to the Marmara Sea, is called the “Bosphorus Bridge”. The bridge closer to the Black Sea is named “Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge” and is longer than the first one. Both are toll bridges, and you must pay a fee to cross.

Neither bridge accepts cash: payment must be made by using electronic cards, either by a sticker type (HGS) or via a transponder mounted on the front of the car (OGS).

On weekdays, there are potentially hour-long traffic jams on the highways leading to both bridges, particularly heading west in the mornings and east in the evenings, since most people live on the Anatolian side but work on the European side.

There is a great shortage of parking in Istanbul, and existing lots are quite expensive. You will see many cars parked on the sides of the road, in front of garage doors even.

Street signs are rare. It is a common thing to pull over and ask for directions, something the natives and taxi drivers do quite often.

Hitchhiking

Istanbul is huge, so you’ll need public transport between your accommodation and your pick-up / drop-off point. Leaving the city, the best routes are:

  • West into Europe: you want to be on main highway E-80. First take bus 448 from Yenibosna metro station (southern line, near Ataturk Airport) north towards Mimarsinan. Get off after about 5 km when you cross the E-80.
  • East into Asia: again, you want to reach highway E-80. Probably the closest you can start thumbing is Pendik: reach it by metro as described for the YHT railway station. Then start hitching on D-100 which will join E-80. A local lift as far as Gebze or Izmir will also be close to that highway.

Getting around

Istanbul’s public transit system can be difficult to figure out; the lines connect poorly, maps are rare and you often have to transfer, and pay another fare, to get where you are going. However, if you put some effort into it, you can avoid taxis and not walk too much.

Each time you use a tram, metro, bus, or boat on the public transport system, you will need to use a ticket or pass. The single use tickets cost 5 TL (Jan 2017) and can be bought at various vending machines at bus, railway and metro stations or authorized ticket/Istanbulkart sellers (usually newspaper kiosks). Ticket fares across buses, trams and metros differ. Only cash in Turkish lira is accepted at ticket kiosks of public transport, no credit cards or foreign currency. The Istanbul subway system does not offer transfer tickets: each change to a new line requires a new fare, unless you use an Istanbulkart, see below.

When travelling to Istanbul by air, it is much cheaper (and more fun) to use the metro system to get as close to your accommodation as possible before walking and/or taking a taxi to where you are staying. Although the public transport may be slightly confusing, taxis/charter buses from the airport are notoriously overpriced.

If public transport is your choice of getting around, consider using smartphone public transportation applications so that you can easily see stops, stations and terminals nearby or see alternate routes for your planned destination.

A widespread network of public transport serves any corner of the city quite effectively. Means of transport include the metro, city buses and the tram. An antique tram-line connects Taksim Square and Tunel Square. Ferry services link the European and the Asian sides of Istanbul.

Istanbulkart

The İstanbulkart is Istanbul’s public transport smart card, which can be used as a ticket on buses, trams, suburban trains, metro, local ferries, etc. If you are in Istanbul for more than a day or two and intend to use public transport, it will pay for itself in a few trips. There is a one time deposit of 6 TL. After that you can buy credits.

You touch the Istanbulkart to a reader when you get on the bus or enter the tram or metro platform. The great advantage for a group of travellers is that you can buy only one and touch it as many times as there are passengers (unlike London’s Oyster card, there is no need to touch out). You can buy or refill them at designated booths located at any major bus, tram, or metro station, as well as some other places such as newspaper stands close to bus stops. There are refill machines located at most metro or tram stops and ferry terminals. An Istanbulkart provides significantly discounted rates (a bit over half price for unlinked trips and even cheaper for transfers) compared to regular single tickets, as well as discounts on transfers and short round trips (when used multiple times within a limited period, roughly 1½ hours since the last time you used it). For instance, a trip with Istanbulkart costs ~2.60 TL, while a single ticket is ~5 TL. The round trip to the airport pays for more than half the cost of this card. You must purchase the card (10 TL) with 4 TL as its balance, the card is not refundable, and neither is any credit left on the Istanbulkart. The card can be purchased at a number of small corner shops throughout the city. There are recharge machines at most stations (though not necessarily at all entrances) but they do not take coins, so you’ll have to hang on to those 5 and 10 Lira bills unless you want to charge your card with a large amount as no change is given, either.

The Istanbulkart is relatively new, and replaces the older Akbil metal touch-token which is deprecated. Though some Kiosks still have Akbil signs rather than Istanbulkart signs – but you can usually buy or top up your Istanbulkart at any kiosk where the Akbil sign is displayed.There is also the so-called “mavi kart” or blue card which is a cheaper option for frequent users of public transport but has some restrictions, can be used by one person whose photo and name are printed on it, it gives 180 trips in bus/tram/metro that have to be used up within a maximum period of 30 days and costs about 200 TL + 10 TL for printing the card the first time.

Travel by train to Istanbul

The Marmaray cross-town train, opened in March 2019, links Halkali mainline station in the west with Zeytinburnu, Sirkeci and Üsküdar either side of the Bosphorus, and Bostancı, Kartal, Pendik and Gebze to the east; plus many small suburban stations. (Pendik and Gebze are on the YHT main line.) Trains run every 15 mins 06:00-23:00 and between city centre and end of the line takes an hour, for a fare of about 4 TL. The central sections are shared with the metro.

The city Metro has six lines, of which only the first two are of much use to the visitor:

  • Line M1A connects Atatürk Airport (Havalimani) and the main coach station (Otogar) to Aksaray, from where you can catch tram T1 to the city centre, and onward to train hub Yenikapı for connections to M2 and Marmaray. There is also a branch line (M1B) which serves the western suburb of Kirazlı. All trains serve the section between Yenikapı and the bus station, then diverge for the airport or Kirazlı.
  • Line M2 starts from Yenikapı and crosses the Golden Horn, continuing via Şişhane and Taksim Square to Mecidiyeköy and Levent in the business district, and further north to Hacıosman (a major bus hub for suburbs on the north European side, eg Sarıyer).
  • Line M3 continues northwest from M1B terminus Kirazlı.
  • Line M4 on the Asian side goes from Kadıköy to the suburbs along the Marmara coast to Kartal and Pendik (but 1 km away from Pendik YHT station.) It’s planned to extend to Sabiha Gökçen airport in the next few years.
  • Line M5 on the Asian Side runs between Üsküdar on the Bosphorus and the outer suburb of Çekmeköy through Ümraniye.
  • Line M6 (also called Mini Metro) is a shuttle from the Levent station of M2, and serving the upscale district of Etiler and the main campus of Boğaziçi University in Hisarüstü.

Much of the city is not yet served by the metro (it will be years before the new airport is connected), and the distance between stations is larger than in most European cities. But the metro is fast where it does go and meticulously clean and modern, with much of it dating to the 21st century. Most lines are deep underground and some have entrances amidst busy streets with pedestrian tunnels or bridges the only access, so be prepared to walk quite a bit when going to and from stations. Transfers virtually always require exiting and re-entering the system which means a new full fare (with single use tickets) or a reduced fare for the connection (with Istanbulkart). You do not have to swipe any card on exit for metro or tram routes but you do have to do so for Istanbulkart on Metrobus, else you’ll be charged the maximum distance fare.

Istanbul’s first underground system dates to the 19th century, when the funicular subway “Tünel” was constructed to operate from Karaköy to Istiklal Street in 1875, travelling 573 m up a steep hill. It’s still running and is handy for going from Galata Bridge (Beyoglu side) to the famous Istiklal Caddesi (main street).

Heavy construction on extensions and new lines continues apace, with the gap between the M1 and the M2 plugged with Yenikapı station. You can connect M4 and M5 via Marmaray from Yenikapı station. Unfortunately most network maps already show the yet to be built extensions in a lighter shade which can be confusing for a casual glance and frustrating when contemplating where you might be able to go if only you visited Istanbul a year or two later.

There is also a funicular system connecting Taksim to Kabataş where you can get on ferries and cross to the Anatolian side, and also transfer to trams bound for the old city.

The old plastic tokens are no longer valid: the only way to pay for metro is Istanbulkart or limited-pass cards. The metro stations do not have a staffed ticket booth, so you must obtain your tickets or top-up your Istanbulkart through ticket machines. To buy limited pass cards, insert coins or notes and then press the button marked onay/okay. A single pass costs 4 TL on any urban rail in Istanbul though an Istanbulkart (see above) may be more cost effective during your trip.

By tram

Much used by the travellers as it serves many popular sites and ferries, Istanbul’s main tram line (T1) snakes its way along its almost 20-km route for much of the European side between Kabataş, its eastern terminus on the Bosphorus (connected to the M2 metro line by the two-stop F1 funicular) and its western terminus at Bağcılar (connected to the M1B and M3 metro lines), a suburb in the northwest. Among its major stops, from east to west, are Karaköy and Eminönü respectively on the northern and southern banks of the Golden Horn (which is crossed by the Galata Bridge), Sirkeci, Gülhane, Sultanahmet (near most of the historic sites of the old city), Çemberlitaş, Beyazıt, Laleli, Aksaray (10 minutes’ walk away from the Yenikapı station of Marmaray), Yusufpaşa (near the Aksaray station of the M1A and M1B metro lines), Topkapı (near the ancient city walls), and Zeytinburnu (another connection to the M1A). West from Topkapı, it reaches far out to the western suburbs, which are rarely, if ever, visited by the average traveller.

The route of the T1 is served by two differently numbered lines: #38 runs along the entire length of the T1 between Kabataş and Bağcılar, while the significantly shorter #47 runs between the Eminönü and Cevizlibağ stations (the latter of which is abbreviated as C.bağ-A.Ö.Y. on the signage of tram cars). However, both lines call at stations that are of most interest to travellers through the Old City. During morning and evening rush hours every alternate tram runs as #47, while during the rest of the day, most run as #38.

Although you may use the same AKBİL/Istanbulkart on the metro and tram, you must pay another fare each time you change lines (on a progressively discounted rate if you use İstanbulkart).

During morning and evening rush hours (roughly between 07:00-09:00 and 17:00-19:30 respectively), tram cars run jam-packed so if you intend to take it for a couple of stations down the way, don’t even bother—walking instead is not only less tiresome than standing in what is essentially more crowded than a sardine can, it’s also quicker as you will most likely be able to get in the second or even third tram calling at the station due to the crowd.

There is also another tram line linking the residential and industrial suburbs in the north with the city centre: T4 (which is more like metro-tram systems of northwestern Europe, as it lies underground for part of its route), which heads for Sultançiftliği, connecting to the Topkapı station of the T1 line. However, this line is of very little, if any, use to the average traveller.

Other than the above modern trams, Istanbul has two short, separate heritage tram lines, which are more of attractions than practical transport options. Renovated trams dating back to the 1920s rattle along the İstiklal Street on the European side (T2 or NT), while on the Asian side, a circular system between Kadıköy and the nearby Moda district is served by 1960s streetcars imported from Germany (T3).

Tram lines are run by Metro Istanbul.

By train

Istanbul’s dilapidated suburban train network got a big boost in October 2013 when Marmaray, a fabulously expensive transcontinental tunnel from Europe to Asia under the Bosphorus, finally opened after ten years of construction. The line zips from train terminus Yenikapı (M1A, M1B, M2) with a stop in central Sirkeci (T1) to Üsküdar (M5) and Ayrılıkçeşmesi (M4) in minutes, with lengthy extensions in the works at both ends. It’s nowhere near as scenic as the ferries, but considerably faster, and a true engineering marvel.

The old suburban/commuter train lines (banliyö treni) travelling west from Sirkeci (Europe) and east from Haydarpaşa (Asia) have been shut down for upgrading and integration into Marmaray, with reopening, postponed several times already, expected in late 2018 or so.

By boat

Unique Istanbul liners (large conventional ferry boats), sea-buses (high speed catamarans), or mid-sized private ferries travel between the European and Asian sides of the city. The crossing takes about 20 minutes and costs 3 TL, and gives great views of the Bosphorus. Sometimes the ferry when arriving at a dock can bounce off the pier accidentally, even on calm days. This can cause people to fall over if they are standing up, so it is advisable to remain seated until the ferry has come to an absolute stop.

In Istanbul, liners from any given quay generally take only a certain route, and these quays are signposted ‘X Iskelesi’ (“X Landing stage/pier”). For instance, Eminönü alone has more than 5 landing stages (including the ones used by other ferries apart from liners), so if you should head for, say, Üsküdar, you should take the ferry which departs from ‘Üsküdar Iskelesi’. Replace ‘Üsküdar’ with the destination of your choice.

Istanbul liners travel on the following routes:

  • Karaköy–Haydarpaşa–Kadıköy
  • Kadıköy–Eminönü
  • Üsküdar–Eminönü
  • Üsküdar–Karaköy–Eminönü–Eyüp (The Golden Horn Route)
  • Kadıköy–Besiktaş
  • Kabatas–Uskudar–Harem
  • Istinye–Emirgan–Kanlıca–Anadolu Hisarı–Kandilli–Bebek–Arnavutköy–Çengelköy (The Whole Bosphorus Route)
  • Anadolu Kavağı–Rumeli Kavağı–Sariyer
  • Eminönü–Kavaklar (Special Bosphorus Tour, Recommended For Tourists)
  • Sirkeci–Adalar–Yalova–Cınarcık (The Princes’ Islands Route)

Furthermore, the sea-buses (deniz otobüsü) follow the same (or more) routes, usually much faster than liners. Returning to Yenikapi from Kadikoy by sea-bus is a fast and convenient way to cross the Bosphorus; at Yenikapi there is a railway station with frequent trains to Sirkeci/Eminönü and the Yenikapi fish restaurant area is close by (or one stop on the train).

Four main private ferry routes for travelling between Asia and Europe sides are:

  • Besiktaş–Üsküdar
  • Kabataş–Üsküdar (close to tram and funicular system in Kabataş)
  • Eminönü–Üsküdar (close to tram in Eminönü)
  • Eminönü–Kadıköy (close to tram in Eminönü)

Very useful are the fast ferryboats (travelling at 55 km/h) running from several points, such as the Yenikapi–Yalova one, that allows you (with a connecting bus in Yalova) to be in Bursa centre in less than three hours. Prices are marginally higher and the gain in time is considerable, though the view is not as nice.

All of the ferries, including private ones, can be paid for using the AKBIL/Istanbulkart system.

By bus

Public transportation buses are either run or inspected by İETT. Public buses in Istanbul come in many colours and shapes, but the most important thing to keep in mind is that ticket sales on board have completely been phased out, so you will have to obtain one (or an İstanbulkart, which is accepted on all public transport methods) prior to boarding the bus.

Istanbul’s heavily used BRT system, locally called Metrobüs, are served by long hybrid buses running on their special lanes along the city’s inner beltway, separated from all other traffic and thus saving lots of time in Istanbul’s generally congested roads. While an extremely important transport option for the locals, the system covers areas not usually visited by the travellers, between Beylikdüzü in the far western suburbs of the city and Kadıköy on the Asian Side via Bakırköy, Cevizlibağ outside the old city walls near the Topkapı Gate, the business district in Mecidiyeköy, and the Bosphorus Bridge.

Most bus lines operate roughly 06:00-23:59, usually with a reduced volume of services after 22:00. Some lines between major centres operate 24/7 though, as is the Metrobüs, with about an hour intervals. After midnight, buses cost two tickets per person rather than the usual one.

Night Time Bus Lines:

A double check from İETT website is strongly recommended.
  • TH-1 Taksim – Atatürk Airport (does not operate between 01:00 – 04:00)
  • 40 Taksim Square–Rumelifeneri/Garipçe
  • E10 Kadikoy–Sabiha Gokcen International Airport
  • 15F Kadikoy–Beykoz
  • 130 Kadikoy–Tuzla
  • 34A Sogutlucesme(Kadikoy)–Edirnekapi (Metrobus)
  • 34 Avcilar–Zincirlikuyu (Metrobus)

As a tourist, you are most likely to use the tram and the metro in the Sultanahmet and Taksim area since there are no bus lines operating in the area anymore.

Buses and streetcars tend to be very crowded during rush hours, especially on Mondays and Fridays. That can also create opportunities for pickpockets.

By taxi

Taxis are an easy and cheap way to get around. Start off rate is 4 TL and then 2.5 TL for each km afterwards (Feb 2019). Distances up to 2½ km are subject to a fixed price of 10 TL, after that distance the meters track at the above rates. A one-way travel from Taksim Square to Sultanahmet costs approximately 20 TL. Tipping is generally unnecessary. Frequently, drivers will refuse to start the meter and try to negotiate a fixed price (e.g. 80 TL for a short trip from Yenikapı ferry terminal to Sultanahmet, to which should cost less than 20 TL). You should avoid these cabs and take another one as you will almost certainly end up paying too much. To be sure, before getting in, just ask “how much to go to …?” (most of the drivers understand basic English) since the price they tell then is quite accurate. Tell them then to put the taximeter on. Drivers do normally work with the taximeter, so they will not be surprised at all when you ask them to put it on. The price at the end will be quite close to the one they tell you at the beginning. There is no extra fare at night.

If you have internet connection on your laptop or mobile device, always use Istanbul Taxi Fare Calculator just before taking a taxi from airport, hotel or restaurant. It will help you to easily estimate taxi fare based on pick-up and drop-off locations anywhere in Istanbul, give an outline about the journey and avoid potential taxi scams.

Even when agreeing to take you on the meter, taxis in Istanbul have several dodges to catch the unwary traveller. The meter is often situated right in front of the gear stick and drivers somehow manage to advance the meter while changing gear. Not putting the meter back to the starting rate, i.e. adding your fare to the previous one, is also common. Taxis that wait near a bus station or at Yenikapı ferry terminal are usually a tourist trap. They start the meter but charge you 20 TL at least. Emphasize to the driver that you will pay for the meter price before getting in. Do not buy their quick-sell tricks. Always try to stop a taxi that is passing by on the road or find a legitimate taxi stop.

Insist on going to the destination that you want because some drivers are paid a commission each time they deliver someone to a certain hotel, restaurant, shop, etc.

Istanbul taxis are colored yellow or maroon. The yellow taxis’ license plates start with 34 T and maroon ones start with 34 M. Yellow taxis are more common, as the maroon ones work mainly around western suburbs. They can not pick travelers from yellow taxis’ region and vice versa.

Be careful of what notes you hand them for payment; some drivers have tried to pretend that the 50 TL note that was handed was just a 5 TL note. Occasionally taxi drivers may actually also rip notes you give them, and tell you it is no good, in order to make you hand them a 50 TL note. So, make sure the notes are not ripped, and is actually the right one before you hand them over. Also, if you are not familiar with the city the taxi driver may drive a detour in order to charge you more.

The major rideshare companies are Uber, Bitaksi (the cheapest so far), and iTaksi (the most expensive one, also a lot of people complain about its cheating drivers).

Traffic can be very bad, it can take an hour for a few kilometers through the old city. You might be better off taking the metro out of the old city and then a taxi from there.

Some important routes with distances and estimated taxi fares are:

  • Ataturk Airport (IST) – Taxim Square ~ 21 km
  • Ataturk Airport (IST) – Sultanahmet Square (Old City) ~ 18 km
  • Taxim Square – Sultanahmet (Old City) ~ 5.5 km
  • Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) – Kadikoy (Chalcadonia) Ferry Terminal ~ 36 km
  • Esenler (Bus Terminal) – Topkapı Palace (Sultanahmet) ~ 10.5 km
  • Esenler (Bus Terminal) – Ataturk Airport (IST) ~ 15 km

By shared taxi

Dolmuş (Turkish: “full”) is a shared taxi, travelling on a fixed route, which costs more than a city autobus but less than a normal taxi. They can carry up to 8 passengers. They are easy to recognize, because they also have the yellow painting as taxis and carry a Dolmuş sign on its top. They will only start driving when all eight seats are full, which is also where the name derives from.

The main and most important routes for dolmuşes are :

  • Taksim–Eminönü (Taksim stop, near the Atatürk Cultural Centre, in Taksim square)
  • Taksim–Kadıköy
  • Taksim–Bostanci
  • Taksim–Aksaray (Taksim stop, Tarlabasi Avenue, close to Taksim square)
  • Kadıköy–Bostanci (Bostanci stop, in front of the Bostanci ferry port)
  • Taksim–Tesvikiye (Taksim stop, in front of Patisserie Gezi, in Taksim square)
  • Beşiktaş–Nisantasi (Beşiktaş stop, in front of the Beşiktaş – Üsküdar ferry port)
  • Kadıköy–Üsküdar (Üsküdar stop, Near the Üsküdar – Beşiktaş and Üsküdar – Kabataş ferry port)

If you want the driver to make a stop, you can say İnecek var. (EE-neh-djek war! — Someone’s getting out.) or Müsait bir yerde. (mU-sa-EEt bir yer-deh. — At a convenient spot.)

Disabled travellers

While constant constructions and reroutings in pedestrian areas make the city streets fairly hard to negotiate by wheelchair users, the public transportation administrations of the city have taken steps to accommodate them.

Pavements along many major streets in the central areas, as well as pedestrian crossings, have tacile pavings installed. Many pedestrian traffic lights also alert by voice (only in Turkish, though).

Buses

The process of replacing old buses with newer ones accessible for people using a wheelchair is ongoing. Many buses on central lines have a low floor and a built-in ramp (consult the driver to lean the bus down nearer to the ground, to open the ramp, and to assist into the bus, though any of these might unfortunately be impossible during peak hours in interval stops. Think of a sardine-packed bus unloading all of its passengers to lean down).

LCD screens show the stop names while approaching the stop and voice announcements are made.

Tram

Trams are accessible for people using a wheelchair from the station platforms which are low and equipped with gentle ramps right from the street (or sidewalk) level.

All stations are announced both on a display and by voice in the trams.

Metro

Almost all stations of Istanbul’s metro system are accessible for people using a wheelchair, with lifts/elevators down or up to the platforms from the street level available around the station entrances. All through the system, the trains are easily accessible from the station platforms. For assistance, look for the security guards in grey/black uniforms near the station entrances.

All stations are announced by voice in the metro trains. In most lines it is also announced on a display, but not in the older trains of the M1A/M1B. Instead, you should look at the signs in the stations, which are big and common enough.

Most metro stations have detectable surface indicators guiding the visually impaired from the street level right to the platform.

With its long history at the centre of empires, Istanbul offers a wealth of historic and religious places to take in. The bulk of these ancient monuments, dating back to Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods, including the Hagia SophiaTopkapı PalaceSultanahmet Mosque (Blue Mosque, free), and Basilica Cistern are around Sultanahmet Square, while some others are dispersed throughout the peninsula of old city, such as the Church of the Holy Saviour in Chora (Kariye Müzesi), the entire inside of which is covered by mindblowing frescoes and mosaics. An impressive section of mostly intact Theodosian walls, which mark the full length of western boundary of the peninsula, is right next to this particular church.

North of the peninsula of the old city, across the Golden Horn, is Galata, crowned by the Galata TowerIstanbul Modern, with its exhibitions of contemporary Turkish art, is on the nearby waterfront of Karaköy. Another sight of the district, just north of the Tower, is the museum converted from the Dervish Hall of the Sufi Mevlevi order, which those interested in the teachings of Rumi will want to take a peek at. Further north is the Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul’s prominent pedestrian street running from near Galata Tower to Taksim Square, the central square of whole city.

Heading west rather than north from the old city brings you deeper into the banks of the Golden Horn estuary. A neighbourhood perhaps well worth a visit here is Eyüp, to visit the city’s holiest Islamic shrine and, with all the religious people wandering around the narrow cobblestone streets with their turbans and what not, just to see what the daily life in Ottoman Istanbul might be like. On the opposite shores of the Horn, in Sütlüce is the Miniaturk, the first miniature park in the city, with models from around the former Ottoman Empire.

North of Taksim Square is New Istanbul, main business district of the city. If venturing out to this direction, don’t forget to check out Military Museum, where Ottoman military music concerts (Mehter) are held every afternoon. Most of the skyscrapers of the city are located in the north of this district, around Levent and Maslak, with a totally different skyline from that of the old city. However southern reaches of the very same district has some fine neo-classical and Art Nouveau buildings from the turn of the 20th century, around the neighbourhoods of Osmanbey, Kurtuluş, and Nişantaşı. Just east from here, with a little drop in elevation as you approach the shore, is the banks of Bosphorus, that is lined by pleasant neighbourhoods full of waterfront mansions (yalı) and a number of waterside palaces where you can admire what money could buy in times gone by.

Across the Bosphorus to east is Asian Side, centred around the historical districts of Kadıköy and Üsküdar, and perhaps best symbolized by Maiden’s Tower, located at about the halfway between these districts, on an islet just off the shore. Bosphorus and Marmara coasts of this half of the city is characterized by quite picturesque neighbourhoods, overlooked by Çamlıca Hill, one of the highest hills of the city which also has a view of much of the rest of the city, with a café and a pleasant park on its summit.

Southeast of the city, off the southern coast of Asian Side are the Princes’ Islands, an archipelago of nine car-free islands, characterized by stunning wooden mansions and pine groves.

Tulips

Long ignored for their bad connotation with the Tulip era of 1700s, a period of ostentation and costly parties conducted by state elite amidst large gardens full of tulips (and also when the first bulbs were introduced to the Netherlands from Istanbul, by the way), which was later accused of economic destruction and the eventual dissolution of Ottoman Empire, tulips have regained much of their former popularity in the last decade and now serve as some sort of symbol of both Istanbul and the whole Turkey. They bloom from late March to early May (best bet is early to mid April) and while they can be seen on many avenues of the city wherever there is enough space for planting at the sides and the central strip of the road, if you are after admiring and/or photographing large patches of tulips with relatively exotic varieties, head to Sultanahmet Park and Gülhane Park in Sultanahmet; Emirgan Park near the northern Bosphorus neighbourhood of Emirgan; or Çamlıca Hill in Asian Side.

Do

Hamams

A visit to a hamam (Turkish bath) is an essential part of any trip to Istanbul and is something you’ll be sure to repeat before leaving. There are at least one historical hamam in each neighborhood of Istanbul. Take care in selecting a hamam, as they can vary greatly in cleanliness. Most places will offer a scrubbing and/or a massage. Just being in the Hamam (as a sauna), is enough for seeing and experiencing the place, but the scrubbing is a great experience. The massage is not necessarily better than those found in western countries.

Sultanahmet has many historical hamams. Some are very extravagant and cater mainly to tourists.

Nargile (hooka/water pipe)

Once upon a time, the nargile, or Turkish water pipe, was the centre of Istanbul’s social and political life. Today some of the locals still consider it one of life’s great pleasures and is something interesting to try. Most of the places where you can smoke a nargile are in Yeniçeriler Caddesi, near the Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar). Çorlulu Ali Paşa and Koca Sinan Paşa Türbesi are both in secluded internal courts, just around the corner from some tomb yards, while Rumeli Kahvesi is actually inside the cemetery of an old medrese, though it’s not as spooky as you might think. In the south of Sultanahmet, near the sea, is Yeni Marmara (Çayıroğlu Sokak), where you can also sit in the terrace and enjoy the view. In Beyoğlu, at the Ortakahve (Büyükparmakkapı), there’s even the choice of a wide range of flavors.

Another area with few big good looking places is the Rıhtım Caddesi, between Galata bridge and Istanbul Modern Museum.

Walking tours

Museums and such: Haghia Sophia, then on to the Topkapı museum (these two should take at least three to five hours), preferably along the road in the back of the Haghia Sophia, where there are some nicely restored houses. Then on to the Blue Mosque and the square with the obelisks on it (At Meydani). Along its side is the very good Museum of Islam Art. Descend slightly and find the small Haghia Sophia with its nice garden (it was under restoration, but you probably can get in). Then uphill to the Sokollu Mehmet mosque complex, top notch tiles inside.

Take a tram or walk to Eminönü (where the boats leave for trips to Asia or up the Bosphorus). Visit the New Mosque at the back, then the Egyptian Bazaar next to it, and going further in that direction, locate the Rüstem Pasha mosque with its excellent tiles. It’s on a raised platform near an old clothes market, you may have to ask directions. Then take a cab or find a bus to Eyüp mosque complex, a mile or three up the Golden Horn. Visit this Eyüp complex at your leisure (the mosque is not particular, the court is, and the milling of believers, with many boys-to-be-circumcised among it; a Friday might be a good day to do this). Then, if you have the stamina, it might be nice to walk back too; maybe all the way (8 km or so), but taking a route along part of the city wall to first the famous Kariye Church with its mosaics, then on to Selimiye Mosque with its great view on the Golden Horn (and a fine mosque by itself), then the Fatih Mosque (passing through some very religious and lively neighborhoods), then on to the well-restored Sehzade mosque, and next to Süleymaniye (don’t forget to enjoy the view from the Golden Horn side). If you have some energy left, you might go on to the University complex, and by then you are very close to the Beyazit mosque. A book market (it’s small) is behind this good, unexceptional (nice courtyard though) mosque.

Once again go to Eminönü, but this time take the boat (those large ferries) to Üsküdar. You will arrive before a fine mosque in front, another one 400 m off to the right, slightly inland behind a traffic roundabout, and a third, very small, at the sea front. See the market stretching inland, walk about and don’t forget to walk along the shore, maybe eating a fish meal in one of the bobbing boats along it. This is a good visit for late afternoon, early evening, fleeing the city. You will be joined by thousands of people going home from “town” but the way back will be on a near-empty ferry. The frequency of ferries will go down in the evening, so make sure there is a connection back.

Go to the railroad station and find a Sirkeci-Halkali suburban train, and get out at (from memory, Yedikule station). You will be quite close to Yedikule, a nice fortress, and will have fine views of the city walls. The trains leave every 15 minutes or so, the ride is peculiar (the material is bad, but if you are in luck every second stop another salesman will enter and try selling his wares, it’s fun). The ride is takes anywhere from twenty minutes to half an hour. This is not a “must”, but it can be great fun.

You will have missed the covered bazaar in all this. That is because you will get there anyhow. If you go to Beyazit and the book market you are almost at two of its many entrances. Try and find the Nuruosmaniye Mosque and its complex at the other side, it’s worth it. And after having explored the covered part, take a relaxing walk downhill, into the general direction of Eminönü, where it is “uncovered bazaar” all the way. Cross the Galata bridge to see some things on the Northern side (for instance take the “tünel” teleferik ride up much of the hill (entrance close to the opposite side of Galata bridge, ask around)), then continue to Taksim. Shops are of the international variety.

Theodosian Walls Walk

From 408 CE the original walls of Constantine were replaced in the reign of Theodosius. These walls then became the critical point of defence of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and their Ottoman successors. They are still almost completely intact, marking the western border of the peninsula of Old City, with some sections suffering from somewhat unsightly restoration done in early 1990s. The section around the Topkapı Gate (not to be confused with Topkapı Palace which is located in an altogether different place) can be easily accessed from Pazartekke tram station, which lies about 300 m east of the walls. Some remoter sections may not be very safe and may require some caution.

A 7-km walk along and on these remaining portions of the city wall offers a window into antiquity and puts emphasis on Turkey’s terrible historic monument legacy. Download and print a scholarly historical and technical description of the walls before you visit Istanbul; this will certainly add to the pleasure. From Eminönü, take the Golden Horn ferry to Ayvansaray. This ferry terminal is separate from the Bosphorus terminals adjacent and east of the Galata Bridge. Walk west through the Galata bridge underpass, then through the bus station to a pedestrian lane way which leads to the small terminal building. The fare is 1.50 TL. Leave the ferry at Ayvansaray and cross the park to the wall on the other side of the main road. You have a choice of walking up the outer wall or the inner wall but access to the top of the battlements is usually on the inside naturally enough, so go up the small street across the road which then cuts back behind the wall and the towers. Here you can climb up onto this section of unrestored wall on crumbling brick and stone and continue on some hundreds of yards climbing as necessary.

This path comes to an obvious end and one can short cut back to the street. Sometimes there are dwellings and commercial enterprises hard up against the wall, sometimes a bus depot, a rubbish dump or often just the road. These walls replaced the earlier walls of Constantine in 408 CE after which they went through constant upgrade and repairs to earthquake damage. The different work done over the centuries was all of varying style and quality. Quite surprisingly there are a number of small streets still using the narrow gates.

At Hoca Çakır Cd one comes across a restored section of the wall where the heights are accessed by stairs (junction of Hoca Çakır Caddesi and Kariye Bostani Sokak), some along the top of the wall of the steeper variety. This restoration from the 1980s is in conflict with the original. The wall is then breached for the main road Fevzi Paşa Cd. Cross this and continue along the street at the back of the wall. Look for foot pads and breaks in the wall which allows access and a good look around.

The wall is breached again for Adnan Menderes Blv (unofficially and widely known as Vatan Caddesi). Past here one see here quite clearly the double line of defence with outer moat. The next breach is for Turgut Özal Cd (unofficially and widely known as Millet Caddesi) which hosts the tram line heading back to Sultanahmet for those who have run out of steam. Walking now on the outside of the walls, various breaks in the outer wall allow access via broken stonework or later via modern sets of steps in disrepair. Between the walls is the disquieting evidence of the number of people sleeping rough in Istanbul. Persevere in staying between the walls because soon you will arrive at another impure restoration project at Mevlanakapı Cd gate.

Entry to the gate towers has been closed at the gate, so entry is only from the walls. From here it is better to proceed on the outside of the walls because market gardens occupy the moat and the city side abuts buildings. These couple of kilometres will give a further perspective of the ravages of time and earthquake on the walls.

Finally you will arrive at the Golden Gate and Yedikule Fortress which fronts the Marmara Sea and was Byzantium’s triumphal point of entry. This is in excellent condition not least because the Ottomans upgraded it and then used it right up to the 19th century. There is an entry fee and it has a toilet. The high walls and towers are all accessible, and one tower still has internal wooden floors. So you have now surveyed the protective land walls which kept Byzantium and the Eastern Roman Empire safe for all those years after the fall of Rome, breached only by the 4th Crusaders and the Ottomans. What of their future?

Given that recent restoration work is fairly suspect scholars may think it is better to leave them be. Now return to the city either in the Eminönü Bus (#80) from the village square outside the main gate, just wait there, or walk down Yedikule Istasyonu Cd about 300 m to the railway line to Sirkeci, both heading for centres close to Sultanahmet.

The Classic Bosphorus Cruise

From the terminal immediately east of the Galata Bridge starts the large ferry cruising to Anadolu Kavagi at the northern entrance of Bosphorus to the Black Sea via various stops. The fare is 25 TL. The departure time is early and is very popular, so arrive early and queue. The open decks are hugely popular, so unless you have an outside seat expect people to be standing all around you constricting the view.

The ferry waits some hours in Anadolu Kavagi so as you alight you are confronted by a numerous restaurants and their spruikers. Firstly take the walk to the Yoros Kalesi, a strategic castle overlooking and controlling the entry to the Black Sea. This important fortification with a commanding view has been fought over for many years and was last in use in the 19th century. It has fallen into serious disrepair, but Christian engravings are still visible in the stonework. There are restaurants actually in the castle surrounds and naturally have spectacular views.

There is plenty of time left to wander back to the village for lunch. It is late afternoon before arrival back at Eminonu, but a day well spent. A cheaper and faster Bosphorus cruise alternative is a 10-TL trip on a shorter cruise.

Association Football (soccer)

Istanbul has five clubs playing in the Süper Lig, the top tier of Turkish association football: Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Başakşehir and Kasımpaşa. The first three have always been in the top tier and have international reputations. Matches between these sides are played in front of fiercely partisan sell-out crowds; getting tickets requires booking way in advance. As the atmosphere is extremely hostile to the away teams, spectators should avoid wearing away team colours after the match, and avoid any signs of crowd trouble.

Beşiktaş JK play at Vodafone Park, a 41,903-capacity stadium. It’s on the European bank of the Bosphorus next to Dolmabahçe Palace, 1 km east of Taksim metro station.

Fenerbahçe SK play at the 47,834-capacity Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium. It’s on the Asian bank of the Bosphorus, 1 km east of Kadıköy metro station and ferry quay.

Galatasaray SK play at the 52,332-capacity Türk Telekom Stadium on the north edge of European Istanbul, take metro to Seyrantepe.

Başakşehir FK play at the 17,319-capacity Fatih Terim stadium. It’s a long way out on the northwest edge of the city, 1 km north of Metrokent station on line M3.

Kasımpaşa SK play at the 14,234-capacity Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Stadium, in Beyoğlu district just north of the Golden Horn. It’s named for the current Turkish President, who grew up nearby and played football in his youth.

The Turkish national stadium is Atatürk Olympic Stadium (Atatürk Olimpiyat Stadı), a 76,000-capacity arena at the western edge of the city, use either Olimpiyat or Olimpiyat Parkı metro station. It doesn’t have a resident team, but several clubs have had spells here when their own stadium was unavailable. There are plans to expand it to 92,000 capacity by removing the running track, but this would end its Olympic prospects.

Learn

Many foreigners visiting or living in Istanbul decide to study Turkish formally in a language school.

Some of the biggest and most respected Turkish language schools in Istanbul are:

  • ITI Istanbul in 4.Levent.
  • EFINST Turkish Centre {{#ifeq: | | {{#if: | }} }} in 1. Levent.
  • Dilmer in Gümüşsuyu .
  • Iladil in Fatih.
  • Tömer, Ankara University affiliated.
  • Concept Languages in Etiler.
  • Boğaziçi University. Runs a summer long intensive Turkish language course for all levels.

Both Boğaziçi University and Bilgi University have well established Study Abroad programs in English for foreigners.

TEFL

Many foreigners living in Istanbul support themselves by teaching English. Finding a good teaching job is usually easier with a well-recognized certificate like the ones listed below:

  • ITI Istanbul in 4. Levent runs Cambridge University’s CELTA and DELTA courses year-round [1]

Ottoman Turkish

If you already speak Turkish, Ottoman Turkish may also be interesting to learn. Ottoman Turkish was the courtly form of Turkish spoken during the era of the Ottoman Empire, and is significantly different to the form of Turkish spoken today. Approximately 80% of Ottoman Turkish words were loanwords from other languages, mostly Arabic, Persian and French. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, language reforms were implemented, including the establishment of the Türk Dil Kurumu (Turkish Language Association), which is the official regulatory body of the Turkish language. This association, with a philosophy of linguistic purism, decided to cleanse the Turkish language of loanwords and replace them with more Turkic alternatives. As such, only about 14% of modern Turkish words are of foreign origin.

Ottoman Turkish is the key to learning about Turkey’s Ottoman past. With Ottoman Turkish, not only can you read historical archives, but you can also read Ottoman literature and letters dated back to the Ottoman period. In Istanbul, you can learn Ottoman Turkish from the following places:

  • İsmek +90 212 531 01 41 İskenderpaşa Mahallesi, Ahmediye Caddesi, Hacı Salih Efendi Sokak, 6 Fatih.
  • Tarih Vakfı +90 212 522 02 02 Zindankapı Değirmen Sokak, 15 Eminönü [2].

Work

There is always a high demand for qualified – and, to a lesser extent, unqualified – ESOL/EFL teachers in Istanbul. Many teachers work with private instructional companies. Others contract out on a freelance basis.

Istanbul is Turkey’s financial capital. All big investment banks, commercial banks, large foreign retail and consumer companies have offices in Istanbul. The business district has been coming up with high-rise buildings and business centers in the last decade.

Buy

Connecting east and west, the will to control the major trading routes was the reason why Istanbul was founded in the first place, so shopping should definitely not be overlooked in your Istanbul experience.

The currency used in Istanbul is the Turkish lira (TL) though the euro and US dollar are also accepted at places frequented by tourists (although certain tourist attractions such as the Hagia Sophia only accept liras). Currency exchanges (döviz bürosu) and banks are plentiful in Istanbul and offer extremely competitive exchange rates with no commission charged. If you are planning to visit Istanbul, bring hard foreign currency and exchange them after you arrive, preferably at a bank or a currency exchange. Exchange only what you need as you will find difficulty exchanging your leftover lira back to foreign currency after you leave the country. Or, withdraw money from ATMs whenever you need cash.

Shops may be closed on Sundays. Most major shopping malls have security checkpoints you usually see in airports and museums prior to entry.

Istanbul’s historical bazaars with an oriental ambiance, once sitting firmly on the western terminii of the Silk Road and spice routes, all dating back to Ottoman era, are all located in the peninsula of Old City.

On the other hand, modern shopping malls (alışveriş merkezi, usually shortened to AVM), popping all around the city in the last three decades, are mostly to be found in New Istanbul and western suburbs, though they are by no means exclusively located in these districts.

If you are after top quality upmarket garments, then you may better head for Nişantaşı in European Side and Bağdat Avenue in Asian Side.

Here are some of what are popular to buy while in the city:

  • Turkish Delight, or Lokum (as the locals call it). A good buy since you’re in Turkey. It is advisable to buy it fresh rather than in pre-packed boxes and to get a variety of flavours rather than the stereotypical rose-water or lemon flavors available abroad. Pistachio in particular is very good. The best place to buy lokum in Istanbul is from a store. Istiklal Caddesi in particular features a number of stores that sell Turkish sweets by the kilogram including lokum and helvah. There are quite a few shops selling Turkish Delight in the Grand Bazaar, although unless you are very good at haggling better prices can be found elsewhere.
  • Turkish Tea (çay, CHAI). The national drink of Turkey, brewed from leaves grown on the steep, verdant mountain slopes of Turkey’s eastern Black Sea coast. Traditionally, Turkish tea is brewed samovar-style, with a small pot of very strong tea sitting on a larger vessel of boiling water. Pour a small amount of strong tea into a little tulip-shaped glass and cut it to the desired strength with hot water. Turks usually add cube sugar (never milk, although you can often get milk if you ask.) Having fresh, hot tea always available everywhere is one of life’s splendid little luxuries in Turkey. Elma Çayı: apple tea, like hot apple juice (EHL-mah chah-yee) is the flavour of preference, although it’s more for tourists; Turks prefer Siyah Çay (black tea).
  • Turkish Coffee Roasted and then finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a pot (cezve), usually with sugar, and served in a cup where the grounds are allowed to settle. A classic of Turkish culture.
  • Nargile (hookah) It is a single or multi-stemmed instrument for smoking flavored tobacco called shisha in which the smoke is passed through a water basin (often glass based) before inhalation. Different sizes of nargile make it easier to carry one home with you.
  • Rugs and kilims can be a good buy while in the city. Most rug-specialized stores in the city, though, are aimed at tourist trade, so pick up basics of bargaining to avoid being ripped off at these stores. They are mostly located around Sultanahmet.
  • Chalcedony. A semi-precious gemstone named after the nearby town of Chalcedon, and is sold in many of Istanbul’s multitude of jewellery shops.
  • Off the Beaten Path. Places that offer the best at what they do but are not on any of the traditional tourist paths.
    • ArkeoPera, Yenicarsi Caddesi, 16/A Petek Han, Galatasaray, +90 212 2930378 [3]. Best antiquarian bookshop in Turkey, owner knows every Turkish excavation site first hand.
    • Gonul Paksoy, 6/A Atiye Sokak, Tesvikiye, +90 212 2360209. Peerless one-of-a-kind dresses made for royalty from refined, antique Ottoman-era cloth.
    • Iznik Foundation, 7 Oksuz Cocuk Sokak, Kurucesme, +90 212 2873243 [4]. Offers neo-Iznik pottery after recreating original formulas from original Iznik kilns, which functioned between 1450 and 1650.
    • Sedef Mum, 50 Irmak Caddesi, Dolapdere, +90 212 2535793. Artisans of the time honoured art of candle making, intricately sculpted and aromatic wares make very portable gifts.

Eat

For individual restaurant listings, check district articles.

Snacks

  • Meze Meze is basically Turkish version of tapas, served in small portions both hot&cold. Best place to eat meze would be “meyhane”.
  • İskender Best version of Döner. It is basically döner served on a plate with a buttery tomato sauce on top and some plain yoghurt as a side.
  • Döner. Always a good option for having fast and cheap food. The entrance to Istiklal Street contains dozens of small doner restaurants and they serve almost around the clock; though for a better experience (and a better food quality) you may want to wander about in residential neighbourhoods, since anything near a commercial or tourist area can be highly overpriced and greatly reduced in quality.
  • Lahmacun It is “meat with dough”, is a round, thin piece of dough topped with minced meat (most commonly beef and lamb) and minced vegetables and herbs including onions, tomatoes and parsley, then baked. Lahmacun is often served sprinkled with lemon juice and wrapped around vegetables, including pickles, tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce, and roasted eggplant; a typical variants may be found employing kebab meat or sauces.
  • Dürüm a traditional Turkish wrap (which is made from lavash or yufka flatbread) that is filled with typical kebab or döner ingredients.
  • Balık-Ekmek. Balik-Ekmek (literally “fish and bread”) is a fish sandwich served in small boats and little buffets in Eminonu. It is also increasingly popular in buffets in Kadıköy coast. A regular sandwich consists of one small fried fish, slices of tomatoes and onion. However, the taste is beyond expectations for such a basic menu. The price is around 8 TL. Again, it’s a local favorite.
  • Hamsi. In Autumn and Winter the Black Sea Anchovy migrate through the Bosphorus, the local fishermen coming out in force to take advantage. All fish restaurants have them on the menu in season. It seems the classic serving is a handful of deep fried fish with raw onion and bread. Eat the fish whole, it’s a winner. Look for the small restaurants behind the fish merchants on the Karakoy side of the Galata Bridge, western side. Expect to pay TL6.
  • Patso. Patso is a type of sandwich consisting of hot dog and French fries. It’s usually served in small buffets along the Uskudar coast and a sandwich costs 2.50 TL. The cheap price can raise eyebrows but these buffets are open 24/7 and they serve around 1000 sandwiches per day. Even though the profit margin is low, they make a fortune, so they don’t lower the quality too much (except hamburgers, don’t touch those in Uskudar, but definitely try the spicy hamburgers in Taksim).
  • One thing not to be missed is the local ice cream sold at the street stands, called dondurma. While flavors are relatively standard for the region, the ice cream usually incorporates orchid root extract, which gives it an incredibly chewy and stringy texture, also lending itself to be used for marketing and attracting attention while the sellers do tricks to try to sell the ice cream. Try it!
  • Kumpir is a snack which can easily be a full meal. It is originated from Albania but is quite unique to Istanbul in its present form. It consists of a baked potato with various fillings such as grated cheese, mayonnaise, ketchup, pickles, sliced red cabbage, sweetcorn, sausage slices, carrots, mushrooms, and Russian salad among others, any of which can optionally be added to or omitted from the mix. While kumpir can be had at many cafes throughout the city, it is best had from one of the cafes in Ortaköy, which have a long tradition of preparing kumpir and offer really filling and tasty ones. About 7-8 TL each.
  • Roasted chestnuts(“kestane Kebap, as locals call it) are sold from carts around the city, and is a very nice snack to have when the weather is cold, as it keeps your hands warm. 3 TL for 100 g. Eat in winter time.
  • Boiled and roasted corn on the cob is sold from carts around the city, and is a fantastic snack to walk around. Price varies from cart to cart and area of the city (1-1.5 TL).
  • Don’t miss the “simit,” a warm bread sold from carts around the city, and is a fantastic snack to walk around. The texture and taste is a bit like a sesame bagel. Price varies from cart to cart and area of the city (0.75-1 TL).
  • Also, be sure to try Ayran, a local drink based on yoghurt, although sour and much thinner. It isn’t always on the menu or displayed, but it’s there, so ask for it.
  • Freshly squeezed juice and juice blends are sold from stands and small shops all around the city, and are a refreshing treat (especially in the warmer months). The combinations range from a simple orange juice to the more rare options like pomengranate or kiwi. Price varies from shop to shop, area of the city and complexity of your order (2-4 TL).

Drink

  • Bebek is small town right on the Bosphorus with fancy restaurants and bars. Great place to have a walk on the seaside after a nice dinner.
  • Bagdat Caddesi is a very long avenue full of nice restaurants, boutiques and high-end stores located at the Anatolian Side of Istanbul.
  • Karaköy is the rising star of the city, mostly notable with its underground parties with amazing view of Marmara Sea. A must see.
  • Beyoğlu is notoriously known for its night life; it’s full of cafes and bars with live music. People from all classes and ethnicity can be found here.
  • Nişantaşı is the place for young entrepreneurs and artists, the prices are higher than Taksim.
  • Kadıköy also has a nightlife scene, serving mostly locals of this part of the city. It is usually has more easy-going style of nightlife, usually with local pubs and wine houses and traditional meyhanes. If you are not staying on that side of the city, it may not worth the trouble to make an inter-continental trip just to have a drink, but drop by if you are around and thirsty.
  • Nightclubs – While there are night clubs all over the city, two of the hottest clubs of Istanbul are in Ortaköy.

Where to stay in Istanbul

In general, it is possible to find some kind of accommodation in any district of Istanbul. Here is a quick list of the districts where they are concentrated most:

  • Harbiye is a popular place to stay, as in the main centre of the new city on the European side, and contains a variety of international standard apartments, hotels, and moderate hotels for budget travelers. Nişantaşı and Taksim are 5 minutes from Harbiye so you can stay in Harbiye and benefit from all activities in Nişantaşı and Taksim.
  • Taksim is the main centre of the new city on the European side. Locals and tourists go to Taksim for shopping and entertainment, as well as moderate hotels for budget travelers. There are also two hostels in this area.
  • Sultanahmet the main centre for the old city on the European side. It has a selection of quality, reasonably priced hotels, many with terraces overlooking the Golden Horn, or with views of the Marmara Sea and the Blue Mosque. Most hostel-type accommodation frequented by independent travellers are located in this district, although it is possible to find a few upmarket hotels.
  • Quite pricey hotels can be found in western suburbs, especially around the airport, as well as on/overlooking the banks of Bosphorus.
  • With the closure of relatively central Ataköy caravan park, the place where you can tow your caravan nearest to the city is now located in Selimpaşa, a far outer western suburb of the city, though it is still a good 40 km away from central parts of the city.

Telecommunications in Istanbul

Telephone codes

Istanbul is the only city or province in Turkey that has more than one telephone code: 212 for European side, 216 for Asian side and Princes’ Islands. When calling from one continent to the other, the usual dialing format used for intercity calls should be used, as if it’s an intercity call: 0+area code (212 or 216)+7-digit telephone number. It may appear as an intercity call, but it will be treated as a local call in respect to payment. When making an intercontinental call, if you forget to dial the code, your call will not be automatically routed to the other continent number, it is likely that you will be connected to the “wrong” number which is in the same continent with you, because much of the number sets are used on both continents (albeit with different codes of course). When dialing a number that is on the continent you are already standing on, only 7-digit number is enough. Don’t forget to dial the code first no matter which continent you are in if you are calling a landline number from a cell phone (even if it’s a number that is in the same continent with you), though.

SIM cards

Prepaid SIM cards can be bought (for around 30 TL with 5 TL usable balance) at Vodafone, Türk Telekom or Turkcell kiosks at the airport or in shops around town. They might ask to make a copy of your passport.

You can use foreign phones for approximately two weeks, before the IMEI gets blocked by all carriers (except if you’re roaming with a foreign SIM card) and you need to register the phone, which you can only do every 2 years.

Internet Cafe’s in Istanbul

HoPhone: Every hotel has its own Wi-Fi. Some hotels do have trouble with their network setup or the connection due to the historical location however at the least you will have free wi-fi at your hotel. All you have to do is to learn the wifi password to access the internet.

Cafes:

Every café, bistro, restaurant share their internet with their guests. Even the small restaurants now have internet access. Stability and speed depend on where you are and what kind of café, bistro or restaurant you are in. Starbucks, Nero etc. typically have stable wi-fi unless very crowded. If you are in a Starbucks all you have to do is connect your device (SSID should be TTNET or DorukNet, and if you are in Nero DorukNet) and fill out some basic information for verification that you have to fill. After that, you are ready to go. And if you are in the other restaurant or cafés you can just ask to your waiter to get SSID and Password and after that you are ready to go. Many cafés and restaurants along Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu have the system.

Public center and squares:

Municipality of Istanbul provides free public wi-fi in most common city centers and squares. All you have to do is (when you are near of one of these centers) register your ID via your cell phone and you will get an access password.

Wi-Fi on the Go:

You can rent a mobile wifi hotspot during your stay in Turkey. It works based on 3G connection in the whole country, and you can connect up to 10 devices at the same time. These pocket-sized devices can be easily booked online.

While there are plenty of international companies that rent a mobile hotspot, mainly two local companies are operating:

  • Alldaywifi;
  • Rent ‘n Connect;

Stay safe in Istanbul

As with most European cities, but especially in crowded areas of Istanbul, watch your pockets and travel documents as pickpockets have devised all sorts of strategies to obtain them from you. Do not rely too much on the ‘safe’ feeling you get from the omnipresence of policemen. Taksim Square, Sultanahmet Square, Istiklal Avenue, Kadikoy Square etc. security cameras monitored by police non-stop.

Istanbul is home to three of the biggest clubs in Turkey and maybe European football: Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, and Galatasaray. It is advisable not to wear colours associating yourself with any of the clubs—black&white, navy&yellow, and red&yellow respectively, particularly on the days of matches between the sides due to the fearsome rivalry they share.

In Istanbul, most drivers won’t abide any rules. Even if you have priority on a road junction, crosswalk, or even during green light, always be aware of your surroundings. Even if you are in a one way road, check both sides before crossing the road. It is common for Turkish drivers to use shortcuts.

Scams in Istanbul

Blue Mosque scam “guides”

When walking through the gates of the Blue Mosque, beware of smiling, friendly chaps who offer immediately to be your de-facto guide through the mosque and its surrounds; they’d be pretty informative on just about anything relating to the mosque; etiquette, history and Islamic practices. However, needless to say, they would eventually demand a price for their “services”, a quotation that can be as high as 50 TL. You would be better off booking a private tour online; or not at all, since the mosque is essentially free to all anyway.

Restaurant scams

A notable scam for convincing tourists to visit overpriced restaurants with mediocre food involves the following: While walking along, you are overtaken by a Turkish man who claims to recognize you from the hotel at which you are staying (e.g. he will tell you that he works there as a waiter or a receptionist). He will ask where you are going. If you are going out for food, he will recommend a restaurant, claiming that it is where he takes his family or friends when they eat out. He may give you some other advice (e.g. the best time to visit the Topkapi palace) to make the conversation feel genuine and friendly. The restaurant he recommends will almost certainly be mediocre or low quality, and the staff there will try to sell you expensive dishes without you realizing. For instance, they may promote dishes which are marked as ‘MP’ (market price) on the menu, such as ‘salt fish’ (fish baked in salt), which may cost over 100 TL. They may also serve you additional dishes which you haven’t ordered and then add them to the bill for an additional 25-50 TL, together with extra charges for service and tax. One restaurant that seems to be using this scam to get customers is Haci Baba in Sultanahmet.

Bar and club scams

High-drink price scams encountered in so-called night-clubs mostly located in Aksaray, Beyazit and Taksim areas. These clubs usually charge overpriced bills, based on a replica of the original menu, or simply on the menu that had been standing upside down on the table. Two or three drinks can already produce a fantasy bill that easily exceeds 1000 TL.

Also be aware of friendly behaving groups of young men or male-female couples striking up a conversation in the street and inviting you to a “good nightclub they know”. This has frequently been reported as a prelude to such a scam. The people in on the scam may offer to take you to dinner first, in order to lower your suspicions. Another way they will try to lure you in is by talking to you in Turkish, and when you mumble back in your language they will be surprised you’re not Turkish and immediately will feel the urge to repay you for their accident with a beer.

Another variant of this involves an invitation in Taksim to male tourists to buy them beer (as they were “guests”). At the club, attractive women, also with beers, join them. When the bill comes, the person inviting the tourists denies having said he would pay for the drinks, and a large bill is presented, e.g. for 1500 TL; when the tourists object, burly “security” personnel emerge to accompany the tourists to an ATM machine (presumably to clean out their bank account). Any bar that looks like it could be a strip club is more than likely a scam joint.

In either of these scams, if you refuse to pay the high prices or try to call the police (dial #155) to file a complaint, the club managers may use physical intimidation to bring the impasse to a close. If you find yourself in such a situation for any reason, you should do whatever they want you to do, pay the bill, buy the things they are forcing you to buy, etc. Try to get out of the situation as soon as possible, go to a safe place and call the police.

Water scams

Also be wary of men in Taksim who splash water on the backs of your neck. When you turn around, they will try to start a fight with you as another man comes in and robs you. These men tend to carry knives and can be very dangerous.

Lira/euro scams

A frequent scam, often in smaller hotels (but it can also happen in a variety of other contexts), is to quote prices in lira and then later, when payment is due, claim the price was given in euros. Hotels which reject payment early in a stay and prefer you to “pay when you leave” should raise suspicions. Hotels which operate this scam often offer excellent service and accommodation at a reasonable price and know most guests will conclude as much and pay without complaint – thus this can be a sign of a good hotel.

Another scam is coin-related and happens just as you’re walking into the streets. A Turkish guy holds you and asks where you are from. If you mention a euro-country, the guy wants you to change a €50-note from you into €2-coins he is showing. He is holding the coins stack-wise in his hands. For the trouble, he says he will offer you ’30 €2-coins, making €60 in total’. Do not agree with this exchange of money, as the first coin is indeed a €2-coin, but (many of) the rest of the coins will probably be 1-lira coins (looking very similar), but worth only 1/4 of the value of €2.

Many bars in the Taksim area give you counterfeit bills. They are usually well-made and hard to identify as fakes in the dark. One way to verify its authenticity is to check its size against another bill. Another is to hold the bill up to a strong light, face side up, and check for an outline of the same face which is on the bill. The value of the bill (20, 50, etc.) should appear next to the outline, light and translucent. If either if these two security features are missing, try to have the bill changed or speak to the police.

Shoebrush

Some men will walk around Taksim (or other tourist-frequented areas) with a shoeshine kit, and the brush will fall off. This is a scam to cause some Western tourist with a conscience to pick it up and return it to the owner, who will then express gratitude and offer to shine your shoes for free. While doing that, he will talk about how he is from another city and how he has a sick child. At the end, the shiner will demand a much higher price for the “free” services provided than is the actual market norm. A similar trick is to ask for a cigarette and proceed similarly.

If you actively decide that you would like your shoes shined, then expect to pay not more than 5 TL for both.

Taxi drivers

Taxis are plentiful in Istanbul and inexpensive by Western European and American standards. They can be picked up at taxi hubs throughout the city or on the streets. Empty cabs on the streets will honk at pedestrians to see if they would like a ride, or cabs can be hailed by pedestrians by making eye contact with the driver and waving. Few taxi drivers speak languages other than Turkish, but do a fair job at deciphering mispronounced location names given by foreign riders. It is advisable to have the name of the destination written down and try to have a map beforehand to show the driver, to avoid any misunderstanding and also potential scams. Though taxis are plentiful, be aware that taxis are harder to find during peak traffic hours and traffic jams and when it is raining and snowing. They are also less frequent during nights, depending on the area and are hard to find after midnight.

Try to avoid using taxis for short distances (5–10 minutes of walk) if possible. Some taxi drivers can be annoyed with this, especially if you called the cab from a taxi hub instead of hailing it from the street. If you want taxis for short distances, just hail them from the street, do not go to the taxi hub.

Few taxis have seatbelts, and some drivers may seem to be reckless. If you wish for the driver to slow down, say “yavash lütfen” (slow please). Your request may or may not be honored.

As in any major city, tourists are more vulnerable to taxi scams than locals. Be aware that taxi drivers use cars affiliated with a particular hub, and that the name and phone number of the hub, as well as the license plate number, are written on the side of each car. Noting or photographing this information may be useful if you run into problems. In general, riding in taxis affiliated with major hotels (Hilton, Marriot, Ritz, etc.) is safe, and it is not necessary to stay in these hotels to use a taxis leaving from their hubs.

Others may take unnecessarily long routes to increase the amount due (although sometimes alternate routes are also taken to avoid Istanbul traffic, which can be very bad). Some scams involve the payment transaction; for example, if the rider pays 50 TL when only 20 TL are needed, the driver may quickly switch it with a 5 TL note and insist that the rest of the 20 TL is still due or may switch the real bill for a fake one and insist that different money be given.

Methods to avoid taxi scams:

1. Sit in the front passenger seat. Watch the meter. Watch the driver’s actions (beeping the horn, pumping the brakes, etc.) and note what the taximeter does. While it is rare, some drivers will wire parts of their controls to increase the fare upon activation. If you’re with your significant other, do it anyway. Save the cuddling for after the ride. Check if the seal on the taximeter is broken. Use your phone for light. This will make the driver realize that you are cautious. For women it is better to sit in the back seat (where you can see the meter from the middle), as there are occasionally problems with taxi drivers getting overly friendly, and sitting in the front is a sign that a woman welcomes such behavior.

2. Ask “How much to go to…?” (basic English is understood), before getting in the taxi. Price will be quite accurate to the one in the taximeter at the end of the ride. If the price sounds ok for you, get in the cab and tell them to put the Taximeter on. The rate they are applying is same during night and day.

3. Know the route. If you have a chance, find a map and demand that the driver take your chosen route to the destination. Oftentimes they will drive the long way or pretend not to know where you’re going in order to get more money out of you. If the driver claims not to know the route to a major landmark or gathering place, refuse his services as he is likely lying.

4. Choose an elderly driver. Elderly taxi drivers are less likely to cheat passengers.

5. Let taxi driver see money on your hands and show values and take commitment on it. This is 50 lira. OK? Take this 50 lira and give 30 lira back OK?. This guarantees your money value. Otherwise, your 50 lira can be 5 lira immediately on his hands. Try to have always 10 lira or 20 lira bills in your wallet. This makes money scams in general more difficult. If you realize that the driver tried to use the 50 lira to 5 lira trick on you, call the police (#155) immediately and write down the license plate.

6. Create a big scene if there is a problem. If you are absolutely positive you have been subject to a scam, threaten to or call the police and, if you feel it will help, start yelling. Taxi drivers will only rip off those they think will fall for it; creating a scene draws attention to them and will make it easier to pay the correct rate.

Overpricing

Watch the menu carefully in street cafes for signs that prices are not discriminatory — if prices are clearly over-inflated, simply leave. A good indication of over inflation is the circulation of two different types of menu — the “foreigner” menu is typically printed on a laminated card with menu prices written in laundry marker/texta, i.e., prices not be printed; in these cases, expect that prices for foreigners will be highly inflated (300% or higher).

While this is not really a problem in Beyoğlu or Ortaköy, avoiding the open air cafes toward the rear courtyard of the Spice Bazaar (Sultanahmet) is wise. The area immediately north of the Spice Bazaar is also crawling with touts for these ‘infamous’ cafes.

Having nargile (water pipe) is a famous activity in Istanbul,Tophane(top-hane)is a famous location for this activity where a huge number of nargile shops are available and can easily be reached by the tram, avoiding a place called “Ali Baba” in Tophane is wise, usually you will be served there with plates you did not ask for like a nuts plate, and expect to have a bill of around US$50 for your nargile!

Stalking

Men intent on stalking foreign women may be present in tourist locations. Such men may presume that foreigners have a lot of money or liberal values and may approach foreign women in a flirtatious or forward manner looking for sex or for money (either by theft or selling over-priced goods). If you are being harassed, use common sense and go to where other people are; often this is the nearest store. Creating a public scene will deter many stalkers, and these phrases may be useful in such cases:

  • İmdat! – “Help me!”
  • Ayıp! – “Rude!”
  • Bırak beni! – “Leave me alone!”
  • Dur! – “Stop it!”
  • Gider misin?! – “Will you go?!”

Or to really ruin him:

  • Beni takip etme?! – “Can you please stop stalking me?!”
  • Polisi ariyorum – “I am calling the cops!”
  • Siktir Git – “Fuck off!”

Occasionally try not to use Turkish as the stalker will like it more, just scream and run and find a safer place with crowd and police.

Tourism Police

Istanbul PD has a “Tourism Police” department where travelers may report passport loss and theft or any other criminal activity by which they are victimized. They have an office in Sultanahmet and can reportedly speak English, German, French, and Arabic.

Where to stay in Istanbul

Hotels Istanbul: Popularity

HotelStarsDiscountPrice per night, fromChoose dates

Vogue Hotel Supreme Istanbul

★★★★★

-37%

174110

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Radisson Blu Hotel, Istanbul Sisli

★★★★★

-33%

14093

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Wyndham Grand Istanbul Kalamış Marina Hotel

★★★★★

-24%

11284

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Hilton Istanbul Bomonti

★★★★★

-12%

127111

View Isaan Hotel Deals

CVK Park Bosphorus Hotel Istanbul

★★★★★

-23%

192148

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus

★★★★★

-13%

143124

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Novotel Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel

★★★★★

-20%

10484

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Dosso Dossi Hotels & Spa Downtown

★★★★★

-10%

164148

View Isaan Hotel Deals

ISG Sabiha Gökçen Airport Hotel

★★★★

-21%

7559

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Lazzoni Hotel

★★★★★

-39%

10564

View Isaan Hotel Deals

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Reporting mainly on the Asia Pacific region and the global Coronavirus crises in countries such as the United States, Mainland China, Brazil, Mexico, Italy and Germany. Love to Travel and report daily on destinations reopening with a focus on Domestic travel within Europe, North America and the Caribbean. Fan of the English Premier League , the German Bundesliga,, the Spanish La Liga.

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Turkey

Ankara Coronavirus Covid-19 Update – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Turkey

ankara1000x600

Much less glorious and cosmopolitan than Istanbul, Turkey’s capital Ankara is still outgrowing its Anatolian profile and evolving into a sophisticated political, financial and educational centre.

Featuring a population of almost 4,000,000 residents, Ankara has a dynamic student community, which lives up the city’s social and night life.

Turkey Covid-19 Situation Report
308,069
Confirmed
1,767
Confirmed (24h)
7,711
Deaths
72
Deaths (24h)
2.5%
Deaths (%)
270,723
Recovered
1,027
Recovered (24h)

Gateway to deeper Anatolia, Ankara bears a 4000-year history, touches of which you will trace among scattered ancient, Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine ruins. Recent history monuments adorn the capital’s streets and squares as well.

Ankara is Turkey’s capital, and its second city in size after Istanbul. Literally and figuratively, it is located at the heart of both Turkey and Central Anatolia, the surrounding region. The population is around 4.5 million.

Ankara is the administrative hub of Turkey and a huge university town, so it has a large population of government workers and university students. As the national capital Ankara is home to a large population of foreign diplomats and embassy staff, it offers goods and services that might be more difficult to find in other Turkish cities — for example you will have no problem ordering a cappuccino or a hamburger.

Ankara is a sprawling, modern city which can appear as little more than a dull, concrete jungle at first glance — most non-local Turks view Ankara as a depressive and grey city with nothing in offer other than the boring world of politics. Consequently, many visitors tend to use it merely as a transit point for getting to places like Konya or Cappadocia, however Ankara does have a lot to offer for those prepared to look a bit deeper — as the proud capital of the Turkish Republic, it is easy to trace the steps of the early republican years here, whether it be in the shape of the fine buildings of the first national architecture movement or the 1940s monuments following the totalitarian aesthetics of the era. Local museums abound with some of the best pieces of art in the country, ancient and modern. And since it originally lies on the mostly barren Central Anatolian steppelands, Ankara vigorously pursued a policy of tree planting, which resulted in many parks and forestlands around the town, which add to its charms.

About Ankara

Like most Turks, the locals are generally friendly and helpful to tourists. Ankara has a large university student population and many young people can communicate in English. Having said that, it’s still a good idea to have a Turkish phrasebook or dictionary on hand.

Apart from the old town in and around the citadel near Ulus, and unplanned shanty town neighbourhoods here and there built hastily by new immigrants from countryside in the last five decades, most of Ankara, which was a provincial town of 20,000 people in the early days of the Republic, is a purpose-built capital due to its strategic location at the heart of the country, although the history of settlement in the vicinity is millennia old.

While the biggest claim to fame of the town used to be the long-haired local breed of goats named after the former name of the city (Angora), out of which high quality mohair textiles were produced, today the few places where you can spot them in the city is the lawns in some parks or at the sides of clover-leaf interchanges on the highways—in the form of cute sculptures.

Orientation

The “downtown” area of this large city is around Kızılay Square (Kızılay Meydanı, named after the headquarters of the Red Crescent, the Turkish equivalent of the Red Cross, now replaced by a modern shopping mall) which has a fair number of transportation links to almost anywhere in the city. To the north, Kızılay Square is connected by a wide avenue, Atatürk Boulevard, to the squares of Sıhhiye (Ottoman Turkish for “sanitary works” as this has been the site of the building of the Ministry of Health since the foundation of the republic), marked by an unmissable Hittite monument in the middle of its roundabout, and Ulus (“nation”, the site of the major institutions of the early years of the republic, such as the old parliament), which has a large equestrian monument of Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic, at its side. Ulus, the adjoining Hisar district around the hilltop citadel, and Hamamönü just south of it down the hill form the old town of Ankara.

To the immediate south of Kızılay lies the upmarket districts of KavaklıdereGaziosmanpaşa and Çankaya. The city’s most expensive hotels and restaurants are found in this region, as are most of the embassies and consular services.

Southwest of Kızılay, past the aptly named Bakanlıklar (“ministries”) district, İsmet İnönü Boulevard (named after the second Turkish president) leads into the area collectively known as Eskişehir Yolu (literally “the road to Eskişehir”), which is lined by most of Ankara’s large and afforested university campuses and the buildings of the administrative institutions, including the National Parliament. The area morphes into exurbs several tens of kilometres out of the city, which eventually give way to the wide open steppe.

Weather in Ankara

As any other part of the Anatolian highland, the winters are cold and usually snowy. Temperature is regularly below the freezing point during this season, but it rarely drops below -15°C. Thanks to the low levels of relative humidity, the hot and dry summers are more comfortable than coastal regions of Turkey. Average daily temperatures in midsummer are around 30°C. Daily temperatures can reach 35°C and above, but is not common and usually last no more than a few days. Summer nights are cool, though, so be sure to bring at least a cardigan with you to wear outdoors. Spring and autumn are the wettest seasons, but with an annual precipitation of 415 mm (i.e. a semi-arid climate), you are unlikely to get much wet during your trip to Ankara, anyway.

Ankara Esenboğa Airport

Is the only civilian airport in Ankara. International flights are rather low in frequency and scope – apart from Turkish Airlines (THY), only Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and British Airways offer direct flights to their respective European hubs. Iran Air also has two weekly flights to Tehran. For other carriers flying into Turkey, a flight into Istanbul is necessary, followed by an air transfer to Ankara by Turkish Airlines or Anadolu Jet (a low cost brand of Turkish Airlines). – EasyJet also offers discount flights to and from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) and Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg in the summer months (until October 25) and to and from Istanbul and London Luton airport all year round for fares as low as £22. | Is the only civilian airport in Ankara. International flights are rather low in frequency and scope – apart from Turkish Airlines (THY), only Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines and British Airways offer direct flights to their respective European hubs such as Frankfurt and London.

The only means of public transport are public busses numbered 442 (4 TL with one pass cards). It starts from the airport and follows a main artery to Ankara, passing through almost all central points, including train station, Kızılay, AŞTİ (intercity bus terminal). You can expect it to be rather crowded and as they don’t have separate sections for luggage, you might get exhausted at the end of the journey. One common way to travel to and from airports in Turkey is HAVAS but recently their services were temporarily suspended due to some legal issues with Ankara Metropolitan Municipality. Until the issues are solved, there won’t be any HAVAS service. Until then Ankara Metropolitan Municipality started their own shuttle service called Belko Air. They follow a similar route to the public transport, from airport it takes you to train station, Kizilay, and AŞTİ. You can put your luggage in luggage compartment. It costs you 11 TL. You can take a taxi as well but that would cost you around 100-140 TL one way, metered.

Travel by train to Ankara

Ankara is the eastern terminus of the Turkish high-speed rail system (YHT), with frequent fast trains to Konya, and via Eskişehir to Istanbul. Trains to Eskişehir and Konya take 90 minutes and those stations are within 3-5 km of their town centres, so they are easy day trips. Trains to Istanbul take 4½ hours; they also stop at Pendik, 25 km east of city centre and convenient for Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen airport (10 km, taxi or bus).

Destinations east of Ankara are served by slow overnight trains. The main services are to Diyarbakir and Kurtalan (the Guney Kurtalan Express), to Erzurum and Kars (the Dogu Express), and to Tatvan (the Vangölü Express), thence by dolmus to Van. From Van a train runs once a week to Tabriz in Iran, with onward trains to Tehran.

For times and reservations (strongly recommended) see TCDD Turkish Republic State Railways website.

A high-speed line is under construction from Ankara eastwards, and the first section to Kayseri and Sivas might open by 2020. The railway from Turkey to Georgia and Azerbaijan currently only carries freight, but passenger trains are expected to start in autumn 2019. International trains to Syria and Iraq are all suspended indefinitely.

Travel by bus to Ankara

If you are travelling from places other than Istanbul, you will find buses fast, inexpensive, and modern. Watch out for the drivers spraying your hands with lemon cologne if you do not like it.

Ankara Intercity Terminal

The buses terminate at this bus station (otogar), a huge, two-storey building with extended wings on sides. Most of the cities in Turkey have direct buses to the capital of Turkey. From Istanbul to Ankara, the bus trip takes around 6 hours and one way fare is between 55 and 85 TL. The fare varies by bus companies. Usually big companies like Pamukkale, Kamil Koç, Metro and Ulusoy have higher rates when other regional bus companies have lower prices, however the trip takes around 8 hours when you prefer these cheap regional bus companies. There are a lot of online services for buying tickets, but most of the time, companies’ own websites offer lower prices.

The city has a dense public bus network, a two-line subway called Ankara Metrosu and a single line suburban railway called Ankara Banliyö Treni.

For tourists, Ankara’s public transit system, particularly the public bus network, can be difficult to figure out, because maps are rare and all information is in Turkish. Nor is there any access provided for disabled travellers in any form of public transport. Buses and metros tend to be very crowded during rush hours, mainly on Mondays and Fridays.

If you know the city well, public transportation, mainly the metro, is an ideal, easy, quick and cheap way to get around particularly for longer distances. For shorter distances taxis are an easy, quick and cheap way to get around.

Travel by bus to Ankara

There are two types of public buses in Ankara; those run by the Ankara Municipality named Ankara Belediye Otobüsleri (EGO) and those run by a private corporation named Ankara Özel Halk Otobüsleri (ÖHO). You can differentiate these two types by their colours. EGO-run buses are white and blue while ÖHO-run buses are blue. Both types of these public buses use the same bus network and bus stops.

Ankara Municipal Buses

The Ankara Municipal Buses, named Ankara Belediye Otobüsleri (EGO), consists of an extensive and dense bus network, and is owned and operated by the Ankara Municipality.

Payment system for municipal buses is based on multi-use magnetic cards which are also used for the metro; starting from the smallest available which is the 1-unit card which costs 1.65 TL, 2-unit cards which cost 3.30 TL, 3-unit cards which cost 4.95 TL, 5-unit cards which cost 8.25 TL, 10-unit cards which cost 16.50 TL and 20-unit cards which cost 33.00 TL. A free transfer with the magnetic cards is possible within a duration of 45 minutes between the bus lines and metro lines. The magnetic cards cannot be purchased in buses and have to be purchased beforehand at kiosks and metro stations.

No stops and maps are displayed in the buses and bus stops nor announced by voice in the buses. However all current bus information is available online at the EGO English website. In addition, apps for smartphones are available with the same functionality.

Ankara Non-Municipal Public Buses

The Ankara Non-Municipal Public Buses, Ankara Özel Halk Otobüsleri (ÖHO), consists of an extensive and dense bus network, operated by a private corporation.

Payment system for non-municipal buses is with cash. The ticket, which is only a one-way ticket, is purchased in buses at a cost of 2.75 TL.

Unfortunately, no stops and maps are displayed in the buses and bus stops nor announced by voice in the buses.

By Metro

The Ankara Metro, named Ankara Metrosu, consists of two metro lines, which are called Ankaray AnkarayLogo.png and Ankara Metro AnkaraMetroLogo.png which is owned and operated by the Ankara Municipality .

The west-east light-rail line named Ankaray and the north-south heavy-rail Ankara Metro line are both mostly underground lines and intersect at Kızılay station.

The Ankaray line runs between AŞTİ (Ankara Şehirlerarası Terminal İşletmesi – Ankara Intercity Bus Terminal) and Dikimevi. The line is 8.7 km long (8.0 km underground and 0.7 km surface railway) and has 11 stations

The Ankara Metro line, runs between Kızılay, the town center, to Batıkent in the northwest. The line is 14.7 km long (6.5 km underground, 4.5 km surface, and 3.7 km elevated railway) and has 12 stations.

Payment for the subway is based on multi-use magnetic cards which is also used for the municipal buses; starting from the smallest available which is the 1-unit card which costs 1.65 TL, 2-unit cards which cost 3.30 TL, 3-unit cards which cost 4.95 TL, 5-unit cards which cost 8.25 TL, 10-unit cards which cost 16.50 TL and 20-unit cards which cost 33.00 TL. A free transfer with the magnetic cards is possible within a duration of 45 minutes between the bus lines and metro lines. The magnetic cards can be purchased at kiosks and metro stations.

All stations are announced both on a display and by voice in the metros.

By Suburban Railway

Ankara Suburban Railway (Ankara Banliyö Treni) consists of a single line, between Sincan and Eryaman in the west, through the town center, to Kayaş in the east. Trains run every 15 mins between about 06:00 and 22:00 [1]. The line is 37.0 km long, all of it above ground, and has 24 stations. There’s nothing of visitor interest near the outlying stations, but Eryaman is an interchange with YHT trains to Konya, Eskişehir and Istanbul Pendik.

Buy tickets in cash at any station. A one-way ticket costs 1.70 TL and a return ticket costs 3.00 TL.

The entire line was closed for over a year due to construction at Ankara station and surrounding tracks, but it re-opened in April 2018. It’s owned and operated by Turkish State Railways.

By taxi

Taxis are numerous in Ankara and are recognizable by their yellow color and word Taksi on top of the car. All licensed taxis have the letter T in their license plates.

The fare shown on the meter reads according to distance traveled. The ride will start from 2.20 TL, and the rate is 1.90 TL per kilometre. The rates for day and night are same. Tipping is not done other than rounding the fare to the next 50 kurus or 1 TL.

Occasionally, some taxi drivers will refuse to start the meter and try to negotiate a fixed price, mainly with tourists. But most taxi drivers will start taximeters at all times. You should avoid these cabs and simply take another one as you will almost certainly end paying too much. Many taxi drivers, even though very few of them speak a foreign language, will understand your requested destination and instructions. Tell them then to put the taximeter on. Taxi drivers do normally work with the taximeter, so they will not be surprised at all when you ask them to put it on. Emphasize to the taxi driver that you will pay for the meter price before getting in.

Always try to stop a taxi that is passing by on the road or find a legitimate taxi stop.

If you are not familiar with the city and see that you are a tourist, the taxi driver may drive a detour in order to charge you more. Insist on going to the destination that you want, and have a map to show them your destination, to avoid a detour.

Also beware that all taxis are required to have the designated license plate with the letter T apart from their yellow colouring.

Be careful about what notes you hand them for payment; some taxi drivers have tried to pretend that the 50 TL note that was handed was just a 5 TL note. Occasionally taxi drivers may actually also rip notes you give them, and tell you it is no good, in order to make you hand them a 50 TL note. So, make sure the notes are not ripped, and is actually the right one before you hand them over. Do not buy their quick-sell tricks and also do not allow them to round the price up to the higher denomination.

Getting around

Ankara’s metro features two lines and is complemented by an efficient bus network. The metro runs from 6.15 am to 11.45 pm. Taxis are still quite inexpensive and pretty easy to find throughout the city, with night fare costing 50% higher than day fare.

Things to see and do in Ankara

Image of Destination GuideThe Museum of Anatolian Civilizations is unquestionably the top highlight when it comes to sight-seeing. Housed in a 15th-century “bedesten” (roofed market), it features artefacts gathered from archaeological sites all around Anatolia. Covering the periods from Palaeolithic Era to Roman times, it houses fascinating displays of ancient treasures from several civilizations, including Assyrian, Hittite, Phrygian, Lydian, Greek and Roman.

From ancient to recent history, Anit Kabir is Kemal Ataturk’s mausoleum. Walk up Lion Road, lined with 12 pairs of lion stone statues, to reach the tomb of modern Turkey’s founder. A small museum, dedicated to Ataturk, also stands within the site.

A set of Roman ruins lies around the area of Ulus. The ruins include the remains of the Temple of Augustus and Rome, the ground plans of some Roman Baths from 3rd century, the Column of Julian and the relics of a Roman Theatre which dates back to 200 BC.

Ankara’s Citadel is surrounded by medieval walls and encloses a picturesque well-preserved quarter of old Ankara. Sark Kulesi (castle), on the top of the citadel, offers visitors a bird’s eye view of the city. Cengelhan Industrial Museum and a 12th-century mosque are also located on the hisar (Turkish for citadel). Craftsmen and antique stores lay around the citadel and are worth a visit if you are not on a strict time schedule.

Apart from Sark Kulesi, the top of Atakule Tower is another great spot for captivating city views. Take the glass-lift to get to the top, where you can also enjoy a meal at the on-site revolving restaurant.

Folk art enthusiasts must not miss a visit to Vakif Eserleri Muzesi, where fascinating Turkish carpets and other crafts are presented. Most of the carpets on display were donated to mosques, while other exhibits include Ottoman manuscripts, fine wood-carves and tradional painted tiles.

Ankara might not have to show an equivalent to Hagia Sophia or the Blue Mosque, but Kocatepe Camii is still an imposing structure and a major place of worship for the locals. Although constructed relatively recently, during the 80s, it is one of the world’s largest mosques. Less impressive than Kocatepe Camii, Haci Bayram Camii bears a richer history, which dates back to the 13th century when the mosque was first erected. Dedicated to Haci Bayram Veli, an honourable and historic dervish, this mosque features fascinating tile works, which were added to the building during the 18th century. Dozens of religious shops are scattered around the mosque, where local pilgrims and visitors can buy traditional wooden toothbrushes.

Take a break from sight-seeing to enjoy a relaxing stroll at Ankara’s Botanical Gardens near Atakule, or spare some time at the tea gardens of Youth Park; however, keep in mind that single women should be very cautious when visiting Youth Park.

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Coronavirus

Coronavirus Turkey – Homophobia by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Ali Erbaş

The Turkish president strengthens the back of a homophobic cleric that indirectly makes homosexuals responsible for the corona pandemic.

ISTANBUL | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stood behind the head of the highest religious authority on Ankara, who caused a sensation at the opening of Ramadan with a hate sermon against gays and lesbians.

Turkey Covid-19 Situation Report
308,069
Confirmed
1,767
Confirmed (24h)
7,711
Deaths
72
Deaths (24h)
2.5%
Deaths (%)
270,723
Recovered
1,027
Recovered (24h)

Homosexuality, fornication, the coexistence of men and women without being married – all this leads to the rotting of society and ultimately also to diseases and epidemics, Ali Erbaş claimed in an almost medieval-looking hate sermon last Friday.

Indirectly, he made gays and lesbians responsible for the corona epidemic in Turkey and as chairman of the state religious authority Dianet, Erbaş is the top Islam representative in Turkey.

In the main mosque in Ankara, Erbaş spoke about the dire consequences of homosexuality and fornication – in front of empty stands but in various television cameras – and urged all Muslims in the country to get together and protect their fellow human beings from such temptations of the devil.

In a statement, the Ankara Lawyers Association turned sharply against Ali Erbaş’s sermon and condemned the hatred of gays, lesbians and the entire LGBT community.

Investigation against the Law Association

A reaction to the criticism was not long in coming and the religious authority reported the bar association to the attorney general with the accusation, that the bar association made hate speeches against Islam.

In fact, the prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into the association, which is now accused of “publicly degrading religious values.”

On Monday evening, Erdoğan then intervened in the argument following a Corona cabinet meeting. “Ali Erbaş is completely correct,” he said. “Homosexuality is a grave sin for Islam and since Ali Erbaş is the head of the religious authority, an attack on him is therefore also an attack on the state”.

 

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Turkey

Antalya Coronavirus Covid-19 Update – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Turkey

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Located by the namesake gulf, Antalya has been standing at Turkey’s Mediterranean shore since 150 BC. Since the 70s tourist crowds flock the city as a gateway to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Turkish Riviera. However, Antalya’s rich historic inheritance features several interesting ancient, Roman and Ottoman sites, which make the city itself a popular travel destination throughout the year.

Tourist facilities include all kinds of accommodation, from large all-inclusive resorts to stylish boutique hotels to basic room rentals. Intense nightlife is supported by dozens of hip bars and trendy clubs.

Turkey Covid-19 Situation Report
308,069
Confirmed
1,767
Confirmed (24h)
7,711
Deaths
72
Deaths (24h)
2.5%
Deaths (%)
270,723
Recovered
1,027
Recovered (24h)

Having entered the scene in 150 BC as Attalia, named after its founder, Attalos II, king of Pergamon, Antalya has ever attracted a wide array of travellers, including Paul the Apostle, and Ibn Battuta among others. Antalya had replaced Phaselis—beautiful ruins of which now lie to south of the city, between Kemer and Olympos—as the main harbour of the surrounding region during the reign of Seljuks, in early 1200s, but the lack of a large hinterland (or, rather, lack of good connections with its mountainous hinterland) meant for much of its history eversince that it was a provincial coastal town, albeit with a multicultural community of Muslims, Christians, and Jews.

As the centre of a region with beautiful beaches, verdant mountains, and a mindblowing number of ancient ruins, the tourism investments started in 1970s, which changed the fate of the city considerably, however as most of the visitors (make no mistake—they are in the range of millions annually) to the region are actually on “all-inclusive” vacation packages nowadays, they are instantly taken from the airport to the huge resorts lining the coastline of hundreds of kilometres, where they stay until the end of their holidays except perhaps a raid or two to the nearest and the most popular attractions, so Antalya itself, mainly the old town (Kaleiçi), is more of an independent traveller destination, where you will meet the other travellers of a similar mind, and the locals.

Weather in Antalya

Around April, when you can perfectly get a suntan and the weather is much more bearable than summer months, is one of the best times to visit the city.

Travel to Antalya

Antalya is the closest airport, served by inexpensive flights from Istanbul (as low as US$50, early booking is also available for lower prices.)

Cheap Flights to Antalya

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Getting around

Quite a few of the city’s points of interest are served by the local 10-stop tram. City-buses cover every corner of Antalya, while “dolmus”, Turkish shared taxis on fixed routes, are an efficient and fun way move around. Privet taxis are also widely available.

Being 10 kilometers from the city from Antalya, Antalya Airport (Havalimanlı) caters to the charter flights full of holiday makers. Airlines that serve Antalya include: Pegasus, Transavia.com (lowcost and charters from Netherlands, France and Denmark), AtlasJet (domestic flights), SunExpress (dozens of flights from all over Europe), Turkish Airlines (plenty of flights from Ankara and Istanbul-Atatürk), Aeroflot (daily flights from Moscow-Sheremetyevo), Ukraine International Airlines (several charter flights a week from Kiev). Britain is also represented by numerous charter firms such as Airtours.

A taxi ride between the airport and the city centre will set you back €15 (45 TL) during the day (March 2011). You may also prefer transfer companies in order to avoid any scam. Other, more wallet-friendly options for airport transportation include Havaş buses, which are less expensive and more frequent; they depart on the hour from “Güllük PTT” (10 TL).

There are public buses from the airport (line 600, “Terminal-Otogar”) which leave on the hour and cost 4 TL. Buses from the otogar run along Adnan Menderes Blv and Mevlana Cd (exact location of bus stops can be found on Google Maps).

To catch a public bus from the International Terminal you have to go to the domestic terminal (300 m, just turn right when you leave the International Terminal); there is a small blue “D” sign next to a larger ficus tree. There is another blue “D” sign next to the taxi stand in front of the International Terminal which won’t get you anywhere; waiting there usually attracts taxi drivers (telling you, truthfully, “There is no bus leaving here!”) offering a ride.Besides,you can make pre-booking antalya airport transfers by private taxi companies.

The AntRay tram connects the inner city with the airport. To the old town you have to leave at Ismetpasa. You can also continue direct to the bus station (Otogar). The price is 4 TL (2016).

Travel by bus to Antalya

Antalya’s huge bus terminal is located around 6 km north-west of the town center, but easily reached using the tram getting off at Otogar station, and walking about 10 minutes to the otogar. A taxi from the Kaleiçi to the otogar is about 40 TL (Nov 2017). The distance between the bus station and the tram stop is a bit far if you have lots of luggage and the signs seem to send you the long way round but due to the security perimeter there is no shorter way. Just before the faregates is a ticket office and staff usually speak English.

The Turkish bus system is comprehensive and you can get about anywhere from anywhere. Better spend a few more liras and you will have an unforgettable journey. Ulusoy has buses with seats that resemble business class in airplanes. There are also other bus companies, including Kamil Koç, Truva and Varan. Some companies have an onboard WLAN. Check otobusbileti displaying prices of bus tickets from Antalya to 81 cities in Turkey.

Fares are low. Simply show up at the bus station (otogar) and announce your destination.

There are regular buses destined for Antalya that run along the coastal roads and stop at tourist towns such as Kas and Fethiye, although the latter one is reached quicker (3½ hr instead of 5-6 hr) using a direct bus not along the coastal road.

From the bus station you can take a local bus or the Tram (Antray) to the city or the airport. There are signposts for the tram (saying either “Antray” or “Tramvay”), but it is quite some walk and the last part is through an underground walkway. Thankfully the ticket agent is accustomed to dealing with foreigners and getting a ticket for the Tram shouldn’t be too big a hurdle.

Travel by boat to Antalya

Most travellers arrive in Marmaris from Rhodes, Greece, then bus it overland. You can also take a ferry from Kastellorizo, a tiny Greek island just off the Turkish fishing village of Kas.

Travel by train to Antalya

Buses run from Antalya to Konya (300 km, 5 hours) to connect with YHT fast trains to Ankara (90 min), Eskisehir (90 min) and Istanbul Pendik (3 hr 30 min). Pendik is relatively convenient for Sabiha Gokcen airport (), but reaching central Istanbul takes another 90 minutes by metro and bus. So compared to bus all the way, bus and train is quicker to Ankara and about the same time to Istanbul. There are also connections to trains for other Turkish cities, such as Izmir, Kars and Adana. These are slow at the best of times and are disrupted by engineering work, at least until 2018: see Ankara page for details.

Transportation in Antalya

Antalya offers a variety of public transportation, such as public buses, trams, mini-buses, taxicabs and dolmuş.

By public transit

Single bus and tram fares are 2.75 TL (Nov 2017) but cannot be paid using cash. Fares are paid using the Antalyakart. There is a refillable plastic card, and a disposable paper card, available at kiosks along the AntRay tramway, at stores around the stations, or at specific AntRay counters (e.g., at the Otogar). If you’re unsure, just ask the helpful station guards. The refillable card gives you discounted fares of 2 TL. (April 2018)

Drivers on the Heritage Tramway sell the disposable Antalyakart for 12 TL (Nov 2017), which gives you four single rides, and which can be used by one or more people at a time.

The refillable plastic card provides discounted fares.

By tram

Antalya has two, disconnected light rail lines, one modern and one deliberately made to look old-fashioned although the stations of the heritage line near the old town are within a quick walk distance to those of the other.

The Heritage Tramway has been donated by the German city of Nuremberg and connects the western Konyaalti Beach and Antalya Museum to the eastern part of the town center. It runs every 30 min in either direction. This tramway can be used for sightseeing as it passes some beautiful places of the town center.

The AntRay tramway consists of one line, serving the route Fatih-Otogar-Muratpaşa-Ismetpaşa-Meydan every 15 min during the day (June 2015), and some trams continue to the airport (Havalimanlı) or to the Expo 2016 site. To get to the Kaleiçi or to the interconnection with the historic tram line, get off at Ismetpaşa station. To get to the bus terminal from the Kaleiçi, take the tram in the direction of Fatih, get off at Otogar, and follow the signs for 10 min. Check OpenStreeMap the location of tram lines and stops.

Travel by bus to Antalya

In Antalya, buses pass from anywhere to any destination in the city. Fares are low and most buses offer air-conditioning and TV even for short routes. To travel to remote places you may need to travel to the bus terminal first. The bus terminal has its own buses with distinctive blue stripes. Bus terminal to city to airport travel (Bus route 600, “Terminal-Otogar”) is possible every 30 min (2016).

You can look up the street names on Google maps which includes the location of bus stops.

By dolmuş

Dolmuş literally means “filled up”. Dolmuş is a large cab, a station wagon, a regular taxi or a minibus that travels a certain route. Most major public transportation stations have a dolmuş station, where you just take a seat in the dolmuş that travels your desired route. In Antalya dolmuş does not wait until it fills up. Instead, it is scheduled, however if empty dolmuş will move slowly hoping to find more passenger. Still it has to abide its schedule and cannot stall much.

By taxi

There are taxi stands all over the city where the drivers have their base and tea pot. Each taxi is metered and there are two different rates. For popular destinations there are price lists showing the rate in euro. A fair rate is about 2.4 TL per kilometer.

You can also negotiate with any taxi driver to be your private tour guide. You also have to pay the gas money. This option could be quiet expensive but if you have the money, it is worth it! There is an option to book a private taxi transfers from Antalya airport.

By car rental

Car rentals are available in the bus terminal, air port and town center. It is advised not to use car to reach town center (specially Cumhuriyet, Atatürk, Isiklar streets, Sarampol street and old city), as finding a car park and the way people drive (sometimes you feel like you are in the race tracks) might be difficult. Be sure to abide non-parking restrictions, the municipality is very strict about it. There are destination signs on roads to help travellers. Also most of the younger locals know English will be pleased to help about your destination. You can also obtain city map from tourist information desks in the town center.

Travel by bicycle in Antalya

Using bicycle in crowded roads might be dangerous and tiresome(mainly in summer as the temperature hits high 40s °C at noon (100-120°F), however there are a few bicycle-only roads passing beside the sea having incredible views.

Things to see and do in Antalya

Image of Destination Guide

Located only a stone’s throw away from the city centre,  Antalya Museum is one of the top museums in the country. Covering an area of 30,000 square meters, it features 13 halls filled with treasures and artefacts from Stone Age to Byzantine times. Don’t miss the findings from ancient Lycia in the Hall of Regional Excavations and the ancient busts at Hall of Marble Portraits.

The old quarter of Antalya is known as Kaleici and is the city’s most scenic area, with beautifully restored Ottoman houses and picturesque alleys. Start exploring the ancient part of the city from Kale Kapisi Square, where you will see Saat Kalesi, an old stone clock tower. On the northern side of the square you will find the entrance to Iki Kapilar Hani, an atmospheric 15th-century roofed oriental bazaar.

Take Uzun Carsi Sokak, on Kale Kapisi’s southern side, to come across Tekeli Mehmet Pasa Camii, an 18th-century mosque with interesting colorful tile-works which feature fascinating arabic calligraphy. The Roman Gate of Hadrian stands at Hesapci Sokak from 130 AD. By the waterfront you will find the Roman Harbour, which had been Antalya’s main harbour until the 20th century and currently serves as a yacht marina. Stroll down the marina to gaze at local amateur fishermen, who bring their fishing rods here hopping to achieve a nice catch.

Occupying a traditional Ottoman mansion, Antalya’s Ethnography Museum features an excellent collection of local ceramics and a detailed display of typical Ottoman customs and rituals. Nearby Greek-orthodox church of St George is also worth a visit after going under major restoration in the past few years.

Finish your day at Kaleici with a relaxing stroll among lush greenery and colourful flowers at Karaalioglu Park, on the old quarter’s south-western border. Within the park’s grounds stands Hıdırlık Kalesi, a 14-meter high tower which is estimated to be an ancient lighthouse.

Yivli Minare is one of Antalya’s most well-recognized landmarks. Religious services still run at the mosque which is adjoined to the 13th-century fluted minaret, while an ancient dervish monastery, known as Mevlevi Tekke, is also included in Yivli’s grounds. Two medieval tombs are situated near the minaret.

Although most of south-western Turkey’s heavenly beaches are situated outside the city, nearby Konyaalti Beach is decent enough for a quick refreshing dip. Stretching for no less than 7 kilometers, the beach features hard dark sand and pebbles, but the waters are clear. The eastern end of the beach is occupied by Antalya Beach Park, where you can enjoy thrilling waterslides at AquaLand and swim among playful dolphins at DolphinLand, where dolphin and whale shows take place at frequent times. Other leisure facilities, such as golf and paintball, are also available within the park’s grounds.

Antalya is rich in history and art.

  • The old quarter, Kaleiçi, has narrow, winding streets enclosed in ancient city walls, which now protect the peaceful quarter from the noise of the concrete metropolis of a million people. Although there are other entrances, it is best to enter and exit the old quarter from charming Hadrianus Gate, built by the Roman emperor Hadrianus as the entrance arch to the city.
  • There’s a great archaeology museum and plenty of historic buildings and ancient ruins nearby.

Where to go next after Antalya

  • Kemer to the south west is a touristic sea side region popular with the historical places, night life and hotels which is half an hour from Antalya city.
  • Further south, Çıralı is a coastal town with several mid-range, quiet pansiyons to stay at, including Hotel Canada, with friendly gardens. The beach at Cirali is protected from development because sea turtles come onto shore every year to lay their eggs.
  • The beach at nearby Olimpos is also a nice, pebble beach. Accommodations in Olimpos are more backpacker style, with treehouses mainly popular with younger travelers.
  • Demre further west from Olympos, is the site of the St Nicolas Church, associated with the real Santa Claus (don’t miss the larger than life Santa Claus statue in town.) Also just outside Demre are Lycian rock tombs in the cliffsides.
  • Kaş which is about 2 hours trip from Antalya can be another excellent choice for extended holiday if you decide to run away from the whole crowd.
  • Kalkan is half an hour further west of Kas. A beautiful upmarket harbour town with cobbled streets and high quality restaurants. Nearby Patara has the best golden sand beach on the Mediterranean coast, and can be visited even if you are not staying there.

East

  • The Antalya region has some of the finest Roman ruins in the country, including Perge and Aspendos, with the largest, most well preserved Roman theater anywhere.
  • Belek to the east is popular with golf links and luxury hotels.
  • Manavgat is about 1 hour to the east by car. It is home of the impressive Manavgat waterfalls, which has recently been modernised.
  • Further east, Side is a nice coastal resort with some well-preserved Roman ruins.
  • Alanya to the south east is a popular tourism destination 2 hours away.

North

  • Termessos — the ruins of an ancient city in a gorgeous setting high over the Taurus Mountains inside pine forests
  • Trains and buses arrive in the travel hub of Denizli. From there, dolmus take you the 10 miles or so to Pamukkale.

Further away

  • During high season, buses run direct from tourist centers including IstanbulAnkara, Fethiye, Bodrum, Marmaris and Selçuk.

Hitchhiking

  • If you intend to head north by hitchhiking, take public minibuses #25 or #57 which stops at city bus stops near the otogar. These minibus lines take you to a highway junction with traffic lights out of city, situated amidst pine woods. This junction is not the last stop so be sure not to miss the stop situated there. Fare: 1.35 TL/person.

Hotels in Antalya

Hotels Antalya: Popularity

HotelStarsDiscountPrice per night, fromChoose dates

Akra Hotel

★★★★★

-6%

173163

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Delphin Diva Premiere

★★★★★

-30%

498350

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Royal Holiday Palace

★★★★★

-14%

264228

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Titanic Beach Lara

★★★★★

-7%

308288

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Miracle Resort Hotel

★★★★★

-60%

641259

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Aska Lara Resort & Spa Hotel

★★★★★

-53%

10248

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Lara Barut Collection-Ultra All Inclusive

★★★★★

-27%

249182

View Isaan Hotel Deals

Adalya Elite Lara Hotel

★★★★★

-32%

326223

View Isaan Hotel Deals

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Turkey Covid19

Covid-19 Turkey
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According to the Government in Turkey, Turkey has confirmed 1,767 new Covid-19 infections within Turkey in the last 24 hours and furthermore 72 deaths have been reported throughout Turkey. With the new deaths of 72, Turkey now has a total of 308,069 Coronavirus/Covid-19 infections and the official death rate reported by the government of Turkey is 2.5%. 7,711 died in Turkey.

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