Country: Turkey
Currency: Lira (TLR)
Peak Season: July-September
Shoulder Season: April-June, September-November
Median Temperature: 14.10 C / 57.38 F
Main Languages: Turkish, Arabic, English
Primary Modes of Transportation: Overground metro (IETT), tram, ferry
Recommended Duration of Stay: 3 days
Recommended Pocket Money: $120.00/day
Tourist Passes: Istanbul Kart
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Istanbul is a major city of Turkey, a country known for its stalwart diplomacy with both Allied Nations and Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Istanbul was also the imperial capital of the Byzantine Empire during Constantine’s stint. Istanbul greatly benefits from Turkey’s admirable foreign policy, resulting in reduced importation costs and becoming a venue to countless key international events. Though secular city, many adherents of Islam – the predominant faith in Turkey –are not prejudiced by the country’s national policy. Through the secularization of Turkey, Christians, Jews, and many other adherents of lesser-known faiths enjoy a non-hostile relationship with Muslims, thereby making the city a melting pot of many cultures – resulting in diversity of craft, a richness of culture, and an unprecedented appeal to tourists from all corners of the globe.

The would-be informed traveler will be surprised to know that Istanbul (known in ancient history as Constantinople) was actually the capital of the Roman Empire during the reign of Constantine. Throughout the course of the Roman & Byzantine Empires, and even during the reign of the Ottoman Turks, Istanbul survived and continued to become a city of stability and wealth. And upon closer inspection of the world map, resembles a bridge, connecting the regions of Thrace in Europe and Anatolia in Asia, as bisected by the Bosphorus Strait. Its many seaports make the city a hotbed for tourism (particularly cruise trips) and cross-continent shipping.

Packing List

  • Credit/debit cards, as they are widely accepted here and ATM machines are everywhere; still, it’s good to have liras in your wallet
  • Smart, western apparel, such as slacks, Capris, polo shirts, dress shirts and winter vestments; don’t wear shorts or anything too skimpy
  • A guide book is indispensable due to the numerous (and sometimes hidden) attractions and useful coupons
  • Luggage bags (can also be bought there for cheap), to store all those tapestries, brassware, jewelry and other curious knick-knacks
  • A high-end camera with extra storage and a lot of batteries; attractions make for a great photo album

Things to Do

  • Revisiting Byzantine glory inside Hagia Sophia, a massive museum (originally a cathedral) famous for its great dome and heavy use of mosaics and frescoes instead of sculpted walls
  • A meditative visit inside the Blue Mosque and its magnificent courtyard, reminiscent of Ottoman (Islamic) rule; the spacious interior is heralded by tulip imprints on the ceilings, columns and walls
  • Shopping to your heart’s content inside the Grand Bazaar; shrouding over 58 streets, 4,000 shops and hundreds of thousands of patrons each day, it’s one of the liveliest places on the planet
  • Being captivated in the cultural dance presentations performed at Hodjapasha Culture Center; the dancers’ passion is evident in both their stellar performance and eclectic selection of a costumes
  • Learning to cook herb- and spice-intensive national dishes at Cooking Alaturka, with lessons administered by top chefs in the country; you also get to cook and serve food to paying customers

DON'T

  • Book in a rowdy/nightlife district; chances are, those places will still be noisy until the break of dawn due to the lack of a curfew ordinance
  • Cause a stir with the locals (especially on the origin of baklava) or find yourself outnumbered; observe Islamic laws and politely fend off anyone pestering you
  • Exhibit your foreigner status, and be as discreet as possible; there have been numerous occasions of pickpocketing and confidence crimes, so watch out
  • Forget that Istanbul is all about walking narrow alleys, jostling to get past crowds, haggling inside bazaars and enjoying an exhilarating ride aboard a dolmus (mini-bus)
  • Miss out on scrumptious Turkish cuisine served in a myriad of eateries and street stalls: iskembe, meze, kebab, kofte, sherbet