Historic Istanbul

With its unique mix of cultures, Istanbul is a vibrant cosmopolitan centre. Turkey's largest city attracts many visitors, keen to discover its historic monuments and museums, as well as its restaurants and nightlife.

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When to travel and events to enjoy

Istanbul is a rewarding city to visit all through the year, but the most popular time is between May and October, when the climate is at its best. The city is at its most exciting during the Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day on 19th May. Other major occasions include Republic Day on 29th October, and the festivals of Eid and Ramadan, dates of which vary. Whenever you visit, it is worth taking a trip to the Prince Islands. But leave the car behind, as only horse-drawn carriages are permitted here. 

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Key information before you set off

British nationals visiting Istanbul need a visa, which is available online. When applying, it's important to check that passports will still be valid for at least 6 months after arrival in Turkey. Vaccinations are recommended to guard against hepatitis A, diphtheria, typhus and tetanus.

When shopping at markets, such as the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Bazaar, be prepared to haggle over the price. Because haggling is a tradition, the goods are often overpriced to start with. Fans of fast food will be in heaven here, with snacks starting from around 2 TRY. Kebabs cost from about 8 TRY, while beer prices are from 6 TRY upwards. However, fish dishes can be pricey. The time zone in the city is two hours ahead of the UK (GMT +2).

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Local information: Arriving and transportation

Istanbul has an inexpensive and excellent public transport network, including buses, minibuses, metro and metrobus services as well as trams and ferries. Travel is made simpler by the Istanbulkart, which can be used on all types of public transport and recharged as necessary. 

After arriving at the airport, you can take the Metro M1 to Aksaray for around 4 TRY. The Havata shuttle bus runs to Taksim Square every half an hour with a cost of around 11 TRY, but there are no buses between 1am and 4am. Taking a taxi ride to Taksim will cost around 60 TRY. Taxis cost more than public transport, but are still cheaper than those in the UK.

There is a wide choice of accommodation in Turkey's premier city, with a night in a guesthouse or hostel costing from about 30 TRY upwards. Popular districts to stay include Eminönü, near to the Grand Bazaar and Blue Mosque, and Beyoğlu, in the neighbourhood of Taksim Square and İstiklâl Caddesi.

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