Istanbul: A charming city located on two diverse continents
Istanbul is the only city that is actually situated on two separate continents, which makes it a very special and unique destination. Nestled between Europe and The Middle East, this city has a glorious 2,000 year history attached to it, and was once the capital of the Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman empires.
When to travel for good weather and events
If you're not a fan of cold temperatures and snow, the spring, summer and autumn seasons, from May to October, are the best times to travel to Istanbul. You'll get to enjoy the Commemoration of Ataturk and Youth Sports Day on the 19th May, and the Republic Day of Turkey is a public holiday, falling on the 29th October. Ramadan and Eid are both celebrated in Istanbul too, although dates alter from year to year. The Prince Islands are open to visitors all year round and really worth a visit. Only horse drawn carriages are allowed here, as cars are prohibited.
If you're a British national, you'll need a visa to enter Istanbul, which can be sorted out online. Be sure that your passport is valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into Turkey. Recommended vaccination shots include hepatitis A, typhus, tetanus and diphtheria. Have fun practising your bartering skills in preparation for shopping sprees at the Grand Bazaar and Egyptian Bazaar, as traders often overprice goods and haggling is part of the culture. Fast food fans are in for a treat, as there's lots to choose from. Snacks cost anywhere from 2 TRY, kebabs are around 8 and beer starts at around 6 TRY. Fish, however, is expensive. The UK is 2 hours behind Turkey.
Local travel and accommodation tips
To get to the city centre from the airport, take Metro M1 to Aksaray, for around 4 TRY. The HAVATA shuttle bus to Taskim Square departs every 30 minutes and costs around 11 TRY with no buses between 1am to 4am. Taxis to Taskim cost around 60 TRY. Public transport is varied, cheap and reliable and includes bus, metro, minibus, ferry, metrobus and tram services. Invest in an Istanbulkart rechargeable pass, which is valid for all public modes of transportation. Taxis are considerably more expensive than public transport, but prices are cheaper than in London.
A budget hostel will set you back around 30 TRY. Good areas are Eminönü or Beyoğlu.