A city where east meets west
Istanbul is one of the world's great tourist destinations. With its fun nightlife, its eclectic cuisine, its stunning blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture and its dramatic position straddling the continents of Europe and Asia, it's a lively and picturesque holiday destination all year round.
When to travel
To make the most of the city's attractions, May through to October are the best months to visit. A key festival to look out for is the Commemoration of Ataturk Youth and Sports Day on 19th May, with its series of nationwide sporting events. Another big occasion is Republic Day on 29th October, when the founding of modern Turkey is celebrated with processions, music and dancing. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, followed by the Festival of Eid, are also widely observed.
Getting prepared and what to expect
British tourists will need a visa, which can be downloaded through an online visa application system. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the visitor's arrival in the country. Vaccinations for diphtheria, hepatitis A, typhus and tetanus are recommended. Street food is plentiful and cheap, with snacks from approximately 2 TRY, kebabs from 8 TRY and beer from ca 6 TRY. Fish, however, can be expensive, and anyone shopping in the markets of the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar should be prepared to engage in some hard haggling rather than pay the steep asking prices. Istanbul is two hours ahead of the United Kingdom at EEST in Summer and Eestern European time in Winter.
Getting around and accommodation
Visitors can get from Ataturk Airport to Aksaray in the city centre on the M1 Metro line for a cost of roughly 4 TRY. Alternatively, the HAVATA shuttle bus goes to Taksim Square every 30 minutes, with tickets at around 11 TRY, but there are no buses between 1 am and 4 am. Expect to pay ca 60 TRY for a taxi to Taksim.
With options including bus, Metro, minibus, ferry, metrobus and tram, public transport in Istanbul is varied and inexpensive. Most tourists will find it well worth investing in the rechargeable Istanbulkart which works on all public transport. Although more pricey than the bus or Metro, taxis are cheaper than they are in the UK.
The city offers a wide choice of accommodation, especially in districts such as Eminönü - where tourists will find the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar - and Beyoğlu, the location of Taksim Square and İstiklâl Caddesi. Staying in a hostel or guesthouse costs from around 30 TRY per night.