10 Vital Things You Must Know Before Visiting Istanbul Today

If you plan to visit Istanbul, you’re in the right place. The city is a tourist’s heaven, provided you know what you’re doing. Fret not, as members of a popular travel forum share ten tips from their experience to help you make the most of your trip.

1. İstanbulkart

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To travel around the city, you can get an İstanbulkart for fifty Lira near metro stations and then top up your card from the same machine. “It is the cheapest way to get around Istanbul,” mentions a member. They also point out that you should only use one card for multiple people; just tap it numerous times.

2. Taxi Turmoil

New York, United States - 7 November 2020: Phone screen close-up with BiTaksi mobile app logo on display
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You can take the bus or train and walk from the station to your venue to save up. However, the other option is getting taxis. Users swear by the BiTaksi app. “It’s kind of like Uber, but it calls cabs and gives the price. So there should be no scams/shenanigans regarding the price.”, explains one.

3. Scammer Serial

Like any city for tourists, scammers are everywhere. A con to beware of is one at the ticket machines where individuals try and “help” you buy/recharge your İstanbulkart. They quickly grab the card, saying it is ready before the charge is written. “I’m presuming they would have then put their own card in the machine and ‘stolen’ my recharge,” points out a member. 

4. Spice Bazaar: No Man’s Land

Many warn against making purchases from the Spice Bazaar or the Grand Bazaar. No locals buy anything from those places since they’re a tourist trap. “Get outside of the touristic Sultanahmet area if you have extra time. You won’t see any locals in Sultanahmet,” recommends one.

5. Bothersome Bargains

Fresh Fruits
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Those from the West aren’t used to the idea of bargaining. It may seem excruciating initially, but the joy of shopping in Istanbul is negotiating the price. Never take the given value when dealing with a street seller. “If you’re not bargaining for everything (and I mean everything), you’re doing it wrong,” remarks a member.

6. Going Local

It may seem obvious, but Turkey is made up of Turks. Getting to know them and their culture is one of the most delightful things one can do on the trip. A person suggests talking to the locals, asking them for restaurant recommendations and directions. “Most people are willing to help and are nice.”

7. Language Barrier

According to travelers’ experience, most Turks know at least a couple of words of English. However, the farther you get from tourist spots, the less English they may know. It helps if you know Arabic, as some people can speak it. However, it is best to learn a few Turkish words before going, though most people can manage with just English.

8. Map Mysteries

The last thing you want as a tourist is to get lost. However, the day is saved, thanks to Google Maps and Mobiett. One person shares how they would use Google Maps for the route. “If you’re not going to have data/internet, download an offline map of Istanbul and a Turkish translator in advance.”

9. Sim Card Sorrows

You should get a Turkish SIM card if your mobile plan does not allow international use. However, please don’t get it at a popular tourist place; you’ll get overcharged. Plus, know that using a Turkish SIM in a foreign phone and not registering or paying tax will cause the phone to be blocked on Turkish networks after a few months. Hence, using a travel eSIM is probably a better option.

10. A Cup of Tea

turkish tea
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One person mentions how they weren’t prepared for the guys who run up and try to start a conversation about whatever, and then it always leads to their uncle’s shop full of carpets. But don’t let the scammers faze you. If you’re being offered tea, it is not dodgy but a typical practice.

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