Savvy Travel & Family Time

Traveling to Istanbul for the First Time? Everything You Need to Know for an Amazing Vacation!

Are you traveling to Istanbul for the first time? This is a city that everyone should visit! Here’s what you need to know to have an amazing vacation.

Are you planning to travel to Istanbul, Turkey for the first time?

Istanbul is easily one of the most amazing cities in the world – the food, culture, and landscape are unlike any other. But, before you travel to Istanbul, there are some things you should know. 

Check out this guide to discover the top things you should know before traveling to Istanbul for the first time. 

1. Getting a Visa 

Before you think about traveling in Istanbul, you first need to think about getting into the country. Visa rules in Turkey have recently changed, so make sure you understand the rules pertaining to your country. 

Luckily, if you’re a US citizen, the visa rules have become more convenient. While you used to need to go to an embassy to apply for a visa, you can now secure an eVisa online before your departure. As a US citizen, you’re allowed to travel in Turkey for 90 days within a 180-day period. 

To apply for this visa, all you’ll need is a valid passport that lasts a minimum of 60 days beyond your departure date in Turkey. 

2. Dressing 

While you may need to alter your wardrobe a bit to fit into some countries, Istanbul’s fashion scene is surprisingly international. 

You’ll find locals in jeans, sweaters, converse-style shoes, and even skirts above the knee. However, sports, beach clothes, and hiking boots may leave you looking a bit out of place, although this type of ware isn’t necessarily discouraged. 

Either way, it’s important to know that Istanbul is a very hilly city with many steep streets. Therefore, you want to make sure to bring a comfortable pair of shoes with you. 

3. Getting Around 

Getting around Istanbul is an adventure in and of itself, as the streets here are very chaotic and busy. 

Due to the large number of one-way streets, even a short taxi ride can take a long time. If you do choose to get around by taxi, make sure the meter is turned on before getting in. Otherwise, knowing you’re a tourist, a driver may try to rip you off. 

The best way to get around though is either by foot or by public transport. Although hilly, Istanbul is a very walkable city. Plus, there’s no better way to see the city than on foot!

If you’re going to be moving around a lot, we suggest investing in an Istanbulkart card. You can use this card for all kinds of public transport- trains, trams, buses, and even ferries!

This card works like a typical metro card, in that you pay a small fee to buy it and then you can preload it using cash or credit card. If you plan to travel by public transport a lot, this card will give you the most bang for your buck, as it’s cheaper than buying individual passes. 

4. Safety 

Istanbul is generally a safe city. However, just as you would when traveling anywhere else, you need to exercise caution. 

Perhaps the biggest safety issue you’ll run into here is with the roads. As we said earlier, traffic is chaotic here, so you need to be very alert as a pedestrian. In Istanbul, you’re not protected as a pedestrian if you’re walking on the road, so make sure to stick to the sidewalks. And, don’t be tempted to imitate the many locals you’ll see swerving through the streets, narrowly missing oncoming traffic!

Also, don’t blindly trust traffic lights when crossing the street, as drivers are known for sometimes ignoring them. 

Lastly, make sure you’re aware of your belongings at all times, as pickpocketing is a problem here. 

5. Where to Stay 

The great thing about Istanbul is that it offers accommodation for every budget. You can find plenty of hostels, hotels, guesthouses, and Airbnbs. 

In terms of where you should say, here are some of the top recommended neighborhoods for tourists:

*Galata: This neighborhood is known for its nightlife

*Sultanahmet: This is a great area for first-timers, as it’s the historical and cultural heart of the city

*Beyoglu: Beyoglu is an extremely lively district that’s a great place to stay if you’re on a budget

*Karakoy: Karakoy is a small district that’s known for being very hip, with lots of trendy cafes and galleries

*Grand Bazaar: This area is very family-friendly

6. What to Do 

Last but not least, let’s talk about what to do while in Istanbul. Istanbul is a lot like New York or Paris in that you simply can’t see everything in one short visit. 

If you’re looking to pack as much in as possible, we recommend booking a city tour with this service. Whether you choose to book a tour or not, here are some great things to do in the city:

*Go on a Bosphorus boat tour 

*Visit the city’s most famous monument, Hagia Sophia

*Visit the Blue Mosque and the Suleymaniye Mosque

*Eat Turkish delight (commonly known as “lokum”)

*Sample some Turkish ice cream

*Awe at the ornate Topkapi Palace

*Explore the lush green gardens of Gulhane Park

*Explore the cool and artsy neighborhood of Ortakoy

*Eat a traditional Turkish breakfast 

*Explore one of Istanbul’s oldest and largest covered markets, the Grand Bazaar

*Take a stroll down Istiklal Street, where you’ll find plenty of trendy cafes and shops

*Awaken your senses at the Spice Bazaar

*Drink a cup of the infamous Turkish tea or coffee

*Take a free walking tour of the city

As you can see, there’s plenty to do in Istanbul!

Traveling to Istanbul: Are You Ready?

Now that you have these tips for traveling to Istanbul, it’s time to book your trip! Before you know it, you’ll be sipping a Turkish coffee at a trendy cafe on Istiklal Street!

If you liked this article, be sure to check back in with our blog for more travel-related tips and tricks. 

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