Irresistible Istanbul

Out of all of the places we visited for our gap year, Istanbul was the one place I had no idea what to expect. I felt like I was adventuring into the unknown – a part of Europe where just about anything could happen.

Would it be safe? Would the food be good? What about the people?

I can tell you with absolute certainty: Istanbul is the perfect destination for backpacking.

My friends and I spent two busy, busy days in Istanbul. The city has an over-abundance of history from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi Palace.

One thing that shocked me was the amount of mosques throughout the city. There are more mosques in Istanbul than there are churches in Rome! There are over 2,600 mosques that scatter the city skyline. Since it would take a lifetime to visit all of them (and it would probably get really boring after a while), check out the Blue Mosque and then walk across the street to the Hagia Sophia. One mistake we made was asking locals where the Blue Mosque is. It’s actually called Sultan Ahmed Mosque and tourists only know it as the Blue Mosque.

If you go anytime from June to September, one of the best ways to see the city is by ferry. Hop on a ferry to explore the Bosphorus, which is the Istanbul strait. We took some of the best pictures from the water…and with lots of places to get off and explore, you won’t be too far from something you want to see.

Even though I was really worried I can tell you with absolute certainty…Turkish food is to die for. Eating out in Istanbul is the best way to try all of the different types of food. We just asked the waiters what to order and they brought everything out!

Things to know before you go:

· Wear respectable clothing – This isn’t the time to show off that new belly button ring you got the trip before…especially while visiting mosques. Remove your shoes before entering and girls should cover their head with a scarf. Also, avoid visiting during prayer time.

· Bargaining – do it! When you visit the Grand Bazaar or even if you fancied buying some Turkish carpet for the folks at home, bargain to get the best price. Obviously there is no negotiation in taxis, restaurants and malls.

· Carry tissue paper – the toilets in Istanbul are pretty testing and finding toilet paper is a once in a lifetime miracle. But don’t use it all in one go because the plumbing throughout the city is ancient.

· Public transportation – like the rest of Europe, the public transportation is dirt cheap and extremely efficient. There are buses and trams that are easy to use.

Bare all this in mind and you will have a truly magical time in Istanbul….a truly beautiful city.

Author Bio: Renee White

Renee is an eager American traveler writer with a passion for understanding new cultures. She loves not taking the beaten path and sharing her experiences with others.

7 Comments

  • M

    May 5, 2011

    >> Drinking is only allowed in tourist areas and in public, is against the law!
    No sweetheart, it’s allowed in any establishment that has an alcohol license, just like the States, where you’re from. In fact, open container laws are a lot more loosely enforced.

  • Anil

    May 5, 2011

    Istanbul isn’t the capital of Turkey though, it’s Ankara and you can drink most places in Istanbul. Drinking alcohol is not prohibited in Turkey!

  • Bluegreen Kirk

    May 5, 2011

    Thanks for the information on the Istanbul! I haven’t seen many posts on these place as a travel destination but may have to check it out.

    @ Anil – thanks for the clarification on the capital. Turkey doesn’t allow alcohol for anyone?

  • The Travel Chica

    May 5, 2011

    I experienced Istanbul for only a couple of days on one of my first trips abroad. It was so incredible. Completely different than anything I’d ever experienced. The culture, the food, the architecture… so exciting. You’ve brought back great memories.

    I need to go back now that I’m older and a more experienced traveler. Two days is definitely not enough for Istanbul.

  • Sarah Wu

    May 7, 2011

    What a great post, 2,600 mosques is alot. I mean there’s no way I can finish visiting all of them if I was there lol.

  • Thanks for the tips 🙂 The toilet paper one is the best haha

  • Alfee

    May 19, 2011

    I too had a wonderful time in a snowy Istanbul ten years ago. Majestic mosques with great architecture, plenty of good food, and lots of things to see at the Grand Bazaar.

    There was an unpleasant situation I encountered with a taxi driver I’d rather forget but I guess that’s all part of the travel experience. Would love to go back there again soon.

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