Independent travel to Istanbul

Travel Tips

Istanbul – a city on the Bosphorus

I was in Turkey 3 times – in 2009 I traveled all over the Antalya coast as part of a promotional tour, in 2015 I flew to Istanbul for a week and in 2016 I stayed there for a couple of days at the very end of our tour of southern Europe.

Former Constantinople is definitely in my personal list of top 5 cities.

So let’s go.

If you want to order a comprehensive planning of your trip to Turkey or, conversely, learn how to organize your own trips, then you are here 🙂

Visa to Turkey

Turkey is one of the few countries for short-term visits to which tourists from Russia currently no visa required.

How to get to Istanbul

From Moscow and St. Petersburg you can fly directly to Istanbul. Direct flights are operated by Turkish Airlines and Aeroflot. Prices, of course, are not “low-cost”, but quite adequate.

You can read more about how I look for flights here.

Istanbul airports and how to get to the city

Until 2019, Istanbul had 2 airports – Ataturk and Sabihi Gokcen. In 2019, the new İstanbul Havalimanı Airport was opened, to which international flights from Ataturk were transferred.

Ataturk Airport was located closer to the city. In order to avoid wasting time in traffic jams, one could use Metro – the station is located right at the airport, you can get off at Taksim. On my way – 20-25 minutes. Not only is it faster, it’s also cheaper.

They also plan to open a metro station at the new airport, but so far they are only planning. Therefore, you will have to get to the city by land transport., which means corks-corks-corks. You need to lay 60-90 minutes on the road, and this is with heavy traffic, but without severe traffic jams. The main bus operator that operates flights to the center is Company Havaist. The fare from İstanbul Havalimanı Airport varies from 25 to 35 lira depending on the final stop.

Istanbul third airport Sabihi Gokcen. It serves domestic flights and flights of low-cost airlines. You can also get to the city center from there by bus. Judging by the distance, the journey should take about 50 minutes. But the traffic jams are terrible. Personally, we drove to Taksim for 2 hours. Bus operator – Havatas. Bus timetables can be found on their website.


National currency – Turkish lira. When I was in Turkey for the first time, 1 lira cost 6 rubles. In 2016, it began to cost 20 rubles. In 2020, the rate is already more pleasant – 11-12 rubles per lira.

Season in Istanbul

I prefer to travel to cities (not resorts) in the “low” season in order to avoid the huge number of tourists. Therefore, my visits to Istanbul fell on March and February. Both times the weather was good – about 15-17 degrees Celsius. It was, however, very cold in the evening. Therefore, warm clothes at this time of the year must be taken with you.

And in April, Istanbul hosts the famous tulip festival.

Districts of Istanbul

Perhaps the most popular districts of Istanbul among tourists are:

  • Besiktas – stretched along the Bosphorus in the European part of the city. It is here that the Dolmabahce Palace and the Ortakoy Mosque are located.
  • Fatih – the most ancient Constantinople. Tourists are most attracted to the historical district of Sultanahmet with the famous Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque and many other attractions of Istanbul.
  • Beyoglu – there are Taksim Square (the center of nightlife), Istiklal Street and the Galata Tower.
  • Kadikoy – a district in the Asian part of Istanbul with a shopping street Baghdad.


The first time I lived at the Sopha So Good hostel in Taksim (unfortunately, it was closed a couple of years ago), the second time at the Four Seasons Bosphorus hotel in Besiktas district. It should be noted that Besiktas is still far from all the main attractions. Walking distance, but you have to walk decently. Therefore, for those who travel to Istanbul for the first time, I would still recommend considering Fatih or Taksim.

When booking accommodation in Taksim, you need to be prepared for the fact that have to keep going up and downbecause it is located on a hill.

But in general the choice of accommodation in Istanbul is hugethe price range in each area is about the same.

You can read more about how I search for placements. here.

What to see/do in Istanbul

A huge number of guidebooks have been written about Istanbul. So I I will confine myself solely to my advice/observations:

  • you can’t travel to Istanbul (however, like the rest of Turkey) for more than a week – so much food and all of it is so deliciousthat then you will not leave, but roll out. At tastings alone, before buying, you can gain a couple of kilograms;
  • a lot of walking up and down the whole city on the hills;
  • not going to the hammam means not visiting Turkeybut you need to choose the right hammam, you can’t save on it;
  • don’t go to Grand Bazaar it is forbidden;
  • Saint Sophie Cathedral strikes with a mixture of Christianity and Islam in its architecture and decoration;
  • Blue Mosque is a must;
  • Basilica Cistern (an underground reservoir over 1500 years old) is one of the most unusual sights I have ever visited;
  • take at least an hour to just sit and admire the Bosphorusand even better – a ride on a boat;
  • Shawarma tastes better in Germany than in Turkey 🙂

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