Turkey, a beautiful place rich in culture & history and with equally amazing & friendly people, has always attracted me and fortunately I got a chance to visit Istanbul from Feb 22nd to Feb 26th, 2015 to attend a conference.
I travelled through Turkish Airlines and landed at Istanbul Atatürk Airport where a pretty lady from the airport staff greeted me: “Merhaba (Hello)”, “hoşgeldin (Welcome)” ;-). I already started falling in love with Turkey
(Note: Istanbul has two Airports; “Istanbul Atatürk Airport” and “Sabiha Gökçen International Airport”. I preferred landing at Atatürk Airport since it is near to the main city attractions (~21 km from Taksim Square) as compared to “Sabiha Gökçen International Airport” (~44 km from Taksim Square)).
Arriving in hotel
My hotel was at Osmanbey which is ~3 km from Taksim. Havataş bus service is available which travels between Atatürk Airport and Taksim Square. I took Havataş and it dropped me at Taksim in around half an hour, moreover it only costed 11 TL per head which was a pretty good deal 🙂 The bus was also very cozy and comfortable. I took a cab from Taksim to reach my hotel.
Metro, tram, funicular and ferry are the four ways of moving around Istanbul. These are undoubtedly the most efficient and cheap means of transportation if you are travelling alone. All you need to do is get an “Istabulkart” (Istanbul Card) from outside of any metro station and just follow the maps. It’s a prepaid card which you can recharge anytime. It costs around 11 TL for the card initially and 1.5 TL for hopping into Metro, tram or funicular each time.
The metro stations themselves are constructed beautifully with Ottoman history displayed on tiles and amazing live music by local musicians to make your wait for metro worth it 🙂 The metro, trams and funicular are quite punctual too.
Communicating with Locals
One might face difficulty in communicating with locals as most of them are not very good with English language. As always “Google Translate” remained my savior whenever I wanted to ask for directions or just to interact with the locals 🙂
(Caution: Don’t rely completely on google translate and limit the length of a sentence to a minimum as Google Translate’s Turkish to English module is still under development and not very accurate. There were a few instances where I almost thought of running away looking at the facial expressions of the people as google translated something that they found offensive while I only had asked for directions 😀
Taksim Square, Istiklal Avenue, and the NIGHT LIFE
The night life of Istanbul is simply awesome. It starts right after the sun sets and continues till 6 in the morning 😀 The best place to party all night long is undoubtedly Taksim and İstiklal Avenue, visited by nearly 3 million people each day 🙂 The avenue contains many clubs and restaurants. It is also home to a vast range of local and international clothing brands. The street music is something that will keep you indulged in the magic of İstiklal Avenue 😉
Turkey is heaven for meat lovers, especially lamb. Apart from meat, do try the famous Kumpir (baked potato) and the mussels. You can always have Turkish Tea (çay) any time you want. But if you feel adventurous, do try the Turkish Coffee, which is served with a glass of water 😀
Cruise at Bosphorus River
The cruise dinner at Bosporus River is a must to have. You can enjoy it both at night and at day time with beautiful scenes along the coastline. The cruise offers delicious dinner along with traditional and cultural activities to keep you entertained throughout the three hours long journey 🙂
You can either book a cruise dinner before or you can directly go to Eminönü from where the cruise starts. It costed me around 45 TL.
Turkish Street Animals
One of the many things that I liked about Istanbul is the well fed street animals. The street animals are really taken good care of by the local Turkish people J The cat in the picture below, lost in thoughts, seems to have only one thing in mind: “Why do they feed me so much?? I am lazy and I know it !! “ 😛
Moving around Istanbul Is always fun even when you are just walking on random streets. The more you explore it, the more you fall in love with it. I will write in detail about the main tourist attractions of Istanbul in my next blog so stay tuned !! 🙂
About The Author:
Ali Sani is a Chemical Engineer by profession and a travel enthusiast. Through his blogs, he wants to encourage people to travel, discover new things and live all the beautiful experiences while traveling. He keeps keen interest in landscape photography