Istanbul’s streets aren’t hard to navigate if you wear comfortable shoes and bring an Istanbulkart, a contactless card that works on metros, buses, trams, and ferries. (It’s reloadable at stations and kiosks.)
Getting around is easy with public transportation, but walking is also an excellent way to explore neighborhoods like Sultanahmet and Beyoglu.
1. Walk it off
As much as it might be tempting to get a taxi, walking it off is the best way to experience Istanbul. Unless you’re heading to the airport or somewhere that’s too far away, most sights are within walking distance. Plus, it’s a great way to save on those pesky cab fares.
As you walk, you’ll come across street stalls selling everything from cooked oysters with rice and lemon to rotating kebap over hot coals to baklava and pide. You’ll hear the melodic call to prayer blasting through every mosque around you, and see the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, and Suleymaniye on the horizon.
You might have to battle a bit of crowding at times, but you’ll never be short on culture and history here. And don’t forget to take a moment to pet every adorable cat you pass – they always want to be stroked! It’s just another reminder of how incredibly diverse and unique this city is.
2. Be mindful of your belongings
Istanbul is a frenzied city where the cobbled streets are constantly overflowing with people. It is a place where emotions and energy are on full display, car horns sound day and night, and the streets teem with vendors selling everything from food to souvenirs.
It is important to be mindful of your belongings while traveling through the city. Be sure to carry a small backpack or cross-body bag, and be sure not to leave valuables unattended. In addition, it is a good idea to avoid visiting the more popular, “insta-famous” destinations, as these areas can be very crowded and may be difficult to navigate.
Istanbul is a fascinating destination that straddles two continents and is home to many unique attractions. It can be challenging to navigate, but it is also an incredibly rewarding experience. With a little bit of preparation and the right tips for traveling through Istanbul, you can experience this incredible city without any problems.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
It is not uncommon for tourists to visit a country that is a little outside of their comfort zone. But that’s exactly the reason why it’s important to not be afraid of asking questions. You never know when a question will help you learn something new or make your experience more enjoyable! Tours to Turkey are also a good option if you ever need help with your travel.
For example, if you’re traveling to Istanbul from a country that requires a visa in advance, it’s important to ask about the rules beforehand. This will avoid you being surprised by a huge fee at the airport or in the city!
In addition, you should always keep an eye out for different types of scams when traveling in Istanbul. Whether it’s pick-pocketing, overcharging for taxis, or shoe shiners asking for ridiculous amounts of money, there are many different ways that these scams can occur. So it’s important to be prepared for them by knowing a few tips and tricks ahead of time!
4. Don’t be afraid to take a break
In order to avoid being ripped off by cab drivers it is best to download apps such as Uber or BiTaksi (a cheaper Turkish version of Uber). Having these in your phone will give you the opportunity to see how much a cab should cost before you even sit in the car.
Especially for women, it is recommended to bring clothes that cover the shoulders and hips. This is particularly important when visiting mosques and churches. Also, be sure to carry a scarf or hat to cover your head in case you are not given one at the entrance.
Istanbul is a multicultural city where many different languages are spoken. The majority of the locals will speak at least some English, but you may find people who can only communicate in their native language. In those cases, it is good to be familiar with basic phrases such as “hello”, “thank you”, and “no”.
5. Don’t be afraid to try something new
Getting out and exploring is one of the best ways to immerse yourself in Istanbul’s vibrant energy and forge connections with its warm-hearted residents. Rather than sticking to the touristy attractions, take a detour down a tucked away street or try a new dish.
Istanbul’s street culture is as vibrant and varied as its dazzlingly busy spaces, offering a rich tapestry of cultural traditions that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Couples passionately argue in public; old men play backgammon and drink cay together on the street; kids sell tissues, phone batteries, and chewing gum; and food vendors sound their call for customers from every corner.
Ditch the tourist cruises and hop aboard a dolmus or passenger ferry for a chance to experience these unique traditions. Indulge in a simit, a local ring of sesame-covered bread, or tuck into a jacket potato (kumpir). Embrace the hustle and bustle of these iconic modes of transportation and let your senses lead you through the city’s streets like a local.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions
Istanbul’s streets can be daunting for even the most seasoned traveler, but knowing how to navigate through them like a local is key. Avoiding rush hour traffic, using public transportation, and downloading a navigation app can all help you make your way around this tumultuous metropolis with ease.
Turkish people are not afraid to show their emotions in the street: couples argue passionately; old men laugh and goad each other while playing backgammon or drinking cay together; street children sell tissues, phone batteries, and chewing gum; and car horns screech day and night. This street culture gives the city a vibrant, tumultuous energy that is both exhilarating and intimidating.
It is also important to remember that Istanbul is a big city, and it can take time to get to even the most popular attractions. However, don’t be afraid to ask for directions if you are lost or need assistance. And if you decide to take a taxi, always make sure to negotiate the fare and check that they are using the meter.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Istanbul’s streets can be confusing for first-time visitors. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to navigate the city like a local: avoiding rush hour, using navigation apps, taking advantage of car-free zones, and using taxis wisely.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it’s always a good idea to bargain when visiting markets and bazaars. Sellers often increase prices for tourists, so don’t be afraid to ask if you can get the price down.
Additionally, it’s important to be mindful of the etiquette when visiting mosques. Remember that non-Muslims must take off their shoes and cover their heads, arms, and legs when entering. Also, make sure to bring a small bag to store your belongings while inside the mosque. You’ll thank yourself later for this extra precaution!
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions in Turkish
In Istanbul, it’s important to know some Turkish words – especially when asking for directions. Most people in Turkey don’t speak English, so knowing a few basic phrases can be helpful. Plus, Turks rely a lot on hand gestures, so knowing how to interpret them can be even more beneficial.
If you’re traveling on a budget, consider taking a public ferry to see the city from the water. It’s one of the best ways to experience the city and can also save you money on food and drinks.
Istanbul is a massive and chaotic metropolis that’s going to take some time to get used to. However, once you do, you’ll find it to be a beautiful and fascinating place. If you’re visiting, remember to stay safe and be mindful of your belongings! And if you have any tips for navigating through the chaos, be sure to share them in the comments below!
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions in English
Most people visiting Istanbul aren’t driving their own cars and instead are taking public transportation. In order to navigate Istanbul with ease, make sure you’ve downloaded the Google Maps app and switched to the public transport tab. This will give you a clear step-by-step guide of how to get to your destination from where you are.
If you’re lost, asking for directions in English will help immensely! It’s also a good idea to use landmarks as navigational points. These are easier to remember and can help you find your way quickly.
If you’re travelling with a group, it may be easier to join a guided tour that will take care of your transport and direction. Otherwise, you’ll be able to save money on taxis by negotiating your fare ahead of time and only using official drivers with meters. If you’re on a budget, consider purchasing an Istanbulkart – a contactless card that works for all modes of transport including buses, trams and metro lines.