I was here in September 2012. It was an interesting experience.
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The information is solely based on my experience at the time I visited Istanbul, Turkey in September 2012. Some changes might have been made at some of the establishment. Make sure you confirm.
Visa for US citizens – $20 (you can get it on arrival at the Airport) or apply online (it takes 10 minutes to apply & get approved). The link to apply online is e-visa.
Visa for Nigerian citizens (or mostly African citizens) – either get it at your country of residence but if you have US or Shengia visa, you will be permitted to enter the country.
Getting to & from the Airport
Taxi: Cost between 45 to 55 Liras to Beyoğlu or Sultanahmet
Buses – 10 Liras buses to & from the airport. From the airport you will be dropped at Taksim square. Get the bus also from Taksim square. The buses leave every hour. They are fully air-conditioned and have spaces for luggage.
Tram: 3 Liras one way. You will need to have small denominations or coins because the machine only accept 5, 10 or 20 Liras bill. Your change will all be in coins.
Walking: Free – if you love walking, you will love Istanbul
Sights: depending on when you visit, you will experience a very long line/queue – have patience because it is worth it.
- Galata Tower: 12 Liras – Built in 528 during the Byzantine Empire. Amazing view from the top of the tower
- Aya Sofia: 25 Liras.
- Topkapi Palace: 25 Liras; additional 15 Liras to see the Harem
- Bosphorus Cruise: 10 Liras for the short cruise (2.5 hours). Check sehirhatlari.com.tr for updated price
- Turkish Bath: Sultanahmet Hamami – 50 Liras with reservation, 60 Liras for walk in – this price include soap massage and scrubbing dead skin off. Pay more for additional service. It wasn’t a fancy place. You will find several Turkish bath in Istanbul including the ‘300 yrs old Turkish bath – Cagaloglu Hamami’. I opted out of this establishment because it was out of my budget. Their ‘do it yourself bath’ was 50 euros. So feel free to look around
- Kadikoy: Ferry to the Asian side (Kadikoy) – 3 Liras one way
- Sultanahmet (Old City)
- Taksim Square
- Spice Bazaar
- Grand Bazaar: avoid shopping here – it’s a rip off. You will most likely get whatever you want on the streets for lesser price
- Hookah/ Narghile/ Shisha Places: Perla Kallavi Cafe (on the side street beside the Starbucks on Istiklal Avenue & Eski Çiçekçi Alley). It has a roof top terrace where you can see the Bosphorus
- Istiklal Avenue: lots of restaurants, stores, clubs, bars/pubs, desert/Turkish delight places and people watching.
Places to Stay
- EastWest Hostel: – very clean, hot water, fast Wi-Fi in the room, free breakfast, free tea/coffee and water all day. I stayed in the 4 bed female dorm. Great location (on one of the side streets leading to Istiklal Avenue)
- Hotel Sultania: Recommended by Oneika Raymond
They eat lots of meat and more meat. Loved the spices used in the food. You will find numerous eateries/local places/touristy restaurants. Sample all.
For the deserts and Turkish delight: Most are made with or from Nuts (all types of nuts) – so beware if you are allergic to Nuts. If not, try to sample some of their Turkish Delights especially the Baklava.
Don’t miss the Turkish apple tea – if you simply ask for apple tea, you will be given the regular tea bag. So make sure to ask for Turkish apple tea.
Although knowing some Turkish will help you a lot, you can still survive without knowing Turkish. Most speak English in touristy places
Other things you should know
If you are black or of African descent, you will get a lot of attention (both negative & positive); the positive might make you forget the negative. People will stare at you; some will ask to take a photo of you or with you while others will just take it without asking you!!
Men will ask you out on a date, some will ask you to marry them. You will be called names like ‘Chocolate Face’, Rihanna, Beyonce and so on.
Sometimes this attention might be scary and overwhelming.
I decided to enjoy the positive attention and satisfy their curiosity since I might have been the first black person they saw. For the negative attention, I simply ignored.
Enjoy the photos!!!!