Updated: Oct 23, 2020
There is a reason why this city is growing in popularity on the internet. The people, the food, the culture, and everything about this city makes it worth visiting. I believe it should be listed on the top of everyone’s destination bucket list.
Fears we had before going to Turkey:
1) ISIS will find us and behead Americans.
2) It’s a dangerous place, because it’s a STRICT country.
3) The airport is dangerous…. did you see the terrorist attack a few years ago?
Looking back, it’s embarrassing to admit our worries here in my blog. If you are feeling the same way, do not pay attention to that paranoid voice telling you to pick a different country.
At no point did we feel scared. Let me write that again. At no point did we ever feel scared.
What to wear:
You are going to an extremely conservative country. Keep it modest, such as long skirts, long dresses, or jeans. Also, no tank top or sleeveless shirts. Honestly, I’m not sure if anyone really cares, because I did not see all the tourists following these dress code “rules”. For me, when I’m in someone else’s country, I always want to be respectful. I’m thankful they have allowed me into their country and I’m thankful for the experience.
A visa is required to enter Turkey. It’s quick, easy, and cheap. Just apply for one online.
Stay up to 90 days
Valid for 180 days.
Lira. We converted our American dollars to Lira at the airport in Turkey, but everyone takes euros as well.
I personally fly Turkish Airlines because I love it. See my Greece blog for more details on the Airlines.
As stated above, Istanbul Airport is the massive main hub airport and it’s stunning.
We stayed at the FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ISTANBUL AT THE BOSPHORUS using our Chase points. The reason I selected a more upscale hotel is because after reading reviews I started getting nervous about the staff not knowing English. The reviews stated all the staff at this hotel spoke English. My husband and I ask lots of questions while traveling. We usually spend most of our time talking to the hotel staff about where to go, what to eat, etc. Having a staff that speaks English is important to us. If it’s not important to you, then I suggest a more budget friendly hotel.
Also, I would suggest staying closer to downtown Istanbul by the Grand Bazaar and the Blue Mosque. That seems to be where all the action is happening. Luckily for us, the hotel provided free hourly transportation to this area. I guess they know when in Istanbul that’s where everyone wants to go. Our hotel was only a 15-minute drive, which wasn’t too bad.
We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. After that, we simply walked everywhere or we took the free hotel shuttle to the Grand Bazar and Blue Mosque. We noticed the taxi drivers do not know English, but do not worry because they have translators on their phones.
Signature Turkish items to try:
Their Coffee is more like an expresso and it’s amazing. Seriously, the best coffee I’ve ever had. I had the standard hotel room coffee every day and it was delicious. Do not expect a large American coffee cup in your room.
It is an extremely popular drink with the locals, and you will see everyone drinking it. It is made with yogurt and animal milk. Just FYI- it’s disgusting and it tastes like spoiled hot milk. However, I still think you should try it so you can form your own opinion.
This is a Turkish/Greek pastry dish made with pistachios. I love how they use pistachios in a lot of their desserts. It is so good. The Turkish people make it a little different than the Greeks. I still can’t decide which is better.
You will see the locals outside sipping on hot tea. I would say it’s comparable to going to Starbucks in the USA. If you want to feel what it’s like to be local, find a spot and sip on some hot tea.
For the record we had no issues with menus not being in English. Every menu we came across was in Turkish and English.
Konyali Ahmet Usta
If you want to try all the popular Turkish dishes in one meal then I suggest this place (my favorite restaurant) on your visit. You can try all the sis kebap, doner, fofte, and pide. Yes, everything and it is amazing.
They even provide free appetizers, which are interesting but good none the less.
Huzur Restaurant and Cafe
The manager is an awesome guy and the food is yummy. Check out the show that was preformed at our table.
Also, have some Hookah after your meal. Do not worry, it’s only fruit and water. However, it’s really relaxing and a must try when in Turkey.
Things to do:
Let me start with saying this place is overrated and it smells like feet. However, it’s free and it is a part of the Istanbul experience. You must be dressed conservatively and men cannot wear shorts. Also, the mosque will provide a free shawl for women to cover their heads. I heard that men and women have separate entrances, but that was not the case when we went. You are required to take off your shoes when you enter. I think that is why the carpet smells like feet. The mosque is beautiful, but it only takes about 10 minutes to explore. My number one suggestion is to show up early before the lines get long. Even if they are long the lines do go fast.
This museum/church/mosque is across the street from the museum. It cost $12 a person and is 100% worth it. This place is gorgeous and massive.
We used our google maps to walk to the local spice market. You will find lots of awesome spices and candy. Be careful, the candy is so good and the sales people are just as good. We ended up spending $30 on candy and we didn’t even mean to. The worst part is we asked the booth next door how much they would have charged and it was half the price. We negotiated our price down to $30 dollars, while the booth next door was half the price with no negotiation. Also, if you have allergies please bring some Excedrin. I had a massive headache from all the spices. Let’s just say the headache lasted 2 days and I couldn’t find Excedrin anywhere. You can only buy aspirin from the drug store which is not always opened.
It’s the largest ancient cistern that lies beneath the city of Istanbul. For $20 a person you can see the ancient Roman cisterns and see some really cool Medusa heads.
They even have a spot where you can dress up in Turkish gear and have your picture taken. They do a really good job. $15 a picture
*Scary fact* We were underground when a 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit Istanbul. We had no clue. We felt nothing. My husband was grateful we were underground when this happened otherwise there is no way I would have gone to the cistern after an earthquake.
Drinks while looking at two continents.
Have drinks at the FOUR SEASONS HOTEL ISTANBUL AT THE BOSPHORUS. This is where you can sit in Europe and look at Asia that is just across the bridge. This is where both continents meet.
Have a turkish beer.
I saved the best for last. If you love designer goods then…….you will freak out! This place has the best knock offs that I have ever seen! They even come with serial numbers and designer boxes. Seriously, I’m pretty good about spotting a fake, and I couldn’t find any differences between the real and the knock offs. Talk about a designer paradise. Flights to Istanbul are pretty cheap, therefore I’ve considered grabbing a group of girls and heading to Istanbul to shop.
Is it illegal to buy these and bring them back to the US? ..no. Is it illegal to buy and sell them in the US?…yes. Although, it is not illegal to keep a knock off, I still tried to hide mine in my check in luggage. I didn’t want any items confiscated. Here is what I bought for $60. Remember negotiate, negotiate, and negotiate.
My husband loved the street vendor food inside the Grand Bazaar. It was his favorite meal.
I hope my blog has you excited to see Istanbul. Now book that trip!