Istanbul is an absolutely amazing city! I fell in love with it the moment I got out of the bus: friendly people, vibrant atmosphere, delicious food, interesting history and culture make the visit to the city an unforgettable experience. Probably, in my case one of the reasons is the fact that I have some Turkic blood in my veins 🙂 But as any other touristic places it has its traps, so I have compiled a list of things not to do in Istanbul in order to have a really enjoyable experience!
1. Don’t stay close to the sights.
Of course, it is much more convenient to stay closer to the sights, when you do not have to spend time and money to get to a palace or a mosque. But by doing this you will miss the real Istanbul and the authentic local life. We stayed at Fatih, reasonably not far from Sultanahmet, and really enjoyed the neighbourhood. And it is cheaper 🙂
2. Don’t take the tram on Istiklal.
Don’t do it, especially if you intend to actually see this wonderful street. It is a touristic tram, and it is always packed with people. Lots of tourists just take photos of themselves in front of the tram without getting in. But if you are tired – and you will be, if you are going to peek into all the shops, of which there are plenty – it is even advisable to take the tram to get to the other side of Istiklal.
3. Don’t shop on Istiklal.
I have to admit, I am guilty of this one. There are many shops on Istiklal, especially lots of not-so-expensive European brands as Mango, Bershka, H&M, and local Turkish ones, and it is difficult not to fall to the temptation of buying a fancy dress or a T-shirt. But people who travel to Istanbul frequently advise to go to big shopping centers, which are not touristic, and the prices are lower.
4. Don’t buy apple tea.
I do not mean to offend apple tea lovers, but it is awful, and that powder the tea is made of looks totally artificial. Better buy authentic Turkish tea: I think Çaykur is the most popular one of them.
5. Don’t buy everything you see on the bazaars.
Yes, the Egyptian and Grand Bazaars are cool, and you can buy lots of things there, but they are intended for tourists primarily, and are very expensive. If you want to buy Turkish delights or tea, better go to a local bakery or a supermarket. Just an example: my friend wanted to buy Çaykur tea in the Egyptian bazaar, because, as the rumor has it, it is cheaper there than in the Grand Bazaar. In one shop it cost 15 Turkish liras, in the second one 30(!) Turkish liras, and in the supermarket – 12 Turkish liras only (or might be even less depending on the tea type).
6. Don’t buy on bazaars without haggling.
Haggling is crucial! You can cut the price by half. The items in the bazaars are overpriced, and you can’t buy everything in supermarkets or local shops. If you really want that amazingly colorful scarf or those wonderful tulip-shaped glasses, then don’t be afraid to bargain. When the seller tells the price, say that it is too expensive. They lower the price a bit, but you go on with saying that it still is too expensive, and turn to go away. Usually they stop you and ask to set your own price. Don’t be too immodest, give it a reasonable price, and you will strike a deal. A story again: on my first trip to Istanbul I did not know any of these, but managed to cut the price of a scarf from 60 Turkish liras to 25.
7. Don’t be afraid to try street food.
Turkey has an amazing national cuisine, and you don’t even have to go a restaurant to try it. Get yourself a kumpir (a baked potato with filling), balik ekmek (fish and bread), tombik (it is similar to burgers, but tastes much better), simit (a bread with sesame seeds), and baked chestnuts. And freshly squeezed pomegranate and orange juices! I think street vendors are everywhere in Istanbul, so consider yourself safe from starvation 🙂 . If you are not a fan of street food, and don’t think it is hygienic enough, go to small Turkish restaurants.
8. Don’t eat at McDonald’s or Burger King.
You will see plenty of them, but don’t even think about going inside. The Turkish cuisine is not limited to street food, so go to restaurants that serve traditional kebabs and delights. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed!
9. Don’t eat close to touristic places.
This one is a very strong don’t, and it’s true not only to Istanbul. We had a dinner in a very small restaurant just next to the Topkapi palace: unfortunately, I don’t remember its name, but it was overpriced and the food was awful. Actually, it was our worst meal in the city. Just go a bit farther from the sights and you will find really nice places to eat.
10. Don’t try to get to everywhere on foot.
When I looked at the map of Istanbul, some sights seemed to be really close to each other, while in reality it takes a lot of time to get there. When we went to the Yildiz palace – an amazing place, by the way, I thought that the Dolmabahce is not really far from there. Trust me, it is, and I am glad we took the bus. If you like long walks, then it is not a huge distance for you, but for us, who attempted to get everywhere on foot as much as possible, it was quite an ordeal.
Do you know any other things not to do in Istanbul you would like to share? Anyway, if you are going to Istanbul, you will need a list of places to see there, so I am here to help!
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