Thinking of going to Istanbul for your next vacation but not sure what to expect? This article will walk you through everything you need to know before setting off from Dublin to Istanbul.
We’ll cover everything from the language and culture to the best times to travel and how to get from the airport to your hotel. And once you’ve decided when to visit and where to stay, Trazler will help you build a personalized trip in just a few clicks.
So get ready for an adventure filled with enriching experiences and unforgettable moments because we’re headed to Istanbul!
Language in Istanbul
The official language of Turkey is Turkish, though Kurdish and Arabic are also common. You’re likely to hear English in the main touristy areas but not everyone will be fluent, so learning a few basic Turkish phrases might come in handy.
Here are some useful phrases:
- “Merhaba” (mehr-AH-bah) – Hello
- “Teşekkürle” (teh-shehk-KOOR-la) – Thank you
- “Lütfen” (LOOT-fen) – Please
- “Evet” (EH-vet) – Yes
- “Hayır” (HAH-yuhr) – No
- “Benim adım [Your Name]” (BEH-nim AH-duhm [Your Name]) – My name is [Your Name]
- “Anlamıyorum” (AHN-lah-MUH-yoh-room) – I don’t understand
- “İngilizce konuşuyor musunuz?” (EEN-gee-LEEZ-jay koh-NOO-shoo-YOHR moo-SOO-nooz) – Do you speak English?
- “Tuvalet nerede?” (to-VAH-let NEH-reh-deh) – Where is the bathroom?
- “Ne kadar?” (NEH KAH-dahr) – How much?
Culture in Istanbul
The majority of Istanbul’s population is Muslim, and there are many mosques throughout the city. It’s likely you’ll hear the call to prayer, which occurs 5 times throughout the day.
If you plan to visit a mosque, it’s important to dress modestly. This means women should cover their hair, and both men and women should make sure to cover their shoulders and legs. It is also customary to remove your shoes before entering, though some places may give you shoe covers instead.
If you are planning a mosque visit, try to avoid visiting during prayer times. This is especially true on Fridays, which is the Muslim holy day.
And if you’re looking to visit other religious sites, you can also explore the Church of St. George and the Neve Shalom Synagogue.
History and Sites
Istanbul is home to many amazing sights such as the Hagia Sophia, a cathedral turned mosque turned museum, and the Blue Mosque, known for its beautiful blue İznik tiles and six minarets. Another must-visit is the Topkapi Palace, the former home to the Ottoman Empire’s sultans.
Looking for a view? Head over to the medieval Galata Tower for a panoramic view of the city. And if you want to continue your sightseeing underground, visit the ancient Basilica Cistern, Istanbul’s largest underwater reservoir.
For a different perspective of Istanbul, take one of the many offered Bosphorus cruises. From the water, you’ll get great views of the Dolmabahce Palace, the Hagia Sophia, and the Maiden’s Tower.
Another popular Istanbul attraction is the Grand Bazaar, a renowned market with over 4,000 different shops. Here you’ll find everything from vintage jewelry and traditional crafts to textiles and colorful spices.
If you’re willing to venture outside of the city, the legendary city of Troy is about 5 hours away. The well-preserved Roman city of Ephesus is also nearby, reachable in an hour by flight or eight by road.
Trazler Smart Tip: It’s normal to bargain when shopping in the Grand Bazaar. Never accept the first price offered to you!
Start at least one day in Istanbul with a traditional Turkish breakfast, known as “kahvaltı”. This typically consists of bread, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, various cheeses, jams, honey, “menemen” (a dish made of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, green peppers, and spices), and of course, Turkish tea.
The popular “döner” and “adana kebab,” are commonly eaten for Turkish lunch or dinner. Döner is typically made of meat that is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served on bread with salad, while Adana kebab consists of minced meat skewers grilled on an open flame.
“Meze”, small tapas-style dishes served with drinks, is another highlight of Turkish cuisine. Common mezes include “patlıcan salatası” (eggplant salad), “haydari” (yogurt with herbs), and “çerkez tavuğu” (Circassian chicken).
If you’re looking for street food, “Balık ekmek” (grilled fish in bread) is best enjoyed from a street cart near the Bosphorus Strait. You also shouldn’t miss “lahmacun”, a thin crust topped with minced meat, vegetables, herbs, and spices.
When it comes to dessert, you’ve probably already heard of “baklava” and “Lokum” (Turkish delight). You may also want to try “künefe”, a cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup, or “simit”, a sesame-encrusted bread ring.
When it comes to drinks, Turkish tea (“chai”) is a staple. The coffee lovers out there should also try Turkish coffee, which has been recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Trazler Smart Tip: Food carts near the Eminönü ferry dock serve the best “Balık ekmek”.
The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY). You’ll find currency exchange offices (called “Döviz Bürosu”) throughout Istanbul, particularly around major tourist areas.
ATMs are also widely available and credit cards are accepted in most places. However, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash, especially for smaller businesses or market stalls.
Exchange rates are constantly fluctuating, so keep an eye on the current rate when you exchange money. You will probably find that some touristy establishments accept Euros, though we suggest paying in Turkish Lira to avoid unfavorable exchange rates.
Trazler Smart Tip: If you’re looking to exchange Euros for Lira, shopping at the Grand Bazaar will get you some of the best exchange rates in the city.
Tipping is a common practice in Istanbul, though the tip amount can vary based on the establishment.
- Restaurants: A tip of around 10-15% of the total bill is customary in sit-down restaurants (as long as you’re happy with the service). Tipping isn’t usually expected in fast-food chains or kebab stalls.
- Taxis: It’s common to round up the fare to the nearest Lira for taxi drivers, though it’s not a requirement.
- Hotels: For hotel staff, you might tip bellboys or porters around 5-10 Lira per bag, and you can leave a similar amount per day for housekeeping.
- Tour Guides: For tour guides, a tip of around 10-20 Lira per person would be considered generous.
Remember that these are only guidelines, and you should only tip if you feel comfortable doing so. If in doubt, it’s okay to ask locals or hotel staff about appropriate tipping etiquette. If you do plan on tipping, be sure to keep smaller denominations of Lira handy.
When to Visit Istanbul
The best time to visit Istanbul depends on what you’re looking for. For nice weather and fewer tourists, spring (March to May) and autumn (September to mid-November) are ideal.
June, July, and August are the hottest months and can be quite crowded, but they also offer festivals like the Chill Out Festival Istanbul and the Istanbul International Music Festival.
If you’re budget-conscious, the winter months can offer lower flight and accommodation prices, though it can be quite chilly and rainy.
Where to stay in Istanbul
Where you stay in Istanbul will depend on your budget, preferences, and the sites you want to visit. Some popular options for visitors include:
- Sultanahmet: This is the heart of Istanbul, and home to major sights like Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and Topkapi Palace. If you want to be within walking distance of Istanbul’s iconic attractions, this is the place for you.
- Beyoğlu: This area includes the districts of Galata and Taksim. It’s ideal for travelers who enjoy nightlife, shopping, and dining. The famous Istiklal Street is here, offering a variety of cafes, bars, and restaurants.
- Karaköy: Karaköy is a district full of trendy cafes, art galleries, and boutiques. It’s close to major attractions, and the ferry terminals make it easy to cross to the Asian side of the city or take a Bosphorus cruise.
- Cihangir: Known for its bohemian vibe, Cihangir is full of unique boutiques, antique shops, and cozy cafes. It’s close to Taksim Square but offers a more quiet, residential feel.
- Kadıköy: On the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy is a vibrant district known for its bustling market, restaurants, and nightlife. It’s a great place to experience a less touristy side of Istanbul.
Getting to Istanbul
Flights from Dublin to Istanbul will get you to Turkey in about 4.5 hours. Flight prices will fluctuate based on demand, so it’s best to book at least 3 months in advance.
To streamline your planning process consider using Trazler, where you can effortlessly bundle your flight, accommodation, and car transfers into a single, convenient booking.
Istanbul has two main airports: Istanbul Airport on the European side and Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the Asian side. International flights from Dublin will land at Istanbul Airport (IST).
Getting from the airport to the center
You have several options for getting from Istanbul Airport to the city center:
- Havaist Airport Shuttle: This bus service operates from Istanbul Airport to various locations in the city. Tickets are only 3 € but the bus service is slow, taking on average 100 minutes to get to the city center.
- Public Transport: You can also take the M11 metro line from the airport, though you will have to transfer to the M7 and then to the M2 or T1 tram before you can reach the city center.
- Taxi: Taxis are available 24/7 at the airport. Taxis are faster than taking the bus or metro, but prices to the city center are not set so you may encounter unexpected charges or price increases due to traffic.
- Private Transfer: For a hassle-free journey, you can book a private transfer. Private transfers offer door-to-door service and the price is agreed upon in advance, so you don’t worry about any unexpected charges or haggling with the driver.
Trazler Smart Tip: Book your transfers at the same time you book your flights to ensure car and driver availability.
Traveling within Istanbul
Istanbul is well-connected via trams, metros, buses, and ferries. To pay for public transportation you can use the “Istanbulkart”, a rechargeable transport card. Taxis are also widely available.
Trazler Smart Tip: If you’re going to take a taxi in the city, make sure the meter is running to avoid being overcharged.
From the bustling bazaar and beautiful architecture to the captivating culture and culinary delights, Istanbul offers an array of experiences for every traveler.
Whether you’re planning to explore the Hagia Sophia, climb to the top of Galata Tower, or indulge in the varied food offerings, a journey from Dublin to Istanbul promises a mix of history, culture, and adventure.
Traveling to Istanbul is made simple with Trazler, a platform that offers you the convenience of booking your flights, accommodations, and transfers all in one place. No matter when you visit or where you stay, your trip to Istanbul will leave you with unforgettable memories!