Hi my lovely readers!
I have some family living in Istanbul, Turkey and have travelled many times to the city over the years.
I have been a tourist for many years, but lately I am more seeing the city from the perspective of a resident, walking around different villages, visiting some of the smaller sights, taking all sorts of public transports and heading into the village for food shopping and dentistry appointments.
Over the years I have noticed a few things that still surprise me to this day, but also amaze me. Some are good and some are bad.
Here are 9 Things I Noticed About Istanbul that you may find to be surprising, useful and helpful.
1. Zebra Crossings – What Are Those Anyways?
Traffic in Istanbul is crazy. taxi drivers are tailgating each other non-stop, people are crossing the roads in random places and for some reasons car drivers magically create three car lanes although there should only be two. No idea how they do it.
Basically it’s insane and as a tourist you need to take special care when crossing roads. Although there are zebra crossings, no one pays attention to them. They might not exist. Just be extra cautious.
2. Turkish Bakery Is Amazing!
For some reason we always think of Kebab and Turkish Delight when it comes to Turkish food, but there is sooo much more. Especially local bakeries are something else and might rival those of the DACH region.
Pastries stuffed with olives, cheese, different herbs and spices as well as tahini are just some I sampled but you also get amazing cakes and cookies. Local villages all have bakeries and I would urge you to seek them out and just try something random.
Tip: always ask how much they are though as many bakeries don’t actually advertise prices for some reason.
3. Food Courts In Shopping Centres Are The Way To Go
If you want to sample local food such as Pide, different types of Köfte, Kebab or Mante, just to name a few, shopping malls are a great place to eat at. Many have food courts on the top floor or the basement with different food options and they are very affordable. I might even say cheap compared to mainland Europe.
I had a meal last week that included the main course Iskander Coss Döner, one drink such as Coke or Fanta, plus a dessert and Turkish tea for around £5. It was super tasty and filling.
Turkish Lira is loosing a lot of value at the moment, which makes your money go further when you travel from abroad. It’s good for tourists, but sadly makes living for locals a lot harder. Right now the exchange rate is roughly 20 TL = 1£.
4. Don’t Forget The Ottoman Palaces
Palace is maybe not what first comes to mind when thinking of Istanbul, but there are plenty scattered around the city that are absolutely worth a visit. Back in the days the Sultan would travel to Istanbul to spend his summers in the city and many are located by the Bosphorus with gorgeous views of the water and boats.
I can highly recommend Beylerbeyi Palace. This palace is so different from any other palace I have ever visited and even has an indoor fountain that takes up the entire space of the ground floor. I have never seen anything like it before.
5. The Two Sides Of Istanbul
Istanbul is divided by the Bosphorus. On the European side you can find the majority of the tourist attractions such as the Blue Mosk, Hagia Sophia etc. However, the Asian side is more authentic as you can find local villages that blend into one with authentic cuisine, houses, markets and of course people.
For a true authentic experience why not spend one day around the Beylerbeyi neighbourhood of Üsküdar district? You can visit the Beylerbeyi Palace, take a walk by the Bosphorus and sample local food in one of the many cafes and restaurants.
6. Travel By Boat If You Can
Although there is underground in Istanbul that connects the majority of the touristy sights, travelling by boat on the Bosphorus is one of the best ways to get from A to B.
Boat crossings are not expensive at all, many locals in fact use boats just as we use busses and trains in the UK. Plus, you get to see and experience the city from a different angle. So why not travel like the locals?
7. You Always Pay More As A Tourist
As a tourist you often tend to get overcharged. Many tourist attractions charge tourists a higher admission fee than Turks. When you buy something from for instance a market that doesn’t have prices advertised anywhere the vendor often just makes up a higher price for tourists than for locals. They know they can charge you more. And even when you go to stores they might try to charge you in foreign currencies such as GBP, USD or EUR. So just be wary.
Tip: It’s cheaper to pay in the local currency.
8. Food Is So Much More Flavoursome
I ate out in Istanbul and I cooked some food myself and let me tell you, the food here has so much more taste and flavour. Fruit and veg can be bought fresh from the market and the olive oil, which is used widely in Turkish cuisine for cooking, salad dressings and frying actually tastes like olive oil. I wish food would taste as good in the UK as it does in Turkey.
9. Stay Away From The Street Cats And Dogs
There are a ton of street cats and dogs in Istanbul and although some of them may look harmless and cute others can be aggressive and dangerous. Istanbul and many cities in Turkey have a problem with street animals and their numbers are increasing.
Some of them have flees, diseases and as I said are dangerous. Just yesterday I walked down to the village and was almost attacked by one. I However, in the village they are all very peaceful and just lay on the pavement or roads. Basically you never know how they will react and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Also, don’t feed them. They are already getting enough leftovers and food from locals, hence their numbers are increasing.
Have you been to Istanbul or Turkey? What are some if the weird and wonderful things you noticed?
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