Tips for Travellers:
General Advice

You can find here the best Tips for Travellers and more travel advice for an Istanbul trip, from an insider.

Whether you are coming to Istanbul as a traveler, for a business trip or just visiting relatives, it will be wise to know a few rules before you arrive.

Here are some basic tips:

  • Wear the shoes that you are really comfortable in. You will do lots of walking and some step-climbing if you are thriving on exploring this city.
  • Have your hotels name, address and phone with you all the time. And your passport of course. 
  • If you are not fully satisfied with your hotel, simply change it. You will see that there are many of them. Why settle with the one that you don’t like? You are on holiday, you got to choose…
  • There are “Tourist Info Offices” at major attraction areas. These are government-run tourism offices. They are marked by an "İ" sign and they can easily be found. These offices can give you good recommendations about restaurants, things to see, nearby hotels and how to get somewhere. You can have a free map from these offices.
  • It is a good possibility that your hotel concierges might recommend the restaurants or tours which they have some relationship. Just be careful about it.
  • One of the important thingss is to carry only $50 cash daily. Keep the rest of your money and your passport in the hotel safe. There are ATMs everywhere if you need more cahsh anyway..

Communicating with the locals;

  • Are you visiting Istanbul soon and wondering how you are going to survive without speaking Turkish? Well, you are really lucky as Turkish people are enthusiastic communicators, even if you can't speak their language. Generally there is at least one person in any group of people who speaks English. If they don’t speak English they will start communicating through body language and they are really good at it. You will be just fine.
  • This is one of the most smile-generating tips for travellers; Everyone will greet you with “Good morning”, “Good evening” etc… (In English I mean). If you can answer them back in Turkish, you will make the other person more than happy! So here are basic greetings in Turkish; Hello = Merhaba (read as: mer-huh-bach), Good morning = Günaydın (read as: ghew-ny-den), Good evening = Iyi akşamlar (read as: e-yee akh-shum-lar, "lar" as in large) , Thank you = Teşekkürler (read as: ta-shaq-quer-lar, "lar" as in Larry).
  • Have conversations with the locals. Locals of Istanbul are usually friendly and welcoming. And even if they don’t get the most of their city all the time, they're very proud of it. These conversations with locals may hold the most valuable suggestions for your trip in them.
  • The key to getting the real-feel of Istanbul is to socialize with its people. This is one of the best tips for travellers who want to feel the vibe of a casual day in Istanbul.During daytime you will be invited into a lot of shops; feel free to enter and have a cup of tea with the store-owner, of course with the ones that you would like to chat. Just try to avoid the pushy dealers and so-called "guides" on the street. And for the nighttime, feel free to join the occasional fun at a bar or a “meyhane” around Beyoglu.
  • But of course beware of any person that takes an interest in you around highly touristic areas. They are salesmen or commissioners of stores. They might approach you asking where you are from or if they can help you find your way. You will be able to recognize these people from the normal locals after their second or third attempt.

Planning ahead;

  • Always have a plan or an outline for a plan before you start strolling around the streets. This is one of the most useful tips for travellers in Istanbul.Istanbul is not the place to wander aimlessly; it will be a loss of your valuable time. Before going out, make a plan of what you want to see.
  • If you are on a tight Schedule spend just one day in the very touristic Sultanahmet district. By doing so you will have time to explore Beyoglu and Galata districts , and visit the fishermen’s villages along the Bosphorus.
  • There is nothing for you in Laleli and Aksaray neighborhoods, don’t waste your valuable time around those areas. This is one of the most preventitive tips for travellers who don't have a clue about neighborhoods.The only reason you go there should be for transport issues; to use the Metro Station for reaching the airport for example.

Common gestures;

  • Hand shaking is seriously common, so get prepared. Whether you like it or not you are going to have to shake someone’s hand.
  • There is a common gesture for ”No” in Turkey. We tip our heads slightly backward, raise our eyebrows, and sometimes accompany this gesture with an "nntssk" sound. It can work wonders to use this gesture if you don’t want to buy or eat something.

Dress code;

You will find out that Istanbul is a very modern city in that sense. You can wear whatever you want actually. But of course I have tips for travellers who want to be out of the range of radars;

  • In Istanbul, female dress is modern, but when visiting the more traditional neighborhoods in and around the Old City, you may feel more comfortable with modest clothes. This is a very important one of the tips for travellers in Istanbul. Knowing this will make you a lot comfortable.
  • The same rule applies for men too. Always choose modest clothes if you are willing to discover the backstreets. Too colorful, too flashy, too short will get too much interest on you.

Shooting photos;

  • Taking photographs or shooting video in a museum is often prohibited. If so, you will see a picture of a camera with an "X" over it will be posted in the building.
  • Get permission from the person before you capture him or her with a camera.

Restaurants and Bars;

  • When you go to a restaurant order only what you want to eat. Don’t be fooled by the package menus. These menus will be overly expensive and will contain foods that might not suit your taste.And always ask for a written price list before ordering. If they don’t have their menu on a list, stay away from that restaurant.
  • Also don't go into any bars that don't have a price list available and full of lots of guys. Probably men who travel solo will find this advice very useful among other tips for travellers.
  • Don’t be surprised if your waiter offers you cologne after the dinner, it is a customary gesture. Cleanliness is considered crucial in Turkey.

Visiting Sacred Places;

  • Visiting the mosques has basic ground rules. This is a must-know tip among other tips for travellers in Istanbul. Before entering a mosque, shoes you should take off your shoes. For women, arms and legs should be covered inside a mosque. And they should cover their heads with a scarf. There are scarves for this kind of usage at the entrance of the mosques usually, but if you don’t want to use the same scarf with other people it is best to have one with you. Men should cover their legs and their shirts must have at least short sleeves as well.
  • Most mosques in Istanbul are open to public during daytime, seven days a week. There are five prayer sessions, called “namaz”, during the day. It is better to avoid visiting mosques on "Namaz" times, especially midday on Friday. Because this is the most crowded time of the week and you won’t be able to see much.
  • Usually you will not be able to enter a mosque during the prayer time, which is approximately 20-30 minutes. But if you do enter during services, remember remain quite and stay near the entrance of the mosque. Don’t wander around and be aware that you shouldn’t stand in front of the people who are making their prayers, it is considered highly disrespectful.
  • Visiting the churches and synagogues has their own rules too. Women and men should cover their shoulders and legs. Women should wear scarves. Like in all places of worship you should be quiet and respectful in these places too.

General shopping tips;

  • There are lots of shopping tips for travellers in Istanbul. This one is a general tip on shopping…If you're not comfortable with bargaining or not interested in shopping, just say "no thank you" as you walk by...
  • You will encounter lots of bargaining in Istanbul, consequently. When once you agree on a price and shake hands, it means that the deal is closed. Trying to bargain again or changing your mind totally will only help to make your salesman angry and offended.
  • Bargaining is done mostly in Sultanahmet district and Grand Bazaar. It is not very common in other areas of the city but it wouldn’t hurt to take your chance of course.
  • You will hear this question, at least once if not a dozen times: “'Excuse me can I ask you something?” Simple reaction: Ignore the question. These people are commissioners who work for carpet stores or other touristic gift shops. The aim is to start a conversation and to ask if you want to have a tea, of course in the shop which he is working for. So don’t be fooled by them.
  • Annoying salesmen around touristic areas are really common; unfortunately it is a fact of life for tourists. The best way is to avoid eye contact and not answering if you are not interested in buying anything.
  • You will probably encounter some small boys who look you in the eye and ask you to have a shoe-shine. If you want to have a shoe-shine, do not accept before bargaining. Because if you first say O.K. and then ask what the price is they will probably ask for 20 dollars if not more. Do not give them more than 5 dollars.

Back to Top

Public restrooms;

  • Turks were among the first civilizations to provide water as a public service. Being clean is taken seriously in this culture. People exhaust themselves to clean their houses almost everyday. Restaurants and hotels expose their kitchens to show how hygienic it is. Water fountains can be found in the courtyards of the mosques. Most of the locals carry moist sanitizing towelettes with them in case if they can not wash their hands when necessary. If you don’t wash your hands before dinner then you have a bad habit in the eyes of the Turkish people. 
  • But despite all this attention you will find that some of the public restrooms are not clean and they smell badly. So this one is the most hygiene-foused among the tips for travellers. I can advise you to use the restrooms in restaurants and hotels. You might not want to use the ones in public areas (like in the courtyards of the mosques) unless you have to. Always carry dispensible pocket tissues and moist towelettes with you. You won’t regret it!

Avoiding traffic and crowd;

  • This tip of all tips for travellers will save you tremendous time: Be sure to be the first ones to be there if you plan to see the Topkapi Palace or Hagia Sophia Museum. Otherwise you will have to wait at the ticket queue for the ones who woke up earlier.
  • Rush hours can be a setback if you are in the traffic. Try to use the public transportations like tram or metro where possible, instead of a taxi on these hours.
  • If you plan to visit Prince's Islands at the weekend in the summer, keep in mind that the boats and the islands will be very crowded because Istanbul residents also go to the islands at the same time. It will be better to go to Prince's Islands on weekdays during summer. And the islands are especially adorable during spring and fall as well.

Back to Top

Accompanying locals;

These tips for travellers in Istanbul will give you the ability to do the right thing while you socialize with locals.

  • If your friends or colleagues invited you to a restaurant, you should always offer to pay. They will never let you pay if they have invited you but not offering to pay is often considered unkind.
  • If you are going to someone’s house as a guest, the right thing to do id to buy a small gift like chocolates, flower, sweets, wine etc... Otherwise you will be considered rude.
  • You can offend Turkish people in ways you could never even realize. Being sarcastic can be misunderstood easily. Think again about being sarcastic if you can’t predict the person’s reaction or the level of his or her understanding of humor.
  • There are topics which are really sensitive like; human rights issues in Turkey, the problems with the Armenians, the Kurdish issue, prejudices about Islam... But of course you will see that Turkish people are very used to discussing these things and will be eager to discuss these with you too. The main issue here is to predict how open-minded your debate friend is. Just be careful not to be offensive. And if you sense any offense, ease the conversation with some round words like, “Come on let’s drink, we won’t be able to save the world after all…” (This particular sentence has prevented lots of fights and is still serving Turkish people quite well.)

Those are my general tips for travellers in Istanbul.

You can see other travel advice pages full of essential tips for travellers if you want to know more.

Here is a page that women travelers will find useful:

"Tips For Women Travelers"

Back to Top

Back to "Travel Advice" from "Tips for Travellers: General Advice"

Share this page:

Copyright © 2009 IstanbulExtraLarge.Com

Best Istanbul Hotels
Reserve online
Get the lowest price!





Best Istanbul Hotels
Reserve online
Get the lowest price!