Istanbul in Turkey is often overlooked as a holiday destination but it has some wonderful things on offer.
You can get a direct flight with Turkish Airlines from Dublin to Ataturk Airport for around €274. The flight is about 4hr and 25 mins and Istanbul is about two hours ahead of Irish time. It’s perfect if you are looking for a weekend away or a cheap getaway!
You should be able to get hotels from €40 and upwards into €200 range. Remember some of the hotels are not withing walking distance of the city so check before you book. And depending on what time of year you go you might be able to avail of some deals and discounts!
If you go in the winter remember Istanbul is by the sea and can very breezy. You will need sweaters, hats and coats.
In Turkey you have all your western comforts like fast food and Starbucks so there is no problem if you are a picky eater. Turkish food is an acquired taste and very different to western appetites. Most restaurants serve western food though.
You simply must try the apple tea. It is a custom to have an apple tea after dinner. It is delightfully sweet and comes in a small glass. And of course Turkish Delight originated from Turkey they are everywhere and if you are a fan they have so many different flavors to choose from.
Go to the Four Seasons Hotel in Sultanahmet or Bosphorus for breakfast/dinner you will not be disappointed. There is security at the door making you feel important even before you enter. You can have the buffet at breakfast and service does really go above and beyond. If you cannot afford the pricey rooms then the buffet is the next best thing at €25 it is expensive but worth it.
Turkey is a religious country and you can tell by all the mosques everywhere. There is prayer in the evenings that you will hear throughout the squares and on the microphones. You must venture into the mosque (not during prayer) just to see. They are so beautiful and very photogenic. Your album will be full of photos. But if you are a person of faith then you will also appreciate the customs of the Turks.
Do a tour and take in the sights, get on a boat if you can. The sights include the royal palace, castles and the old wall that surrounds the city. You can also reach a vantage point where you will be able to see the whole of the city from high up.
There are two main big malls in Turkey that you can reach by rail. There are in two different locations. But both have the same shops. So if you don’t want to spend all day doing two malls pick one. They mostly serve fast food in both so remember if you want proper food eat before you go.
The great thing is that people do speak English in Turkey. So even if you don’t know the language somebody there will be able to have a conversation with you.
Go see a traditional Turkish dance called The Dervish. It’s a religious and spiritual practice in Turkey. Be warned the performance can be long and a little boring but still worth it if not to pass the time away.
LGBTQ people need to be careful in the capital of Turkey. Even though it is not illegal to be gay it is frowned upon to engage in same sex activities. And there are still attacks on gay people that are not investigated by the police. People are not very tolerant of gay people there. Blonde women also should keep an eye out. Blonde stereotypes live on in Turkey where men can be disagreeable.
It’s worth a visit to go to the Souk where they sell everything from knock off clothes, designer bags and everything else. Be prepared to haggle for things and to be harassed (yes harassed they really want you to buy stuff) by the market people. They are very insistent and aggressive when it comes to selling and it can be exhausting.
The spice souk is beautiful and an experience to walk around. It’s worth going in just to see and to mark off your to do list.
Accommodation in Turkey can be very reasonable. If you are looking for no frills, try staying at The Blue Tuana Hotel. It is near lots of restaurants and a ten minute walk into the city centre. It has the basic things but if you don’t want to spend much then it’s perfect.
If you want to be adventurous and are a smoker try something called Shisha. It’s like a flavored smoke (tobacco and fruit) that you inhale that doesn’t have the same harmful effects like smoking does and goes well with a beer or alcohol.
Finally Istanbul has had issues with terrorists attacks recently especially with Ataturk airport. Please be conscious that you might not hear about this in the news and you may need to be careful when traveling. The country was having some political clashes and you need to consider whether it is safe going and when is the best time to go.