Istanbul is the city where the east meets the west. If you moved from a Muslim country to a western country and miss home this is the spot you need to hit. You can hear the Adhaan but also get the cobbled streets of Europe. You can go to the mosque but also visit a cute café. It is probably the best city I have visited.
Travelling to Istanbul
Where to stay when travelling to Istanbul
You definitely want to stay in the European side of Istanbul. Areas to stay next to are Galata Tower, Taksim Square, or Istiklal. Traffic in Istanbul is crazy so you want to stay in a central area where you can walk most places. The ideal way to travel is a Segway. We rented a car for some travel as Taxis can rip you off. If you do take a taxi make sure it is metered.
Where to eat?
Istanbul is the kind of place you can have a meal for 3 dollars to 100 dollars. If you are in Istanbul you definitely want to eat some Kebabs. The best place I had kebabs was Tomtom Kebap. Ask the waiter to recommend the best dishes he is definitely great at customer service and will even show you pictures of the dishes in advance. I’d go with the Adana Kebap that was just delicious. Straight from the grill is it a mix of lamb and beef it is hand minced and seasoned spicy meat kebap mounted on a wide skewer and grilled. I am not a lamb fan but this was so good that you couldn’t taste the smell of lamb. I would additionally recommend the falafel they were the best I have ever had. In chicken dishes the Tavuk Kanat is great.
Nusret is probably the cheapest in Istanbul. The bill would still come to 50-100 dollars but that is cheaper than in other countries. Get the burger, Lokum, or Nusret special. I would skip on the appetizers the meat sushi and carpaccio were the only things worth having in that. Keep your stomach for the main meal the steaks. Don’t over-order like I did. If you are 10 people order 5 Nusret Specials and 3 Lokums. They end the meal with Baklava and ice cream which is amazing. Now there are multiple Nusrets so you can choose from a variety. Looking for a non-fancy dinner but want to try Nusret Salt Bae is always an option.
I had only ever seen Zuma on Instagram before so it was nice to try it. I wouldn’t say it is the best sushi I have ever had and probably would skip it altogether. If you are from a country where sushi is readily available Zuma might seem like an overhype. I would say a place like Nobu is much better than Zuma. But the Mushroom Hotpot is pretty good.
Durumzade – The best kebap wrap and wings you will find. This is a small restaurant that lots of celebrities have been to. You can get a wrap for 3 dollars and that makes it even great. This is an authentic meal.
Durumce – Showed to me by a local this is a spot everyone goes to. Again it is super cheap and is open till late at night
Where to exchange money?
Don’t exchange it at the airport. Wait to go to Istiklal or Taksim Square and you will see money exchange places. Make sure to exchange it in Istanbul if you are visiting other cities as you will get the best rate.
Where to buy a sim?
Don’t buy it at the airport there are many Turkcells in the city and you can get 20 GB for 45 Lira.
Is it cheap?
Istanbul is the kind of place you can spend money and also save it. Just make sure people don’t scam you by using metered taxis. Eat at cheap places and still get good food.
Is it safe for girls?
There are certain areas that might not be safe and late at night, it might not be a great place to walk alone. But if you are with another girl feel free to walk the streets. I did not feel unsafe while travelling but I did ask local girls how they felt in certain areas such as Tomtom and they recommended not walking alone.
Is the food halal?
Everything is halal and that’s what makes it a great place for Muslims!
What to wear?
Locals where everything from shorts to crop tops. At night you might get some looks if your clothes are revealing so if you feel uncomfortable with getting stares don’t have cleavage showing. Shorts and crop tops in my opinion are okay and that is what everyone wears. If you go to a mosque they will provide you with a scarf and a skirt. For the day you visit the mosques it might be a good idea to cover up a little.
Istanbul is very hilly so I would recommend wearing running shoes to make sure you can keep going.
Where to get the best views while travelling to Istanbul
Rooftop bars have the best views and here are some recommendations that will make you go Wow! Wow! Wow!
- If you get an Airbnb you might have rooftop access and can get a great view from there
Wrap Up for Travelling to Istanbul
You can tell that I am in love with Istanbul and am already looking at ways I can go back and live there. I have visited Portugal, Spain, Croatia, Germany, the UK, France, and the Netherlands and I have to say no country or city has won my heart over like Istanbul has. There is a language barrier but with the help of google, everything can be overcome. The people are friendly and great. There might be a few scammers (but they are all over Europe) all in all the people will go out of their way to help you.
To the man who translated for me when I lost my luggage at the airport to the ice cream person that let me borrow a charger. I would rate Istanbul 11/10 on friendliness.
Wondering what to take on your travels? We have a list to help you out!