The city most of the frequent travelers around the world put on the top of their list. The city with a history of clashing cultures and civilizations. The city that is the brewing pot of history, modernism, architecture, culture, and the eras bygone. The city is the only in the world to cover two spectacular continents just by a bridge. I am sure you must have guessed it already. The magnificent city of Istanbul with the stories of the empire’s past, the Constantinople of the old times, is a place you must visit once in your life. As with the way travel around the world has changed, Turkey is the hottest destination for travelers right now. And on top of everyone’s bucket list is the city of Istanbul, you can easily ferry around the continents from, anyway. This is why you need an Istanbul Travel Guide, if you are thinking to plan a trip to Turkey.
Let’s discuss your first timer’s guide to Istanbul on a budget. Even if you aren’t a first-timer, I am sure this guide will be a treasure trove of knowledge and information for you as well. So, hop on, and let’s take a virtual Istanbul trip together!
Istanbul is a world in itself. If you are visiting Turkey for a few days only, chances are, you wouldn’t want to go to anyplace else other than Istanbul. Hence, it is recommended that you allot at least 15 days to cover 3-4 cities at least in your Turkey trip. Out of these 15 days, Istanbul should have a minimum of five to seven days, because even after that, you will be leaving the city with too many places you wanted to see but could not. There isn’t ever enough time to visit Istanbul, honestly.
On the other hand, the best months to visit Istanbul will be March to May, which is the Springtime. The weather is mostly on the hotter side, but kind of pleasantly hot. Any other month around the same time, and the summer will be at its peak. The other best time, which is my personal favorite, to visit the city in September to November, which is the Autumn season. The weather at this time is a little cold and sometimes it rains as well. You will enjoy the kind of cold it gets at night in Istanbul during this time.
During the COVID times, the budget can be a lot less for the Istanbul visit since a lot of places are offering discounts because of the declining tourism. On the other hand, the city isn’t exactly expensive either when you compare it with other parts of Europe. The recommended budget would be around $30 – $50 or 200 to 250 Turkish Lira per day. Even though the original currency is Lira, Euros, and Dollars are widely accepted as well.
You can easily go below this budget if you are either staying at a hostel or a budget hotel (so many easily available throughout Istanbul and on the prime locations as well) and do not eat from fancy restaurants. The recommended budget in this Istanbul travel guide is to be sure that you keep enough in your pocket for the entire trip.
Ah, this list! It must be never-ending. Every time some asks me to tell them about the things I did in Istanbul, I just have a very long list that wouldn’t end. To make it easier for you and me (to reminisce the best time of my life I had), here is a list of the places you must see on your trip to Istanbul. Please keep in mind this Istanbul travel guide isn’t numbered or in order. Each place mentioned is equally important and magnificent so it can’t be rated:
The home and the royal palace (harem) of the Ottoman Sultans, Topkapi Sarayi, or the treasured halls of the Sultans can easily be called a tiny city in themselves. From gathering halls to endless apartments, hammams, royal rooms, prayer areas, and the collections of jewels and metalwork that depict the real regalness of the old Turkish lives have an unprecedented beauty. The palace’s gardens are majestic and will leave you with deep peace as well. The Sarayi overlooks the Bosphorus river, which again is a sight to behold.
Not just this, but the Topkapi Sarayi also houses some of the most important and sacred relics of Islamic history including the pious hair of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), the dresses of various companions, and the scriptures, etc. Allot a good few hours to take a deep tour of the palace especially if you are a history buff. You will totally love this place.
In the news a lot during recent times because of the museum of Christian mosaics being changed into a mosque, the interior of the place is celestial. It describes the tumultuous history of Istanbul in great depth with its beautiful graffiti, giant domes, minarets, and the museum. If you are a Muslim, you can now offer a prayer inside it too.
I know I said the list isn’t numbered, but if you secretly ask me my favorite place in the entire Istanbul, it would be Istiklal street. Taksim Square is the heart of Turkey with the statues as a remembrance of independence. Accompanying it, Istiklal street is the hub of tourists because of it being the social center of local talent, shopping, food, street performances, and night clubs. The East definitely meets West on this street.
Most of people find it overrated, but if you are looking for Turkish spices (world known), herbal teas, the ever-famous Turkish lamps, and carpets, etc. this is your place to be. With over 4000 stalls, Grand Bazaar is where you haggle with the tourists and get the best deals you can find. You can literally purchase things for a quarter the price, the shop owners quote.
Istanbul is the home to many ancient cisterns amounting to hundreds in numbers. Basilica Cistern is a sixth-century masterpiece supported by 335 columns. The wooden walkways with twin blocks carved into snake-haired Medusas, the Basilica Cistern is a good hideout from reality.
Taking a ferry in Istanbul to commute is akin to using public transport in any other country. So, take a ferry down the scenic waterway to Galata Bridge and do walk at cobblestones of the area to visit Galata Tower. It provides a beautiful panoramic view of the city.
I know, I know it is cliché. Everyone must have recommended you take a Bosphorus cruise tower. But tourists to touristy things that are meant for entertainment. Take a nighttime Bosphorus tower and enjoy the typical Turkish nights with the Turkish cuisine. You will love the vibes, especially in the months I mentioned.
Istanbul, especially around the Golden Horn & Taksim area, has a pretty eclectic nightlife. Finding a night club, bar or pub won’t be difficult. Find one as per your taste and dance the night away. You will definitely love the nightlife and the party vibe, the city is rich with it. This is why I won’t recommend you a singular favorite here.
Cut off from the population of the world and the hustle-bustle of the Istanbul city life, Prince Island will be a breath of fresh air in your happening vacation. Take a ferry from Istanbul early morning and you will reach this Island in two hours (private ferry, costs only a few more Euros/ public ferries are a little crowded and take more to reach the actual Buyukuda Island).
This Island does not have cars and you commute either in horse carriages or bikes. Rent a bike and cycle around the beautiful island with even more beautiful homes. Laze around the pristine water and catch the last ferry back to Istanbul. You will have a day well-spent. Highly recommended when you are tired of all the touristy things and just need a relaxing time.
Istanbul has one of the best transportation systems in the world. Hence, the best way to go around is to use the wide trams, metro, and subway network which reach as far as the airport. Therefore, no place isn’t covered by these three or the mix of them. You can get the Metro card for as low as $0.5 for a single ride. The best way to go around Istanbul is to buy an Istanbulkart and get it recharged. You can roam around the city for $10 for a day (an estimate). The ferries are cheap as well, even if you are using private ones.
Overall, there is no need for you to deviate from the public transportation system other than ferries. You must be super-aware of the taxi drivers because they overcharge, fool the passengers, and even give fake notes in exchange for the money you give. So, the best approach is to be safe than sorry.
Turkish food might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is definitely one of the bests in the world. Start your day with the traditional egg dish called Menemen, which is basically scrambled eggs with lots of tomatoes, onions, spices on a thick-crusted bread. You can also do the traditional Turkish breakfast with Simmet, Borek, and local cheese. In any case, your breakfast with a cup of tea or hot chocolate won’t cost you more than $5.
For lunch and dinner, you can try Donors, Kebabs, and the Turkish version of Pizza called Pide. Buy all of these from roadside vendors instead of proper eateries, as they will be a lot cheaper. Do try shawarma as well. There will be a lot of food options for you and they’ll be cheap. Food is something you will be sorted in Turkey within any budget.
This was an Istanbul Travel Guide on-budget for first-time travelers. I am sure, if you visit the city once, you will want to visit it again and again. Istanbul gets to you more than any other city in the world. Take your time to explore, enjoy, party, relax and do whatever you want to – because this city has never-ending colors you will be awe-struck with. You can also check out our Turkey Travel Guide 2021 for gathering information about other cities of Turkey
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