If you read my part 1 on Istanbul then you will know that I have fallen in love with this huge and bustling city. I have to admit, I was a little worried about money before going away, because my experience of cities has always been that they cost more, and that my purse seems to turn into a bucket with holes in. Surprisingly however, this wasn’t the case with Istanbul.
I’m not going to lie, you can make it expensive if you really want to, but if you know where to go and what to do, you can cut costs drastically.
We stayed in Taksim, as I mentioned before, and instead of heading out to big restaurants or fast food outlets for meals, we tried to go more towards traditional street food instead, which was seriously delicious. I’m quite a picky eater, and maybe it was the constant walking that simply made me so hungry, but I wolfed down everything that was put into my hands!
Chicken wraps, meatballs and salad in a baguette, simit (savoury bread), and fish sandwiches, these were all my favourites, especially the meatball baguette, which only cost a tiny 5tl each (around £1.50) and was filling and seriously delicious!
Yes, you can head to large restaurants if you want to, but these aren’t really needed if you want to cut costs. Breakfast is also a great way to fill up, with a traditional Turkish breakfast equating to quite a feast.
In terms of getting around, we stuck to our feet, and whilst I had very aching toes at the end of each day, I saw much more. Walking down Taksim’s famous Istiklal Street, we wove through crowds, grabbing a Starbucks to caffeinate me from one side to the other, before heading down a scarily steep hill towards the Galata Bridge, past the beautiful Galata Tower en-route. From here, we walked over the water (not literally), towards Eminonu, and took in the stunning skyline. The seagulls are rather vicious around this part of town it’s worth noting, so don’t wave any bread around!
From here you can get a ferry over to the Asian side of the city, or simply take a Bosphorus cruise; this might sound like a touristy thing to do but it’s a must do all the same – we managed to get on a cruise that came back just as the sun was setting, and the sight was simply breath-taking. Dolphins were seen in the Bosphorus on the way back too, which really made my day, and all for just 12tl each.
If you do choose to head over the Asian side, which is a must, then you’ll be surprised at the low cost of the ferry. You will need to buy an Istanbul Card, which basically you pre-load up with cash and you can use it on any public transport, including ferries, Metro, and buses. The ferry from Europe to Asia cost 3.50tl – literally nothing!
We didn’t do too much of the touristy things, because this is where you will pay money; for instance, to visit Hagia Sofia, you will pay 30tl each, however you can sit and drink cay (tea) at the foot of the huge Bosphorus bridge for around 3tl – the sight is just as magical. Blue Mosque is free to enter, so if you are in Sultanahmet, certainly head there.
Put simply, there is so much to see and do in Istanbul that you could visit for a week and not see it all, what you do need to do is decide what it is you want to check out, so you’re not wandering around aimlessly. We found walking around was the best ticket, because a) it’s free, and b) the city is so beautiful, it’s the best way to take it all in.
Don’t be afraid of the size of Istanbul, it is one destination you will simply fall in love with.