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Istanbul – take me back!

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This post written by our friend Nicki who currently lives in Turkey.

There are some places in the world that you simply just connect with, places which you arrive in and you instantly feel excited, alive, even at home, and when the time comes for you to leave, you feel sad, almost like you’re leaving somewhere special. This was how I felt when I left Istanbul.

I live in Turkey, so it’s not as though I was totally alien to Turkish culture; I live in the south coast resort of Marmaris, and whilst it is Turkish, obviously, it is quite westernised, due to the influence of tourism. Istanbul? A totally different beast.

It’s not the first time I have visited the city; I did head there about five years ago with a friend, but I saw so little, because I was overwhelmed by the size of the place – fast forward a few years and I was very much up for an adventure.

We know that Istanbul is the only city on the planet to stand in two continents – half of the city is in Europe, and half is in Asia, with a road link via the massive Bosphorus bridge. Whilst driving over the bridge is something special, especially when you see that ‘Welcome to Asia’ or ‘Welcome to Europe’ sign, and you literally have one leg in one continent and one in the other, I found heading over on the ferry to be the most majestic way to travel, not least the cheapest, but more of that later.

I visited Istanbul in early February, just after a cold snap which saw snow falling on the city; this isn’t unusual during the winter months, however I was treated to mild, sunny weather, apart from one day which saw a deluge so severe I thought I was going to have to swim back. Travelling around the city isn’t something anyone should be concerned about, because it is so easy. A lone female traveller would have no problem getting around, however I did visit with my Turkish partner, so perhaps I found things easier, without the need to use my broken Turkish.

We stayed in Taksim, in the heart of the European side. Unlike most cities in the world, which seem to have a centre, and then several off-shoots of smaller areas, Istanbul simply goes on seemingly forever, a very large area of extreme business. The traffic was gridlocked for much of the time wherever we went, to the point where the Metro was the best option, as well as our good old feet. Taksim however is a great central point to stay, because it is so close to everything. Whilst Sultanahmet is the historic part of the city, home to the simply majestic Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia, it isn’t as central as Taksim, and the nightlife isn’t as vibrant.

Finding an apartment wasn’t difficult, because there was so much choice, and you can make it as cheap or expensive as you like. There are countless hostels on offer if you want a bargain option, however many of these have shared bathrooms, which we weren’t so keen on, so we settled on a very central apartment called Budak Residence. A fantastic little place, almost like a home from home, and it was surprisingly cheap to – for five nights, we paid 270tl, which works out at around £65.

This was the theme of our holiday overall really, how to make it cheap.

So, if you’re looking for tips on visiting this beautiful melting pot of culture on a budget, let me be your guide.

Image by Antonio Campoy under Creative Commons license.

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