Istanbul, Turkey: Positives, Complaints, and Tips

If you’ve been following our story you know that we have been traveling all over the world for almost four years.  And you also know that we have come to Turkey (which just changed its name to Türkiye).  Our main purpose for coming here is to see if we would be comfortable establishing ourselves here so that we can have a place where we can go when we want a break from traveling.  After making actually two trips to Istanbul, we want to share share our list of pros and cons, and tell you whether or not we think we could live here.

Go to this link if you would like to watch a video with the same information: ISTANBUL TURKEY: Positives, Complaints, and Tips.

Positives

The Activities

Taking a visit to one of Istanbul’s historical mosques is just one of many available activities.

The first thing we like about Istanbul is the activities. There is so much to do here.  Of course if you are here for a short holiday or vacation you’ll stay busy with the tourist activities.  But it would be impossible to eventually getting bored even living here long term.

One of the most popular things to do here is to visit the Galata tower. Not only does this tower have historical significance, but it’s also a great place to get a panoramic view over the city on a nice clear day. 

Many of the other activities here in Istanbul will be especially appealing to history enthusiasts. There is the Topkapı Palace, which dates back to the 15th century and was the home to many Ottoman sultans over the years.  There are also mosques all around Istanbul, the two most famous being the Blue Mosque which is absolutely stunning.  And the second is the Hagia Sofia, which has served as a mosque, a church, and a museum off an on over the centuries. And as beautiful as the mosques are on the outside, the inside is just as spectacular, if not more so.

There are museums galore in Istanbul.  You could spend months visiting them. If you get bored here it’s your own fault because there are plenty of activities to keep busy here in Istanbul.

The Food

İskender is one of our favorite meals.

The next thing on our list of things we like about Istanbul is the food because it is delicious. You of course have all of the Turkish food. Some of our favorites are the chicken durum, which is basically grilled pieces of chicken put into a wrap with some vegetables. And we really love İskender, which is usually chicken or beef with a tomato sauce and tangy yogurt sauce, served on top of buttery bread. And baked potatoes are big here.  We have baked potatoes at home too, but here the toppings are more numerous and delicious

If you are living in Istanbul long term and start craving international food, this is the best place in Turkey to find it.  We saw all kinds of food here, Mexican, Indian, Korean, and even Cuban. And we were so excited to go to a Malaysian restaurant, we walked so far to get there, but unfortunately we came at the wrong time.  They weren’t serving food when we went due a special celebration.

The Weather

The next thing we like about Istanbul is the weather because it is very pleasant for a lot of the year. Winters can get a little cold, and sometimes it snow,s.  In fact the first time we went to Istanbul our flight was canceled because the airport closed due to snow.  But snow like this is not typical. Spring is particularly beautiful, with very nice temperatures and very comfortable.  Summers are dry and sunny but can get a little warm, but not generally stiffing hot.  The autumn is very pleasant.  Overall we would characterize the weather here as moderate.

Flight Availability

Istanbul is a great hub for international flights for reaching other parts of the world. And one of the great things is that it’s location on the map is situated where you can get really almost anywhere in the world. We could even fly all the way back to the US nonstop if we wanted.

Public Transportation

Istanbul is spread out over two continents, and the best way to get between them is by ferry.

We found the trams and street cars very convenient for getting around Istanbul. There are also the metro trains to get around, with stations all around and you never have to walk too far to get wherever you need to go.  And the best way to get between the European side and the Asian side of the city is on one of the ferries. The cost to use the public transportation is dirt cheap, usually around fifty US cents at the moment.

The Markets

Don’t miss the Grand Bazaar.

You can find just about anything you need in the markets here. In fact, Emily was looking for a very specific craft supply that has been typically difficult to find in other parts of the world, but there was no problem finding it here.  And the Grand Bazaar is a monstrous place to do some shopping, with a huge variety of spices, seasonings, nuts, dried fruit, etc.

The Tulips

We think tulip season is the best time of year to visit Istanbul.

When you think “tulips” you probably think of Amsterdam, right?  But tulips actually originated here in Turkey, first cultivated here way back in the year 1055 according to some sources.  And these tulips in the spring time are spectacular.  But, you have to come at the right time of year, usually April.  If you come at the wrong time you won’t get to see too much. The blooms were later than usual this year due to the colder than normal winter.  We think it’s worth visiting Istanbul just to see the tulips.

Complaints

The Scams

If you’ve looked into visiting Istanbul then you probably have heard about the scams here.  We had two scams attempted on us, but fortunately we knew about these ahead of time.  The first was on our taxi ride from the airport the driver did not turn on the taxi meter.  So we just told him to turn it on as we pulled out of the airport to avoid confusion with the price.  He turned it on and it was no problem.  And the second scam was a shoe shine man who dropped his brush. The scam is that the tourist picks up the brush, and the shoe shine man is so grateful that he insists on shinning your shoes.  But he will totally overcharge you. We just stepped over his brush and didn’t pick it up, and he didn’t hassle us.

Crowds

The next thing on the con list is that Istanbul is very crowded due to it’s large population size. Like most big cities, traffic can be quite heavy.  The public transportation can get really packed with people at times.  And there can even be a lot of pedestrian crowding just walking around.

Costs

And the final thing on the list is the cost of living, especially housing costs. They are quite high compared to the rest of the country. A small 60 square meter (650 square feet) apartment (renting on a one year lease) would be around US$600 right now, but of course this will depend on the neighborhood. If we were living here, based on our personal lifestyle, we think we could live here for a total of US$1600 per month. This is cheaper than other similarly sized cities in other parts of the world, but a little more than other cities in Turkey.


So, could we live in Istanbul? Yes, we really think we could be happy living here. Istanbul has great people and fantastic public transportation. But we still want to keep exploring other parts of the country. We think there might be something we like even better in Turkey to call our home base. So be sure to subscribe to check back here so that you can follow us as we continue our journey.

Thanks for traveling with us!

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