Istanbul is probably less pedestrian friendly than most other cities in Europe but driving is not a delightful experience either. The traffic is mostly busy and chaotic. If you are in Istanbul, make sure to watch out for the cars on the road. Also, keep in mind that sidewalks are narrow and walking alongside the road will definitely be included.
Little yellow ‘Taksi’
Taking a taxi is not as easy as it may seem at first. The drivers are most likely to act as if they have no clue where your hotel or any other destination is and will drive your around town for a while pretending to try and figure out where to go while the price on the taximeter will keep adding up. Istanbul seems to have a decent public transport system though so that could be figured out relatively easily. Otherwise there should also be the option of arranging for a shuttle service from the airport to the hotel and back. At least for a start.
Hold on to that money
If you happen to go to a restaurant to eat and you are served anything other than some bread and olive oil before your actual meal, you should always ask how much that would cost probably before you even touch it. The same applies if you do some sort of bus or boat tour (don’t let any person in the street sell you one) and someone comes up to you with a tray of sandwiches or tea. People working in Istanbul’s tourism sector appear very nice and friendly but at the end of the day, their goal is to sell what they have, so don’t let yourself be tricked into enjoying a meal you think is free but will actually have to be paid for.
If you are not the restaurant kind of person, there are also many kebab stands and places called ‘büfe’ (Turkish for buffet) which sell Turkish specialties such as lentil soup or döner kebab for a decent price. That may not be the healthiest option but it is cheaper than in the restaurants and it will keep you full for some time. For the little hunger and thirst in between you can often find carts with sesame bagels, fruits, Turkish tea or grilled chestnuts.
Istanbul has some nice and big and markets. Usually tasting some Turkish delights or a cup of Turkish tea is a free offer but beware of the fact that as soon as the vendor notices that you looked at something on display, he will try to convince you to buy it.
Try to get your money exchanged before your trip if you can. The currency in Turkey is the Turkish lira and some shops take the euro as well, converting the price based on the current exchange rate. There are several banks, ATMs and exchange offices in Istanbul but chances of getting a good price for your money in Istanbul itself seem rather low.
Hands off the tap water
You should definitely not drink the tap water in Turkey. You may already notice this the moment you open the tap and smell the chlorine. Better stick to the bottled water.
Capture the moment
Bringing your camera along with you is a must. Istanbul is a very beautiful city, especially by sunset and has many things that could make a nice subject for a photo.
If you don’t have too much time for sightseeing, you can always take the Big Bus that will get you around the city, past monuments, districts, tiny streets and drive you over to the Asian side of Turkey. One tour lasts about two hours if the traffic is good. You can get the tickets and start the tour at the Taksim Square.