Istanbul embraces two continents, one arm reaching out to Asia, the other to Europe. Through the city's heart, the Bosphorus strait, courses the waters of the Black Sea, the Sea of Marmara and the Golden Horn.
The former capital of three successive empires - Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman - today Istanbul honors and preserves the legacy of its past while looking forward to its modern future.
Indeed, it is Istanbul's variety that fascinates its visitors. The museums, churches, palaces, great mosques, bazaars and sights of natural beauty seem inexhaustible.
Arrival to Istanbul:
Turkey demands an official entry visa from citizens of several countries. Before your departure to Turkey it is better to check with a Turkish consulate in your country to determine if you need a visa. In some cases, you can obtain a visa upon arrival at Ataturk airport for a small fee. After passing from the passport control, it is appropriate to declare your foreign currency and your valuable objects and have it recorded in your passport. As elsewhere too, there are limits on the amount of alcoholic drinks and cigarettes that can be brought in: two boxes of cigarettes, 50 cigars, 200 grams of tobacco and 2.5 liters of alcoholic drinks are allowed.
Working hours and holidays:
Banks are open weekdays from 8:30 AM until noon or 12:30 PM, depending on the bank, and from 1:30 PM until 5.00 PM. Museums are generally open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 AM until 5.00 PM or 5:30 PM and closed on Monday. Palaces are open the same hours but are closed Thursday. For museum specific information please visit our museums section. Shops and bazaars are usually open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 AM to 1.00 PM and from 2.00 PM to 7.00 PM, and closed all day on Sunday. Most large stores and some small shops remain open throughout the day. You can find restaurants or cafes open virtually any time of the day or night.
January 1 (New Year's Day),(Ramazan Bayram, marking the end of Ramadan), (Kurban Bayram, an important religious holiday). Muslim religious holidays are based on the lunar calendar and will shift about 10 days backwards each year. The dates given here for the Seker and Kurban holidays are for 1998. April 23 (National Independence and Childrens Day), May 19 (Ataturk's Commemoration Day), August 30 (Zafer Bayram, or Victory Day), October 29 (Cumhuriyet Bayram, or Republic Day, celebrating Ataturk's proclamation of the Turkish republic in 1923).
Visiting the mosques:
Most mosques in Istanbul are open to the public during the day. Prayer sessions, called namaz, last 30 to 40 minutes and are observed five times daily. Tourists should, however, avoid visiting mosques midday on Friday, when Muslims are required to worship. For women, bare arms and legs are not acceptable inside a mosque. Men should avoid wearing shorts as well. Women should not enter a mosque without first covering their heads with a scarf. Before entering a mosque, shoes must be removed.
Post offices are painted bright yellow and have PTT (Post, Telegraph, and Telephone) signs on the front. The central Post office is open Monday through Saturday from 8 AM to 9 PM, Sunday from 9 AM to 7PM. Smaller ones are open Monday through Friday between 8:30 AM and 5.00 PM.
The value-added tax, here called KDV, is 18%. Hotels typically combine it with a service charge of 8% to 18%, and restaurants usually add a 18% service charge. Value-added tax is nearly always included in quoted prices. Certain shops are authorized to refund the tax (ask).
The electrical current in Turkey is 220 volts, 50 cycles alternating current (AC); wall outlets take Continental-type plugs, with two or three round prongs.
Safety & Security:
The streets of Istanbul are considerably safer than their counterparts in the United States or Western Europe. Travelers should nevertheless take care of their valuables, as pickpockets, although not as common as in the U.S. or Europe, do operate in the major cities and tourist areas.
Tourism police Tel. (0212) 527 45 03
You can consider visiting other tourist attractions in Turkey once you come to Istanbul. Turkish Airlines (THY) and several private airlines have frequent scheduled flights to most of the other cities. If you think about other possibilities than flying, you can go by bus, train, ship or even rent an airplane or a helicopter.
Helicopter and Plane Rental:
Mach Air Tel: (0212) 541 14 23 Sancak Air Tel: (0212) 541 41 41 Mas Air Tel: (0212) 663 04 03 Istanbul Havayollari Tel: (0212) 543 62 58 Top Air Tel: (0212) 541 60 40
Train (State RailRoads):
The railroad is slower but can be fun, especially if you reserve a first class compartment. Trains run between Ankara and Istanbul, Istanbul and Izmir, and reservations are required.) 348 80 20
There are scheduled trips among the Black Sea, Aegean and Mediterranean ports. Turkish Maritime Lines Tel: (0212) 244 02 07 / 249 92 22 City Ferry Administration Tel: (0212) 244 42 33 Car FerriesTel: (0216) 353 40 85 Sea Buses Tel: (0212) 560 72 91 / 249 15 58 / 251 61 44 Tel: (0216) 362 04 46 / 336 88 19 / 306 20 00 BUS It is by far cheaper, of course, to take an intercity bus. The best of the companies offer comfortable, quality transportation, an excellent and cheap alternative to flying. Many buses are double deckered and have toilets and all are non-smoking and offer tea and snack service.
Private Bus Station Information:
(Esenler) 0212 658 00 36 (Harem) 0216 333 37 63
There are no serious health risks associated with travel to Turkey. No vaccinations are required for entry. Tap water is heavily chlorinated. Bottled water, bottled sparkling mineral water or carbonated mineral water are also abundant.In the hospitals mentioned below, you are offered an excellent service and consultation with English speaking doctors.
AMERICAN HOSPITAL 0212 231 40 50 (20 Line)
AUSTRIAN SAINT GEORGE HOSPITAL 0212 243 25 90
FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE HOSPITAL 0212 224 49 50 (15 Line)
GERMAN HOSPITAL 0212 293 21 50
INTERNATIONAL HOSPITAL 0212 663 00 00 (30 Line)
ITALIAN HOSPITAL 0212 249 97 51-52
MIDDLE EAST HOSPITAL 0216 37139 90-91
TAKSIM HOSPITAL 0212 252 43 00
VATAN HOSPITAL 0212 534 86 00 (10 Line)