Our Istanbul Travel Essentials lays out the essential information you need to help plan your trip to one of the most popular destinations in Türkiye. No matter how frequently you travel, some questions will always need answers: What’s the weather like? How can I get from the airport to my hotel? What currency and type of plug do I need? We have all these answers plus other basic info about the best time to go, getting there, getting around, and a few useful travel tips.

It’s all compiled in this Istanbul Travel Essentials. After reading this short and easy-to-read guide, you will be a little more prepared to start your trip to Istanbul.

  • When is the best time to travel to Istanbul?

    When is the best time to travel to Istanbul?

    Istanbul has a Mediterranean climate, borderline with humid subtropical and oceanic climates. The average temperatures range from 6ºC in winter to 24ºC in summer.

    • The rainiest time of the year is between November and March, with an average of 15 rainy days per month.
    • Due to persistent high humidity, expect foggy days during spring and autumn. 
    • June-August is peak tourist season, with hotel and flight prices rising accordingly. Heat, humidity and crowds do not render justice to the city. 
    • March-May and September-November are great times to visit Istanbul. Weather is warm and pleasant, and you can get good deals on hotel rooms and flights.
  • Istanbul basics

    Istanbul basics
    • Languages:  
      Primary - Turkish
      English is also widely spoken
    • Plug types: C, E and F
    • Electricity: 220 V
    • Currency: Turkish lira (₺)
    • International dialling codes: +90 212
    • Emergency telephone number: 112
  • How to get to my hotel in Istanbul?

    How to get to my hotel in Istanbul?

    Istanbul Airport

    Istanbul International Airport is one of the largest and busiest airports in Türkiye, which replaced the old Istanbul Atatürk Airport as the main arrival gateway for the city in October 2018. Istanbul Airport is about 30 km northwest of downtown Istanbul. It has 1 large passenger terminal serving 4 runways. The terminal contains a good choice of dining and shopping options and has facilities like free Wi-Fi (for 1 hour) and currency exchange services. There are several transfer options to reach central Istanbul:

    • A metered taxi takes around 40-50 minutes. Taxi ranks are located on the departure floor (2nd floor) and in front of the main exits of the terminal, in the Plaza section.
    • Shuttle buses depart from the transportation floor (2nd floor) and take around 60-90 minutes.
    • Car rental agencies can be found in the Arrivals Hall.
  • How to get around Istanbul?

    Travel tips

    How to get around Istanbul?

    Downtown Istanbul is compact and can easily be explored on foot. Landmarks and attractions such as the Hagia Sophia Museum, The Blue Mosque and the Topkapi Palace Museum are within walking distance of each other. You’ll also find a great choice of restaurants and shops throughout the historic district of Istanbul. For longer journeys, there’s a good choice of public and private transport services to choose from.

  • Ulaşım A.Ş - Public transport networks

    Ulaşım A.Ş - Public transport networks

    Ulaşım A.Ş is the company that runs public transport in Istanbul. It operates bus, metro, tram, ferryboat, funicular and commuter train networks. 

    • The best option is to get a rechargeable Istanbulkart.
    • A single card can be used by many people as long as there’s enough credit on it.
    • The Istanbulkart can be purchased at vending machines in all metro and tram stations.
    • The metro is a very convenient mode of transport in Istanbul, but expect crowds at rush hour and beware of pickpockets.

    photo by Michel Huhardeaux (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

  • Istanbul Tourist Pass

    Istanbul Tourist Pass

    If you plan to visit many attractions, the Istanbul Tourist Pass gives you free admission to 9 museums, tours and attractions, free shared airport transfer, free wi-fi, and free Whatsapp traveller support.

    • Istanbul Tourist Passes are valid for 2, 3 or 7 days.
    • It can be purchased online and is instantly delivered.
  • Taking a Taxi

    Taking a Taxi
    • Taxis can be hailed down on the street in Istanbul, but it’s recommended to use only official yellow cabs waiting at the many cab stands that can be found outside hotels and attractions.
    • You can also download the BiTaksi app on your phone, so you can see where the closest registered taxi is.
    • Always have enough Turkish lira change to pay for your fare and never pay in Euro or US Dollars.
    • Beware of taxi scams such as taking a longer road to get somewhere, forgetting to put the meter on, pretending that you gave a 5 ₺ note when you gave a 50 ₺ note, and so on…

    photo by Alper Çuğun (CC BY 2.0) modified

  • What are the main annual events in Istanbul?

    What are the main annual events in Istanbul?

    Conquest of Istanbul Festival

    • What: The fall of Constantinople, conquered by the Ottoman army on 29 May 1453 is annually celebrated in Yenikapı district. Expect exhibitions of traditional Turkish arts, parades by the Ottoman army band and fireworks.
    • When: May
    • Where: Yenikapı

    International Istanbul Tulip Festival

    • What: Tulips originated from the Asian Steppes, where they grew wild. Ottomans started to commercialise them in the 16th century. Every year in April, tulips are planted everywhere in the city to celebrate the International Istanbul Tulip Festival.
    • When: April
    • Where: Emirgan Park

    Rock ‘n’ Coke

    • What: Rock ‘n’ Coke is one of the biggest outdoor music festivals in Türkiye. Expect international bands playing a wide range of music styles from Pop to Heavy Metal.
    • When: End August or early September
    • Where: Hezarfen Airfield

    Chill Out Festival

    • What: Held since 2006, Istanbul Chill Out Festival showcases famous dance, trance and electronic music artists from all around the world for 2 days.
    • When: September
    • Where: Garden Fiesta

    photo by CKfromtheD (CC BY 2.0) modified