Something to share with people who plan to go to Istanbul. Definitely one of the destinations that you have to consider to be in your 'places to visit' list.
(1) GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT - Spending hours reading other travellers' blogs or travel books do help a lot. Istanbul is a place where you can survive on your own without any tourist guide therefore doing research before going will be important.
(2) VISA - Good news for Malaysians, visa is not required to visit Turkey. Get your international passport ready and you are good to go.
(3) AIR TICKETS - There are various airlines offering services to Istanbul. MAS has a direct flight and various others are like Emirates and Qatar Airways. I chose Etihad as I managed to grab the offer and if you are wondering how much I had to pay for my air fare, it was only RM2500 for return tickets but I had to transit twice at Abu Dhabi International Airport.
(4) TRANSPORTATION - Istanbul has the same transportation system with other big cities like Hong Kong, London and Singapore. Even if you are only familiar with Kuala Lumpur's LRT and you can read maps, then you are alright. The tourists spots around Istanbul are connected to each other by trains, buses, trams and even ferries. You can even walk from one place to the other, especially the ones in the Old Istanbul so just be ready with a pair of strong legs and a good pair of walking shoes (as there are areas that will require you to walk uphill) and suitable clothing if you plan to go in winter. There are also a lot of short tour packages available once you are there and you do not have to do an early booking.
(5) ACCOMMODATION - There are hundreds of hotels around Istanbul so just pick one that suits your budget. If you are going to stay there only for a short period of time, then find a place in Sultanahmet where you can get everywhere easily. There are cheaper shuttle services too that can get you from the airport to the hotel, and vice versa. I was lucky as a colleague just went there in December last year so she recommended me this hotel which I loved. There will be a posting about this hotel later.
(6) FOOD - Istanbul is a place where Muslim travelers should not worry over food. You should try authentic Turkish food that we are familiar with like kebab and pizza at reasonable prices. Other than that, there are lot of food and drinks sold at mobile stalls or kiosks and you will not get hungry (if you have the money).
(7) CURRENCY - The currency used is Turkish Lira. When I was there, the rate was something like RM2200 = LIRA 1000, or basically you just have to multiply everything you spend by 2.2.
(8) SHOPPING - Like many other cities which are swarmed by tourists, there are many bazaars in Istanbul. The big ones are like the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. There are also hundreds of shops and stalls and street vendors who will be running after you, selling all sorts of things. However, based on my previous experience, the modus operandi here is almost the same with the other places - there are no price tags and you have to bargain for the prices which I found at times very unreasonable and I HATE THAT VERY MUCH. And the stall owners could sometimes be quite irritating as they expect you to buy something when you are there just to look at the items on sale. Another thing, do not get too excited to shop for locally produced items as they might come from China. I managed to get a few things from a shop near the hotel which are original and the prices are more believable.
That's all I can think of at this moment but you can ask any questions. Just leave a line or two in the comment box if you have anything else that you want to know.
other related posts:
ARRIVING AND BLOGGING FROM ISTANBUL
TASHKONAK BOUTIQUE HOTEL, ISTANBUL
ARASTA BAZAAR IN ISTANBUL
ISTANBUL DAY 1 - EXPLORING SULTANAHMET SQUARE
ISTANBUL DAY 1 - AYA SOFYA PART 1
ISTANBUL DAY 1 - AYA SOFYA PART 2
ISTANBUL DAY 1 - FALLING IN LOVE WITH THE BLUE MOSQUE AT FIRST SIGHT
SOKULLU SEHIT MEHMET PASA MOSQUE
THE BLUE MOSQUE EARLY IN THE MORNING
THE SHOP NEAR THE HOTEL IN SULTANAHMET
THE SPICE BAZAAR IN ISTANBUL
WALKING ACROSS GALATA BRIDGE
KARAKOY FISH MARKET
TOPKAPI PALACE - PART ONE
TOPKAPI PALACE - PART TWO
TOPKAPI PALACE - PART THREE
MORE IMAGES OF SULTANAHMET
THE CATS OF ISTANBUL
ISTANBUL DAY 3 - GRAND BAZAAR
ISTANBUL DAY 3 - BASILICA CISTERN
ISTANBUL DAY 3 - IMAGES OF SUNNY ISTANBUL