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Istanbul Flights & Travel Guide

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Why fly to Istanbul?

Istanbul is a city like no other, this is where Islamic culture meets European culture and the collision creates a place that will spark your curiosity and stoke your fire for adventure.

The historic centre is Sultanahmet, which is located behind the fortress walls in the old city, the district is called Fatih. Sultanahmet is home to many of the ancient sights you will want to see. The Hagia Sofia Museum and stunning Blue Mosque sit almost face to face, this is particularly interesting as Hagia Sofia was a church during Roman rule and pictures of Mary and Baby Jesus can be seen etched into the ceiling.

The Basilica Cistern is a short walk up the street and it is truly a haunting and magical place to visit. It used to provide water for the whole city and now is a tourist site, however it is beautifully lit and the water still pitter-patters as you walk through. There are also two giant stone medussa pillars which remain a bit of a mystery as to their purpose and how they got there.

Just north of Sultanahmet is Eminonu where you can grab a lunch of grilled fish from the boats sitting in the Golden Horn. Pull up a miniature chair and take in the hubbub, the area is popular for both tourists and locals.

After lunch, head to the alleys of the Spice Bazaar and make your way into the colorful Grand Bazaar where you can buy just about anything and is great for souvenirs. North of Eminonu is where you will find Taksim, this is the downtown of the city and where bars, restaurants, nightclubs and everything else associated with a downtown is located. This is also where Gezi Park is located, the site of mass anti-government protests in the summer of 2013.

Head down the pedestrian-only Istiklal Street where you will find International brand names alongside traditional Turkish shops selling baklava, kebabs and Turkish delight. There are numerous galleries located in the city, some of which are withing the Taksim and Beyoglu areas as well as in the Karakoy neighborhood near the Bosporus Strait.

You can also take a ferry over to the Asian side of Istanbul and this is where you will find the green part of the city as well as a more calm, suburban lifestyle. Baghdat Caddesi on the Asian side is known as high street and hosts international designers as well as modern Western dining.

Every inch of Istanbul is crawling with something to do. Street food includes simits, which are similar to sesame seed bagels as well as mussels stuffed with rice and another favorite of locals is a cart hauling rice, chickpeas and roast chicken. Your visit to Istanbul will be an exciting one for sure, just map out what you want to do or else you will get lost in the fray of what is Istanbul, it is simply too easy to sit over a tea and watch the action.

Istanbul Weather

Istanbul has four distinct seasons and you can count on them like clockwork. The summers are hot with temperatures hitting the mid 30s. However, bang, as soon as September hits the numbers drop into cooler autumn temperatures. The fall is a pleasant time in the city with numbers in the mid to high teens. Winters are cold and snow is not unheard. January and February are the coldest months and temperatures hit 0. Rain is sporadic throughout the year.

When to fly to Istanbul

Peak season

Despite the heating beating down on the city in July and August, there are throngs of tourists. Flight ticket prices are high starting in June and through to December.

Off season

A good time to find flight ticket deals to Istanbul is in the months of October and November. The prices drop significantly over the summer months and if you are lucky when you arrive you may not even that light jacket you packed. The first few months of the new year can also reveal some flight ticket deals.

Getting into Istanbul

Your gateway to Istanbul will open up at Ataturk International Airport (there is a second airport on the Asian side of the city, but it is not at a convenient distance to the city center). There are several ways to get into the city center. One of the easiest is the Havas bus service that will take you into the downtown area where many of the hotels are located.

The second option is the metro underground which is located under the airport, this will get you to Aksaray and from there you can take the tram into the old historic center of the city, which is also dotted with hotels and is a popular place to stay. Taxis are located outside of the airport, but make sure to tell the driver to turn on the meter because many drivers won't unless you ask.

Getting around Istanbul

Getting around Istanbul is fairly easy as the city has attempted to add English signage in the tourist areas. But be warned that many people you encounter will not know English so prepare yourself before you go out. If you are staying in the historic center, all the major sites are within walking distance. There is a tram that will take you throughout the center if you don't feel like walking and this tram will also get you over the Golden Horn and into the Kabatas area. From Kabatas you can take ferries to the Asian side or the funikuler to get into Taksim, which is the city's downtown and where the nightlife is. There are tons of public buses, but unless you know how to speak Turkish there is a very good chance you will get lost so best to avoid them. You can easily hail a cab off the streets but write down where you want to go because most drivers do not speak English and will not understand your pronunciation of Turkish place names.

Insider Guide

  • Take a day trip to the Princes Islands. The ferry from Kabatas will get you to the islands in about an hour and a half. Heybeliada is one of the best islands to spend your day at, although Buyukada is where all the crowds go. The islands have both public and private beaches where you must pay a fee to enter. You can take a horse-drawn carriage ride, or rent a bike and bike your way around. Have lunch at one of the many fish restaurants and take in the fastic view of the Aegean Sea.
  • The Grand Bazaar is colorful, chaos central and definitely worth a visit. You will find the most expensive goods like gold, jewellery, designer bags (warning: there are many fakes) housed in the market's building as well as other goods at twice the prices that you will pay if you head to the outside part of the market. Head out and pick up some lovely Turkish tea cups for a fraction of the indoor cost.
  • The mosques in the city are incredibly beautiful and visitors are welcome as long as they are fairly covered. Women must cover their heads and there are male and female sections within the mosques.
  • Visit the Besiktas area for a taste of something off the tourist path. This district is always humming as it is located near a number of universities and is also one of most liberal areas of the city. Go there for a dinner of fish and raki, which is the country's official alcohol drink, with an aniseed flavor it is similar to the Greek ouzo.
  • Go for a traditional Turkish breakfast. Turkish families love to get together for a weekend breakfast near the water. Head to the Rumeli Hisar district, which has numerous restaurants serving the traditional breakfast. A Turkish breakfast always consists of at least three kinds of cheese, olives, tomatoes, cucumber and hearty bread (it almost sounds like a wine tasting). Along with the staple items will be this delicious combination of honey and cream called kaymak, as well as various jellies and olive tapinade. Additionally, menemen, which is eggs scrambled in a cheesy tomato sauce, and spicy Turkish sausage called sucuk will also be served. The morning breakfast ritual takes a minimum of two hours, but surely they will forgive you if you finish up quickly since you have places to see and things to do.
  • Compare flights to Istanbul from Australia on

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Cheap Flights to Istanbul (IST)

Historical prices for Istanbul flights.

Departure Airline Prices
San Francisco Air France $817
Houston Air France $697
Dallas Fort Worth Air France $629
Paris Adria Airways $186
Los Angeles Air France $802
Barcelona Air France $238
Zurich Air France $196
Amsterdam Alitalia $189
Hyderabad Air India $540
Vancouver American Airlines $1109
Washington Dulles Lufthansa $633
Singapore Air France $844
Bangkok Egyptair $826
London Austrian Airlines $221
Kuala Lumpur Etihad Airways $872
Manila Etihad Airways $836
Rome Malev Hungarian Airlines $198
San Antonio Turkish Airlines $1309
London Heathrow British Airways $255
Bristol Air France $409
Hanoi LOT Polish Airlines $2783
Hong Kong Aeroflot Russian Airlines $5671
Austin Lufthansa $1250
Belgrade Olympic Airways $597
Bergamo Pegasus Airlines $332

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