At a Glance
When to Go
The biggest and fastest-growing airport in the world is Atatürk International Airport (IST), located on the European shores. Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW), on the Asian side, also caters to a range of commercial airlines. International buses from Greece and Bulgaria, the Bosporus Express train between Bucharest and Istanbul, and the daily flotilla of luxury cruise liners also bring travelers to the shores of Istanbul.
Pack a pair of comfy walking shoes. Your two feet paired with Istanbul’s public transportation network is the easiest and cheapest way to get around. Most Istanbulites don’t own a vehicle because, at 3TL (US$1.50) per person per trip, the Metro (trains), trams, ferries, and buses are a faster, more affordable way to get through Istanbul traffic. Purchase an Istanbulkart for discounts on public transit, or revel in the pace of life in old Istanbul where most attractions are within easy walking distance. Taxis are available, as are dolmuşes (literally meaning "stuffed"), which are shared taxis traveling popular city routes.
Food and Drink
When in Turkey, every traveler should do what the locals do and practice keyif, the art of idle relaxation. You’ll see this everywhere—men and women relaxing and drinking endless supplies of Turkish çay (tea) served in tulip-shaped glasses. Turks know that good friends are made with keyif, so if you’re offered a çay, stay a while and delight in one of Turkey’s great cultural traditions.
Istanbul has a smorgasbord of festivals celebrating arts, culture, and cultivation. The International Istanbul Film Festival and Istanbul Tulip Festival are held in April, followed by the biennial Theater Festival from May to June. Music takes center stage from June to July with the International Istanbul Music Festival, Jazz Festival and Rock 'n Coke. The Istanbul Biennial rounds things off every second year (rotating with the theater festival) to create exhibitions for international visual arts enthusiasts. The Hidrellez Festival, held May 5 every year, welcomes spring to the northern hemisphere with a spontaneous party of Romany music and dancing in the backstreets of Sultanahmet.
What the Locals Know
Camping in the wilderness with kangaroos and snorkeling through the coral of Ningaloo Reef of Australia introduced Leeann to travel at an early age, but a visit to a Balinese village at age 10 really ignited Leeann's passion to venture off the beaten path and explore the delights of world cultures. Years later, her interest in travel and dance led her to Turkey, and she's been feasting on the smorgasbord of attractions the country has to offer ever since. From hot air ballooning in Cappadocia to baking bread and milking goats in a Kurdish village, Leeann's Turkish experiences have led her to become a local expert and roving writer for Afar.com and Moon Travel Guides.