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  • Writer's pictureKita the Explorer

Istanbul Walks: Istanbul, Turkey Travel Guide

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Cover Photo
Photo taken of an exhibit at Topkapi Palace

Please note: Affiliate links are included within this article. If you book through them, I may receive commission at no additional cost to you. To learn more about my disclosure policy, please click here!

ISTANBUL. A city where two continents collide. A city where the east meets the west. A city rich of culture and full of energy in which I hope everyone has a chance to visit one day. I was lucky to visit in March of 2019 after booking a flight deal with Scott’s Cheap Flights and I’m here to tell you my story, discuss safety and give you recommendations along the way.

Every year, I take a trip to a place I have never been for my birthday because why not? This year this place was Turkey all because Scott’s Cheap Flights sent me an email saying they had flights under $500 round trip to Istanbul. Soooo….what did I do? I booked it immediately. The only unfortunate part was that the flights out of ATL weren’t for the dates I wanted, so I flew to DC to take advantage of those rates. Let me breakdown my flights for you (all prices are in USD):

  • Round trip flight to DCA from ATL: $11.20 (thank you to my accumulation of points)

  • Round trip shuttle from DC Metro to IAD: $10.00 (unfortunately I don't recall the round trip DC metro price from DCA to IAD but it was under $10 round trip)

  • Round trip flight to IST from IAD: $495.83

Photo of me inside the Hagia Sophia
Inside the Hagia Sophia

Typically, a round trip flight to Istanbul could range from $900 to $1,300. The total I spent to get there saved me approximately 40%-60%! Wowzers!!!

On my way to Istanbul, I had a layover in Amsterdam which I took full advantage of. Learn more about how you can take advantage of your Amsterdam layover by clicking here!

I arrived in Turkey and the traffic was crazy! I don’t know what you need to do to prepare for a population of 15M+ people, but whatever it is, do it! Upon arrival, I always have a driver arranged to get me to my hotel. The last thing I want to do is worry about transportation after a long international flight. So, my first night I headed to my hotel and here is the breakdown (all prices are in USD):

  • Round trip prearranged shuttle with Safe Airport Transfer: $55.95

  • One night at the Holiday Inn Istanbul City: $149.50

  • Dinner: $10.55

You may see my magnificent hotel room in my review of the Door Jammer by viewing the video below!

After this one night stay, I headed to Cappadocia, Turkey to take in a different experience away from the city. You may learn about this adventure by reading this blog!

Photo of me inside the Blue Mosque
Inside the Blue Mosque

After experiencing the breathtaking town and ancient land of Cappadocia, I flew back to Istanbul but for only about seven hours. During this time period, I left my luggage a baggage holding area on the International side of the airport and grabbed a taxi. From there I went to Istanbul Walks for a Turkish coffee tour. This tour was extraordinary and highly recommended! Time for another breakdown:

  • Baggage Hold: $15.00 (approximate)

  • Round Trip Taxi: $11.00 (approximate)

  • Coffee Souvenir: $8.22 (approximate)

  • Istanbul Walks Tour: $57.36 (Book tour here!)

**Approximate is noted above due to me having to personally calculate the exchange rate as I paid cash.

You may see my coffee tour experience by viewing the video below!

After my coffee excursion, I headed back to the airport, picked up my luggage (and paid), and went off to Dubrovnik, Croatia. You can learn all about Dubrovnik and my experience in my blog post here!

I was in Dubrovnik a little over two days and returned back to Istanbul at that time! My Istanbul return was filled with history, walking, traditional food and great company. I also had another magnificent hotel room and was able to see a little of the political processes in another country. I was able to learn a lot of Istanbul's and Turkey's history from my guide Caner (pronounced Janer). It was a private tour all for me and catered to me! So, now let me break it down (prices shown in USD)...

  • Round trip airport transfers: $78.87

  • Istanbul Marriott Hotel Sisli (excellent location): $285.89

  • Best of Istanbul 2 Day Tour (this includes entry to all venues such as the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace, priority access to skip the line, and private knowledgeable guide): $314.00

  • Private Driver - 1 Day (you can easily get around Istanbul by taxi or metro rail but my foot was in incredible pain during this trip, so I requested a driver one day but it still feels like it was a waste lol): $125.00

Unfortunately, I do not remember the names of the places I ate at...I know I know...terrible as the food was delicious!

Watch my Istanbul experiences in the playlist of videos below:

Istanbul was quite the experience that I will never forget. And despite the stress fracture in my foot, my joy was not broken! I hope you get to visit one day as well! Now, for the final breakdown in my costs spent...

  • Hotels: $442.76 (includes tourism taxes)

  • Airfare (Delta & United/Turkish Airlines): $614.58 (includes $87 of travel insurance, Turkish visa, and purchasing seats)

  • Airport Transfers: $134.52

  • Food/Souvenirs/Taxis/Tips/Public Transit: $258.19

  • My total cost for my Istanbul, Turkey trip was $1,450.05! This a little over how much the flight would have cost! CRAZY!

Photo at Dolmabaçhe Palace
Dolmabaçhe Palace

Also, you should've noticed I visited a few other places during my vacation. I ended up visiting FOUR different countries during this one international flight ticket. I stopped by The Netherlands, Turkey, Croatia and Montenegro! The total spent for this entire trip was $3,118.50! Hey, thats a steal for all I did and my luxuries! Here is how you can save even more on your trip:

  • Use public transit in Istanbul, even upon your airport arrival.

  • Stay at an Airbnb or Hostel. Or use more points, if available!

  • Don't visit other countries!

  • Find group tours or visit the attractions on your own.

Photo of me on a cruise along the Bosphorus River
Cruising along the Bosphorus River

Important Things to Note:

  • Since I went, Istanbul opened a new airport and closed the one I flew threw (yep, this literally happened a week later). Therefore, taxi rates may be significantly different. And you will need to check to see if they have a baggage hold there.

  • Turkey's currency is the Turkish Lira. Please see exchange rates with your local currency here.

  • You should always pay for your luggage at a baggage hold when you pick it back up. And you when you drop it off, be sure to get a hold receipt.

  • At this time, avoid using ride sharing apps as it is not well received there. There are plenty of options such as a prearranged shuttles, public transit or a taxis.

  • Turkey is SAFE!!!! I traveled there as a solo female and never felt threatened. And for you US citizens, attacks can happen there just as frequently as at home or in our favorite travel destinations such as France (no offense).

  • Traffic can be extreme! Please allow plenty of time to transit to the airport.

  • Be ready to bargain at the bazaars!

  • Ladies, keep something on you to cover your hair just in case you visit a mosque.

I hope these details have provided you some insight into Istanbul!

So, when are you headed to Istanbul?! Let me know if you have any questions by commenting below or sending me an email to

Thank you for stopping by! Have a great day!

~ Kita the Explorer

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