Planning a trip to a city / country you have never been to before is never easy. There are always a number of unknowns which you can mostly experience only by visiting that place. Especially when it comes to transportation and shuttle services, there is only so much you can know by online research. Do you want to know more about airport transfer and the scams that tourists should be aware of in Istanbul? Our Accommodation and Transportation Guide in Istanbul talks about just that, so read on for all the practical information that will help you plan your trip..
Transportation Guide in Istanbul:
Within the city
We recommend buying an Istanbul pass. It costs 6 liras for one pass and each ticket would cost an additional 2.60 liras. One pass can be used by multiple people and you can recharge it as per the need. This pass can be used across various modes of transportation within the city i.e. bus, tram and metro. Individual one way tickets costs a flat rate 5 liras per person. Also, per ticket charge is the same if you take the transportation till the next stop or till the end of the journey.
Istanbul is connected by two airports – Ataturk and Sabiha. Ataturk airport is closer to the city while the Sabiha one is further away on the opposite side. There are multiple options available to reach the airport. The tips below is also come in handy if you are planning to fly to Cappadocia.
1. You can get a private transfer directly till the airport. The cost for transfer to or from Ataturk airport is 25 euros and that of Sabiha airport is around 50 euros. You can ask your hotel to organise this transfer for you or check with couple of travel agencies in the city. The rates provided by travel agencies will be a bit cheaper than the hotel rates.
2. Take a taxi till Taxsim Square and catch the airport transfer bus till the airport. This is a more economical option if you are planning to go to Sabiha airport. The taxi rate would come up to 8 euros and then the bus transfer is 4 euros per person till Sabiha airport. Havabus operates daily transfers and they start operating from as early as 3.30am. You buy the ticket only after you board the bus. Just a note of caution here – the buses won’t leave until they are completely full. So do plan accordingly.
Ah, the famous Istanbul Taxi Scam which Raga witnessed even 8 years back and we again fell for it last month (in December 2017). You give the destination to the taxi driver, he understands where you want to go, starts the meter, goes on his route and suddenly takes a detour. Now he is on the longest route (inside a tunnel) to the destination, suddenly stops understanding English and then tried to communicate that the diversion is due to heavy traffic on the normal route. After a couple of minutes his taxi meter stops working and then he will try multiple times to restart but all attempts fail. Then he apologies for the failed metre and says that the fare would be around 55 liras.
The fare from Taxsim Square to the area around Sultanahment Mosque should cost around 25 to 30 liras (maximum). Being Indians and street smart in such matters, tackled our taxi driver properly. We got down, took our luggage and called the hotel manager. We negotiated via the manager because of course the taxi drive can not speak in English. Finally we paid only 35 liras instead of 55 liras. Not sure if there is any way to avoid this scam, but be careful!
There is another kind of taxi scam that you should be aware of. If you give a 50 lira note, the taxi driver will quickly exchange it into a 5 lira note and demand for more money. So, be very careful and never count your notes in front of the taxi driver.
There are other kinds of scams that you must be aware of, especially single men. Some Turkish guy will try to make friends with you and take you to a pub for drinks. You guys will consume a lot of drinks and then that Turkish guy will vanish leaving you with a huge bill to be paid. All we can say is be careful and avoid making friends with Turkish guys who take you to pub.
These instances kind of reminded us of our trip to Morocco, where a guy at the bus station tried to sell us a bus ticket to Chefchaouen in a bus that was already full. He put a cloth on the floor and asked us to sit there and warned us that there are no more busses to Chefchaouen for next couple of hours. More so, people in Morocco were extremely pushy and irritating in a way that a barber will call you for haircut and persist on getting one when you don’t even need it, Well, travel is not always rosy and there are things that are better avoided or taken care of carefully!
We traveled to Turkey in winter (December 2017) which is an off-season. So, we got hotels at really cheap rates and had the luxury of staying at some really nice places right in the city (which wouldn’t have been possible during peak season). Although December is off season, we did book our accommodation a month or two in advance. Closer to Christmas and travel dates, the rates did go up again. Stay in the vicinity of Sultanahment Mosque as most of the areas of interest would be in walking distance from here.
We stayed at Rose Garden Hotel and paid about 45 euros per night. We highly recommend this hotel as our stay was very comfortable, the hotel staff were very friendly and extremely helpful. On our way back, we stayed one night at Edibe Sultan Hotel and paid about 75euros per night. This rate is higher because our booking was just a few weeks before travel.