If you hadn’t guessed already, I loved Istanbul. My trip there came around before I could really think about it, so I guess me not having any expectations helped make me love it even more. I wanted to visit because I have a friend who goes to Istanbul quite often, and when I saw his posts on Facebook I knew I had to see it all for myself. Plus, I’ve been interested in Muslim countries for a while and wanted to poke my little toe into their culture, to learn more and be more informed.
Here is all I learnt about Istanbul, which would be of use to anyone wanting to visit!
1. There are cats everywhere.
Not only that, but they are pretty well looked after. There are ones that are obvious in poor health and I don’t advise approaching those, but I had quite a few “kitten cuddles” in cafes and so on and it was fine. Remember the hand sanitizer though!
2. Salt and pepper are the opposite ways around.
This confused me no end. Usually the salt goes in the shaker with one hole and the pepper goes in the one with three. Not in Istanbul!
3. Vegetarians are well catered for.
If you are holding back on visiting Turkey because you think all there is to eat there is kebabs, you’ll be glad to know that there is so much meatless food about there. Meze plates became our favourite – plates of lots of different things to dip bread into. I took wheat-free bread with me so that wasn’t such a problem. I’m doing a separate food post so watch out for that!
4. It’s ok if you’re a solo female traveller.
I waited for ages before I decided to go to Turkey, and it was mainly because I didn’t want to go there alone. My sisters had had some bad experiences there and I didn’t really think it was somewhere I could have gone to alone.
I was wrong. I think Istanbul is perfectly fine for a solo female traveller as long as she knows how to take care of herself. Outside the grand bazaar a man felt my bum as I walked by, but the staff at the hotel told me I could have reported him as they are very strict on that kind of thing. As often happens, I was in too much shock to go and run after him.
I also saw a girl just looking over a train map and there was a guy trying to talk to her and being very persistent about it. I don’t know what his intentions were, but I guess it’s not something that’s rare even here in Frankfurt. When you’re by yourself, it opens up opportunities for more guys to come and talk with you so be careful.
5. Don’t flush that toilet paper!
It wasn’t written in any of the guide books I read, but as I sat down for a wee the first time I noticed a very big sign saying not to put waste paper down the toilet. I thought they just meant ladies’ items, so flushed as normal. Then, the next place I peed at had the same…and I noticed a massive bin next to the loo. Sure enough, used toilet paper was inside.
In Turkey, it seems, there are the odd toilets that you can flush as normal with, but on the whole you are to put the used toilet paper into the bin next to the toilet. It took me a while to get used to this…and I always came out feeling strangely more dirty than if I had flushed the paper…
6. Keep some euros handy.
We exchanged some of our euros over at the airport in Istanbul (they had a slightly better rate) but I advise on changing most of your money in town, where there won’t be a commission on your rate.
A lot of places (tours, shuttles to the airport, for example) accepted euros and actually I think when we asked to pay in TY they gave us some dodgy maths with their conversion. It’s best to pay in Euros, I think.
There are mosques everywhere, probably one on every street. They are gorgeous, majestic buildings…that are also very very noisy come prayer time! The first one is at sunrise and so if your hotel doesn’t have thick windows like ours, prepare for a different alarm clock to usual!
Here’s a shaky video I made of the prayer call while I was there -
So those are my top tips for Istanbul! Have you ever been? If you have any extra advice then please let us know in the comments!