Rick Steves' Istanbul
- Purchase the fifth edition of Rick Steves' Istanbul guidebook.
Updates to the fifth edition
Hotel prices are increasing rapidly in Istanbul, which is quickly gaining in popularity among tourists. Be sure to book well in advance. While hotel prices are up, hotels with the efficiency of online booking engines play with rates constantly. Most hotels follow a flexible pricing system now which lets them lower rates when they have less occupancy and increase when they have more occupancy. These may not be announced on hotels' websites (which tend to be fairly static), but are available through different booking sites (such as www.booking.com).
Tram and bus prices have changed. A single tram ride is now 3 TL. Also, the transit system no longer offers the Akbil Pass. Travelers staying more than a few days and planning to use public transportation frequently should consider the İstanbulKart.
Tipping is now expected in Turkey (an average of 10 percent).
Beware of a worsening taxi scam: Many dishonest drivers will take your 50-TL bill, then insist that you've given them only a 5-TL bill. If you need to pay your fare with a large bill, announce the bill's denomination as you give it to the cabbie.
Free entry at the Istanbul Modern Arts Museum on Thursdays is now limited to residents of Turkey; free entry is no longer available to tourists.
The Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum may be closed for renovations during your visit — call ahead to confirm that it's open (tel. 0212/518-1805).
It's smart to reserve ahead for a tour of the Dolmabahçe Palace (either online or over the phone at 0212/327-2626).
The Istanbul Culinary Institute no longer offers a discount to Rick Steves readers.
See our note about rising hotel rates at the top of this page.
The correct address for the Aslan Apartments is Piyer Loti Caddesi Satır Sokak 5, and they have new contact information: mobile 0553-221-4224 or 0533-273-3042, fax 0212-381-7688, www.aslanapartments.com, email@example.com.
The Triada Hotel no longer offers a discount to Rick Steves readers.
The Rejans Russian Restaurant, mentioned in the New District Walk, has closed.
Frappe Istanbul no longer serves food (now just beverages).
The Galata Dervish Monastery's renovation is complete, and whirling-dervish performances have resumed (40–50 TL, Sun at 16:00). Tickets are available at the monastery on the day of the performance, but usually sell out by 14:00. To buy advance tickets, try contacting Tebit Çakmut (mobile 0536-607-4163).
The Foundation of Universal Lovers, which offers services featuring whirling dervishes, now charges 40 TL per person for admission.
Incisu Boats no longer offers individual dinner cruises.
The best online resource for info on public transportation to the airport is www.istanbul-ulasim.com.tr/en.
The Havatas Airport Shuttle Bus has a new website: www.havatas.com.
The night train to Ankara has been suspended because of construction.
Updates for those still traveling with the fourth edition
The TI near Taksim Square in the New District has moved to Mete Caddesi 6 (short walk from the square, tel. 0212/233-0592).
The International Hospital has a new phone number at 0212/468-4444.
The following sights have new hours (and be aware that hours are always subject to change, especially in Istanbul, so consider confirming times before heading out):
• Hagia Sophia: Tue–Sun 9:00–19:00, until 17:00 off-season, closed Mon, last entry is one hour before closing.
• Underground Cistern (a.k.a. Basilica Cistern): daily 9:00–18:30, until 17:00 off-season.
• Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum: Tue–Sun 9:00–19:00, until 17:00 off-season, closed Mon.
• Topkapi Palace: Wed–Mon 9:00–19:00, off-season until 17:00, closed Tue, last entry one hour before closing, exhibits begin to close one hour earlier. Also: there's no longer an exchange office or post office near the ticket booth.
• Istanbul Archaeological Museum (all three sections): Tue–Sun 9:00–19:00, until 17:00 off-season, closed Mon.
Dolmabahçe Palace is accessible only with a guided tour, available in English (15 TL for Selamlik section, 10 TL for Harem, 20 TL for both sections).
The Ethnographic Department of the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum may be closed for renovation during your visit.
The Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) at Taksim Square, which normally hosts ballet, opera, and symphony performances, is closed for renovation, probably through 2013.
You can now reach the Chora Church by tram and light rail (which makes sense from Sultanahmet, but less so from the New District, unless you're near the tram line): Ride the tram to the Topkapi stop (nowhere near Topkapi Palace; direction: Zeytinburnu), then transfer to light rail and ride three stops to Edirnekapi (direction: Habibler). This leaves you outside the old city walls, but within walking distance of the church: Facing the walls, head left and cross the highway at the traffic light. Continue to a second traffic light behind the wall and cross Fevzipasa Street. Take the first left (Vaiz Sokak, just past the bus stop), and then the third right (Kariye Camii Sokak) to reach the church.
The Bosphorus ferry leaves April–Oct at 10:35 and 13:35 (additional departures possible in peak season); in Nov–March it departs at 10:35 only. For information visit www.sehirhatlari.com.tr/en — select "Bosphorus Tours," then click on "Full Bosphorus Cruise").
Some hotels in Istanbul offer free pickup from Ataturk Airport if you book directly with them for at least a 3-night stay (book for 5 days and they'll throw in the return trip). Even if you don't qualify for a free airport transfer, hotels can arrange an airport shuttle. However, it might not be the cheapest — a €25 hotel shuttle to the airport is no deal given that it's easy to arrange a €5 shuttle through many Old Town travel agencies (though you may need to catch the bus at the travel agency, rather than at your hotel).
We no longer recommend Tarihi Subasi Restaurant, as diners are regularly overcharged.
Most restaurants' indoor spaces are now non-smoking.
Caferaga Medresesi has changed their email for their classes to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Havuzbasi Restaurant and Tea House has whirling dervishes nightly at 21:00 only from mid-May through August.
Changa is closed four months of the year (mid-June–mid-Oct), when they open the Müzedechanga restaurant at the Sakip Sabanci Museum.