12 things to avoid in Istanbul
When it comes to finding a guide or a list of things to see and do in Istanbul there are quite a few choices but how about if we twisted things and spoke about not so comfortable sides of the city and provide you with not to do list for Istanbul. We can’t wait.
Whilst Istanbul can be easily called a city of grand mosques, architecture and history, we have compiled a list of 12 annoying things based on our experiences that you should know before going to Istanbul to better your experience or prepare you for things we weren’t prepared for!
1. Conversations with sales people
Avoid sales people if you are not thinking to buy anything or you will waste your time. To be honest, retailers in Istanbul have to be one of the most determined to sell you anything. They will try to get you to buy from them by offering you a “friendly” cup of tea. What some people call “hospitality” we think of it as more of a marketing trick because we all know that people buy from people they like. Come to the shop to browse through the shelves and it’s quite impossible not to be followed by sellers or offered to try this or that.
2. Eating out in unknown places
We highly recommend to look up good places to eat before hand. We didn’t do any research because we wanted to explore and discover some hidden gems but that’s where we have gone wrong. Most of the times we ended up eating in quite an average restaurants which were also rather expensive and food wasn’t that great. All in all, Turkish food hasn’t impressed us. All eating experiences put together we give it 6 out of 10!
3. Renting a car with ''Discover car hire’’
This is the biggest no no from Istanbul we can give you. To start with, we waited for our car to be delivered in a freezing cold and rain storm outside the terminal for nearly 1,5 hours and had we not kept on calling and asking about our car 20 times straight it probably would have never showed up. The car we got wasn’t the one we had reserved online but then language barrier was even a bigger problem. There were also problems in returning the car, overall very unprofessional and unreliable service. Representatives couldn’t speak even a basic level of English which was frustrating enough. Stay away from this company.
4. Don't let them rip you off
There are so many souvenir, tea and sweet shops in Istanbul which all look so inviting and eye catching that it is quite impossible to walk past and not get tempted. Although every retailer will tell you that prices are pretty much standard across the city, we can’t agree with that. Our suggestion would be if you want to save money, you will have to spend some time going around different shops and comparing the prices and then putting your negotiation skills to test. We found that areas around Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar are cheaper to buy stuff than in the old town next to the mosques or Topkapi.
5. Taking pictures in the stores
As I mentioned above, souvenir shops are so good on the eye that you will be tempted to take as many snaps as you can however be careful, great number of shops don’t allow photography and shop keepers are not particularly happy if they see you trying to sneak a snap. It's a good idea to ask and some retailers might agree (like this one in the picture below) but we had to miss so many great picture opportunities because we were strictly told no pictures which was quite annoying.
6. Baklava and turkish delight
Who wouldn't love those sweets so you might think what are these two on about? All we want to say is don’t believe when they say that these sweets are sugar free. Nearly every retailer we met started their selling pitch by saying how great these were because they are made only of natural honey (hlw, honey contains sugar too)… whilst you may not see it as a problem, we thought it’s fine too and bought these for someone who has sugar intolerance and unfortunately their condition deteriorated after eating them.. It’s not the thing travel bloggers would normally talk about but we are keeping it real and we want to give you a valuable advice! Be careful.That was a big lesson we learned.
7. Don't underestimate a local bazaar
Whilst nearly every travel guide will tell you Grand and spice bazaars are two best markets for shopping in Istanbul because it is one of the top attractions, we suggest also checking out smaller bazaars. We accidentally stumbled upon Arasta Bazaar which is just a short walk from the famous blue mosque and we were pleasantly surprised. It is a small bazaar tucked away from the hussle and the bustle but it has everything that you may want. From souvenirs, pottery, famous lamps, fabrics to sweets, spices, teas and local food stalls. If you want to enjoy crowd free shopping or just have a wonder around and appreciate less in your face sellers then Arasta Bazaar is the place to go.
8. Driving in the old town
If you are thinking of renting a car in Istanbul and drive to the old town like we did it’s probably a better idea to take a tram or a cab. Old town streets are like a maze and driving is not an easy task in Istanbul. Big part of the old town is better suited for trams but cars are also allowed on tram tracks! For someone who doesn’t know the traffic and the city well the only option is sat nav which we found didn’t work properly.
Long story short we turned and turned in the old town for more than an hour trying to get to our hotel, we drove opposite the traffic, we drove on tram tracks and we came to conclusion that had we followed google maps blindly we would probably still be there.
9. Don’t miss the view of the Bosphorus bridge at night
Once you are in Istanbul it is impossible to not notice a majestic bridge that’s officially known as 15 July Martyrs bridge and is connecting two continents – Europe and Asia. 1560 m long bridge hanging at 165 m is an impressive structure worth checking out from closer and especially when it’s lit at night. For an unobstructed view of the bridge we recommend get yourself to Feriye palace in BESIKTAS district.
Feriye Lokantasi is a fine dining restaurant set on Bosphorus stretch with amazing views to the bridge and the sea. It has a beautiful terrace where you can take as many pictures as you want. It’s little tucked away so you will avoid crowds and there was no one when we visited!
TIP: Entry to the palace territory will cost you 30 liras if you come in a car but you can take a tram or a bus and then walk which will save you from paying.
10. Public transport in the old town
Old town is best explored by foot and most of the touristic and important to see areas can be quite easily covered on foot. It also allows you to explore less visited corners and cobbled streets which is always fun! Further away which will require some longer walking is Dolmabache palace, Galata tower, Eurasia bridge and in case you are not a fan of longer walks you can always take a tram.
11. ''HD iskender'' for your first iskender experience
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Iskender is a type of kebap where thin cut grilled lamb pieces are densely topped with tomato sauce over pieces of pitta bread and generously slathered with a melted butter and yoghurt. It was swimming in grease so it just tasted fat and weird and we would never want to repeat it again. Also, service was really poor.
12. ''Capadocia'' restaurant in Fatih
Unless you have some spare cash to waste. We came to this place drawn by it’s interior and the ambience as it offered what looked like a unique Turkish dining experience and lady in the window making fresh bread is another great way to attract more passers by. However, food let it down and even the guy who worked there said that Turkish food isn’t that great there and that Turkish people don't really like to eat Turkish food...whaaaatt???? Wish he had told us that before ordering...It’s also quite expensive and for 2 people we paid £75.