Exotic sights, scents & sounds reign in this fascinating city where Europe & Asia meet. Istanbul has served as a capital for 3 mighty empires which have all left their marks behind converting this metropolis into a mind boggling open air museum. It is Istanbul's endless variety & diversity that fascinates the visitor. The museums, churches, palaces, mosques, bazaars, scenery, the people & vibe make Istanbul 'the city of past, present & future'. Reclining on the European shore of the Bosphorus at sunset contemplating the red evening light reflected through the windows of the Asian shore you may suddenly & profoundly understand why so many centuries ago the settlers chose to build on this remarkable site...
Area Telephone Codes
The three-digit area code for the European side of Istanbul is 212, for the Asian side; dial 216.
Banks are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5pm. Government offices are open Monday through Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm. Official hours of operation for shops are Monday through Sunday 9:30am to 7pm. Museum opening hours are generally extended by an hour or two in summer; note that museums generally also stop selling tickets up to an hour prior to the official closing time. While most official offices close for bank & religious holidays, there is no hard & fast rule over shops closing for these holidays. During Ramadan, however, many shops & businesses close early, while many restaurants either close down completely or offer limited menus at lunchtime.
Pharmacists in Turkey are qualified to provide some medical services beyond filling prescriptions, such as administering injections, bandaging minor injuries & suggesting medication. Local pharmacies (eczane) operate on a rotating schedule so that one is always open; each posts the address of the one whose turn it is in the window (Nobetci or "on night duty").
The standard is 220 volts & outlets are compatible with the round European two-prong plug. You may be able to leave your hair dryer at home, as most hotel rooms come equipped with at least a weak one. Visitors from America & Canada with electronics that need to be recharged will need an adapter, a transformer, or both, depending on the appliance.
Local emergency numbers are; fire tel: 110, police tel: 155 & ambulance tel: 112. Emergencies may also warrant a call to Medline (tel. 0212/444-1212, 24 hr. a day), a private company equipped to deal with any medical crisis, including ambulance transfers (cost varies according to distance), lab tests & home treatment. The International Hospital also provides ambulance services.
For optimal local emergency care, put yourself in the hands of one of the reputed private hospital facilities: the new Koc American Hospital, Guzelbahce Sok., Nisantasi (tel. 0212/311-2000); Metropolitan Florence Nightingale Hospital, Cemil Aslanguder Sok. 8, Gayrettepe (tel. 0212/288-3400); the International Hospital, Istanbul Cad. 82, Yesilkoy (tel. 0212/663-3000); the German Hospital, Siraselviler Cad. 119, Taksim (tel. 0212/293-2150); & the Balat Jewish Hospital, Hisaronu Cad. 46-48, Fatih (tel. 0212/635-9280) are just a few of the establishments with reliable English-speaking staff. Don't forget that payment is required at the time of treatment.
Istanbul seems to have developed its own dental tourism niche. If the city's new Dentistanbul franchise is any indication, you should have little worries in an oral emergency. If Dentistanbul (tel. 0212/444-0-DIS or 0212/327-4020; www.dentistanbul.com) in Besiktas can't solve your oral problems, then the Koc American Hospital in Nisantasi (tel. 0212/311-2000) & the International Hospital in Yesilyurt (tel. 0212/663-3000) can provide emergency dental services in an English-speaking atmosphere. For a selected list of private practitioners, please contact our office.
All hotels provide laundry & dry-cleaning services, seeing to it in the process that they make a huge profit on the transaction. Indeed, even in Sultanahmet, laundry is becoming big business. The Turkish word for a Laundromat is 'camisirhane'. You can drop your soiled clothing at Popup Internet & Laundry (Divanyolu, Evkaf Sok., Yapi Hani 5/2; tel. 0212/458-1997; open Mon-Sat 10am-8pm). On the other side of the Golden Horn, a couple of laundry/dry cleaners are near the Pera Palas Hotel, but the prices don't warrant circumventing the hotel service.
English, French & German are widespread & increasingly so are Russian, Japanese & even Korean. For the linguistically challenged, it may not be so unusual to encounter some minor language barrier (including, surprisingly enough, established restaurants), but the inherent willingness of the Turks to help combined with a little sign language & a lot of laughs will almost always do the trick.
Foreigners & tourists get the benefit of the doubt in most every run-in with the law, but some things you just can't talk your way out of. For real trouble, contact your embassy or consulate for assistance & ask for their list of private law firms catering to English-speaking foreigners.
For a predominantly Muslim country, it might be surprising that alcohol is even sold in Turkey. The truth is, drinking alcohol is not an issue: Some do, some don't, although the current government is certainly discouraging consumption by setting sky-high taxes on wine, beer & spirits. In most restaurants (but not all) alcohol is readily available & theoretically you have to be at least 18 to purchase or consume it.
Mail & Courier
The PTT, hard to miss with its black & yellow signs, offers the usual postal services, in addition to selling tokens (jeton) & phone cards for the phone booths located in & around the post office & in most public places. Postcards cost 35Ykr to Europe & 70Ykr to all other continents. The PTT also has currency exchange & traveler's cheque services; in major tourist areas PTT kiosks are strategically located for emergency money needs. For express deliveries or shipping packages, the PTT operates an acele posta servisi (or APS), but for your own sense of security, you'd better stick with the old reliable UPS or DHL.
Newspapers & Magazines
For local & national information, the Turkish Daily News gives a basic rundown of the day's headlines. If you have access to the Internet, log onto the website of Zaman, www.zaman.com, the bilingual website of the Turkish language national paper. For local listings, the Guide Istanbul & Time Out Istanbul contain essential listings for tourists. Both are available at news stands; the former is provided free at some hotels.
Public restrooms (WC, or tuvalet) are located all around town, in addition to those in public buildings such as museums. "Toll money" in Istanbul costs about 25Ykr, which occasionally includes a bonus handful of toilet paper. Flushing the toilet paper can sometimes be hazardous to the plumbing; when this is the case, you will usually see a sign above the tank requesting that you dispose of it in the nearby waste-basket.
A new law has taken effect in 2009, banning smoking in bars, cafes, pubs & restaurants across the country, the world's fourth-largest tobacco producer, where 22 million people including half the adult male population puff away on a regular basis. Part of the reason Turkey adopted the new legislation was to comply with requirements set out by the European Union, which the country is seeking to join. But the law also dovetails with the Islamic-rooted government's deep distaste for tobacco & alcohol. None of Erdogan's ministers smoke & previous governments had been trying to introduce similar laws for years, only to be stymied by strong pressure from tobacco lobbyists. Despite the prevalence of smoking in Turkish society, recent polls show overwhelming public support for the ban around 90%. Turkey could become a regional role model, like Ireland was for Europe or New York for the rest of the U.S.
A flat 18% VAT (value-added tax) is incorporated into the price of almost everything you buy, although news is that this will be lowered to 8% for tourist services. While generally included, note that some hotels charge this tax over & above room rates. Taxes for luxury goods are higher, as is the tax on alcoholic beverages (the current government frowns on such un-Islamic vices).
All of Turkey adheres to Eastern European Time (EET), which is Greenwich Mean Time +2. To make it easier: When it is noon in New York, it is 7pm in Istanbul. Daylight saving time, when clocks are set 1 hour ahead of standard time, is in effect as Eastern European Summer Time (EEST), from 1am on the second Sunday in March to 1am on the first Sunday in November.
Gratuities are a way of life in Turkey & are often expected for even the most minor service. Try to keep coins or small notes handy & follow these guidelines: Give the bellhop 50Ykr to 1YTL per bag; leave at least an additional 10% of the restaurant bill for your waiter; reward your tour guide with 10€ to 20€ for a job well done; & give the attendant in the Turkish bath 3€ to 5€ before the rubdown. Shows of appreciation are also expected from your chambermaid, your barber or hairdresser & an usher who has shown you to your seat.
Turkey AttractionsIstanbul Travel GuideThe Black Sea TourVeni Vidi Travel PackageTurkey & Greece Holidays Istanbul Short StayTurkey Travel Facts & InfoTravel Tips TurkeyTransport & AirlinesRent a CarTailor Made Tours Family Holiday PackagesCultural Tours Turkey Villa Rental Turkey Istanbul Ephesus Tour Alternative Holidays Turkey
Association of Turkish Travel Agencies TURSAB Member No: A1855