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Istanbul

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The most populous city in Turkey, Istanbul is the country’s capital and center of both culture and commerce. As you stroll through its ancient streets, layer upon layer of history, architecture, and cultural legacy are revealed. Istanbul is a magical place for the curious, the adventurous, and the open-hearted 

Flights to Istanbul

Istanbul Atatürk Airport (IST) is the largest airport in Turkey by traffic, and sees an astonishing amount of travelers passing through each year: over 51 million. The award-winning airport is a hub for three Turkish airlines: Atlasjet, Onur Air, and Turkish Airlines. More than 70 airlines from North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East serve IST, and it is an important transit link for the entire world. 

Atatürk Airport consists of four terminals, of which two are in regular use for commercial passengers. Terminal 1 caters to domestic flights, while Terminal 2 serves international visitors. The airport is well connected to the city center, with a light rail metro service, municipal buses, and an Airport Shuttle Service. 

Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW), on the other side of the city, serves 18 million passengers annually, many from Europe. There are no direct flights from North America to SAW. It’s a hub for Pegasus Airlines, Turkish Airlines, and Borajet, and several buses link the airport with the city center.

What to Do in Istanbul 

The brilliantly chaotic character of Istanbul is at odds with its serene skyline: all domes, spires and gleaming skyscrapers. Down at street level, a bazaar atmosphere is the rule rather than the exception for most of the city, and the best way to enjoy it is to just surrender to the craziness. Haggle in the markets, fill your belly with savory döner from a street corner, and generally take turns following your nose, your heart, and your instincts. 

Venerable monuments, including the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace are must-sees, but with so much packed into one city, you’d need a lifetime of vacations to take it all in. Plan carefully, but leave room for serendipity.

Advice for Tourists Visiting Istanbul

Many nationalities, including Americans and some EU citizens, are required to purchase a tourist visa on entry. The fee varies but is not very expensive. The official language is Turkish, with English coming in second. You may want to write down directions for taxis and bring along a good phrasebook. The currency is the Turkish Lira (TL). Some tourist destinations may accept Euro and USD. 

The energy and joyful madness of Istanbul can wear you out, so make sure you have a comfortable safe haven to return to at night. Skyscanner’s free hotel price comparison tool is quick, easy, and the best way to get a great deal on accommodation.  

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Images by Flickr/John Picken