After being founded by the Byzantine Empire, it changed to the Roman Empire and then the Ottoman Empire. What remained is the immense beauty that the city holds at the turn of every alley.
Istanbul could be a lot for first-time visitors. If you don't believe me, try planning a trip and prove otherwise. I visited during the pandemic, and even though I wasn't required to pre-test, I still had a lot to do.
First, I had to secure a Visa. The official page for the Visa is here. Of course, it wasn't working for me, and my calls to the embassy seemed futile. So I reached out to my friends at G3 Global Services. I use their services a lot for work, and they have an app that can simplify your travel life. It took a few hours, and I was confident I had done the right thing by paying a bit more.
Next, I booked flights and accommodation. I chose the Sheraton City Center Istanbul due to my Bonvoy Membership. Fly Delta and Airfrance since those were my Skyteam options. If you would like to hear about the nightmare I had in Paris, read here.
Next, I had to apply for a HES Code. You need the app to purchase transit passes and book domestic flights. I should be high on your list. I needed to fly to Cappadocia while in Turkey. It basically works with Bluetooth and tracks your location while In turkey. It also asks you to add your hotel information.
After a stop in France, I landed in Turkey at 3:15 in the morning. A little note, be prepared to do a little walking as it's at least a twenty-minute walk to immigration. I chose to take an Uber to the city. It created a headache but was resolved quickly due to my experience. Remember what happened in Bogota. Uber's in Turkey are taxi cabs. The Uber fair is less than their fare, and they demand payment despite booking through Uber. It happened four times on my trip, so don't fall for it. Book your transport through the hotel to avoid the hassle, especially at that hour. And have the exact amount of Turkish Lira as the taxis make up their own exchange rate when paid in Euro.
Considering Istanbul is a Muslim country, you will have no problems getting up in the morning. The bells of the Eyyuhamalet Cami have a distinctive song starting at dawn. It's also a close walk to Taksim Square. In my adventures, I stumbled upon Otanik Cafe. I had Turkish coffee, and people watched and admired views of the Galata tour from your streetside table.
The Galata Bridge is a great next stop to watch fishers fish from the Bosphorus. You can take the boat over to Kadikoy or visit the nearby Yemi Cadi mosque. The mosque was closed for construction on my trip. I was in search of the Grand Bazar, but I stumbled upon the Spice Bazar first. The aroma of the different smells and spices is a trip through time. I moved from store to store. After I had my weight in Baklava, I moved to the Grand Bazar. The Grand Bazar was more hectic, more live, and bustling than it was hundreds of years prior.
The next day was tourist time. The way I always see a city is by walking tour. You tend to learn about the place and also figured my way around. We visited the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern (only outside as it was closed for construction), and Sultanahmet Square. Turkey has so much rich history. I see why many people flock to the city. Oh, and did I also mention it's beautiful?
The final day was spent close to the hotel: Istiklal Caddesi, Taksim Square, and the neighboring shops and restaurants. I rode the tram, had a simit, and tried some local foods. Istanbul was a great trip, and I hope you have as much fun as I did on your visit.
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