When in Istanbul

Rule 1: Do not fall into a tourist trap.

Rule 2: Read on and learn more…

As one of the world’s top 10 most visited cities, Istanbul does have its quirky share of tourist traps, but they are more enticing than off-putting. Perhaps, it is the allure of its history; the trapped in a time-warp setting that beguiles one to savour its nature, culture and history… And with Turks adding their friendly mien to that, tourists are ‘trapped’, in more ways than one!

But the warning gong of tourist traps, sounded by visitors who have become baits, need to be heeded. With the city gaining popularity as an ideal choice for short breaks and with Oman Air* getting set to commence operations to Istanbul from June 1st this year, the onus is on you to ensure that your visit is a memorable one. Do not fall prey to any tourist trap while indulging in typical tourist pleasures: taking a cab, visiting an attraction or eating out.

Like any popular travel destination, Istanbul has its share of travel dos and don’ts, a kind of tourist immunity to ensure you return back with fond memories of friendly Turks, pictures of stunning panoramic vistas of Istanbul and a palate satiated with food that is divine. So, if you are packed and ready to experience the city’s intriguing beauty, memorise this checklist of do’s and don’ts to follow:

DO’s:

  • Do be adventurous with your food. Treat your taste buds to the rich flavours of Istanbul’s popular Doner kebabs, Baklava, Sutlac rie, sticky ice cream and a host of scrumptious street food.
  • Do visit Grand Bazaar; even if that is the only thing you do in Istanbul.
  • Do be wary of tourist traps in popular places like Sultanhamet Square, Istiklal Caddesi, Cumhurriyet Caddesi, Taksim Square and its surrounding streets.
  • Do wear modest clothing while visiting mosques; remove shoes or sandals before getting inside.
  • Do be alert to pickpockets.
  • Do bargain, without sounding desperate.
  • Do be wary of restaurants that do not provide menus.
  • Do rely on public transport as much as you can.
  • Do be courteous when interacting with locals. Turks are known to place heavy emphasis on etiquette.
  • Do learn a little Turkish language before you embark on your trip. The least you could do is learn to say ‘tesekkür ederim’ (thank you), ‘lütfen’ (please), ‘evet’ (yes) and ‘hayir’ (no).
  • Do move out of the city precincts to experience Istanbul’s old world charm.

DON’TS:

  • Do not wear revealing clothes to Mosques.
  • Do not take a taxi unless you have no other choice. Taxi fares are high and the traffic congestion is nerve wracking.
  • Do not avoid places on the pretext of crowds; you will lose out on some of the most memorable experiences.
  • Do not be fooled into accepting invites for drinks – you could get fleeced by the outlet completely.
  • Do not ask the restaurant to suggest what to order; you might simply get served one of their expensive specials with all the accoutrements when you only want one dish.
  • Do not leave a store until you get all your change back – unless you want to give a tip.
  • Do not expect drivers to stop at pedestrian crossings; the drivers expect you to pay heed to the signs.
  • Do not display your money or wealth.
  • Do not leave the place without making a plan to visit it again…and again.

(* From June 1st Oman Air will fly daily from Muscat to Istanbul. Bookings for the new destination have already begun.)