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FESTIVALS, HOLIDAYS AND OTHER ANNUAL EVENTS IN Istanbul

There are a number of festivals, holidays and other events celebrated in Istanbul each year. The main ones are listed below.

January 1: New Year's Day (national holiday)

Twelfth day of the third month of the Hijiri calendar: Mawlid (Birth of the Prophet, celebrated nationwide)

This festival celebrated on the twelfth day of Rabi'al-Awwal commemorates the birth of the Prophet Muhammad and is one of the most important days on the Islamic (or Hegira) calendar. Turkish Muslims use this opportunity to recall the values advocated by the Prophet. It is also a day when families gather to share a traditional meal in a festive atmosphere.

April 23: National Sovereignty and Children's Day (national)

This unique celebration is dedicated to all children of the world. The people's sovereignty (1920) was entrusted by Atatürk to them, whom he saw as tomorrow's adults.

May 1: Labour Day (national holiday)

May 19: Commemoration of Atatürk, Youth and Sports Day

This day was offered by Atatürk and dedicated to the country's youth, heir to and responsible for the new Turkish Republic.

Ninth month of the Hijiri calendar: Ramadan (celebrated nationwide)

Although Turkey has been a secular republic since 1923, Islamic traditions hold considerable sway in the country. The Islamic holy month of Ramazan (called Ramadan elsewhere in the world), during which the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, is an especially pious time. Fasting begins each day at sunrise and ends at sunset. For the entire month, Istanbul operates at a slower pace during the day and stirs into action at nightfall.

First day of the month of Chawwal: Ramazan Bayrami (Eid al-Fitr, national holiday)

Also known as Şeker Bayramı (Sweets Festival), this three-day festival marks the end of Ramazan and takes its alternate name from the children who go from door to door asking for sweet treats. Their elders spend the festival visiting family members and friends to share tea and pastries, and everyone enjoys festive meals.

August 30: Zafer Bayramı (Victory Day - national holiday)

On this day, people celebrate the victory of Turkish forces over the Greek army in the battle of Dumlupinar, which determined the outcome of the Turkish war of independence. The event is marked by military parades and ceremonies at monuments. Flags are adorned all over town, on shops, public offices and people's houses.

September: Sacrifice Feast (Kurban Bayramı - national)

Four-day celebration during which Muslims commemorate Abraham's sacrifice (religious holidays depend on the Islamic calendar, and dates change every year).

Tenth day of Dhou al-hiija, last month of the Hijiri calendar: Eid al-Adha (national)

Commemorates Abraham's submission, who, ready to sacrifice his son, saw a ram sent from the sky at the very last moment. Tradition asks that a sheep be sacrificed on that day, and then eaten as a meal during a large family gathering.

October 29: Republic Day (national holiday)

Commemorates the proclamation of the Turkish Republic on this day in 1923, when Mustafa Kemal Atatürk became Turkey's first president. Celebrations include a street parade by school children, official ceremonies and speeches, military parades, and fireworks. Buildings are adorned with gigantic flags.

December 25: Christmas (national holiday)

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CLIMATE AND WEATHER IN Istanbul

Istanbul enjoys a temperate climate, strongly influenced by the Black Sea to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Summers (from June to September) are rather hot, with high humidity, although it seldom rains. Winters (from December to March) are cold, with frequent snow and frost. The weather is mild and dry in the spring and autumn. However, Istanbul also sees cloud cover and fog year-round. Summers are warm and sunny, ideal for exploring the city.

Month Min. Average Temperature (°C/F°) Max. Average Temperature (°C/F°) Average Rains (MM) Best Time to Travel
January 3/37 9/48 101/4.0 Not the best period to go
February 3/37 9/48 79/3.1 Not the best period to go
March 4/39 11/52 70/2.8 Not the best period to go
April 8/46 16/61 45/1.8 Not the best period to go
May 12/54 21/70 35/1.4 Not the best period to go
June 16/61 26/79 37/1.5 Good period to go Good period to go
July 18/64 28/82 39/1.5 Good period to go Good period to go
August 19/66 28/82 49/1.9 Good period to go Good period to go
September 15/59 25/77 63/2.5 Good period to go Good period to go
October 12/54 20/68 101/4.0 Not the best period to go
November 8/46 15/59 108/4.3 Not the best period to go
December 5/41 11/52 124/4.9 Not the best period to go
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Istanbul International Airport

The Istanbul International Airport is located about 50 kilometres (31 miles) northwest of the city centre, along the Marmara Sea.

  • One terminal
    • Terminal 1 (Air France)

Getting from the airport to Istanbul and back:
  • By car
    • Accessible via the D020. It takes between 45 minutes to one hour to reach the city centre.
    • Covered car park with 24,000 spots, and outdoor parking with 33,000 spots.
    • Several car rental companies have counters in the arrivals hall.
  • By bus
    • IETT (H2, H3 and H4) and Havaist (IST1, IST2, IST3, IST7 and IST19) buses regularly connect the airport with the city centre.
  • By metro
    • Line M2 of the Metro connects the airport with Seyrantepe Station, in the heart of Istanbul.
  • By taxi
    • Taxis are available at the ranks outside both terminals. Make sure the driver uses the meter. The trip to the city centre costs around TRY 200 (a 25 percent surcharge is added to fares between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.).
  • Services: shops, bars and restaurants, free Internet access (Wi-Fi) available in the airport.
  • Telephone: +90 212 891 9191
  • Website: www.igairport.com/en

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GETTING AROUND Istanbul

Istanbul covers a very large area and is split in two by the Bosphorus. The city's historic centre is about 7 kilometres long and 4 kilometres wide on average (4 miles by 2.5 miles). This means that it is impossible to avoid using public transport if you want to venture outside the city centre. But many districts are very easy to explore on foot.

By bus

Istanbul's buses are the most convenient way to discover the city. A token for a single ride costs TRY 3.

Useful tip: To save time and money, you can purchase a rechargeable IstanbulKart fare card, which may be used to buy tickets for all modes of transport (Metro, trams, buses, ferries). When purchased via this card, each trip costs TRY 2.15 instead of TRY 3.00. The card costs TRY 6.00 and comes with an initial travel value of TRY 3.00. It may be recharged with amounts up to TRY 50.00.

By tramway

Istanbul's tram system is a very good transport option, especially the line crossing the entire historic centre, from the Theodosian Walls to Taksim Square. The Latin neighbourhoods across the Golden Horn are also served by the tram. A single ticket costs TRY 3.00.

By metro and funicular

Istanbul's buses are the most convenient way to discover the city. A token for a single ride costs TRY 3.

Useful tip: To save time and money, you can purchase a rechargeable IstanbulKart fare card, which may be used to buy tickets for all modes of transport (Metro, trams, buses, ferries). When purchased via this card, each trip costs TRY 2.15 instead of TRY 3.00. The card costs TRY 6.00 and comes with an initial travel value of TRY 3.00. It may be recharged with amounts up to TRY 50.00.

By cable car (Teleferik)

Very useful to visit the Dolmabahçe palace. It connects Taksim park to Maçka, offering a beautiful vista over the Bosphorus Strait.

By minibus

Minibuses (dolmuş), which only run on the city's major thoroughfares, can be a convenient and inexpensive option for crossing Istanbul. Very common in Turkey, these buses have a specific route, stop if you hail them on the way and start only when full (hence their nickname 'dolmus' - full). The same principles apply to the boat services (motor), linking different spots on both shores of the Bosphorus Strait.

However, they are not the quickest mode of transport. Fares run from TRY 2 to TRY 5, depending on the destination.

By taxi

Taxis are a fairly convenient mode of transport in Istanbul. You can recognize the official ones, equipped with meters, to their yellow colour and they are everywhere to be found in town. Boat taxis now serve Istanbul, running 24/7, very practical to get around traffic jams. Trips within the city centre cost between TRY 6 and TRY 8.

By ferry

A large number of ferries (vapür) cross the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn. For the longest time, they were the symbols of Istanbul, tracing lines of smoke in the air when they ran on coal. They link several spots on the Bosphorus, as well as Prince Islands, making for a very pleasant journey. There are two boat stations: Uskudar on the northeast Anatolian bank, and Kadıköy on the southeast one. A single ticket costs TRY 2.

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Visitor information

Upon your arrival in Istanbul, you can get in touch with local tourism professionals for further information and to help organize your stay.

Ministry of Culture and Tourism local office

Offers practical information and useful recommendations (accommodation, restaurants, public transport, festivals, cultural events, etc.).

Turist Danışma Ofisi

Istanbul has several official tourist information offices, all located on the European side, where you can obtain information and recommendations for visiting the city and its surrounding area. Here are the main ones:

1 - Sultanahmet tourism information office

  • Address: Divan Yolu Cd., n°3 Atmeydanı Sultanahmet Fatih/ Istanbul
  • Telephone: +90 212 518 18 02 / +90 212 518 87 54

2 - Sirkeci tourism information office (next to Sirkeci Station)

  • Address: Ankara Cd., n°140, Hocapaşa, 34110 Fatih/ Istanbul
  • Telephone: +90 212 511 58 88

3 - Taksim tourism information office (next to the Opera, Kültür Bakanlığı Devlet Opera Ve Balesi Genel Müdürlüğü, ground floor)

  • Address: Gümüşsuyu Mahallesi, Mete Cd. n°6, 34437 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
  • Telephone: +90 212 233 05 92

 

4 - Sabiha gökçen tourism and information office (arrivals hall of the Sabiha Gökçen International Airport)

  • Address: Sanayi Mh., 34906 Pendik/Istanbul
  • Telephone: +90 216 588 87 94

Turkey travel guide

The official website operated by Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism provides a wealth of information on Istanbul.

Websites: https://hometurkey.com/

www.goturkey.gr/en

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Currency and Exchange Rates

The currency used in Turkey is the new Turkish Lira (TRY).

EUR 1 = TRY 6,15

TRY 1 = EUR 0,16

The above exchange rate is given for information because is variable.

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Medical information

See your doctor before you travel. It is also recommended to take out insurance covering medical expenses and repatriation before your trip. Istanbul counts several hospitals and medical institutions, as well as quality medical practitioners and health specialists.

Vaccinations

Vaccines and booster doses for protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio are necessary to enter Turkey.

It is also recommended to update vaccines for the following:

typhoid, hepatitis A and B, rabies (depending on the length of your stay)

For more information, contact Air France's international vaccination centre:

Food safety

There are no food safety risks in Istanbul.

Water

It is recommended to drink bottled water in Istanbul.

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Administrative formalities

Entry requirements for Turkey

For stays of less than 90 days, you do not need to obtain a visa if you are a citizen or national of one of the countries with which Turkey has entered into visa exemption agreements.

To find out if you will need a visa for travel to Turkey, visit the website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs: www.mfa.gov.tr/visa-information-for-foreigners.en.mfa

To enjoy peace of mind during your stay in Istanbul, visit the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of your country.

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Essential phrases

Here are a few basic Turkish phrases that will make your stay in Istanbul a little easier:

Hello / Good morning / Good afternoon: Günaydın (morning) / Merhaba (afternoon)

Good evening: Iyi akşamlar

Goodbye: Güle güle / Görüşmek üzere

Yes: Evet

No: Hayır

No, thank you: Hayır, teşekkür ederim

Thank you very much: Çok teşekkür ederim

Please: Lütfen

I don't understand: Anlamıyorum

Could you repeat ?: Tekrar eder misin lütfen ?

What time is it?: Saat kaç?

Sorry: Afedersiniz
Excuse me: Afedersiniz

Airport: Havalimanı

Train station: Tren garı (gare ferroviaire)
Train station : Otogar (gare routière)

Taxi: Taksi

Hotel: Otel

Hospital: Hastane

Bank: Banka

Telephone: Telefon

I'm (…): (…)-im,- ım , -üm, -um

I'm looking for (…): (…) arıyorum.

How much is (…)?: (…) ne kadar ?

Do you have (…)?: (…) var mı ?

Where can I find (…)?: Nerede (…) bulabilirim ?

Where can I buy (…)?: Neden (…) alabilirim ?

I'd like (…): (…) isterim

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Good to know

+90
+ phone number (without 0)
2 : 00
of time difference with
Dublin
Start of daylight saving time: last Sunday in March

End of daylight saving time: last Sunday in October

BANKS
Usually open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
GOVERNMENT OFFICES
Usually open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
230 V / 50 Hz

Tipping
In Istanbul and throughout Turkey, tipping is not necessarily required, although always appreciated. Fancier restaurants generally add a 10 to 15% service charge to the bill and it is customary to tip the waiting staff a further 5%. Round taxi fares upwards and leave a few liras for hotel staff.

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