Banking & Currency
In Turkey the currency is the Turkish Lira (TL). Foreign currencies can be exchanged at the airport as well as at the private exchange offices throughout the city which are open from 8:30 to 20:00 hrs. Local banks, where Traveler's cheques and Eurocheques can be cashed, serve between 8:30 and 17:00 hrs. All major credit cards (such as Visa, MasterCard) are accepted in most of the Turkish restaurants, shops etc.
Most major credit cards are accepted in hotels, restaurants and stores but visitors are always advised to check with the vendor before a purchase is made. Cash machines with 24-hour access are available in many convenient locations.
The climate of Istanbul is mild. Please click here to check the current weather conditions in Istanbul.
The electric current is 220V AC with a frequency of 50 Hertz. European Standard Type C plugs with two round pins are used.
The registration fees do not include the insurance of participants against personal accidents, sickness, cancellations by any party, theft, loss or damage to personal possessions. Participants are advised to take out adequate personal insurance to cover travel, accommodation, cancellation and personal effects.
Turkey is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standart Time.
Tax and service charges are included in the cost of all goods and services. Although it is not mandatory, a small tip is expected for good service. As a guideline, add about 10 % to the total bill. Normally you are requested to leave a cash tip when paying by credit card.
It is said that three major kinds of cuisine exist in the world; Turkish, Chinese, and French. Fully justifying its reputation, Turkish Cuisine is always a pleasant surprise for the visitor. In addition to being the refined product of centuries of experience, Turkish Cuisine has a very pure quality. The variety and simplicity of the recipes and the quality of the ingredients are guarantees of delicious meals. There are many good restaurants in Istanbul where you can taste Turkish Cuisine and local drinks. Usually the food in Turkey is quite cheap, but there are fine and expensive restaurants as well especially along the Bosphorus and in some of the neighbourhoods.
Istanbul's Top Ten attractions
- Ayasofya The Ayasofya (or Haghia Sophia) is a magnificent basilica and a wonderful architectural example of the Byzantine Empire. The incredible dome and beautiful mosaics will challenge your imagination and take you back in time.
- Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Cami) Across from the Ayasofya you will find the majestic Blue Mosque with its serene courtyard and beautiful blue tiles inside. Experience the peaceful atmosphere in this monument typical of Istanbul.
- Grand bazaar and Spice Bazaar (Kapalı Çarşı and Mısır Çarşı) The Grand Bazaar with its 4.000 shops is several centuries old and still the best place for finding beautiful artefacts, as well as leather, gold, silver and of course carpets! The neighbouring Spice Bazaar offers you a unique selection of local and regional spices. In both markets you will find the enchanting enthusiasm of the local salesmen trying to get your attention to their products; enjoy it with a smile and you will have a great shopping experience!
- Topkapı Museum The Topkapı Palace was the residence of the sultans for centuries and is now a very famous museum. On display are among many other things the treasures and clothes of the palace inhabitants. And make sure you reserve a special visit to the harem quarters!
- Yerabatan cistern The Yerabatan cistern was built during the Byzantine area and used as storage place for drinking water. Going deep underground you will see the beautiful decorations in a mystical atmosphere.
- Dolmabahçe Palace The Dolmabahçe Palace was built halfway the nineteenth century in a period where the Ottoman Empire was westernising. The palace is very richly decorated and an absolute must to see. Also the founder of the Republic of Turkey – Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – spent the last years of his life here. The meaning of Dolmabahçe is ‘filled-in garden’, which emphasises the beauty of the gardens around the palace.
- Galata Tower Beyoğlu district -The history of Istanbul features an important role for the Genoese, who kept good trading relations with the Byzantines and the Ottomans. They built a tower in the fourteenth century bordering the district of Galata, which is still existing today. The area now known as Beyoğlu is worth a visit, as there are many shops, restaurants and cafes to be found. Walking down from Taksim Square through the Istiklal Street all the way down to the Galata tower, you will experience the cultural diversity of the city.
- Ortaköy Ortaköy is a district on the European side of Istanbul, just before the first bridge. There is a very cosy little square on the sea front, with a beautiful historic mosque and lots of little restaurants and cafes. Try a traditional ‘kumpir’ – a steamed potato with mixed toppings – and enjoy the street market on Sunday.
- The islands of Istanbul When the buzz of the big city is a bit much, find a boat trip to one of the Islands of Istanbul in the Marmara Sea. There are regular trips to Büyük Ada – big island – where you can enjoy the quiet atmosphere of the days before cars. Take a ‘fayton’ – carriage pulled by horses – or just stroll around and admire the beautiful mansions and views, without any cars around.
- Fener and Balat districts The neighbouring districts of Balat and Fener are located along the Golden Horn and are the centre for religious minorities of Istanbul. Wander about in the small streets and see some of the traditional houses and small shops. The official Orthodox Patriarchy is located in Fener, and there are several Synagogues in Balat to admire.