Istanbul Budget Travel Guide & Tips 2023

Turkey is home to numerous breathtaking sights even if it is one of the most underrated cities we know in the world.

A delight for adventure lovers, you’ll also find a hot air balloon ride, the best salty pools, or incredible cuisines, Istanbul has something for travelers of all kinds.

If you’re somebody who gets fascinated by history and ancient architecture, Istanbul’s inspiring landmarks boast of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture and will leave you in awe of visiting the city again and again.

A few things to keep in mind before you visit Istanbul:

  • They speak Turkish and English is widely spoken in Istanbul.
  • The currency they use is the Turkish Lira (TRY, TL, ₺) which is TL1 = USD 0.26, EUR 0.22.
  • The vital mode of payment is Cash, only a few accept credit cards so keep ample cash handy.
  • Istanbul is prone to terrorist attacks, travelers never drop their plans to visit this gorgeous city.

This blog contains a complete budget guide to Istanbul covering all the major checkpoints you need to know. 

If you’re a female solo traveler, consider the best traveling tips as a female solo traveler that will help you with an essential solo travel guide.

The Best Time to Visit Istanbul 

Istanbul looks gorgeous in all four seasons making it travel-friendly in any month of the year. April to August counts as the best months to visit Istanbul as the skies are clear with little rainfall, ideal for walking around the city and sightseeing the whole day that makes the city a crowdy place as most travelers visit this time.

You can plan your visit during winter if you’re looking for less crowd and the rates will be much more affordable.

Public Transportation in Istanbul

Istanbul has an immense transportation system connecting all the major checkpoints in the city. Buses, minibusses, trams, ferries, metro, funiculars, and cable cars.

For private transportation, you can use Uber and taxis. The electronic ticket in Istanbul is called Istanbulkart, while IstanbulWelcomeCards are also useful. 

Public Transportation in Istanbul, Taksim Square, Gümüşsuyu, Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey
Photo by Charbel Aoun (Taksim Square, Gümüşsuyu, Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey)

Metros are the most affordable and convenient of all rides. The ferry is used from continent to continent, using car ferry, speedboat, and catamaran, Tram operates in the European style of Istanbul, and buses then operate all over Istanbul, using cable cars from Maçka-Taşkışla and Eyüp-Player Loti.

IstanbulKart is available for a non-refundable 13 TL fee, it is ideal to put in at least 20 TL as you pay 4 TL for a ride. 

Where Do I Stay in Istanbul on a Budget

Even if Istanbul is not the capital of Turkey, Istanbul is one of the greatest cities of all time with historic references and amazing architecture. There are various neighborhoods for different experiences that you might be looking for. 

Taksim is best for staying as it’s a residential area with the best nightlife, Sultanahmet is best for Sightseeing, while Kabatas does great with food and restaurants where you get the best food seafood and Turkish dishes.

These locations are ideal for staying for a longer period as most of your travel convince gets sorted.

For the best budget-friendly experience, you can also check out these hotels:

  • Boutique Saint Sophia
  • Old Port Hotel
  • Peradays Hotel
  • Galata Palace
  • Romance Istanbul Hotel
  • Neorion Hotel
  • Sultanahmet Hotel

If you like Boutique hotels, make sure to try one of these hotels:

  • Hotel Amira Istanbul
  • Park Hyatt Hotel
  • Hotel Sultania
  • The Haze Istanbul
  • W Istanbul

Where to Eat and Drink in Istanbul

Famous Turkish cuisines include baklava (the most iconic), Kebab, and Turkish ‘meatballs called Kofte, Pide, and Meze, which will keep you astonished by the taste. These are some of the cafes and restaurants you must give visit:

  • Tarihi Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi 
  • Pepo Restaurant
  • Garden 1897 Restaurant
  • Contemporary Thai
  • Istanbul Kebab Cafe & Restaurant
  • Mivan Restaurant Cafe
  • Resto Han

Famous drinks in Turkey include Raki, Ayran, Çay, Coffee, and Salep, to name a few. Grab some of the best drinks at:

  • Moretenders’ Cocktail Crib & Sushi
  • Just Bar
  • Mitani Cafe
  • Pendor
  • Alexandra Cocktail Bar

What Can You Do at Night in Istanbul

There are many fun things to do at night, some of these experiences include:

  • Book a Bosphorus cruise and choose any type of dinner cruise that you like.
  • Dance at the rooftop bar with DJs and live music, perfect dancing getaways.
  • Experience the famous Turkish bath with amazing oil massages.
  • Watch whirling dervishes that follow the teachings of Rumi accompanied by a dinner cruise. Experience the best from Galata Mevlevihanesi every Sunday at 5 pm.
  • Visit the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque) and experience the dancing fountain.
  • Join a night food tour at Taksim.
  • Watch the sunset at Maiden’s Tower from Salacak, Üsküdar as the tower light up after the sunset.

Istanbul Budget Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips 

You don’t want to miss out on the core sightseeing for the sake of saving extra. But it is also a fact that Istanbul can be very expensive. These points are kept in mind, you can end up saving up a lot of cash. 

  • Get yourself Istanbulkart where one ride costs 5,47 TRY, don’t buy 5 or 10 times more passes, keep cash and keep loading it whenever required.
  • Get connected with free Wifi and pay as you go to sims.
  • Explore the city by walking, and stay in nearby hotels in Sultanahmet as most of the sightseeing is there and you can easily explore the major ones by walking.
  • Buy Istanbul City Passes and Cards (Premium, Deluxe, and E passes)
  • Staying and hostels and booking earlier save you a lot of extra prices booked last minute.
  • Don’t skip the free events.
  • Explore local food rather than dining in big chain restaurants.

How to Stay Safe in Istanbul

The city of Istanbul has seen disastrous terrorism apart from its rich culture and heritage, hence it’s important to research safety. Even if the terror threats are a little low now, we’ve listed a few safety tips that will help you travel safely in Istanbul.

  • Be aware while traveling with valuables in tourist areas as most pickpockets operate here.
  • Avoid walking alone in the streets at night, and choose to travel in a group.
  • Don’t study your map on the streets.
  • Be careful where you click pictures, make sure there’s permission to click pictures.
  • Stay in hotels where it is easy to monitor local news.

What Should I Avoid in Istanbul

These are some of the things you must strictly avoid in Istanbul:

  • Avoid shopping in Istiklal as it has the most expensive brands.
  • Don’t buy Apple Tea as it is very artificial.
  • Don’t buy anything from random bazaars as you’ll find prices extensively high.
  • Avoid eating close to tourist sights.
  • Avoid getting a taxi and opt for buses.

How Much Does an Istanbul Tourist Visa Cost?

The average Istanbul Tourist / Business E-visa costs around $51.50 with a service fee of $39.00, for sticker visa fees, cost $64 for single entry, $129 for double entry, and for multiple entries $212.

For more details, click here.

How Do I Get an Istanbul Tourist Visa?

To get yourself a Turkish Visa, you need to be applying E-Visa, requirements include a valid passport for the given period, accommodation proof, a return ticket, valid supporting Visa. Fill in this Turkish Visa form to get started.

Travel Costs for a Trip to Istanbul?

An average cost for a trip to Istanbul for one person adds up to TRY 5600 ($377.67) for a week, TRY 12000 ($809) for a couple with an average daily cost of TRY 850.

Single occupancy hotel rooms for a day costs TRY 450 while it costs TRY 900 for a double occupancy hotel. Public transportation is much more affordable, Ferries and buses cost up to TRY 5 if you get Transportation cards, however, taxis charge TRY 45 per ride.

Food adds up to TRY 200 for a day including 3 meals. The prices will be much cheaper if you choose hotel food or local food.

What Are the Best Airlines to Fly to Istanbul?

Turkish Airlines is considered to be providing the best flight services and has received the Travellers’ Choice Award repeatedly.

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