Ortakoy Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey

Practical Information

Tourist Offices

There are many tourist offices and kiosks in Istanbul. Staff speak English and are generally very helpful.

Ataturk Airport (International Arrivals, open 24 hours)
Phone: 0 212 465 3151
Beyazit (Beyazit Square, open 9am- 6pm daily)
Phone: 0212 522 4905
Hilton Hotel (Cumhuriyet Caddesi, Sisli, open 9am- 5pm daily)
Phone: 0 212 522 4902
Karakoy Seaport (Kemankes Caddesi, Karakoy, open 9am -5pm, Monday – Saturday)
Phone: 0 212 249 5776
Sirkeci Station (Istasyon Caddesi, Sirkeci, open 9am- 5pm daily)
Phone: 0 212 511 588
Sultanahmet Square (Divan Yolu 3, Sultanahmet, open 9am -5pm daily)
Phone: 0 212 518 1802)

Useful Telephone Numbers

Note that the inter-city codes for Istanbul differ depending on whether you are on the European or Asian side of the city. The codes are 212 (European side) and 216 (Asian side). To call a number on the other side of the Bosphorus, first dial 0, followed by the code. To phone abroad, dial 00, then the country code.

Tourist Police (in Istanbul only): 0212 5274503
Tourism Information(all over Turkey): 170
Ataturk Airport Tourism Office: 0212 465 3151 3547
Beyazit Tourism Office: 0212 522 4905
Hilton Hotel Tourism Office: 0212 522 4902
Karakoy Seaport Tourism Office: 0212 249 5776
Sirkeci Station Tourism Office: 0212 511 5888
Sultanahmet Square: 0212 518 1802
   
Police: 155
Fire: 110
Telephone enquiries 118
   
Medical Assistance  
Air Ambulance Tel: 0(212) 592 88 27
Night Ambulance Tel: 0(212) 240 39 14
International Hospital Ambulance Tel: 0(212) 663 30 00
International SOS Assistance Tel: 0(212) 230 96 38

Time Zone

Turkey follows GMT +2 hours. This means that Turkey is two hours ahead of the U.K.


International Dialling Code

The international dialling code to dial a number in Turkey is (+90) followed by the area code and the relevant number.


Istanbul Telephone Area Code

Telephone numbers in Turkey consist of 3-digit area codes and 7-digits for the subscriber numbers.

Note that the inter-city codes (area codes) for Istanbul differ depending on whether you are on the European or Asian side of the city. The codes are 212 (European side) and 216 (Asian side). To call a number on the other side of the Bosphorus, first dial 0, followed by the code.


Safe Water

Though the water in Istanbul is chlorinated, it’s recommended that visitors drink bottled water.


Restrooms / WC

There are a number of public restrooms in Istanbul, and the majority are well maintained and clean. Fees for use range between about 50krs – 1TL. Alternatively, fast food chains, restaurants and bars will usually have restrooms for diners which are provided free of charge.

Note that due to the poor plumbing systems, it’s not advisable to flush toilet paper in Istanbul as in the rest of Turkey. Although some up-market hotels will allow you to flush, in most other cases bins are provided for this purpose.


Mobiles

Turkey uses the GSM900 mobile phone network which is compatible with the rest of Europe. There are currently three GSM operators: Turkcell, Vodafone and Avea. Local SIM cards and prepaid vouchers are widely available from stores; passport identification is needed to buy a SIM card in Turkey.


Business Hours

While offices and banks tend to open on weekdays from 9am – 5pm, bigger stores tend to be open much later and on Sundays, particularly in busy areas such as Istiklal Street and in Sultanahmet.


Money

Turkish Lira is the official currency of Turkey. Following a period of ramped inflation, the Turkish Central Bank decided to knock off six zeros from the currency to make the money easier to handle. This has made it much easier, especially for visitors to Turkey, as they no longer have to deal in ‘millions’ of Turkish currency.

Bank notes come in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100TL, while coins, called the Kurus (kr), come in 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50 kurus pieces. There is also a 1TL coin.

Following the currency changes, the currency acronym was written as YTL (New Turkish Lira). This has been changed back to TL (Turkish Lira), though some may still write it as YTL. In Turkey, the currency acronym comes after the amount, e.g. 5TL.


ATM's, Credit Cards, Exchange Bureaus

ATMs are abundant and ATMs of different local banks are usually clustered together around centres, including at the Arrivals terminal at Atatürk Airport, Taksim Square, and Sultanahmet district.

The most reliable local banks in Istanbul include: Garanti Bankasi, Akbank, Is Bankasi and Yapi Kredi Bankasi.

Most Turkish bank machines are on the Cirrus and PLUS Networks. If you are planning to use your cards in Turkey and Istanbul, check the back of your card to make sure that your credit card is on these networks.

Credit cards are also widely used and accepted in Turkey and Istanbul. Please remember that purchases on credit card accounts are now also subject to a percentage fee, usually around 5%.

If you prefer to carry your own currency with you to Istanbul, you can also exchange it at Turkish currency exchange offices called ‘Döviz Bürosu’. There are exchange offices in the airport Arrivals terminal, Sultanahmet, Taksim and Istiklal Street and other areas.

Restaurants and hotel in highly touristic areas like Sultanahmet and Taksim also accept US Dollars or Euros but rates are often not competitive.


Smoking

As of July 2009, smoking in public places including restaurants, bars and public transport was forbidden in Turkey. In Istanbul, as well as in the rest of the country, this law is generally adhered to. However, a large proportion of bars in Istanbul have roof terraces with adequate heating where it’s possible to smoke year round and many establishments are adept at bending the rules.


Drinking

Alcohol is readily available in Istanbul and generally less restricted than in parts of Western Europe and North America. Beer, wine and hard liquor can be bought at supermarkets and small stores called ‘Tekel’, which are often open late into the night. The legal drinking age in Turkey is 18.


Laundromats

There are many laundromats (‘camasirhane’) across Istanbul. Some offer fixed prices while others will charge based on weight; be sure to ask before handing your clothes over. A wash and dry of a normal sized load will usually set you back around 10TL.


Electricity

Turkey uses a 220 volts, 50Hz, European style rounded tip two-prong plug.

It’s recommended that you check what you will need for your appliances before leaving home, as you may require a plug adaptor or transformer/voltage converter.


Mail Services

Turkish post offices can be recognized by their yellow and blue PTT signs. Click here for post office listings.

Istanbul’s central post office is located in Sirkeci, a short walk from Sultanahmet near to Eminönü. There are also large branches in Taksim and Beyoglu as well as smaller booths.

Note that stamps can only be purchased at post offices and booths.

If you are sending a package, you will need to provide your own packaging or purchase this from nearby stores. Parcel contents will usually be checked before sending, so avoid sealing the parcel until this has been done.

There is a ‘poste restante’ service in Istanbul where the central post office will hold mail. There is a small fee for collection; bring your passport for proof of identity.

Istanbul Photos

  • Topkapi Palace © Aydin Sertbas

    Topkapi Palace © Aydin Sertbas

  • Sultanahmet © Yildirim Incealemdaroglu

    Sultanahmet © Yildirim Inceale...

  • Bosphorus ©Helen Simpson

    Bosphorus ©Helen Simpson

  • Grand Bazaar

    Grand Bazaar

  • ©Andrew Sawvell

    ©Andrew Sawvell

  • Topkapi Palace © Yildirim Incealemdaroglu

    Topkapi Palace © Yildirim Ince...

See all Istanbul photos »

Norman

"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it" - Rosalia de Castro