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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: 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 Atatürk International Airport

The Istanbul Atatürk International Airport is located about 15 kilometres (9 miles) west of the city centre, along the Marmara sea.

  • Two terminals
    • Terminal 1
    • Terminal 2 (Air France)

Getting from the airport to Istanbul and back:
  • By car
    • Accessible via the E5.
    • Both short- and long-term parking facilities are available. Rates for the parking garage are TRY 11.50 for 1 hour and TRY 37.00 for 1 day.
    • Several car rental companies have counters in the arrivals hall.
  • By bus
    • Bus IETT Express City 96T connects the airport with the city centre. The fare is TRY 5 to 10 each way.
  • By Metro and tram
    • Line M1 of the Metro connects the airport with Zeytinburnu, where this line connects with line T1 of the tram system, which runs to Sultanahmet and Kabataş. The trip to Taksim takes about 2 hours and the Metro fare is TRY 3.
  • By shuttle bus
    • Havataş shuttle buses connect the airport with Taksim Square every 30 minutes from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. The fare is TRY 11 each way..
  • By taxi
    • Taxis are available at the ranks outside both terminals. Make sure the driver uses the meter. The trip to Taksim Square takes about 1 hour and costs around TRY 40 to 60 (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: +90 212 463 3000
  • Website: www.ataturkairport.com

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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 1.95 instead of TRY 3.00. The card costs TRY 10.00 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 metro system is constantly changing and now offers three lines (M2, M3 and M4) and 43 stations. The Galata-Pera (Tünel) is one of the oldest in the world, after London (1863) and New York City (1868). A more recent funicular also connects Taksim to Kabatas.

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:

  • Atatürk Havalimanı: Atatürk Airport – Yeşilköy (small desk after passing customs, open daily from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.)
  • Taksim Hilton Otel: Hilton Hotel – Elmadağ / Taksim (Hilton Hotel entrance, open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday to Saturday)
  • Sultanahmet: At Meydanı – Sultanahmet (on the Hippodrome, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Beyazıt: Beyazıt Meydanı – Beyazıt (Beyazıt Square, open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
  • Karaköy: Karaköy Limanı – Karaköy (inside cruise ship terminal)
  • Sirkeci: Sirkeci Tren İstasyonu – Sirkeci (Sirkeci train station, open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.)

Turkey travel guide

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

Website: https://goturkey.com

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Currency and Exchange Rates

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

1 € = 7,42 TRY

1 TRY = 0,13 €

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

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Medical information

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

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:

  • Address: 38, Quai de Jemmapes 75010 Paris
  • Website: (www.vaccinations-airfrance.fr)
  • Telephone: +33 (0)1 43 17 22 00
  • To make a vaccination appointment:
    • online (click here)
    • call the centre at (0)1 43 17 22 00

Water

It is recommended to drink bottled water in Istanbul.

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Administrative formalities

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:http://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 / How do you do?: Merhaba

Good morning / Good afternoon: Günaydın

Good evening / Good night: Iyi akşamlar

Good-bye: Güle güle (said to the person leaving) / Allahaısmarladık (said to the person staying)

See you later: Görüşmek üzere

Yes: Evet

No: Hayır

Thank you very much: Çok teşekkür ederim

No, thank you: Hayır, teşekkür ederim

Please: Lütfen

What time is it?: Saat kaç?

Excuse me: Pardon (to get past) / Afedersiniz (to get attention) / Özür dilerim (to say sorry).

Airport: Havalimanı

Train station: Tren garı

Bus station: Otogar

Taxi: Taksi

Hotel: Otel

Hospital: Hastane

Bank: Banka

Telephone: Telefon

I'm (…): (…)-im,- ım , -üm, -um

The verb “to be” takes the form of a suffix in Turkish and is subject to vowel harmony rules (examples: I'm French = Ben Fransızım / I'm a student = Öğrenciyim / I'm sorry = Üzgünüm / I'm happy = Mutluyum).

I'm looking for (…): (…) arıyorum.

How much is it?: Kaça?

Do you have (…)?: (…) var mı?

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

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

I'd like (…): (…) isterim.

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Good to know

00 90
+ phone number
1 : 00
of time difference with
Amsterdam
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.

Air France reveals...