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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 Islamic calendar (dates change each year): 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.

May 1: Labour Day (national holiday)

Ninth month of the Islamic calendar (dates change each year): 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 three days of the tenth month of the Islamic calendar (dates change each year): 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.

Starts on the tenth day of the last month of the Islamic calendar (dates change each year): Kurban Bayramı (Eid al-Kabir/Eid al-Adha, national holiday)

This four-day festival beginning on the tenth day of Dhu'l-Hijja honours Ibrahim's proof of his obedience to Allah. Allah asked him to sacrifice his son Ismael, but just as Ibrahim was about to make the sacrifice, Allah told him to offer a ram instead. Traditionally, to remember Ibrahim's offering, each family sacrifices a sheep in the morning and the remainder of the day is spent in prayer and celebration, feasting on the roast mutton and sharing the meat with others.

September–October: Istanbul Biennial (local event)

Held since 1987 in odd-numbered years, this contemporary art exhibition has achieved international recognition as one of the most prestigious events of its kind, on a par with those organized in Venice, São Paulo and Sydney. Nearly 100 artists from more than 40 countries present works of art, objects or performances at over 30 venues. Alongside leading international figures, the Biennial features the work of emerging artists from Turkey and the Middle East more generally.

Early October: Filmekimi (local event)

Lasting about a week in early October each year, this film festival features critically acclaimed films that have recently premiered at prestigious international film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, Venice and Toronto. Screenings take place at the Beyoğlu, Atlas, Ortaköy Feriye and Kadıköy Rexx cinemas.

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.

October/November: Istanbul Book Fair (local event)

This nine-day fair held at the Tüyap Fair Convention and Congress Center attracts over half a million visitors each year and brings together around 700 publishers and non-governmental organizations from Turkey and some 20 other countries to showcase their titles. The fair also includes a large number of interviews with writers and editors, panels, concerts, exhibitions and children's events.

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 are rather hot, with high humidity, although it seldom rains. Winter 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

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

  • 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. The parking lot next to the Cargo Terminal offers rates of TRY 9.00 for 1 hour and TRY 26.00 for 1 day.
    • Several car rental companies have counters in the arrivals hall.
  • By shuttle bus
    • Havataş shuttle buses connect the airport with Taksim Square every 30 minutes from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. The trip takes between 40 and 65 minutes, depending on traffic, and the fare is TRY 11 each way, payable aboard the bus in cash.
  • By bus
    • Bus TH-1 operated by IETT connects the airport with Taksim Square every 30 minutes from 4 a.m. to 1 a.m. The trip takes between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on traffic, and the fare is TRY 3 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. To reach Taksim Square, it is best to stay on the M1 until the last stop, Yenikapı, and then change to line M2, direction Hacıosman. The trip to Taksim takes about 2 hours and the Metro fare is TRY 4.00, or TRY 2.15 when purchased with an IstanbulKart (see the “Useful tip” section below).
  • 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 60 (a 25 percent surcharge is added to fares between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.).
  • Services : shops, bars and restaurants, Internet access (Wi-Fi) available in the airport.
  • Telephone : +90 212 463 3000
  • Website : http://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 4.00.
Useful tip: PTo save time and money if you will be using public transport frequently, you can purchase a rechargeable IstanbulKart fare card, sold at the airport's Metro station, which may be used to buy tickets for all modes of transport (Metro, trams, buses, ferries). When purchased via this card, each trip costs TR 2.15 instead of TRY 4.00. The card costs TRY 10.00 and comes with an initial travel value of TRY 4.00. 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 neighbourhoods across the Golden Horn, including trendy Galata and Beyoğlu, where nightlife and contemporary culture are as important as historic sights, are also served by the tram. A single ticket costs TRY 4.00 (TRY 2.15 when purchased with an IstanbulKart).

By minibus

Minibuses (dolmuş), which only run on the city's major thoroughfares, can be a convient and inexpensive option for crossing Istanbul. 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. 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. On the European side, the main ferry piers are at Eminönü, Karaköy, Beşiktaş and Kabataş. Lines cross from these points to destinations on the Asian side, including Kadıköy and Uskudar. A single ticket costs TRY 4.00 (TRY 2.15 when purchased with an IstanbulKart).

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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.

Turist Danışma Ofisi

Istanbul has six 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.

  • 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.)

Further information available online for visitors to Turkey

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 € = 4,35 TRY

1 TRY = 0,23 €

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

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Medical information

Vaccinations

There are no vaccination requirements for visitors to the United Arab Emirates.

However, the following vaccines are recommended:

  • booster doses for protection against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis and polio
  • typhoid, hepatitis A and B, rabies (depending on the length of your stay)

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

Water

It is advisable to drink only bottled water sold in sealed, tamper-proof containers.

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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

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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 (calls to Istanbul)
1 : 00
of time difference with
Hamburg
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 4 p.m.
Government offices

Usually open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
230 V / 50 Hz

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