Is it worth visiting Istanbul just for 24 hours or less?
This is a great question, especially for the avid traveler like myself who both strives to get the most bang for her money; and is also more infatuated by intangible experiences such as exploring a city that is located on two continents; a city that is both new and old; a city that adheres to both Islam and more liberal secular cultures.
I recommend the same for anyone flying from Nairobi via Istanbul for the following three main reasons:
- Turkish Airlines doesn't charge you extra for breaking your trip e.g. the air fare for a flight on Turkish Airlines from Nairobi to Istanbul then Istanbul to Chicago booked separately costs the same as Nairobi to Chicago booked as one. Most other airlines charge you extra for breaking your trip.
- Istanbul's culinary offering is to die for. Seriously!
- The sites are breathtaking
To qualify for the e-visa application though, you need to meet ALL of the following requirements:
- Prove that you hold a return ticket, hotel reservation and at least US$ 50 for each day of your stay.
- Have a round-trip ticket with Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines or Onur Air.
- Be travelling for the purposes of tourism or business
- Hold a valid supporting document (Schengen visa or a valid visa from any of the OECD member countries e.g. US; or a valid residence permit of a Schengen or OECD country). e-Visas are not accepted as a supporting document.
- Hold a passport valid for at least 6 months from the date you intend to enter Turkey.
- Spectacular and fetid, old and new, secular and religious, all co-existing in the same space is the normal in Istanbul.
Upon clearing with immigration, I head straight to the arrival terminal, take a taxi, and in about 45 minutes I am at the Radisson Blue Hotel, Pera in Beyoglu (home to the famous Istiklal Avenue) in the new city where I would be spending the night. Since I had planned to visit the old city i.e. Sultanhamet area the next day, I opted to stay in this side of the city for an opportunity to explore Istanbul's nocturnal side.
An hour later, at about 6 pm, I leave my hotel to explore the new city. Starting off at Taksim Square, to Istiklal Avenue for some little shopping, went through one of the cobblestone paved corridors, had my dinner at a local Turkish restaurant. I then finished off at the hotel with a good night's sleep, waking up to this site:
|View from my window at the Radisson Blue Hotel, Pera Istanbul|
Walking across the bridge is an attraction in itself. I beheld fishermen try their luck at the Bosporus, secretly watched and "awwwed"couples as they expressed their undying love to each other, tried some of the local Turkish street foods, people watched, and crowned this as one of the most enchanting walks I've ever had in my life.
Some must visit sites in Sultanhamet area or the old city of Istanbul include:
- The Blue Mosque named after its blue Iznike tiles that adorn its interior
- Hagia Sophia. Was initially a Greek Orthodox church, then became a mosque, but today is a museum
- The underground Basilica Cistern that once supplied water into Istanbul
- The Grand Bazaar. One of the oldest and biggest markets in the world
- Spice Bazaar. If it exists, its available in this souk
Have ever you been in Istanbul on a stopover? Share with us your experience in the comments below...