The Istanbul Guide

With almost 16 million residents, Istanbul is more crowded than many countries, including Greece and Switzerland. The city embraces two continents as the Bosporus Strait divides it into two, with one part laying in Europe and the other in Asia.

Istanbul receives almost as many tourists as its population annually, making it one of the most popular places to visit in Turkey. The city is home to two airports, one of which is on course to be the world's largest when fully completed.

Once the Byzantine and Ottoman empires' capital, Istanbul is a truly urban cultural melting pot.

Is Istanbul the right fit for you? Let's see.

Retiring in Istanbul

Istanbul is generally seen as the place to be for working professionals or the young and is not the most popular destination for retirement. However, if you despise sitting idle and want to live your days as a retiree stimulated socially and intellectually, then this city may be what you need.

Compared to central cities and some coastal towns, retiring in Istanbul is quite costly, especially if you want to settle in more upscale areas such as Fenerbahçe or Arnavutköy. Silivri may be better suited to those who want a more simple, quiet, and affordable life.

There are also countless museums, exhibitions, or shows to check out in Istanbul and high- and low-end restaurants to discover, which means you'll never grow bored.

Lifestyle in Istanbul

Life is never dull or slow in Istanbul unless you live in the outer skirts of the city.

The city never sleeps; the nightlife is varied and caters to many crowds – Kadıköy, Taksim, or Bebek, all offer different experiences.

In terms of greenery, Istanbul lacks parks and forest in certain areas, but that doesn't mean there aren't places you can visit for a breath of fresh air. Polonezköy, Emirgan Park, and the Belgrade Forest are the most popular weekend stops.

Istanbul's climate is mostly mild, though, in the summers, it can feel sweltering with the high humidity, and in winter, you may be surprised with some snow and several ski centers close by. However, when it comes to beaches, swimming in the Sea of Marmara is generally not advised, so most people go further up north to have a dip in the Black Sea, especially on the Şile-Ağva coast.

Cost of Living in Istanbul

Istanbul is without a doubt the most expensive city to live in in Turkey, though it is also the city where the salaries are the highest.

To live comfortably, a single person would need to earn at least twice the national minimum wage (around $380).

Rent will take out the most significant chunk from your earnings, with the average rent being around TL 2,000 – though this will significantly depend on which area and district you choose. For example, you may be able to find a 2-bedroom apartment for under TL 1,500 in Ümraniye, but if you'd like to live in Moda in Kadıköy, you should expect to pay at least twice that amount.

When it comes to weekly food shopping, you'll be spoilt for choice as there are many supermarket chains and independent grocers that offer a wide selection of products. Your weekly bazaar or "manav" will provide you with the most affordable and freshest options.

Public transportation costs depend on how far you go, with a single fare costing TL 3.50 on average and half of that for students. Monthly passes usually work out cheaper.

5 Things You'll Love about Istanbul

  • Ferry rides and the Bosporus

Few things in life can come close to the bliss and peace you feel as you watch the sunset on a ferry with simit and Turkish tea in hand as the cool breezes of the Bosporus brush up on your skin. Also, where else in the world can you cross between Asia and Europe in such a scenic way?

  • The islands

When you get bored of the mainland, you can hop on a ferry to the Princes' Islands of Istanbul (Adalar), a chain of nine small islands in the Sea of Marmara. Büyükada, Kınalıada, and Heybeliada are the most frequented. For the most part, these islands are car-free, meaning you can enjoy a nice bike ride away from pollution.

  • The beating heart of art

From SALT and Istanbul Modern to Pera and Arter, Istanbul is home to some of the finest and most diverse art museums in Turkey and the world. You'll always have a nearby exhibition if you live in Karaköy or Beyoğlu. If you happen to be more into opera, ballet, and theater, Kadıköy or Şişli will have you covered.

  • Multicultural past

Discover the Ottomans' glorious past at Topkapı Palace or go underground into the Basilica Cistern to see past Byzantine remnants. The Church of St. Anthony of Padua, Hagia Sophia, and the Blue Mosque are also just a few of the architectural and religious gems the city has to offer.

  • Authentic experiences

Every corner of the city offers you a different adventure. If you head to Eminönü, you can enjoy some "balık ekmek" and head up to the Galata Tower for a panoramic view of the city, or you could stroll around the Feriköy Flea Market to discover antique finds. The rows of colorful stalls selling spices, teas, dried fruits, and leather goods at the Grand Bazaar will envelop you in a multi-sensory experience, and you'll get the chance to see first-hand how Turk's bargain/haggle.

5 Things I Wish I'd Known before Moving to Istanbul

  • Commuting times

If you can get anywhere in under an hour, you are considered lucky in Istanbul as traffic is a daily nuisance. On average, work commutes last anywhere from 1.5 hours to 3 hours, depending on how far you live from your workplace. Even though the area you live in may seem perfect, if your office is at least 2 hours away, you may consider moving. So, choose your location carefully.

  • Weather trouble

Year-round, though especially during the fall, a fog descends on Istanbul, causing disruptions to marine traffic. If your means of travel is via ferry, you may have to find alternatives on these days. If you happen to live on the Princes' Islands during storms and downpours, you may not be able to reach the mainland as ferry services are halted due to adverse weather conditions.

  • To drive or not to drive

Circling back to the traffic issue, having your car and driving is a big decision you'll have to make when in Istanbul. If you live close to central areas with a vast public transportation network, owning a car may seem unnecessary. However, if you live outside the city's primary transportation grid and travel between cities, a vehicle will be essential, though that also brings along the problem of parking.

  • Losing your dignity on the Metrobus

To continue with the same theme, if you have to take the metro bus every day to work or school, especially during rush hour, you will be shocked by the sheer expanse of crowds queuing up to get into this vehicle. (This "queue" is by no means orderly, and you may or may not have to do your best to squeeze in.) Personal space is also non-existent during these journeys, so be warned.

  • Money, money, money

Like all other mega metropolises, to enjoy the best that this city offers, you will need considerable earning. There is also a lot of emphasis on achieving more and making money, so you may not be the proper city depending on what you value in life.

5 Nearby Towns to Visit

  • Şile (Istanbul)
  • Sapanca / Sakarya
  • Gölyazı / Bursa
  • Assos / Çanakkale
  • Kıyıköy / Kırklareli