How to save money on your trip to Istanbul
1. Check the Turkish Airlines website under the “Promotion airline tickets” section, select your region or city for special offers and deals, they offer seasonal travel deals and other forms of promotional airline tickets often, remember to book with your miles and smiles membership ID if you use Turkish airlines a lot alternatively you can check Pegasus Airlines website (serves mostly European cities) for promotion flight deals, Internet-based travel agencies like Skyscanner (where you can search by the cheapest months to book and travel to different cities worldwide from your city of departure), etc or your local travel agent/agency. Remember to read the terms and conditions for every flight you want to book to ensure they suit you.
2. At times you can find good hotel deals with your flight but if you are booking separately, search online accommodation booking portals like booking.com or airbnb (for apartments + you get $25 off your first stay if you register through my link), use search filters to find apartments, aparthotels, accommodation with kitchen facilities where you can cook by yourself instead of hotels. Remember to read reviews, check photos and location, accessibility to major areas of business or tourist attractions (depending on your reason for travel). Unless your hotel/aparthotel/apartment would arrange airport pickup and drop off for you free, choose accommodation in Taksim if your arrival and departure airport is Ataturk airport, if you are using Sabiha Gokcen airport, choose accommodation in Taksim or Kadikoy. Why these locations? Keep reading!
I especially love Taksim because of this street (Istiklal caddesi), the street that never sleeps with so many tourists from all over the world and locals passing every minute. Almost, if not all the stores and brands like Zara, Mac, Topshop etc at the malls can be found here including night clubs, chocolateries, art shops and more.
If you are a female and can handle the men’s constant flirtation then you would enjoy hanging out on Istiklal caddesi and/or Taksim square. Also, transportation to any part of Istanbul is quite easy from Taksim.
3. After you’ve arrived at the airport, gotten your luggage, cleared immigration and changed your money to Lira(tl), head to the exit, disregard all the taxi men and people offering different types of transportation. Outside the terminal, on the second lane, you will find the Havatas airport shuttle service.
Check the district written on paper at the front part of the shuttle, the electronic destination board or ask one of the attendants for the right shuttle to where you are going (Taksim or Kadikoy). The havatas shuttle costs 10tl per person (luggage included) to taksim from Ataturk and about 14 from Sabiha gokcen while taxis cost about 40tl – 50tl (good if you are traveling with a party of 4). Note that 1 Turkish lira is approximately $0.50 as at the time of this post. The shuttles leave every half hour, the drop off and pick up point in Taksim is in front of Point Hotel across Divan hotel and for Kadikoy check the Havatas website, i stayed in Taksim.
The advantage of using the shuttle is that its easily accessible at the airport, affordable and comfortable. Even if your accommodation is not within walking distance to the drop off and pick up points, you would only be spending about 10tl or less to take a taxi there. There are yellow taxis everywhere and don’t hesitate to negotiate prices with the drivers if need be or they will take advantage of you (act like its not your first time even if it is).
4. Now you’ve settled and gotten enough rest and you are ready to explore the city. Get an IstanbulKart – this a contactless smart card for all public transportation payments in Istanbul (IETT buses, nostalgic trams, tunnel and metrobus. POPTB buses, Istanbul ulasim metro, tram, funicular and teleferic. IDO-IST2, Sehir hatlari SH-IST and turyol. Dentur and TCDD), it costs about 10tl or less. and you can load up to 150tl.
You can purchase and load your card at any place with the inscription “Akbil dolum bayii”. Unless you plan on only walking or using taxis to get around, you will need an istanbulkart because you can’t pay cash in any of the other transportation options.
One card isn’t restricted to one person, many people can use one card and you can always check your balance on the card reader screen while making a payment. They said this card can be used for up to 2 years so you can use your card when next you visit Istanbul within 2 years.
5. If you are going to do lots of shopping, remember to ask the sale attendant to provide Tax return documents for the items you bought so that you can collect your tax return at the airport. There’s a minimum purchase amount for this though, about 180tl. Also remember to pack all the items in one suitcase and don’t check them in till you’ve collected your money because they would need to see the items. If you would do tax return at the airport, get to the airport as early as possible so that you will have enough time to do it especially if it’s your first time, finding the offices in charge could be a pain (learnt the hard way).
If you remember, i traveled during the 2014 shopping festival which took place between June 7 and June 29 with lots of sales, discounts and activities all over Istanbul, I used one of the Turkish airlines promotion tickets which offered me a discounted ticket (Kiev-Istanbul-Kiev $297), free 50kg checked in baggage allowance and the normal hand luggage allowance (economy class), so there were no worries of excess luggage payment.
i traveled with a friend and we shared the cost of our aparthotel, we also collected tax return at the airport, she was lucky all her purchases were in her hand luggage, i packed most of mine in my checked in luggage but luckily for me i was carrying a handbag i bought which was actually my most treasured purchase, so i collected the return on it :). It’s always fun traveling with someone but if you can’t, these tips would save you some money too.
The shopping fest takes place every year, now that you know, you can plan your trip to fall into this period, you can check the official website for more details. Though i missed my return flight thanks to the whole world leaving the airport at once, i totally enjoyed my stay and as its only 2 hours flight away from me, i would definitely become a regular visitor, there are still lots to explore!
For more photos from my visit if you didn’t see the posts, see here, here, here and here or click on the “Travel” tag at the footer to display all posts.
*P.S all watermarked photos were taken by me.
Have a lovely day