Things you need to know before visiting Istanbul

Travelling to the city of Istanbul was an incredible experience but there were a few things we wish we knew before our trip. Here are the things you need to know before visiting Istanbul.

1. Airlines & Luggage

Our flight out of Johannesburg was delayed which had a knock on effect with regard to our connecting flight from Dubai to Istanbul. The Emirates ground crew was amazing and ushered us onto the aircraft that was waiting for us. While we made our flight and arrived in Istanbul, my luggage unfortunately didn’t.

Happiness because we made our flight to Dubai. Thank you Emirates

Here’s what you need to know

  • Luggage not making its way to Istanbul seems to be a regular occurrence according to the Hotel staff in Istanbul. Pack a few items in your carry-on in the event of this happening to you.
  • Go to the ground staff on arrival and complete all the necessary paperwork. This will ensure that your luggage is sent to your accommodation when it eventually arrives.
  • Airlines as well as your travel insurance do provide cover for delayed and / or lost luggage. Keep all documentation as well as receipts for any items purchased. There isn’t an automatic payout, so you need to show proof of your purchases.
  • Ask the ground attended for a kit. Don’t get too excited, it’s a little bag with the basics to see you through a night or two.
Emergency kit
How happy am I with my survival kit ?

Click HERE to read my article on my favourite travel essentials.

2. No English

The thing about Istanbul is that finding someone who speaks English is like finding a needle in a haystack. Be prepared for this and the fact that signage isn’t even in English. This makes for an interesting experience and the signage is sure to improve. It is however best to get a pocket dictionary or an app that will make navigating your way through Turkey easier.

Signage in Turkey

3. Money Matters

When it comes to foreign currency the best option is to draw Turkish Lira from an ATM. My friend’s bank card was swallowed by the ATM at the airport when she tried to withdraw cash. It’s always a good idea to have back-up cards when travelling. While most place accept credit card, its best to have Turkish Lira and or Euro in the form of cash.

4. Traffic

Traffic in Istanbul is horrendous so brace yourself for loads of time in traffic. Istanbul is the second most congested cities worldwide. A part of the traffic congestion is as a result of people commuting daily between Asia Istanbul and Europe Istanbul for work.

East meets West

5. Pickpockets & Thieves

Like any big city in the world Istanbul has its fair share of pickpockets and thieves. The bustling streets packed to the brim with people, creates the perfect setting for these opportunists. There are also several stories of having one’s bag slashed. Rather be safe than sorry especially in busy streets and shopping bazaars. One particular morning we wanted to draw money from the ATM so the hotel staff insisted on walking with us and ensured we were safely back in the hotel.

Istiklal Avenue

6. Turkish Charm

The Turkish charm is something else. Turkish men are not shy and their hilarious sense of humour is a way to get you to buy from their shops. I received an insane amount of compliments for the duration of our stay, which left me feeling awkward and overwhelmed to say the least. Personal space is not a thing and don’t be surprised when Turks come up close to chat.

Setting boundaries with the Turkish men at the Grand Bazaar

7. Punctuality

We were beyond impressed by the punctuality of the Turks. Always on time or a few minutes early. So don’t dilly dally and miss a tour group or your transfer to the airport.

I really hope that these pointers help make your travels to Turkey easier and more efficient. Happy Travels and make sure to look out for post on Things to do in Istanbul.


  1. Love your blog! You Always have such great content…thank you😊

    1. Author

      Ahhh thank you so much It really means alot Charlene

    2. Author

      Ahhh thank you so much Really means alot

  2. Seems like you had quite a Turkish Delight!

    1. Author

      haha saw what you did there

  3. Sounds like you had an interesting time. Thanks for the travel tips.

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