Turkey - April'22

14th Apr 2022

Visa - Indian passport holders can apply for an e-visa if they have a valid US or Schengen visa, which is what we used. The process is straightforward & hardly takes half a day. You can apply here. It costs around USD 85-100 depending on the source of the application.

Without US or Schengen visa, you need to apply via VFS & the process can take up to 10 days.


Getting around -

Taxi - Uber works but is quite unpredictable. Drivers usually prefer longer rides & cancel when you tell them nearby locations, which kind of kills the point. Works best for 10km+ rides & to & from airport

Public transport - Istanbul has a good public transport network of trams, buses & metros. You can find all details & fares here. It's best to get the card & keep topping up as required. Top-ups are available on most stops via self-serve machines or kiosks.

Flight - We took Gulf Air flight from Kochin with a short layover in Bahrain. Highly recommend the airline. New aircraft, good service, very friendly crew.

Day 1

Land on Istanbul. The traffic in Istanbul can get quite bad. It takes at least 90 minutes to reach city from IST airport.

You can take a bus or a cab from the airport. We took a cab since we were on a tight schedule & had a lot of luggage. Uber works & it costed around INR 2200 to reach Fatih, where we were staying.

Check-in to Fuego Design Suites for 2 nights.

Here is the link to my TripAdvisor review for the hotel. We picked the hotel to be close to the main attractions/landmarks. In my opinion, it was a very good decision for us. It was a perfect location for the kind of things we had in mind. We booked the balcony room with Hagia Sophia & sea view via Booking.com with some genius discount.

The room

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

Sea View from the balcony

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

Hagia sophia view from balcony

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

Note - A lot of tourists stay on the Asia side for slightly cheaper accommodation & more happening night life.

This is one thing you CANNOT miss to do while in Istanbul & we headed straight to it after a short walk around Hagia Sophia. It was particularly important for us to do it on a clear (non-rainy) day since we knew that we didn't have enough time to visit a bunch a places individually & this cruise gave us opportunity to at least see them from a distance (honestly that was enough for us as we are not big history buffs plus most places have huge queues to get in)

It was a lovely experience, way better than what I could have imagined. The views were beautiful & the sunset was breathtaking.

The cruises are available throughout the day but I recommend going for the sunset one. You can also take a dinner package if you want to experience the city under lights. The cost varies between ~INR800 to INR5000 per person depending on which cruise - public/private yatch/dinner etc, you take.

Istanbul city from the cruise

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

Galata Tower from the Cruise

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

Kiz Kulesi from the Cruise

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

Ortakoy from the Cruise

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

Bosphorous Bridge from the Cruise

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

By the time we got back from the cruise it was already getting dark. We just walked around & explored the area on foot & did a bit of restaurant hopping. Leaving the tripadvisor links to the places below. We loved each one of them.

Siva restaurant - for quick round of beers. Small budget restaurant on the main street. Turns into a pub post 9PM

Turk Art Terrace Restaurant - for Hagia Sophia view & sheesha. Fine-dine restaurant mid-high budget

Vamos - for dinner & nightcap. Very friendly staff & great lively location. Don't miss the pot curry.

Day 2

Started the day with breakfast at the Derviz cafe. A nice, busy, unassuming place in the Hagia Sophia compound itself & hence very convenient location.

It is very close to the Hagia Sophia & Blue Mosque & a 5 minute walk from the Derviz cafe, so it only made sense to pass through. It's a 15 minute place - very vibrant, colorful & a miniature version of the Grand Bazaar. You can skip if you are planning to visit Grand Bazaar.

Arasta Bazaar

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

We walked from Arasta to Grand Bazaar which took around 25 minutes (almost same as it would have taken in taxi or bus). The place, as expected, is a sensory overload. First & second copies of all luxury brands, spices, lights, tiles, perfumes - it's huge, it's grand, it's quite crowded, it's totally worth a visit.

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik
Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

Right outside of the Grand Bazaar are a few monuments & mosques in case you want to visit. There is a tram station right around the corner. We took a Tram back to Sultanahmet which is around 3 stops.

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

Went for lunch at Seven Hills restaurant, arguably the most "insta" famous restaurant in Istanbul. Food was just above average, prices are a bit on the higher side but it's worth visiting for the views.

After going around & seeing it from all angles externally, we finally went in after the lunch. You can take a guide for around INR 1000 if you are into history & want to know the whole story. We mostly just read on google & boards outside & just enjoy the place visually.

Some parts were under construction but overall it was kind of what I expected - beautiful architecture, grand hall with intricate carvings all around the walls & roof. In total it takes around 30-40 minutes maximum. You can chose to go early morning if you want to avoid crowd & take some professional pictures or something but otherwise any time is fine.

Last entry is around 5.30 PM. Entry is free.

Note - Females need to cover the head to enter. You can buy disposable scarves for INR 100-200 from the ticket counter if you don't have one. But if you are reading this, do take one from home & help reduce waste :)

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

the scarf from the counter.. why I say you better carry one :P

Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik
Photo of Turkey - April'22 by Anisha Malik

The blue mosque is right in front of Hagia Sophia so you should plan to visit both together. Most parts were under construction so we didn't get to see much. But visiting was like a check box item.

Some other places in the area that we skipped due to time constraints (long queues) or because they were under construction include :

- Topkapi Palace : we really wanted to go but it was under renovation in the month of April'22

- Basilica Cistern : again was closed for renovations


All are walking distance from the hotel & Hagia Sophia.