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Istanbul is now being touted as ‘World’s Hippest City’.  These days, there are more happening restaurants, bars, galleries and clubs around town than there are exquisite Ottoman mosques.  Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, largest city proper and second largest metropolitan area in Europe.

Istanbul is such a diverse city that it’s almost impossible to split it up into definable districts. The only real distinction that can be made is between the European and Asian sides.  It extends both on the Europe and Asia and is thereby the only metropolis in the world that is situated on two continents.

Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is Turkey’s largest covered market offering excellent shopping: beautiful Turkish carpets, glazed tiles and pottery, copper and brassware, apparel made of leather, cotton and wool, meerschaum pipes, alabaster bookends and ashtrays, and all sorts of other things.  I’m sure you will stop to load up on spices before returning to the US!

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    About Istanbul

    Istanbul is Turkey’s most populous city, and its cultural and financial center.  Istanbul is the only city embracing two continents: Asia and Europe. The Bosphorus, meandering through the heart of the city, combines the waters of the Black Sea and Marmara Sea.

    In the last decades, numerous tall structures have been built around the city to accommodate a rapid growth in population. Surrounding towns were absorbed into Istanbul as the city rapidly expanded outwards. The tallest high-rise office and residential buildings are mostly located in the northern areas of the European side, and especially in the business and shopping districts of Levent, Maslak, and Etiler which are situated between the Bosphorus Bridge and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.

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    The first human settlement in Istanbul, the Fikirtepe mound on the Anatolian side, is from the Chalcolithic period, with artifacts dating from 5500-3500 BC. A port settlement dating back to the Phoenicians has been discovered in nearby Kadýköy (Chalcedon). Cape Moda in Chalcedon was the first location which the Greek settlers of Megara chose to colonize in 685 BC, prior to colonizing Byzantion on the European side of the Bosphorus under the command of King Byzas in 667 BC.

    The location of Byzantium attracted Constantine the Great in 324 after a prophetic dream was said to have identified the location of the city; but the true reason behind this prophecy was probably Constantine’s final victory over Licinius at the Battle of Chrysopolis (Üsküdar) on the Bosphorus, on September 18, 324, which ended the civil war between the Roman Co-Emperors, and brought an end to the final vestiges of the Tetrarchy system, during which Nicomedia (present-day Ýzmit, 100 km east of Istanbul) was the most senior Roman capital city.

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    Fast Facts

    Population: (2007 est.) 10,291,102

    Area: 59,412 sq mi (1,538,77 km²)

    Area Code: (+90) 212 (European side)

    (+90) 216 (Asian side)

    220 volts a.c. throughout Turkey


    The city has a temperate-continental climate, with hot and humid summers; and cold, rainy and often snowy winters. Humidity is generally rather high which can make temperatures feel much warmer or colder than they actually are.  Snowfall is quite common, snowing for a week or two during the winter season, but it can be heavy once it snows.  Summer is by far the driest season, although there is no real summer drought such as that occurs further west.

    Month Avg Hi Avg Lo Avg Precip
    Jan 47°F 37°F 3.90 in.
    Feb 48°F 37°F 2.60 in.
    Mar 52°F 39°F 2.40 in.
    Apr 62°F 46°F 1.90 in.
    May 70°F 53°F 1.20 in.
    Jun 79°F 61°F 0.80 in.
    Jul 82°F 65°F 0.80 in.
    Aug 82°F 65°F 1.00 in.
    Sep 77°F 59°F 1.60 in.
    Oct 67°F 53°F 2.80 in.
    Nov 59°F 47°F 3.50 in.
    Dec 52°F 41°F 4.80 in.


    Historically, Istanbul has been the center of the country’s economic life due to its location as an international junction of land and sea trade routes.  Istanbul has always been the “financial capital” of Turkey, even after Ankara became the new political capital in 1923.

    Levent and Maslak financial districts are home to the headquarters of Turkey’s largest companies and banks, as well as the local headquarters of global giants of the financial sector such as Citibank, Merrill Lynch, J. P. Morgan, HSBC, ABN Amro, Fortis, ING Bank, BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Banca di Roma, UniCredit, WestLB, Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, and many others. Both Levent and Maslak have a constantly growing and changing dynamic skyline with several new skyscraper projects being proposed, approved and initiated every year.

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    By Car

    Istanbul is an incredibly crowded and complicated town. Inner city transportation is one of the biggest problems. It does not matter whether you have a car or not. You may not even find a place to park your car in certain places and in certain hours. In addition, if you don’t know the area, it’s very easy to get lost. Don’t be confused!  With the lack of an elaborated city plan Istanbul changes face quite fast. The city offers many traffic challenges to its citizens.

    Although traffic rules are theoretically same as in the western countries almost nobody obeys them. Therefore the fastest, biggest and the boldest have the priority on the roads, wherever or at what speed they’re coming.

    Finding an address

    First of all try to understand the district in which an address is located. Please also note that in Istanbul, several streets and avenues have same name. Therefore it is particularly important to emphasize the area, neighborhood or district, first, and the street second, and lastly, the actual building name or number.

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    Public Transportation


    There are two terminals in Istanbul:

    Esenler Terminal

    +90 (212) 658-0036

    The European Side

    Harem Terminal on

    +90 (212) 333-3763

    The Asian Side

    Traveling by bus is still the main form of transportation in Turkey. Every corner of Turkey can be reached from the bus station, or Otogar as it is called here. It is a combined word of Oto, meaning “car” and gar, coming from French word “gare” for station.

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    Air Transportation

    Atatürk Havaalan
    34149 Yeþilköy
    +90 (212) 465-5555
    Atatürk airport is located 24 km. west of downtown.  Four times larger than the old international terminal building, the new terminal is one of just a few in the world to be controlled from a single computer center.

    Sabiha Gökçen Havaalaný
    34912 Pendik
    +90 (216) 585-5000
    Sabiha Gökçen International Airport is named after the first female combat pilot of the Turkish Republic; Sabiha Gökçen and is located at Pendik-Kurtköy on the Anatolian side of Istanbul. It is located 40 km. from the city center and has an easy access to main highways of Istanbul and to the main industrial centers of the Marmara region.

    Local Phone Numbers

    011 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of U.S.A., when placing the call in the US.
    00 is the international prefix used to dial somewhere outside of Turkey.
    1 is the international code used to dial to U.S.A. when placing the call in Turkey
    90 is the international code used to dial to Turkey
    212/216 are multiple city area codes in use for Istanbul.

    Time Zone
    The definition for time zones can be written in short form as UTC±n (or GMT±n), where n is the offset in hours. Here is an example given the local time in Istanbul and New York City at 12:00 UTC when daylight saving time is not in effect:

    Istanbul Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC + 2:00 hour = 2:00pm
    NYC Standard Time Zone: GMT/UTC – 05:00 hour = 7:00am

    Istanbul is on Eastern European Time and does observe Day light Savings time.  At the specified time, local time in New York was 7 hours behind Istanbul.


    Turkish Daily News
    +90 (212) 251-6580

    Today’s Zaman
    Ahmet Taner Kislali Cad. No: 6
    34194 Yenibosna, Istanbul
    +90 (212) 454-1444


    Turkish cuisine, like its cultural mosaic, is very colorful and contains countless different tastes. This land, which first hosted Byzantine then Ottoman Empires, does not have a mutual food culture. Different tastes in every region contribute to the complexity of Turkish cuisine. Due to heavy rains, the eastern black sea region is not conducive for wheat production; therefore they specialized in dishes which rely mostly on corn and corn flour. The Southeast Anatolian region is famous for Kebaps, as a result of its abundant livestock. The Aegean region, known for its olive production, is famous for its delicious olive oiled vegetables and herbs while pastries are the monopoly of Thrace. Istanbul cuisine combines the most delicious flavors of each region.

    Two useful expressions when you are dining:

    1.  Before you begin a meal, “Afiyet Olsun” which essentially is the same as saying Bon Appetit.

    2. To complement the chef, it is polite and customary to say “Elinize Saðlýk” which means “health to your hands”, but is interpreted as meaning “very delicious “.

    Shopping in Turkey is a colorful experience. There are numerous options available, such as the: bakkal (small grocery), kasap (butcher and poultry), manav (green grocer), balýkçý (fisherman), çarþý (numerous groceries with fruit and vegetable sellers located at a certain area), pazar (weekly outdoor markets found in each neighborhood), sabit pazar (fixed market found in some areas), super market and hiper markets.

    Historical Religious Buildings

    The illuminated mosques of Istanbul, gleaming at night like jewels of a crown are sure to catch your attention. This section outlines the historical mosques of Istanbul still standing from 15th century and open to worship. Muslims perform prayers (namaz) five times a day -morning, noon, afternoon, evening and night – either at mosques or at home. However the Friday noon prayer, called Cuma namazý, is especially for men and all Muslim men are encouraged to perform the prayer at a mosque. If you would like to visit a mosque, it is best to do so outside of prayer times, so as not to disturb worshippers. All visitors are asked to remove their shoes and women are expected to cover their heads before entering. Since namaz (prayer) takes place on the ground, the floors are covered with carpets and to walk on the carpets with your shoes on is out of the question. There are shelves at the entrance of the mosques in which to place your shoes.

    Basilica of Holy Peace

    Hagia Eirene stands on what is thought to be the oldest place of Christian worship in Istanbul. Today it is located within the Topkapi Palace complex, close to the Hagia Sophia.

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    Archeology Museum

    Behind Gülhane Park, Sultanahmet

    +90 (212)  520-7740

    Istanbul Archeology Museum was established as the “Empire Museum” by the famous painter and museum director Osman Hamdi Bey at the end of the 19th century and opened to the public on June 13th, 1891. It was the first museum in Turkey but also one of the first buildings that was constructed as a “Museum” in the world. It still protects its outstanding place among the world’s largest museums with more than a million works belonging to various cultures.

    Istanbul Modern

    Meclis-i Mebusan Cad.

    Liman Sahasý Antrepo No: 4


    +90 (212) 334-7300

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    The National Sport of Turkey is Yaðlý güreþ also known as Oiled Wrestling.  However, footboy is the magic word for Turks. It means soccer. The celebrations after Turkey’s being 3rd rank on the 2002 FIFA World Championship are still recalled. Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, Beþiktaþ, and Trabzonspor are the names of the top soccer teams in Turkey. Everybody is expected to be the fan of one of them. Basketball is the second most popular sport in Turkey. Interest in this sport increased after the Turkish National Team achieved 2nd place at the European Basketball Championships in 2001 and had the right to participate in the World Basketball Championship held in the States in late 2002.

    Another major sporting event that takes place in Turkey is the Turkish Grand Prix. The track located at Istanbul has a seating capacity of 155,000 people (biggest in Europe), is just over 5,340 m long and runs anti-clockwise. The track was designed by Hermann Tilke, designer of the Sepang, Bahrain and Shanghai tracks. GP2 series also include a Turkish Team (Petrol Ofisi FMS International) and a Turkish Driver, Jason Tahincioglu.


    Certainly shopping in Istanbul is shopping in paradise. From the most famous international brands to the ones manufactured on the back streets of the town, it is possible to find almost any product. Goods are sold in various places from boutiques to pazars (a word you may not heard of before), from shopping malls to street venders’ stands and cover the entire spectrum of prices.

    Pasaj are the arcades of the town. They can also be called mini malls or individual department stores and scattered all around the city. Arcades placed either on one-story or multiple-story buildings waiting to be discovered. And also Pazars immediately become the unchangeable shopping sites of the expat women in Turkey.

    Shopping malls are very trendy in Istanbul. They all have several cinema halls, fast food arenas, and of course a wide variety of stores. Citizens of Istanbul often like to spend their weekends at crowded malls, particularly the young generation.

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    Business Hours

    Government Offices 8.30 to 12.30, 13.30 to 17.30 Closed Saturday and Sunday
    Banks 9.00 to 12.30, 13.30 to 17.00 Closed Saturday and Sunday)
    Shops 9.30 to 19.00 Closed on Sunday
    Covered Bazaar 8.00 to 19.00 Closed on Sunday
    Shopping Malls 10.00 to 22.00 Daily

    Summer Hours
    In the Aegean and Mediterranean regions of Turkey, government offices and many other establishments are closed in the afternoon during the summer months. The provincial governors fix these summer hours each year.

    Currency & Banking

    In recent years, the chronically high inflation has been brought under control and this has led to the launch of a new currency.  On January 1, 2005, the Turkish Lira was replaced by the New Turkish Lira by dropping off six zeroes (1 YTL= 1,000,000 TL).

    As of January 1, 2006 TL banknotes and coins will no longer be in circulation.

    Beware of the similarity in color between the 100.000 TL note, which is no longer in circulation and the 5.000.000 TL note; you just might feel a little frustrated over a careless mix-up like that.

    Embassy & Visa

    US Consulate General Istanbul

    Ýstinye Mahallesi, Kaplýcalar Mevkii No.2

    Ýstinye 34460

    Istanbul, Turkey

    +90 (212) 335-9000


    Ministry of Foreign Affairs

    Balgat 06100

    Ankara – Turkey

    +90 (312) 292-1000

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    Due to limited funding, Turkish State hospitals don’t have the best sanitary conditions. They are always full of patients and have endless lines. The lack of hygiene, lack of staff and lack of care is easily felt. Ironically however, they have some of the most well-known and respected doctors on staff, particularly at the university hospitals.

    Private hospitals are preferred by patients of middle and upper classes. Despite the fact that state hospitals are sometimes better equipped than the some of private hospitals, many patients prefer going to a private hospital because of the personal and friendly care offered.

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    Although it is possible for foreigners to buy property and housing, chances are you will rent.  There are three ways to find a house for rent: through newspaper ads, Real Estate Agencies (check the yellow pages), or friends.

    Perhaps the most straightforward way to rent a house or apartment is to use the services of a real estate agency. Most of the larger agencies (the ones advertised in the English language newspaper Turkish Daily News) are professional and have experience dealing with foreigners and their often-unique set of needs. If your budget is modest however, you would be better off scouting out the neighborhood that you want to live in and approaching the smaller real estate agencies (Emlakçý) in that area.

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    Postal Service

    Postane is the post office in Turkey. To buy stamps, send your mail, fax, or to send and receive or change your money, don’t forget this word. Turkish post offices are easily recognizable by their PTT signs.


    U.S. Tax Information
    Internal Revenue Service
    P.O. Box 920
    Bensalem, PA 19020
    (215) 516-2000 (not toll-free)

    Phone service available from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm (EST) M-F. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) office serving Eastern Europe is located in Philadelphia, and provides U.S. Federal tax assistance to Americans in Eastern Europe. The IRS Home Page, , has a lot of information available to answer many questions. Go to ‘Individuals’ and then ‘Overseas Taxpayers’ you will find a section of FAQ, which will take you to IRS Publication 54. Many questions of overseas taxpayers can be answered from that source. One point to remember for all overseas taxpayers is that the United States taxes its citizens on their worldwide income. Even though they may be eligible to exclude a certain amount of their earned income from their income tax computation, they must file a US tax return in order to claim that exclusion.

    Higher Education

    stanbul holds some of the finest institutions of higher education in Turkey, including a number of public and private universities. Most of the reputable universities are public, but in recent years there has also been an upsurge in the number of private universities. Istanbul University (1453) is the oldest Turkish educational institution in the city, while Istanbul Technical University (1773) is the world’s second-oldest technical university dedicated entirely to engineering sciences.

    Istanbul University

    34452 Beyazit/Eminonu


    +90 (212) -440 0000

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    Compulsory Education

    Education is compulsory and free from ages 6 to 15. The literacy rate is 95.3% for men and 79.6% for women, for an overall average of 87.4%. This low figure is mainly due to prevailing feudal attitudes against women in the Arab- and Kurdish-inhabited southeastern provinces of the country.

    The British International School Istanbul

    +90 (212) 257-5136

    This private, non-sectarian, coeducational school provides high quality educational choices for the children of foreign families living in Istanbul. The school offers English National Cirruculum IGCSE and I.B. Courses. BISI accepts students from age 2 to 19 and the student body is composed of over 40 nationalities and has campuses at Alkent, Levent (primary and pre-primary), Etiler and Zekeriyaköy (pre-primary to secondary).

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