Istanbul in Turkey is situated on the cusp of the Middle East but is largely influenced by its European neighbours. It is a place where eastern and western culture come together and thrive; its rich history and spirited locals help to make Istanbul a place like no other. There are homely restaurants and hidden coffeehouses lining the city streets, with impressive shopping at the local bazaars and a pristine coastline on the mighty Bosphorus Strait perfect for lazy sightseeing in the warmer months. Istanbul is a city that delights the senses, with delicious food, breathtaking sights and bargain shopping available to travellers in abundance.
There are currently no direct flights that operate between Australia and Istanbul but plans for a service flying from Sydney to Istanbul are currently in discussions.
Make the most of your trip with a stop en route. These airlines depart from Australia and offer Istanbul connections from the following cities:
Emirates (via Dubai)
Qatar Airways (via Doha)
Etihad Airways (via Abu Dhabi)
Virgin Australia (via Abu Dhabi)
Singapore Airlines (via Singapore)
Qantas (via Dubai)
Philippine Airlines (via Manila)
Garuda Indonesia (via Jakarta)
Thai Airlines (via Bangkok)
Turkish Airlines (via Jakarta or Bangkok)
Asiana Airlines (via Seoul)
Korean Air (via Seoul)
All Nippon Airways (via Tokyo- with an airport change)
The best time to book flights to Istanbul is generally 6-8 weeks in advance, although occasionally there can be some great deals available 2 weeks prior to departure. The off-peak season is a great time to book, which is in mid-November through mid-December, and early January through to mid-March.
The easiest way to reach the city centre and its surrounding areas from the new Istanbul Airport is via shuttle buses. The shuttle buses run by the private companies like Havaist offer new bus lines all over Istanbul, costing approximately 18TL one-way, including luggage. This bus ride takes around 100 minutes during rush hour. Getting a taxi from the new Istanbul airport can be costly, prices starting 105TL. The airport is a minimum of 40kms away from the city and popular tourist locations so be mindful of distances when choosing your mode of transport. The public transport system in Istanbul can be very complex, but nearby buses and metro facilities are available for use for the adventurous with some time to spare. Keep in mind that the airport train stations are still under construction and are not yet open to the public.
The Istanbul airport is currently under construction, expecting building to be finished in 2027. Although the airport is currently functioning as a single terminal, this terminal is large. There is free WIFI available for use for one hour but requires a Turkish sim card and mobile phone number for activation. There are ATMs, currency exchange, Duty-Free shopping, luggage storage, 24-hour Food and Drink outlets, prayer rooms and a pharmacy on-site.
Once in the city, the public transport system gets easier to navigate and is recommended for use. The average cost for a bus or train ticket is 4TL. Uber and Lyft are not suggested for use in Istanbul, with the companies often recommending the use of local taxis in and nearby city areas.
No trip to Istanbul is complete without a trip to Hagia Sophia, considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Once a celebrated church, Hagia Sophia is now a world-class museum that no traveller should miss.
For an exciting shopping experience that every bargain hunter dreams of, head to the Grand Bazaar. There are more than 5,000 shops, spanning over 60 streets. Spend the day pampering yourself in this grand shopping haven; it houses Mosques, Turkish bathhouses, quaint cafes and fine jewellery stalls.
With its own café and nightclub, the 9 storey Galata Tower is an ideal location for a great night out, boasting some of the best views in the city. Alternatively, the square below is a great place to relax with some Turkish Coffee and mingle with the friendly locals.
For a unique cultural experience, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, commonly known as The Blue Mosque because of its intricate blue ceramic tiling, is one of Istanbul’s most famous sites to see. Despite the Mosque still being in operation, respectful visitors can enter the gorgeous building provided the Mosque’s dress code is adhered to. Remember to wear long pants when visiting, and women must have their shoulders and heads covered.
For a great place to eat an assortment of local delicacies like Turkish Delight, pides and kebabs, experience authentic Turkish culture at Istiklal Avenue. With almost 3 million people visiting daily, this avenue located in the heart of the city has everything a traveller could want; such as cinemas, nightclubs boutique shopping and a variety of delicious and cheap eateries. This is a great place to meet locals, and to bask in the immense beauty that Istanbul has to offer.