15 April 2016

A Few Tips For Surviving Istanbul

Even if it's not your first trip to the city, Istanbul can be incredibly overwhelming for novice and pro travelers alike. A city of immense proportion with something like 18-20 million inhabitants and the traffic to go with it is enough to knock anyone for a loop. I've lived here for over three years now and am still discovering ways to make life easier. Whether you live here too or are just visiting, hopefully some of these tips will help you.
  • Getting molested on public transportation: If you're a woman alone its likely this will happen to you, especially on the tram which is heavily frequented by tourists. When it happens the most important thing to remember is that there are not consequences for you for objecting. So don't be afraid to do so whether or not you speak Turkish! In fact sometimes yelling in English (or whatever your native language is) is more helpful as you might get a really determined asshole who will answer you back in Turkish. If this happens to you:
    • Yell, go for it. Be loud. 
    • Try to make it obvious to others what happened. You'd be surprised by how many people will defend you.
    • Hit the bastard. I bend back fingers and gouge with my elbow-remember your elbow is the sharpest and hardest part of your body. 
  •  Speaking of, some helpful words!
    •  Ayip!: Shame!
    • Sapik!: Pervert!
    • Bana dokunme!: Don't touch me!
  • Also get the IstanbulKart-it's good for multiple people and works on all the public transportation: metros, tram, buses, ferries, cable cars, etc. 
  • Tea is ubiquitous and you will get offered tea in every shop. If you want some go ahead and accept a cup. Drinking tea does not obligate you to buy anything.
  • On that subject...the same holds true if a shop keeper pulls out his entire stock. This is a common practice, especially with rug sellers, and if you don't like anything you don't like anything! Don't buy something just because you feel guilty.
  • There's still a little discrepancy in how long you can use your foreign phone with a Turkish SIM card before your phone gets locked. If you're moving here or planning to stay for longer than a month you need to register your phone. YellAli, which is a great website for living in Turkey advice, has posted what you need to do to get your phone registered
  • VPNs are your friend. I have used several since moving here and the one I like at the moment is Private Internet Access. It doesn't work for everything (notably Netflix and Spotify) but it does work for Amazon, network TV stations, and many other things. Also it's comparatively inexpensive. 
Aya Sofia
  • If you live here and have a student or residence permit you are entitled to a MuzeKart. Get it, use it, love it. For a measly 50 TL a year (you need a new one every year) you have free access to most of the major museums and sights around Turkey including: Aya Sofia, Topkapi Palace, Chora Church, Archaeology Museum, Hieropolis and Pamukkale, Ephesus, Cappadocia museums, etc. Basically it gets you into all the museums that fall under the purview of the Ministry of Culture.
Suleymania Mosque
  •  Always carry a scarf/shawl with you. For one thing, you never know when you might want to pop into a mosque but even more than that you never know when you'll find yourself in a super conservative part of the city. Regardless of how you feel about women being required to cover you may feel more comfortable if you are too.
  • Yemeksepeti will save your life. This food delivery website is a hub for online food order/delivery. Not every restaurant participates, but for those that do you can order food and have it delivered fairly quickly even if you don't speak Turkish.
View from Eyup

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