Whether you're in the mood for ancient history, inspiring architecture, incredible market shopping, or simply indulging in the local cuisine, Istanbul has something to offer for every type of traveller. Plus, South Africans don't need a visa to visit Turkey for up to 90 days, making it the perfect hassle-free destination for a much-needed break! Don't miss out on this vibrant and diverse city that's waiting to be explored.
Istanbul’s many remarkable sites and experiences showcase the city’s rich history and unique blend of cultures. For the best weather and sightseeing opportunities, it's recommended to visit Istanbul between April and June (Spring) or September and November (Autumn).
Explore Istanbul’s Top Attractions and Sites:
There are plenty of fantastic attractions and activities that highlight Istanbul's rich history, architecture, culture, and vibrant atmosphere, making it a captivating destination for travellers.
- Hagia Sophia: A historic architectural marvel, this former cathedral and mosque is renowned for its massive dome and stunning Byzantine architecture.
- Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet Mosque): Admire the intricate blue tiles that give this mosque its nickname and experience its grandeur in the heart of Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet district.
- Grand Bazaar: Get lost in one of the world's oldest and largest covered markets, where you can shop for carpets, jewellery, spices, and a wide variety of Turkish goods.
- Bosphorus Cruise: Take a boat ride on the Bosphorus to appreciate the stunning cityscape and see iconic landmarks from the water, including the Maiden's Tower and Dolmabahçe Palace.
- Spice Bazaar (Egyptian Bazaar): Wander through this aromatic market filled with spices, sweets, and unique Turkish products, perfect for souvenirs and culinary delights.
- Basilica Cistern: Explore this ancient underground reservoir with its atmospheric columns and Medusa head sculptures, offering a unique perspective on Istanbul's history.
- Galata Tower: Climb this historic tower for panoramic views of the city and the Bosphorus, especially magical at sunset.
- Topkapi Palace: Explore the opulent former residence of Ottoman sultans, housing a vast collection of treasures, including the Harem and the Imperial Treasury.
- Try a Doner Kebab: this famous seasoned and marinated meat is stacked on a vertical rotisserie, and is usually served in a flatbread or pita, with tzatziki, sumac, and red pepper flakes.
What documents do I need to Enter Istanbul, Turkey? To enter Turkey as a South African arriving from South Africa, you will typically need:
- Passport: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended departure date from Turkey.
- Visa: South African citizens are required to obtain a visa to enter Turkey for tourism or business purposes. You can apply for an e-visa online before your trip, or obtain a visa on arrival at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport or Sabiha Gökçen Airport. However, visa requirements can change, so it's essential to check the most up-to-date information on the official website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the nearest Turkish embassy or consulate in South Africa.
- Return Ticket: Be prepared to show a round-trip airline ticket or a detailed itinerary of your travel plans, including your departure from Turkey.
- Proof of Accommodation: Have evidence of your accommodation arrangements in Istanbul, such as hotel reservations or an invitation letter if you're staying with a host.
- Sufficient Funds: Be ready to demonstrate that you have enough financial means to cover your stay in Istanbul.
- Travel Insurance: While not always mandatory, having travel insurance that includes coverage for potential medical emergencies is advisable.
Please note that entry requirements and visa policies can change, so it's crucial to verify the most current information and ensure that you meet all entry criteria before travelling to Istanbul from South Africa. Always consult official sources and consider seeking advice from the nearest Turkish embassy or consulate for the most up-to-date guidance.
Additionally, check for any specific entry requirements related to health or COVID-19, as these may apply.
When travelling to Istanbul, being aware of the travel information below is pertinent to ensure a smooth and enjoyable trip:
- Seasons and Weather:
- Istanbul has a diverse climate, with hot summers (June to August) and cold winters (December to February).
- Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) offer milder temperatures and are ideal for sightseeing.
- Pack sunscreen and sunglasses for the sunny summer months.
- In winter, bring warm clothing, especially if you plan to explore historic sites with outdoor areas.
- Time Zone:
- Istanbul operates on Turkey Time (TRT), which is UTC+3.
- Currency & Budget Considerations:
- The currency used in Istanbul is the Turkish Lira (TRY).
- Credit cards are widely accepted in hotels, restaurants, and shops, but it's advisable to carry some cash for smaller purchases.
- Istanbul offers a wide range of accommodations, from budget hostels to luxury hotels.
- Dining at local restaurants and street vendors can be affordable and a great way to try Turkish cuisine.
- Consider purchasing the Istanbul Card for convenient and cost-effective travel on public transportation.
- Electrical Outlets:
- Turkey uses Type F electrical outlets with a standard voltage of 230V and a frequency of 50Hz. Travellers from other regions may need plug adapters.
- The official language in Istanbul is Turkish. English is widely spoken in tourist areas.
- Istanbul has an extensive public transportation system, including trams, buses, ferries, and a metro network.
- Taxis are readily available, but make sure they use meters or agree on a fare before starting your ride.
- Exploring the city on foot is also a popular option, especially in historic areas like Sultanahmet.
- Cultural Considerations:
- Dress modestly when visiting mosques and religious sites, covering your shoulders and knees.
- Respect local customs and traditions, especially during religious festivals.
- Always check for the latest travel advisories, entry requirements, and health guidelines, particularly regarding COVID-19, before your trip to Istanbul.