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Wondering how to save money during your Istanbul stay? Here with our top money-saving tips, you can make the most of the city’s sights and sounds in an affordable and fun way than the expensive alternatives. We’ve put together below the thirteen awesome ways to save money and enjoy Istanbul on a budget.
13 Ways to Save Money on your trip to Istanbul
1. Get an Istanbulkart, Istanbul’s public transport card
It is the cheapest and the most efficient way to get around Istanbul. You may access the whole public transportation network of the city via this single transportation card. Istanbulkart is owned and served by the Municipality of Istanbul. The cost of 1-ride public transportation is 3,50 TRY. Read more on our Istanbulkart page.
Insider tip: Don’t buy 1, 3 or 5 times passes, buy the card and load cash. Make sure you calculate your approximate use of public transportation during your Istanbul stay and load that amount of cash (no coins) to the card. And make sure you obtain your Istanbulkart upon your arrival, as you’ll need it for airport shuttles and public buses (no cash allowed) to get to the city center.
2. Explore the city on foot, free walking tours
Of course you’ll need to use public transportation when making longer trips, but note that Istanbul’s popular tourist areas such as Sultanahmet, Taksim and Galata are very ideal to explore by walking. So that you can see more sights, stay trained and come across to some hidden gems.
Insider tip: You can easily walk from Sultanahmet to Taksim (or vice versa) via Eminonu, passing Galata Bridge, then from Galata by taking a short ramp near Galata Tower to Tünel Square and than from Istiklal Street to Taksim Square. You can see as many of the popular sights and sounds of the city.
3. Get connected by free WiFi and pay-as-you-go SIMs
For the ones who are low budget traveler and don’t need to get connected and make & receive calls all the time during their travel, using the free WiFi at the accommodation, city’s free WiFi spots, restaurants, cafes is a good solution.
You can also use the city’s “ibbWiFi” that has hotspots in about all the squares of the major tourist distritcs and neighborhoods, as well as some parks, Intercity Bus Terminals and on the Public Buses & Metrobuses. Read more on our How to get WiFi in Istanbul? page.
For Turkey SIM card, we recommend this if you strongly will need to make and receive calls and have internet access during your trip to Istanbul, and will stay at least 1 week, 10 days or more. If you want to use your phone only for emergency calls, than we recommend Pay-as-you-go plan. Read more on our Buying a Turkey SIM Card in Istanbul (Pay-as-you-go & Prepaid Plans) page.
Insider tips: If you are heavy Internet user, than we recommend to rent a pocket WiFi in Istanbul. For Turkey SIMs, if you just want to send a few texts or have an emergency phone, pay as you go is usually the cheapest. This normally holds true also if you’re only in Istanbul for a week or so. If you’re here for longer, then pre-paid packages are better.
4. Istanbul Tourist Passes & Cards
If you want to experience and enjoy most of Istanbul’s best sights, attractions and sounds, than buy Istanbul’s attraction and sightseeing discount cards rather than paying for each one individually. So that you can save about %60 and get fast-track entry, as well as unlimited internet and one-way airport transfer.
Istanbul has two major tourist discount cards. You’ll have access to variety of major Istanbul attractions and services with a fixed price and save a lot. This is by far the most practical and cheapest way to explore Istanbul.
Istanbul Welcome Card Deluxe
The is an innovative city pass. It includes fast track entry to 12 museums (Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Harem, Basilica Cistern, etc), 3 tours with historian guide, 20 rides with public transportation (IstanbulKart), Bosphorus Cruise and digital guide book and city map. It also offers 20% discounts at the most important Istanbul attractions on their shop. With this card you’ll skip the long ticket lines and not have to pick anything up.
Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount.
Istanbul Welcome Card Premium
Valid for 7 days, free delivery to your hotel/airport pick-up and includes; Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace fast track entry tickets with 30 minutes guidance and Audio Guide App in 10 languages, Istanbulkart with 10 Rides, Bosphours Cruise (1,5 hours), Digital Guide Book and City Map.
Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount.
Combo Tickets for Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace & Basilica Cistern
Valid for 3 days, digital pass, no need a printed ticket, guidance service with certified guides.
Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount.
Istanbul Tourist Pass
This is a digital travel discount pass that is delivered to your phone upon your purchase online, and will be ready to use at your arrival. It includes 35+ attractions and services including skip the line access and guided museum tours, dinner cruise, hop-on & hop-off Bus, airport transfer, unlimited mobile internet, etc.
5. Book online in advance
You can purchase some tourist attractions with special prices and discounted combos, pocket WiFi, airport transfers, theme parks, festivals, events, concerts about 10% cheaper online than on the gate.
And you will also have a free cancellation and full refund from the online shop and save yourself from dealing with the tour agent or seller face to face and have problems.
6. Catch the Free visit days of the popular museums
You can visit some of the popular Istanbul museums on their free entrance days without spending money. These include top museums and art galleries such as;
- Istanbul Modern Art Museum (in Beyoglu, free every Thursdays for Turkey residents, closed on Mondays),
- SALT (in Galata & Istiklal Street, free every day, closed on Mondays),
- Pera Museum (in Istiklal Street, free between 18.00-22.00 every Fridays, closed on Mondays),
- Sakip Sabanci Fine Arts Museum (in Emirgan, free every Wednesdays, closed on Mondays).
Insider tip: Make sure you visit Pera Museum and Sakip Sabanci Museum. If you are a museum addict and visit the museums in Istanbul as much as you can, than make sure you purchase Istanbul Museum Pass.
7. Take the Bosphorus Cruise by public ferries
Bosphorus cruise is one of the major tourist attractions and one time Istanbul experiences. Majority of the tourists take this attraction by private boats & yachts. You can save money by arranging your own picked, short circled and cheap Bosphorus Cruise by the public ferries (Sehir Hatlari). Read more on our Bosphorus Cruises page.
Insider tips There are two type of cruises by public ferries named Short Bosphorus Tour and Full Bosphorus Tour. Take it from Eminonu port. You may find all Istanbul Public Ferry Lines Routes, Timetables and Prices from http://en.sehirhatlari.istanbul/en.
8. Get a free view of the city
Galata Tower and Topkapi Palace offer one of the best views of Istanbul but they are paid attractions. If you want to get a free view of the city, you can go the some parks, sqaures and sites with great panoramic views. These include, Fethi Pasa Grove (in Uskudar), Pierre Loti Hill (in Eyup), Suleymaniye Mosque (in Fatih), the square overlooking Bosphorus in Harbiye, near Taksim and the Bosphorus Asian coastline walking paths.
Insider tip: You can have great day out at the cafes with cheap prices in these places in the company of some of the best views of Istanbul.
9. Bargain shopping
Istanbul can be considered as a shoppers’ paradise and we highly recommend you to bargain shopping in any of the tourist and souvenir shops. You can be sure that you’ll get a good discount when you bargain shopping. If you can take a local with you, than you get the cheapest prices when shopping tourist items.
Insider tips: With a hard bargain at the most of the shops in the tourist zones, you can get at least %40 discount for sure. Shop at Istanbul’s street markets for food and goods that you can often find cheap prices, and visit Istanbul’s best shopping malls during Istanbul Shopping fest on entire July.
Also carry cash TRY that you will have more bargain shopping, since some establishments such as local shops, boutiques offer good discounts when you pay in cash as they won’t want to pay a percentage to the credit card company. And carry small notes such as 5,10,20, 50 TRY.
10. Look out seasonal free festivals and events
Istanbul hosts variety of festivals and events particularly throughout spring and summer that you can have free access. The Istanbul Tulip Festival during April-May and Istanbul Shopping Fest during July are the popular free ones.
The paid popular festivals like Istanbul Short Film Festival in mid December, Akbank International Jazz Festival in November, Istanbul International Music Festival and International Theater Festival in May-June and Istanbul Film Festival in April offer very cheap tickets for the visitors regarding the other regular concert and shows.
Insider tip: You can follow randomly the calendar of exhibitions and events of our pick of top Istanbul venues from below.
- Istanbul Museum of Modern Art in Beyoglu (art, exhibition, film)
- Pera Museum in Taksim (art, exhibition, film)
- Sakip Sabanci Museum in Emirgan (art, exhibition, film)
- Salon IKSV in Beyoglu (concert)
- Bomontiada in Sisli (concert, theater)
- Akbank Sanat in Taksim (art, exhibition, film, concert)
- Zorlu PSM in Besiktas (concert, musical)
11. Eat where locals do & buy food on local markets
For cheap eating and affordable food, look out for chain restaurants, buffets, traditional cafes and neighborhood artisan restaurants (called “Esnaf Lokantasi” in Turkish) that locals go. Check for “Menu of the Day”!!!
You can also buy pre-made sandwiches from supermarkets or shops, or buy famous Turkish simit (a sesame crusted bread, similar to bagels) with tea during your short breaks. Street food also has become a very popular. You can find the best ones in all tourist zones and save with cheap and mouthwatering street food. Also make sure you buy food on local markets.
Insider tip: Carry packed sandwiches while you are on the city sightseeing tour of the city.
12. Cheap Nights Out
For a money-saving night out, buy a Istanbul Pub Crawl tour or Istanbul by night private tour, which gives you free entry to some of the great clubs, bars and pubs, and include special offers for selected restaurants and bars. And you’ll get a local guide for cheap nights out. Also keep an eye on happy hours of the Istanbul’s bars and Irish pubs in Taksim and Kadikoy.
Insider tip: Don’t take the jet set nightclubs located on the Bosphorus shores as they will be very expensive. Check the clubs, bars and pub at the back streets of Taksim, Istiklal Street and Kadikoy neighborhood where locals go. Also ask at your hotel for cheap night out around.
13. Sleep cheap
You can look for friendly hostels, motels, apart hotels, budget hotel chains, B&B’s of Istanbul for budget accommodation and easily find numerous ones also located in the tourist zones.
Insider tip: No need to stay on the suburbs of neighborhoods far away from the city center. You’ll need spend more and lose time with transportation. You can also find budget accommodation at the back streets of the major tourist neighborhoods, as Istanbul is a huge metropolitan city.
We recommend make your hotel search and book online via the world’s biggest online hotel booking site. You can get really good discounts and find the best prices with a match.
- Trivago Istanbul Hotels (Trivago claims that they guarantee the best price with their price matching system)
- Booking.com Istanbul Best Cheap Hotels (World’s top brand with guaranteed best prices)
- Agoda Istanbul Hotels (Agoda claims that if you find the same hotel cheaper elsewhere, they will refund the difference)
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