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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Turkey > Istanbul

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Local time Istanbul

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Getting around Istanbul

Public transport

Istanbul has a modern metro system complemented by private and state-owned buses (www.iett.gov.tr/en). Trams run through the city centre to the outlying suburbs.

Light railway services operate to Atatürk airport, the main bus station and Aksaray, and Haydarpasa and Gebze Banliyö. Information on rail, metro and trams is available from Istanbul Ulasim (tel: +90 212 568 9970; www.istanbululasim.com.tr).

More unusual transport services include funiculars between Kabatas and Taksim; the vintage Nostaljik Tramvay, which clatters along Istiklal Caddesi; the Tünel underground, which opened to service in 1874 and travels the steep hill between Karaköy and Beyoğlu; and the small circular tramway between Kadiköy and Moda.

Passenger ferries connect points along the Golden Horn and Bosphorus. Buy tokens at dockside kiosks. The Istanbul Deniz Otobüsleri (sea bus) (tel: +90 850 222 4436; www.ido.com.tr/) offers a quicker but more expensive service. Small privately operated ferries also run between Üsküdar and Besiktas.

Dolmus (shared) minibuses operate fixed routes throughout Istanbul and suburbs and can be flagged down anywhere. Pay the driver when boarding.

The Istanbulkart is a contactless smartcard for fare payment on public transport; it's available at more than 2,000 sales outlets throughout Istanbul.

Taxis

You can hail taxis almost anywhere and at any time in Istanbul. Turks do not normally tip, but drivers often hope for a tip from foreigners. Demand that the meter (taksimetre) is switched on, and by law it must be switched on too. Reliable taxi companies include Çamlica Turizm Telsiz Taksi (tel: +90 216 318 3289).

Driving

Istanbul's vast urban sprawl is prone to severe congestion and navigating its streets can be difficult.

Car hire

Major car hire companies are present, including Avis (tel: +90 212 244 9350; www.avis.com.tr), Europcar (tel: +90 212 254 7710; www.europcar.com.tr) and Hertz (tel: +90 212 465 5999; www.hertz.com.tr). Drivers must be over 21 years and have held a licence for at least one year.

Bicycle hire

Istanbul on Bike (tel: +90 553 440 5544; www.istanbulonbike.com) hires bikes and runs cycling tours.

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Featured Hotels

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Hotel Empress Zoe

Quirky folk art touches, Central Asian textiles as bedspreads and the odd antique give the Empress Zoe’s rooms plenty of quirky appeal. Set within a row of Ottoman era mansions, with a lush garden and a rooftop terrace with views over Sultanahmet’s Byzantine period walls, this hotel brims with character.

Ottoman Hotel Imperial

A stone's throw from the Aya Sofya, this rather grand 19th century building once served as a hospital and school before being transformed into a hotel. The common areas here are full of elegant Ottoman character and the gardens and terraces provide tranquil respites from the city.

Pera Palace Hotel Jumeirah

Everyone from Agatha Christie to Ernest Hemingway once stayed at this iconic Istanbul hotel, open since 1892. Rooms are a slice of old-world elegance, afternoon tea under the chandeliers in the lounge will transport you back in time, while the pool and spa provide ample 21st century updates.

Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

Understated luxury is the keynote here, and it's hard to believe that this century-old building was once an infamous prison. Each of the 65 rooms is classically designed with Turkish textiles and art adding eye catching details. The rooftop terrace and large, leafy courtyard are relaxing city retreats.

Grand Hotel de Londres (Buyuk Londra Hotel)

With a history dating back to the heydays of the Orient Express, this establishment has seen many writers (Hemingway being one of them), artists and actors step through its doors. Though the hotel has had many rounds of renovations over the years, the 1900s atmosphere is still very much palpable and underlined by the dark wooden interior and velvet drapes. It's also within walking distance to Taksim square, and near to many theatres and restaurants.

Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul

Right on the Bosphorus Strait's shoreline and partly housed in a former Ottoman palace, the Kempinski boasts some of the most opulent rooms in Istanbul. The waterfront pool terrace offers unparalleled Bosphorus views while the bar, restaurants and spa offer plenty of opportunity to swaddle yourself in luxury.