8 Tips for Visiting Istanbul We Learned the Hard Way


Like canaries in a coal mine, we learned lessons, so you don’t have to. Here are the Traveler Broads tips for visiting Istanbul. We accept thanks in the form of airline drink tickets and foreign couches on which to crash.

1. That’s butter, you idiot!
Olives. Cured beef. Rose jam. Honey with clotted cream. Nutella. Tomato-walnut paste. Cheese. More cheese. Yet another type of cheese. Turkish people eat a Thanksgiving feast every damn morning and it is fabulous. And when the table is crowded with a dozen-plus tiny dishes of unknown tastiness, you can forgive someone for unwittingly spooning a plate-full of butter into her mouth ONE TIME! Right?

Photo by Jessica Fender @TravelerBroads
Find the butter!

2. Get high!
If you walk into a bar, restaurant, or even shop and never leave the ground floor, you’re doing it wrong. Istanbul is a multi-story kind of place with killer views. Get your ass up some stairs, trust us.

Photo by Kerry Maloney @TravelerBroads
Look at those chumps sitting at street level.

3. Panties are NOT optional
Women, as it turns out, are filthy animals who need to cover their crotches at all times — no matter what Maloney’s BS guidebook tells you about the Turkish baths. I found out the hard way after going commando under my wrap only to have a spa worker give me serious side eye when she pulled away the covering. (This was the women-only section.) Basically, if they give you panties when you walk in, wear the panties. Men, you can let it all hang out. Congrats on being the dominate gender.

So, they wouldn’t let us take pics in the hamam. But for reference, this is exactly what our butts look like.


4. Onlar Ingilizce konusan yok
Know what that means? Us either. Grab a phrasebook and practice your charades. Turkish people are friendly as hell, but many of them speak no English. And they are totally delighted when you earnestly mangle Turkish words like “thank you.” (Incidentally, saying TeaSugarADream real fast will suffice. Thanks, Sparrow.)

Photo by Kerry Maloney @TravelerBroads
Yeah, we don’t know what that says either. But it doesn’t say “Gavin.”


5. Your coffee is judging you. No pressure.
Your Turkish coffee is thick for a reason — to tell your effing future. Once you drink the liquid, put the plate over the top, let the cup cool and then flip it upside down. Your fate will be spelled out in the pattern of grounds left in the cup. The catch: Someone else has to read it for you — so make sure you’re not sitting with a bunch of dicks. This is such a popular tradition, there’s even an app that sends you a fortune after you send in a few pictures of your empty cup.

Photo by Kerry Maloney @TravelerBroads


6. Who rule the world? Cats.
For as much as Instanbul loves their kittehs, you’d expect half their GDP would come from cat videos. Whole communities feed strays, most of which are down for a cautious head scritch. Grocers entice people to go green by exchanging free cat food for recyclables. And the cats, they eat ANYTHING. We saw one on a pile of trash eating an entire pizza crust. Cats! They’re just like us!

Photo by Jessica Fender @TravelerBroads


7. Mykonoooooooos!
But Mykonos, you say, is not in Istanbul. No, it isn’t. But Mykonos is where you go to party. Istanbul is not. We had a great time trying though, in an SMH kind of way. We first fell prey to the overpriced tourist-trap clubs that guidebooks slob all over *cough* Club 360 *cough* — and were hugely disappointed with the generic dance music and lack of Turkish. (Maloney was mistaken for a local. Have you SEEN Maloney?) We ended up in some divy and deserted places, some sketchy spots with “hostesses” of indeterminate purpose, and — in one of my favorite attempts — followed the sound of music into a private function at a social club. The best spot we found was in Beyoglu at the hipstery Off Pra, where a DJ lords over a tiny dance floor with an iron fist and will not — after midnight on a Tuesday — play any Britney Spears no matter how hard you maddog him. In other words, you don’t have to go home, but we have no idea where to tell you to go.



8. Rug dealers, amiright?
In Sultanahmet, kindly locals will offer to show you around the Blue Mosque and other attractions. They are almost certainly rug dealers hoping to lure you back to their shop. Our buddy’s sister’s Turkish friend advised us to NEVER follow these guys. (Even though he’s a rug dealer, and that’s how he met our buddy’s sister.) We did not follow this advice, and WE LIKE OUR GODDAMN RUGS, OKAY?

Photo by Kerry Maloney @TravelerBroads


Helpful Links

Traveler Broads Photo Gallery

Çemberlitaş Hamam (The Turkish bath we tried)

Coffee Fortune App

Istanbul Night Club

Our Rug Dealer

Great Food Tour

Questions? We’re happy to help! Email us: [email protected] / [email protected]

1 thought on “8 Tips for Visiting Istanbul We Learned the Hard Way”

  1. Travel Pockets

    Omg, I love this post! I’ve always wanted to visit Instanbul. I would die for their insane breakfast (minus the butter) and I love rugs & cats 🙂

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