Thinking of visiting Istanbul and have no clue on how to go about it? Not To worry! The Istanbul tourist pass has got you covered.
I came across the tourist pass when I was researching Istanbul before my visit last year. Apparently someone somewhere thought it would be a good idea to put together tour kit for travelers to Istanbul. What a genius idea! This pass saves you the stress of trying to purchase your tickets to a couple of famous sites in the city with some other add-ons. There are two packages for the tourist pass. One costs $75 and the other $200 (this was as at September last year).
The tourist pass is a very convenient way to explore the city if you are traveling solo or not in love with scheduled itinerary like I do. I pre-ordered the pass and I received at my hotel on arrival. For the $75 pass I bought, these were the inclusions:
A world heritage site in the collection of the Historical sites of Istanbul. It has been in existence since 537AD and has been rebuilt twice. It was initially a Church when the Greeks were ruling the city and was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Turks took over before becoming a museum after the 1st world war. This site will most likely be swamped with tourist so I recommend you head over there early enough to captivated in its magnificence.
Another world heritage site in Istanbul, It was the main palace of the Ottoman Turks for about 400 years before it was moved to Dolmabahçe Palace in the early 20th century. This Palace is massive, adorned with beautiful intricate designs in every room. You’ll also get to see stunning views of the Marmara sea and some parts of the city. The palace is closed on Tuesdays and like Hagia Sophia, it is swamped with Tourists as well.
Bus Tour (Hop Off/Hop On)
I always like to go on bus tours. It’s an easy way to move around a city and for a place as interesting as Istanbul, it’s a win. The bus tour has two routes: The red route (Istanbul City Tour) and the blue route (The Goldern Horn). Take off point for both routes is at Sultanahmet square but you can join at any of the stops along the routes. I would recommend you you stop over at Miniatürk on the blue route and explore Beşiktaş on the red route. You can get more information about the bus tour here.
Hard Rock Cafe
The Cafe is tucked up in a corner somewhere off Istikilal Avenue, probably the busiest street in Istanbul. I had a hard time locating it but I didn’t mind since I had enough time to kill. Your Pass gets you three mini burgers and a milkshake. I really can’t compare this Hard Rock Cafe to other Hard Rock Cafes in other cities since its the only one I’ve visited till date but I guess it was okay.
I didn’t end up using this pass due to time constraints. The last thing I was interested in was seeing a movie or documentary of some sort.
3 Day Bus Transit
I didn’t bother using this transit pass because I was clueless as to how to board buses in the city. On one hand, there was the language barrier, on the other hand, no time to start using sign language. I wish they would swap this for a metro card instead. It’s much easier to move around in the Tram.
Bosphorus Cruise (Hop Off/Hop On)
I loved going on this cruise. I was able to explore lesser known parts of the city like Emirgan. I also had a stop somewhere on the Asian side where I met a photographer. The Hop on/ Hop of boat cruise starts at Kabataş port in Beşiktaş and has stops at both the European and Asian side of the city. The first boat takes off at 11:45 am and the last at 3:45pm. Like the Hop on/Hop off bus tour, you can join the cruise at any of the other ports on its stop. I would recommend you go with the first boat if you intend to explore all the stops.
Note: The Istanbul Tourist Pass has been revamped since my visit last year. You can get more info here.
What do you think of the tourist pass? Is it a good idea?