Istanbul on a Backpacker’s Budget

Originally posted July 9, 2013 by Svetopolis

We took a long 13 hour night bus to get to the small town of Akbük (just south of the Ephesus area). A friend from my time in Kazakhstan lives here and we are going to stay with him for a few nights. There was a small miscommunication and timing issue so we are waiting under a tarp/trailer/cafe (they only serve tea, water and toast). It’s near the beach and we’ll wait until he gets off work. It’s hot! The locusts (or some sort of bug) are buzzing with a maddening fervor that seems to increase as the mercury rises. I read online that Akbük is known for its curative air, so there are a lot of resorts in the area and tons of Russian tourists. Although it’s so hot, at least we’re curing our lungs of all sorts of ailments. We met a new friend named Bülbül (Nightingale), a retired man who spent some time in Texas and Colorado for military school. We are drinking tea, using wifi and enjoying our beach view. Life can’t be too bad, right?

While we are waiting, I thought to share some info on how much Istanbul costs for the 4 nights we were there. I thought this info could help for anyone Googling/researching an Istanbul trip…

Istanbul can be done cheaply if you’re on a budget. That’s one reason why we chose Turkey to travel. I also think Istanbul would be a great stop for anyone’s European backpack trip, since its so close to the EU’s Eastern European border. While food and drink aren’t as cheap as I had thought, overall Istanbul wasn’t too expensive.

As of July 2013, 1 Turkish lira (tl) is roughly $0.50 US, so the exchange rate is in our favor. It also seems that USD and euros are taken in a lot of places around town.

Visa at border entry = $20

Haiga Sophia = 25 tl
Topkapi Palace = 25 tl
Underground Cistern = 10 tl
Mosques = free (but if it is prayer time then you’ll have to wait until it’s over to go inside)
(There was a pass for 85 tl that included the palace and Haiga Sophia in the price, along with a bunch of minor museums but it didn’t seem worth it)

Hostel = $12-25 (price depends on the hostel, # of beds in a room and day of the week, but breakfast and internet seem to be included in most places)

Lunch or dinner (with a drink) at a sit-down cafe around Sultanahmet area (Haiga Sophia/Blue Mosque/Grand Bazaar area) = 25-30 tl per person

Lunch or dinner (with a drink) farther from the “main” tourist areas = 15-20 tl per person
Fish sandwich at the Galata Bridge = 6 tl
Döner kepab in street cafe = 8-10 tl
Simit (bagel) = 1 tl
Honey Churro = 1 tl
Gozelme (giant crepe with cheese or potato) = 4-5 tl Half kilo of Turkish delight = 5 tl
Cup of Turkish coffee = 4-5 tl
Cup of tea = 2 tl
Pint of Efes beer = 8-10 tl
Spicy pickle turnip juice (tastes way better than it sounds!) = 2 tl
Ayran (Kiefer/yogurt drink) = 4-5 tl
Water (su in Turkish) = 1 tl (small), 1.50 tl (1.5 liter), 3 tl (gallon)… I was told not to drink from the faucet, though we still ended up brushing our teeth with it.
(Cheap super markets and fruit shops are also around a little farther afield from the “touristy” areas.)
Tram/metro = 3 tl per trip (not including transfers)
Tünel funicular = 4 tl
Bosphorus cruise (round trip on public ferry) = 25 tl
Postcards = 4 for 1 tl (stamps were 1.50 tl)
Hookah/Nargile = 15-25 tl
Galata Bridge

On average we spent about 100 tl ($50) in Istanbul per day on food, transport and hostel. I would give or take about 50 tl for any extra sights, souvenirs and drinks. I think you could do it cheaper (and more expensive if you wanted) if you planned out your food locations better than we did or were willing to walk more, but in the heat the AC on the tram and a refreshing beer in a cafe was too tempting to resist.


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