As a city that spans two continents, Istanbul is a major hub for international travellers. Known for its history, architecture, and Grand Bazaar, Istanbul is a popular tourist destination, claiming the interest of backpackers, history-lovers, cruisers, and more. But, how much does it cost to go to Istanbul? Read on to find out.
For the purpose of this article, I’m going to suggest spending 3 days in Istanbul which is enough to see the highlights. Please note that this guide is based on the costs of a single person, so if you are a couple, make sure to double these estimates (except for hotels).
*Please note you will likely need a Visa to visit Turkey. This is best obtained ahead of time.
Istanbul Trip Cost
Local transportation $65
Food and drink $105
Random spending $110
Total US $1,880
The above estimate is in American dollars, so please use xe.com to find out the average costs in your home currency.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Express Gold Rewards Card gives you a signup bonus of up to 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points which have a minimum value of $300 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees and it comes with airport lounge access.
Chances are you won’t be flying all the way to Istanbul for only three days. More likely, if you have a short time in this city it’s because you are using Istanbul as a starting point on a longer trip around Turkey. However, for the sake of this budget, I’m still adding in airfare as you do actually need to arrive. Plus, it’s often cheaper to arrive and depart from the same city rather than book one-way tickets, so keep that in mind for your plans as well. A return flight from North America to Istanbul costs, on average, $1,000.
As a major tourist city, Istanbul has a range of accommodation options for travellers of all types and budgets. You’ll be able to find inexpensive backpacker type hostels alongside five-star luxury hotels and everything in between. I’ve based the accommodation budget estimate on a stay at a mid-range hotel which comes out at about $150 per night.
Looking for recommendations of where to stay? Take a look at:
Since Istanbul is such a large city, you’ll want to use a website such as booking.com. Not only does it allow you to search via a map, but you can also search by the type of property. That means it’ll be easy to find any type of accommodation in the areas that you’re interested in.
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. Americans should strongly consider the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant American Express Card since you can earn 75,000 Marriott Bonvoy points as a welcome bonus.
Canadians should consider the BMO World Elite™* Mastercard®* since it typically has a sign up bonus worth more than $200 and the annual fee is normally waived for the first year. There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy when using a referral link. That’s enough points for up to five free nights at some hotels which could easily have a value of over $650.
Istanbul is a rather large city so while you can walk through parts of it, you will definitely need to use public transportation at times. Public transit includes everything from the underground metro to city buses, ferries, and more. The Istabulkart is the city’s public transit card. It costs less than $1 for the card and rides are about 0.50 cents each. Which means you can probably get away with about $15 for public transit for all three days.
Alternatively, you can take the tourist hop-on-hop-off tours of Istanbul. It stops in the main areas and offers a more scenic experience. You also need to budget another $50 if you plan on taking a cab from/to the airport.
Istanbul is a huge city with plenty of history and things to see and do. Your budget will depend on your interests, but I suggest expecting to pay about $150 to see the highlights of Istanbul.
There’s also the Istanbul Museum Pass which can be an incredible value since it gives you access to 11 attractions for a single price. You likely won’t be able to get to all the locations included, but it can still be worth it.
Food and drink
Eating in Istanbul can be incredibly inexpensive if you are willing to stick with local restaurants and dishes. Of course, being a major city, you can find all types of dining experiences and cuisines here. However, the most affordable options are going to be local which people don’t usually have an issue with because it’s also delicious. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for local meals in Istanbul.
- Breakfast – $7
- Lunch – $13
- Diner – $15
Which comes out to $35 per day. Admittedly, I’ve budgeted a bit extra, but keep in mind that you will need to buy bottled water in Istanbul as the tap water is not safe to drink. Additionally, alcohol is quite pricey throughout Turkey so if you plan on drinking you’ll want to make sure to add more to this part of your budget.
I always suggest having some extra cash on hand for random spending. Often, this is used for souvenirs but you can also put it towards an excursion, a nicer meal, etc. Since Istanbul is such a big shopping mecca, I’d suggest an extra $50 as most people come here and end up buying at least a couple of things to take home.
Also, keep in mind, you will most likely need a visa to enter Turkey. This should cost about $60USD (depending on where you get it from) so I am including the cost of that in this section as well.
So, how much does it cost to go to Istanbul? For three days I reckon you can expect to spend about $1,880. Of course, that number is so high because of the included airfare which you may or may not actually need. Additionally, that number can still be decreased (or increased) depending on your travel style and using the tips shared in this article. Istanbul won’t cost you a fortune, but it is worth spending some money to see the incredible things this city has to offer.