The option of staying in Istanbul for approximately four days has just come up so I haven't had time to research this question on line and so I am asking the members of this forum: Given that the Turkish alphabet is way different than the alphabet used in the Americas and in many parts of Europe is it easy to navigate the streets of Istanbul? For example do the street signs have English language "subtitles". Or are taxi fares so low that if I need to use a taxi to get back to my hotel I will not get hosed? I had somewhat the same problem in Prague nearly two decades ago but their letters are somewhat similar to the English letters while the Turkish alphabet is really alien to me. BTW: Here is the skinny on the trip to Istanbul. I was looking for a route on United Airlines from London back to my hometown Seattle. While most of the routes go from London to an American city (Washington DC, Newark, Philadelphia....) then on to Seattl one route goes from London to Istanbul to Houston to Seattle. United said that I can have the ticket written with a short stopover in Istanbul without increasing the price which will be 30,000 mileage points and about $200 (one way)
We navigated around the Sultahnamat (sp.) for four days with no trouble. The city is used to nonnatives and their ignorance of the local language.
Actually, Turkey uses the same alphabet that we do, so recognizing street names won't be a problem. What is different is the letter/sound relationship for many vowels and some consonants. That would only be a problem if someone were giving you oral directions, or if you had to tell a taxi driver the name of a place. Most hotels have cards you could show, or you could use ayour guidebook or just write out the name of a destination. Taxi fares are not terrible, but there is also a good, cheap tram system that might take you where you want to go.
Thanks for the clarification. I thought the Turkish alphabet was more like Arabic (doh!). I apologize for the cultural insult.
In addition to the fact that Turkish is written in the Roman alphabet, many of the letters are pronounced the same as in English. And Turkish is phonetic - the letters are always pronounced the same. Therefore, I found that spending a little time learning the pronunciation paid off. There are only six new letters to learn. Unfortunately, they don't all come out correctly on this forum, so I can't show them, but have to describe them. 1. the "g" with the "hook" on top is silent. The "g" without the hook is like the hard "g" in "good." 2. "ö" is the same as in German (roughly, "er" as in "gerbil" or "ur" as in "burning"). 3. "ü" is the same as in German. I haven't come up with a good English equivalent for that one, so ask someone who knows German to demonstrate. 4. the "s" with a cedilla under it is "sh" like in "shower." 5. the "c" with the cedilla under it is a hard "ch" like in "chowder."
6. the "i" with no dot on top is a schwa (the vowel sound in the first and third syllables of "umbrella"). Note that if a capital "I" is not this letter, it will have a dot on top. An "i" with a dot on top is pronounced "ee." continued..
continued.. Of the familiar letters, the ones that are really different are: 1. "c" is pronounced like the hard "j" in the English word "jet." So Cem, a common man's name, is pronounced exactly like the English word "gem."
2. "j" is pronounced like the "zh" sound in the middle of the word "leisure." So, a token is "jeton," and the word is not only borrowed from French, but pronounced exactly the same as in French. That's about it. I found that with a little practice, I could pronounce names in a way that cab drivers could understand. Having just come back from Poland, which uses the Roman alphabet in infinitely more complicated ways, I really appreciated the simplicity of Turkish spelling and pronunciation.
You should find out the fare from your hotel and agree on the price first so there are no surprises. I used the metro/tram to get into town (very cheap but requires flexibility on your end) and then a local shuttle to get back for a very early AM flight (the local shuttle cost 5 Euros to the airport but it was literally a little outfit in a local neighborhood - I doubt many tourists would even think to use it - it was perfect for me as it was right next to an apartment where I was staying). I would say that there are so many hotels in Istanbul that I wouldn't expect every taxi driver to know where it is. So bring a map with you just in case. I don't think you ever know how much you're ripped off by a taxi cab but it shouldn't break your wallet since the exchange rate is very good relative to European countries.
Ataturk, their equivalent to the U. S. George Washington, MADE Turkey convert to many "western style" changes, including their alphabet, dress, and separation of church and state. This happened nearly 75 to 90 years ago. Interesting unintended consequence is that they now have a difficult time finding people who can read old documents. That said, get yourself a good map. Or print off areas from Google Maps of the areas you want to go to. I is a maze of streets but with a map..no problem.