Hello, I will be in Istanbul for few days. As US citizen we need visa. What is the best way to get visa by applying online or upon the arrival in Istanbul. My arrival is 22 pm. Any information about travel in Istanbul will be helpful solo female traveler first time in Turkey. Thank you.
Wait and get your visa when you get to Istanbul. It's easy to get and takes only minutes.
Apply online, it takes seconds (see below) and saves you time in line at Ataturk Airport. One less line to stand in. The passport line is long enough to deal with. Look through all the old Instanbul posts under the Turkey heading (lots of info there).
Visa Application online
The tram and metro (http://www.turkeytravelplanner.com/go/Istanbul/Transport/IstanbulMetro.html) are easy to use (cost per ride is 4 Lira and you'll need a token from the "jeton machine") but only if you don't have a lot of luggage with you. As far as places to stay, I've stayed very close to the tram stops and was very happy with these accommodations:
Places To Stay
1) The Empress Theodora Hotel - right off the Gulhane stop, close to all attractions in the Old City
2) Raymond Blue Hotel - right off the Gulhane stop, close to all attractions in Old City
3) Tempo Suites Airport - 3 stops from airport metro if you need to be close to airport (or short, cheap cab ride)
4) Tempo Fair Suites - same as above
5) Sultanahmet Suites - more like apartments than hotel; very local feel in a local neighborhood; a bit harder to find on foot
I found all of these places on www.booking.com. As far as traveling alone, nothing major to worry about. I never felt unsafe, but you do have to be comfortable with New York City sized crowds and traffic. It's a city of 13+ million people - very vibrant, but very busy and crowded as well.
Our son's family did a similar flight time arrival this summer. They paid for and printed out their visas online ahead of time to save a few minutes at the airport with that late arrival time. They also arranged for someone to pick them up (through their small Sultanhemet area hotel) for about $22. Many hotels in this area advertise airport pick up. They booked and communicated directly with the hotel to arrange the airport transfer.
Thank you very much everybody. Great information.
To me it would not make any difference whether to get it before hand or at the airport. I got mine at the airport, it took about a minute (including waiting in line.) That way I didn't have to worry about carrying or losing it. But it is super easy to get however you do it. As far as info, Istanbul is probably my favorite city at this point in time. Have a blast, learn to say No in Turkish (and do not engage the people trying to get you to buy rugs etc.) A favorite trick of theirs is to say they aren't selling anything, they are just practicing their English. Later, they will try and sell you .... usually...... rugs. Otherwise, it is a superb place. Enjoy.
If you will be using transit at all (other than to and from the airport) then you should consider getting the Istanbulkart. Initial cost is 10TL, of which 6 is for the card, and 4TL are fares. However -when using the card, the fare charged is only 2.15TL (as opposed to 4TL for a token), and you can make a transfer for only 1.65TL. Covers rails, metros, trams, buses, ferries. Card can be recharged for any amount that you insert into the machines, with no additional fees. There are machines in the airport. As for the VISA, obtain it online, print it out. Takes virtually no time, we did this last month for our upcoming trip. It will not only cost $10 more at the airport, but there is no telling how long you will have to wait in line for it, since they are trying to get everyone to do this online in advance and so there is minimal service.
You must get your visa online before arrival in Turkey. It is no longer possible to get when you get there. Cost is $20. See state department website for a link
I'm Istanbul as I post this staying at the Gradnd Peninsula hotel it is six min walk to the Blue Mosque. Great little hotel. Feel totally safe here on my own. Got my visa online ( I'm Canadian if it matters) was fast and easy. Get an airport transfer, I usually don't but glad I did made life easy.