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USEFUL INFORMATION

Istanbul has always been a meeting place and a cross point destination. Located at the crossroads of East and West, Istanbul offers easy air connections. Getting to and from Istanbul has never been easier. With a capacity of far over 25 million travelers per year Istanbul is surprisingly within reach - in fact, it's less than a three-hour flight from most European cities.

The Atatürk International Airport is located on European side of the city and serves domestic and international scheduled and charter flights 24 hours a day. It is located 24 km west of the city center. The Ataturk International Airport is served by more than 50 major airlines to hundreds of cities around the world. There are direct flights from over 130 international airports to Istanbul. In addition to Ataturk International Airport, Istanbul has a second airport located on the Asian side of the city, Sabiha Gokcen International Airport, which is another important arrival point for international flights.

The city is reachable via ship from Italy, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries, and is in addition a major port of call for cruise lines and chartered yachts. Via land, several rail lines connect Turkey to neighboring countries as well as many bus lines which easily and affordably connect Istanbul to other cities across Turkey, Europe and the Middle East. Highways represent another increasingly viable alternative to getting in and out of Istanbul.

The Turkish Lira is the official currency of Turkey. Credit cards are widely used and accepted. Visitors can use their Visa and Master Cards. ATMs can be found all around the country. All of them offer foreign language options and pay out Turkish liras. Foreign exchange offices may be found throughout the country. Operating hours are mostly Monday to Friday, from 09:00 to 17:00. In the arrivals section of Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen Airports, there are 7/24 open exchange offices. Also the exchange offices located in shopping malls and touristic areas are open later and on Saturdays.

Istanbul falls in the Eastern European Time Zone. Eastern European Standard Time (EET) is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+2).

Turkey's electrical system operates on 220 volts, 50 Hz, with round-prong European-style plugs that fit into recessed wall sockets.

The weather in August is clear and the sunny days provide the ideal weather to explore the city in the best possible way - on foot, plenty warm enough to eat and to outside, take the Bosphorus Cruise. The weather should be expected sunny and around 32 - 30 C during day time.

Istanbul is a culinary delight no matter what your budget. From simple workers' eateries and sidewalk cafes to posh culinary palaces with liveried waiters, Turkish cuisine is good and the value-for-money unbeatable. A typical Turkish dish generally consists of lamb, mutton, and veal with a variety of vegetables. Pilaf, all kinds of pastry, bulgur, haricot beans, rich olive oil, and vegetables are also common side dishes. Meatballs, shish kebab, and doner kebab are also classic dishes. Because of its coastal location, fish is also popular although it is usually cooked simply, such as grilled, or fried with olive oil and lemon juice. Istanbul is the commercial and cultural center of Turkey; and there are restaurants of many nationalities such as Korean, Russian, Italian, and Chinese.

Famed as the City of a Thousand Colors and Fragrances, Istanbul is a paradise for shoppers. A large variety of traditional carpets, jewels, gold, and leather goods can be purchased on the street in the tourist areas, or one can visit the city's modern shopping malls where Turkish brand goods can be found. The shops are open from 08:00 to 21:00 from Monday to Saturday. The Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar open their gates at 08:00 and close at 19:00. The large shopping malls open from 10:00 to 22:00 seven days a week. Shops do not close for lunch.