How to get a bargain Bosphorus cruise

Oh hey, we’re back with the Istanbul posts! Whilst I plot my strategy for a return trip, I thought I’d share with you a little bargain I found. Seeing as this week’s Travel Tuesday theme is Hidden Gems, what better hidden gem than a bargain cruise?!

Whilst we were walking around Istanbul old town, particularly Eminönü, we were constantly assailed by tour guides offering us Bosphorus cruises for a ‘very reasonable price’. As soon as anyone says that, you know you’re in for a tourist scam so we just walked right on past.

However, we did want to visit the Asian side, and we did want to get out onto the waters of the Bosphorus. It’s an iconic stretch of water, separating Europe and Asia, and pretty, too. So we did a small amount of research, asked our very friendly hotel concierge, and came up with a plan.

Now, the organised Bosphorus cruises are like handbags. There are infinite varieties, some are more fancy than others, and price does not equate to quality. For example, you can get cruises that include dinner – we decided against this due to the fact I’d have most likely not been able to eat the food (I’m coeliac), and anyway we’re just not that fancy. Other cruises include a audio commentary, but we figured Wikipedia via our hotel wifi could do the job just as well. Basically, you can pay upwards of £20 for your cruise, depending on which bells and whistles you go for, what itinerary you pick, and how long you go for.

We decided to do things a little more freeform.

You see, people who live in Istanbul get around using the traditional Istanbul passenger ferryboats which happen to be very well equipped, functional, and cheap. They ply pretty much all the same routes that the cruise companies go to, and you get the true local experience.

What’s more, you can truly choose your own adventure. You’re not confined to a tour schedule, you can pick a place and head off there.

Ferry Adventure 1

First, we walked from our base in Karaköy to Beşiktaş, which I mention because it was a pleasant walk and took in some great street art (it’s where we spotted the rainbow staircases). It took about 45 minutes to walk and if you fancied a break along the way, we were recommended a visit to the Dolmabahçe Palace. We didn’t quite have time, but it looks pretty from the water.

After reaching Beşiktaş, we accidentally decided to do a short hop straight across the Bosphorus from Beşiktaş to Üsküdar. This provided a great view of the Bosphorus Bridge and the river in general, although we turned around and got straight back on the boat at Üsküdar because we hadn’t meant to get that boat in the first place wanted to extend our cruise.

This is the wharf you will need if you want to take this ferry. Of course, the destination is listed clearly if you’ve got your wits about you, but if you’re running to catch a ferry that leaves any second you may not be on your A game. Pretty wharf, though.

Journey time ¦¦ 10 minutes each way.
Cost ¦¦ 2.20TL* each way, about £0.54.
<Notes ¦¦ Our concierge actually recommended that particular route to us as one to take if you have very little time, and just want a little jaunt out onto the river.

Ferry Adventure 2

After returning to Beşiktaş, we walked a little further down the shore to another jetty. This was the jetty we were looking for in the first place:

So we awaited the arrival of our second adventure. This boat was going to take us to Kadıköy, which there was really no mistake about when the boat pulled in. It’s painted right on the bow.

Inside, the boat was comfortable and we settled in to enjoy our second journey over to Asia.

There were drinks and snacks available, plenty of window seats, and it was all clean and comfortable

The views from the journey were fantastic, with sweeping vistas over the Old Town with the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia clearly visible, as well as Topkapi Palace. Basically our noses were glued to the window the entire time.

I’m going to share some more pictures here because the views were breathtaking. Here’s the sweep of the Golden Horn, including the New Mosque, Galata Bridge, Galata Tower and more minarets than I can count.

Journey time ¦¦ 20-25 minutes each way.
Cost ¦¦ 2.45TL* each way, about £0.60.
Notes ¦¦ I thought this was a fantastic way to get a good sight of Istanbul from the water, spend a decent amount of time on the river, and see a whole new part of the city. I’d really recommend this route if you can.

Bonus Adventure 2(a)

I couldn’t just leave you wondering what Kadıköy is like. We thoroughly enjoyed it; highlights included some more amazing street art:

Fabulous shopping and a lively, bustling atmosphere with (thank goodness) far, far fewer tourists than the Old Town:

And the hotel you really don’t want to stay in.

Is it just me that found this hotel name absolutely hilarious? Yep, thought so.

Ferry Adventure 3

After doing some successful sightseeing and shopping around Kadıköy, we got back on a slightly different boat; this time, from Kadıköy to Karaköy. Yes, I found the names confusingly similar too.

We chugged past Haydarpaşa station (we’d gone past it on our journey in, too, but we’d been on the wrong side of the boat) which is absolutely beautiful, although was sadly gutted by a fire recently. Restoration work is underway and luckily the façade was saved, but the interior needs to be completely rebuilt and as such you can’t actually visit it.

We also spotted Kız Kulesi, aka The Maiden’s Tower, aka Leander’s Tower, which now houses a restaurant and cafe, but has been a military base and a quarantine station at various points in history. There’s been a tower here since the 12th century, in various forms.

We got those beautiful views across the Old Town of Istanbul again, this time with a patriotic flag flying.

And finally we got a great view of Karaköy / Beyoğlu as we pulled in to our final ferry wharf. There’s the Galata Tower standing proud, and plenty of gorgeous old buildings and winding alleys just waiting to be explored.

Journey time ¦¦ 20 minutes each way.
Cost ¦¦ 2.45TL* each way, about £0.60.
Notes ¦¦ Another great option, this gives just as good views of Istanbul old town without having to go out as far as Beşiktaş for your departure point. If you’re staying in the Old Town, or around Karaköy as I’d personally recommend, this may be the best option for you.

In summary, depending on which legs you go for, you can get a very reasonable Bosphorus cruise for about £1.20*. If you want to add on more legs, you’ll do well to exceed £5. I don’t know about you, but I call that a bargain.

*NB These prices are valid if you use an Istanbulkart, which I would highly recommend. You can pick this up from a kiosk at the airport metro station for 12TL which you get back when you return the card. It makes travel super cheap and simple.


Travel Tuesday

Welcome to Travel Tuesday! Thanks to everyone who linked up last week, you all gave me some serious wanderlust.

I’ve picked the place I want to run away to when life gets all too much, so thanks Lauren!

I’m loving these cabin vibes from Van.

Finally, Mandy’s shots of Prague in the snow were just magical.

I encourage you to check out their posts if you haven’t already.

Please join me, Swags, Katrina and Diana in linking up your post below…

Travel Tuesday with Bonnie Rose and her co-hosts

1. SHARE a post about travel! From road trips to trips abroad and from past travels to dream vacations. You can write about travel tips and tricks, favourite places to stay, or anything in between! Just make it about travelling somewhere!
2. GRAB the lovely button. If you run into trouble, just make sure to mention Bonnie in a link!
>3. LINKUP goes live every Tuesday at 0800 GMT.

1. Please only one linked up post per blogger. Save other posts for future linkups!
2. The last Tuesday of every month is a themed prompt, if you want to join in.
3. Include a (vertical 735px x 1102px) pinnable image in your blog post; as at least one of the co-hosts will be going around pinning your posts!
4. HOP around and meet new travel loving bloggers! Check back to visit some of the newer travel posts!
5. Don’t forget to use the #TravelTuesday hashtag on your social media platforms!



  1. 26th April 2016 / 08:08

    These views are pretty awesome!! I love going sightseeing by boat – it’s just so laid-back 🙂

    • 26th April 2016 / 21:36

      Yes definitely, there’s a certain unique quality to getting out on the water and enjoying things at a different pace. I also love that you can get up, walk around, have a snack… All very chilled out!

  2. 26th April 2016 / 12:56

    This is such a good idea! I actually didn’t get to do a cruise in the Bosphorus when I visited Istanbul, time was just too crunched, but it’s something I wish I got too! This is such a good tip to avoiding the tourist traps! I probably would’ve been more inclined to fit in a cruise should I have known I could do one for so cheap! 😀

    • 26th April 2016 / 21:38

      We had a full four days to visit, so we were able to squeeze in a boat trip thankfully. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-do if you’re on a tight timetable, so it sounds like you made a sensible choice – but I’m glad we did have time to do it in the end. Plus when it’s not a big organised to-do it seems easier to squeeze in. And yes the low low price does help!!

    • 26th April 2016 / 21:38

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  3. 26th April 2016 / 21:04

    I am dying over these pictures of Turkey. I’d love to visit, but it’s not a place that I’d be comfortable taking an infant to at the moment. When were you in Turkey?

    • 26th April 2016 / 21:40

      It’s absolutely gorgeous. Honestly, I felt safer there than in large swathes of London but then I don’t have a child, just an excitable husband. There’s no point going somewhere you’re not comfortable, that would not make for an enjoyable trip. We visited this last Easter, and our hotel just warned us to stay away from the area around Taksim Square due to ongoing demonstrations. Everywhere else we found perfectly fine but I am not the authority on the matter!

  4. 26th April 2016 / 22:45

    I’m kind of in love of your water views from the boat. So pretty! Though I must admit those places in Turkey are throwing me for a loop. Turkish is one language I have absolutely no experience with, so trying to imagine how you pronounce them is super confusing. And because I can’t figure out the pronunciation, I’m mostly looking at your pictures thinking “Wow! That’s pretty!” rather than I want to visit –––– (that place I can’t pronounce). 🙂 When you were in Turkey, did you know enough Turkish to get around? Or did you run into a lot of English speakers?

    • 27th April 2016 / 20:28

      Haha yes it was quite overwhelming to begin with! I found it oddly similar to German, and some of the words do seem to have a Latin root. Others are totally crazy, so we got our hotel concierge to give us a basic Turkish lesson before we left our hotel on the first day! I did have to keep whipping out my cheat sheet to refer to it but committed it to memory fairly quickly. We only got to the very basics though, and there were a lot of very good English speakers around. We never really ran into too much trouble apart from with food. Gluten free doesn’t really translate!

      • 28th April 2016 / 15:08

        That was really nice of your hotel concierge. It’s interesting that the language was oddly similar to German, I’m not getting that vibe from your posts! It looks more like Czech to me with all of the weird looking letters. (And note: I’m not that familiar with Czech; I’m just comparing text to text.)

        I can’t even imagine what it must be like trying to find gluten free food in a different country where the language isn’t your first. Do you have any really bad reactions to eating gluten or is it just something you aim to avoid?

        • 11th May 2016 / 23:18

          I’m not familiar with Czech either so I have no point of reference for that! The letters aren’t similar to German but some of the pronunciation was, as soon as you realise that the little twirls on the letter just mean add an h sound basically.

          Yes, travelling gluten free is certainly a challenge! But I try not to let it put me off. I’m coeliac with so-called silent symptoms which means I can eat gluten and outwardly feel fine, but inside it causes my immune system to start digesting my own gut. So long term I get malnourished, anaemic and am at risk of other auto immune diseases like diabetes, thyroid disorders, stomach cancers. And I’ll catch every bug going. That means I can eat gluten by accident and it won’t ruin my holiday, but it’s something I really try to avoid as much as I can!

  5. Jen
    27th April 2016 / 00:31

    Oh my goodness the water views are amazing!!!

    • 27th April 2016 / 20:29

      Weren’t they just?! I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to stay on the boat all day.

  6. 27th April 2016 / 00:52

    What a great way to do some more sightseeing! Love your pictures 🙂

    • 27th April 2016 / 20:29

      It was brilliant! We saw lots and from all different angles. I’m really glad we got the chance to do it.

  7. 27th April 2016 / 01:09

    Agree this is a great way to explore. I would love to do to the Asian side too. Hey, if a city is by the water, you better take a look at that city from a boat, ship or catamaran.

    • 27th April 2016 / 20:42

      Exactly! Given half a chance, we will always get on a boat if we can. It all comes from my husband being descended from pirates – you just try and keep him away from any kind of seafaring vessel! The Asian side was brilliant, different but not hugely so. Just more chilled out, I think.

  8. 27th April 2016 / 07:07

    Great tips! I took a boat tour when I visited but agree, it was very touristy, although nice to see the city at night. Next time I would definitely go for this option!

    • 27th April 2016 / 20:43

      Oh that would have been lovely. Now I wish we’d gone out at night too! I think the ferries run fairly late… I found it a great option as we weren’t really on for a big cruise type thing, although if we had more time I’d have liked the treat I think. Was there a good commentary/audio guide etc?

      • 29th April 2016 / 21:33

        No, it was part of our Travel Talk tour but more of a social thing – fairly low on the guidance!

  9. 27th April 2016 / 15:36

    I’ll save this for when I finally make it to Istanbul. I hear it’s a must to see it from the water!

    • 27th April 2016 / 20:44

      Please do! It’s gorgeous from the water. It’s gorgeous from all angles to be honest, we found the views from Beyoğlu just as pretty. But there’s nothing quite like being out on the water!

  10. 28th April 2016 / 11:13

    lol that hotel. seriously though, the views and pictures are gorgeous. i don’t know if i will ever get to istanbul, but generally i like to mix it up with organised tours and then do it yourself kind of tours like this.. like some of the best views of the sydney harbour are from the manly ferry, don’t you reckon? no need for a tour, though it definitely costs as much as one haha. we seriously sat on the side of the ferry with frozen cokes and looked at the water and opera house and KC thought it was the best ‘tour’ we’d done even though.. zero tour. anyway. gorgeous pictures!

    • 28th April 2016 / 21:30

      Glad I’m not the only one who got a laugh out of that! Hopefully it means something else in Turkish… Totally agree about the Manly ferry, such a great trip! My sister used to live in Manly so I’d catch it quite a lot when I went to stay. I’ve got some fond memories of that boat! I think it makes for a great tour, and I’m sure you were a fantastic guide… right?!

      • 11th May 2016 / 21:22

        oh totally, i was like ‘look here’s the water, and the opera house, now shut up and let me eat my ice cream’ great guide!

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