Istanbul, with a population of nearly 14 million spread over an area over 5000 square kilometers, is the world's second largest city proper and the only major city in the world that stretches over two different continents. The Asian and European portions of the city are divided by the Bosphorus Strait, and connected through two suspension bridges both over a kilometer long.
Founded in 7th Century BC, and the city has served as the capital of four empires (Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman). Today, it serves as Turkey's cultural and economic center (but it is not Turkey's capital; that designation belongs to Ankara), responsible for producing over a quarter of the country's GDP and over 40 percent of its tax revenues and exports. It is also a very popular tourist destination, ranking the 5th most visited city in the world in 2012 by the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index.
Istanbul International Ataturk Airport (IST) is the primary international airport in Istanbul. It's on the European side and about 28 km west of the city centre. It is a modern airport and has a tourist office, post office, 24-hour banking, ATMs, cell phone retailers selling SIM cards, car rental offices, exchange bureaus, and several shops and restaurants.
Please remember to visit the AIB Air Travel Discounts page for a special Star Alliance discount for AIB conference participants.
To attend the AIB conference in Turkey, foreign nationals may need a Single Entry Tourist Visa. However, a number of countries are exempt from the visa requirement. Citizens of a second set of countries can simply pay a fee and get a "visa sticker" at the border gate at Istanbul Airport (exact amount and cash only - SEE UPDATE BELOW). Others will need to apply to a close-by Turkish Consulate or Mission, in advance, to apply for a visa.
The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a Visa Information for Foreigners page which provides a detailed listing of all countries and whether a visa is required for entry into Turkey. There is also a list of Turkish Embassies/Consulates/Missions around the world available.
You can also visit the Consular Website of the Republic of Turkey, select your Country and the closest mission to reach the most up-to-date information available.
If you need an invitation letter to attend the conference in Istanbul, please contact the AIB Secretariat to request one after you have registered for the conference.
UPDATE AS OF MAY 1, 2013: The Turkish Government has just announced a new Visa website that is supposed to consolidate all the sites above, and also provide e-Visas for a select group of countries (those that were previously eligible for 'visa stickers' at the airport). The site located at https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/ just went live on April 17th, so we have no experience with the process. If it works as advertised it should make the process easier on everyone. Particularly those that are eligible for e-visas can now get the visas at the comfort of their home with their Credit/Debit Cards, instead of lining up at the airport and paying with cash.
The AIB 2013 meeting will take place at Hilton Istanbul located at Harbiye on the European side of Istanbul, a short walk from the popular Taksim district. The conference venue will also serve as the primary conference hotel for the AIB 2013 meeting. Please visit http://aib.msu.edu/events/2013/Lodging.asp for reservations.
You have three alternatives to get from the Ataturk Airport to Hilton Istanbul (or any other hotel in the area).
Please also note that it is technically possible to use the Municipal Rail Network to get from the airport to Taksim, however we do not recommend it as you will need to transfer multiple times and some of the transfers are not readily obvious. The network is great to travel around Istanbul once you have your bearings, but not for first time arrivals and not when hauling luggage.
The legal tender is the Turkish Lira (TRY). However, you may also see prices for medium-to-large value items may be quoted in Euros or US Dollars, especially in touristic areas. Visa and Mastercards are widely accepted at most stores, restaurants, and hotels, except for very small stores, street vendors, and taxis. American Express is also accepted, but not as frequently. Most stores accepting Credit/Debit Cards will utilize machines that will look for chip-and-pin Credit/Debit Cards, so US travelers may face difficulty in certain places, so please make sure to have enough cash with you at all times. ATMs and exchange bureaus are practically everywhere in Istanbul.
In July, Istanbul will be in is in the Eastern European Summer Time (EEST) which is UTC+3.
Turkey operates in 220 volts, 50 cycles (50hz), with two round-prong European style plugs. Please remember to bring any adapters you need.
In July, Istanbul will be hot and humid, with daytime temperatures around 25-28°C but it may feel worse due to humidity. Light layers of clothing is advisable as most indoor spaces also do not have sufficient air-conditioning. However, please keep in mind that Turks dress fairly conservatively in cities, so avoid wearing shorts and other revealing clothes.
Turkish is the official language. You will find that most touristic shops and major hotels have foreign language speaking staff, but smaller stores and restaurants as well as taxi drivers may be hit or miss.
It is very easy to find Internet cafes anywhere in the city with reasonable prices. Many restaurants, cafes, hotels, and bars will also have Wi-fi but you will need to ask for the password. The lodging rates at Hilton Istanbul for the AIB conference include free Wi-fi access at the hotel.
Istanbul is generally quite safe, especially in the major commercial and tourist areas of the city. However, as with any large city, especially those with many tourists, please use common sense and be cautious. Avoid deserted streets and alleys after dark. Pickpocketing is common especially in crowded spaces so secure your belongings. Also keep an eye out for some common tourist scams.
Tipping is quite modest in Turkey. You can tip in Turkish Liras (coins or bills) or a foreign currency (bills only, coins cannot be exchanged). In general, tip around 10 percent in restaurants, cafés and bars. Hotel staff will also expect tips depending on the service they provided; for porters a 5 TL note is appropriate. At the airport, if a porter assists you, pay about 2-3 TL per bag. Turks usually do not tip taxi drivers but round up the fares to a convenient amount. Please note that there is no way to leave tips using Credit/Debit Cards like in most Western countries, tips are always left in cash.
IDEE Travel, our valuable partners in Turkey assisting AIB with conference arrangements and tours, has put together two PDF guides for AIB members:
If you have visited Istanbul recently (or you are a local AIB member) and would like to share personal recommendations with AIB members that will be participating in AIB 2013, please use the form below to add your recommendations to this list.
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