Practical information


(This page will be regularly updated. Get in touch if you think crucial information is missing.)

1. Visa

You want to check with your local authorities if you need a visa to enter Turkey. The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides some information here, but the page seems a bit outdated. Citizens of many countries don't need a visa, and others can get it at the airport for a fee of around 15--20 Euros, depending on your citizenship. Please do check in advance. Keep in mind that your passport has to be valid for another 6 months when entering Turkey.

At the airport, you will see a counter saying "Vize/Visa" next to passport control. If you are amongst the people who can/have to buy a visa at the airport, make sure you get it before the passport control, because the border police will send you back to the visa counter without a visa---and you might waste lots of time queuing. Once you have your visa, or if you don't need one to begin with, you are ready for passport control, which is usually divided in one section for Turkish citizens (Türk vatandaşları) and one for everybody else. The queues at Atatürk Airport are often quite long, be prepared.

2. Travel to and from Istanbul

Istanbul is served by two airports, one on the European side (Atatürk Airport), one on the Asian side (Sabiha Gökçen Airport). The one on the European side is closer to "central" Istanbul, but most low cost carriers fly into the one on the Asian side.

More information about the airports can be found here:
Atatürk Airport (Europe)
Sabiha Gökçen Airport (Asia)

Turkish Airports have security controls also at the entrances, so once you leave the airport, you need to go through security to get back in again. Don't step out for a smoke or fresh air unless you know you are done with everything inside.

3. Travel to and from the airports

Public transport serves both airports, but sadly it doesn't take you any place particularly useful for a tourist. The easiest way to get to town is the bus service offered by the company Havataş: Buses run every half hour between Atatürk Airport and Taksim Square (price: 10 TL) as well as Sabiha Gökçen Airport and Taksim Square (price: 12 TL). The Havataş buses leave right in front of the airports and have their terminus on Taksim Square, which is the major transport hub on the European side of Istanbul. From there it is easy to catch a bus taking you to Boğaziçi University. Note that parts of Taksim Square are currently under construction, but don't let that discourage you.

4. Public transport in Istanbul

For a map of metros, trams, commuter trains and the so-called Metrobüs (a fast bus across Istanbul), click here . Sadly, there is no map with all the busroutes online.

Below some information on how to use the bus, tram and the metro. For detailed information on how to get to Boğaziçi University, see the sections to follow.

4. 1. Buses

You will need a ticket before you get on the bus, since tickets are no longer sold by the drivers. At the airport, at Taksim Square or in many other places look for shops that have a sign "Akbil dolumu". (Note that parts of Taksim Square have been under construction since the beginning of November, and finding such shops there has become hard, so rather look around elswhere.) Those places should sell (electronic) tickets that are valid for one trip ("bir geçişlik", 4 TL), two ("iki geçişlik", 7 TL), three ("üç geçişlik", 10 TL), five ("beş geçişlik", 15 TL) or ten ("on geçişlik", 28 TL). The more trips you buy, the cheaper it gets. The ticket is validated by holding it against the little machine next to the driver, the one that you pass by as you enter the bus. (Buses may only be entered through the front door.)

4. 2. Tram

The modern tram connecting the Eastern parts of Istanbul with Sultanahmet (the Old Town) and Beyoğlu (line T1) has stations which can be entered with the electronic ticket described in the previous section or with a "jeton" (a token). Those tokens are usually sold right next to the station. At the entrance of the station, hold your card against the reader or put in the token and pass through the turnstyle.

On İstiklâl Caddesi, one of the main shopping streets of Istanbul and its only pedestrianised street, there is an old-fashioned "Nostaljik Tramvay" running between Taksim and Tünel. You will need a travel card like on a bus for that.

4. 3. Metro

At the entrance of metro stations you will find turnstyles like at tram stops. Hold your card against the reader or put in the token and pass through the turnstyle. Tokens are sold in most metro stations.

5. Travel from Taksim to Boğaziçi University

Getting from Taksim Square to Boğaziçi University involves a bus ride on the bus 559C, which runs in 10 minute intervals. It leaves roughly opposite of the Marmara Hotel, the highest building on Taksim Square. If you have arrived at Taksim Square by a Havataş bus and want to go to Boğaziçi right away, you don't have to walk far: the stop of the 559C is right next to the stop of the Havataş bus, you just have to walk down some steps. (Click here for a little map with all bus stops indicated.) Taksim Square is the starting point of the 559C so you might even get a seat. The bus will have a sign in front saying "5559C Rumeli Hisarüstü".

The bus ride takes between 40 and 60 minutes (depending on traffic), and the stop you need to get off at is called "Boğaziçi Üniversitesi". Many, though not all, buses announce the stops, but since you can't rely on it, look outside on your journey and check the names on the actual bus stops. The last three before "Boğaziçi Üniversitesi" are "Basın Sitesi", "Cengiz Topel", "Nispetiye" (and then "Boğaziçi Üniversitesi").

Keep in mind that traffic in Istanbul can be very bad: At least for the first time when you take the bus, allow for plenty of time.

6. Travel from Sultanahmet or Sirkeci (Old Town) to Boğaziçi University

There is a modern tramway line (T1) running all the way through the Old Town. In order to get from there to Boğaziçi University, take the tram to its northern terminus, Kabataş. From Sultanahmet this should take you around 20 minutes. In Kabataş, you need to change to the bus 43R, which will have a sign in front saying "43R Rumeli Hisarüstü". Kabataş is the starting point of the 43R so you might even get a seat.

The bus ride takes between 40 and 60 minutes (depending on traffic), and the stop you need to get off at is called "Boğaziçi Üniversitesi". Many, though not all, buses announce the stops, but since you can't rely on it, look outside on your journey and check the names on the actual bus stops. The last three before "Boğaziçi Üniversitesi" are "Basın Sitesi", "Cengiz Topel", "Nispetiye" (and then "Boğaziçi Üniversitesi").

Keep in mind that traffic in Istanbul can be very bad: At least for the first time when you take the bus, allow for plenty of time.

7. The bus stop "Boğaziçi Üniversitesi"

The bus stop "Boğaziçi Üniversitesi" is next to a little square, where you will also see the main entrance to Boğaziçi University's South Campus -- a huge gate, not to be missed. (You can see an image here.) The guards at the gate might want to be shown your ID -- tell them "OCP" and that should do. (We will of course inform the guards about the conference.) Once you are through the gate, the road forks into two. Take the road on the right which leads downhill. Follow that road; after about 7--10 minutes you will come to the main Square of the campus. The lecture halls where the conference will take place are both situated next to that square. (See next section.)

8. Lecture halls

The entire conference will take place on the South Campus (Güney Kampüsü) of Boğaziçi University (click here for its location on Google Maps).

On the first two days of the conference (Wed, Thu) as well as the last day (Sat) we will be at Albert Long Hall, while on Friday we will be at Henrietta Washburn Hall. (Both buildings are indicated on our campus map). The rooms will be signposted.

9. Taxis

Taxis are yellow, have a sign "Taksi" and are generally easy to find. They are usually just hailed down on the street, but if you stay at a hotel they will also order one for you. There is a basic fee of 2.70 TL, and the price increases by distance (not time). This is the same at any time of the day and independent of the number of passengers. A trip from Atatürk Airport to the Old Town (Sultanahmet) or to Taksim (in the "New Town") should not cost more than 70--80 TL, a trip from Taksim to Boğaziçi University should not cost more than 25 TL, from Sultanahmet to Boğaziçi University around 40 TL. Taxi drivers are not tipped, but they will round up the price to the next full Lira.

Sadly, many taxi drivers try to make some extra money (on foreigners and locals alike), so take care not to be overcharged and to be given proper change. Pay in small notes, and preferrably the exact amount. You can also ask the taxi driver beforehand how much you think the trip will cost, so at least you know what he is planning and can still refrain from getting on if you smell trouble. Mind you, taxi drivers often don't speak English, so ideally have the name if your hotel/street/"Boğaziçi Üniversitesi" written down.

10. Weather

The best advice is to be prepared for everything. While on average winters in Istanbul are milder than many other places in Europe, this does not guarantee pleasant weather. In mid-January it might be nice and warm here, and one might not even need a coat during the day, but it can also be cold, windy and very rainy, and due to the high humidity, it often feels colder than it actually is. Every now and then it also snows and the temperatures fall below zero. So be prepared. Layered clothing is a good idea, and so are waterproof garments. When it rains here, it pours. And bring comfortable shoes, Istanbul streets can be tiring.

11. Language

Common wisdom has it that linguists speak many languages, but Turkish might not be amongst them. English will be enough in most tourist places, but don't expect everyone to speak it even there, and certainly not in non-tourist places. German is worth a try, but is of course less widespread than English.

For some common phrases and a linguistic survical guide, click here. (You can even learn how to say Monty Python's "My hovercraft is full of eels", now that's something.)

12. Tourist attractions

Where to begin? Istanbul not only straddles two continents, but it also boasts a history spanning literally thousands of years. Obviously, the main attraction is the OCP conference, but you might still want to squeeze in a visit at the Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque or Topkapı Palace. And go to a hamam and the bazar. And have Turkish coffee. And... For more details, have a look at TripAdvisor and the Wikipedia entry of Istanbul and/or get a good travel guide.