The Haghia Sofia, Istanbul

The incredible Haghia Sofia (above) & beautiful Blue Mosque (below), both just 10 minutes walk from Istanbul's Sirkeci station.

Istanbul's famous Blue Mosque

London to Istanbul in 4 days by train

Istanbul is Europe's most exotic city, at the very edge of Europe where east meets west.  Can you still travel from London to Istanbul by train?  Of course!  The journey is pretty straightforward, safe & comfortable, see the video guide.  Yet it's also an epic 2,000 mile 4-night adventure, rediscovering some of the mystery, intrigue and romance of long-distance train travel through the Balkans.

On this page you'll find an easy step-by-step guide to planning, booking & making a train journey between London or Paris and Istanbul, one-way or return, eastbound or westbound, using an Interrail pass or normal tickets, with schedules, fares, what the journey is like, suggested stopovers and how to book.

Train times, fares & tickets

small bullet point  Which route to choose?

small bullet point  London to Istanbul via Paris, Munich, Budapest & Bucharest

small bullet point  Variations via Harwich-Hoek ferry, via Brussels or via Sofia

small bullet point  Useful country information: dial code, currency...

small bullet point  Travel insurance, mobile data, VPN & other tips

small bullet point  Venice-Simplon-Orient Express to Istanbul

small bullet point  Hotels in Istanbul & the famous Pera Palas

On other pages

small bullet point  Starting from other UK towns & cities

small bullet point  About the train from Bucharest & Sofia to Istanbul

small bullet point  Train travel in Turkey, beyond Istanbul

small bullet point  Trains from other European cities to Istanbul

small bullet point  Trains from Istanbul to other European cities

 

small bullet point  General information for train travel in Europe

small bullet point  Luggage on trains & luggage lockers at stations

small bullet point  Taking your bike & Taking dogs

small bullet point  Eurail pass guide & Interrail pass guide

small bullet point  The Orient Express, the truth behind the legend

small bullet point  Istanbul-Aleppo-Damascus-Jordan & on to Cairo

small bullet point  Istanbul-Tehran by Trans-Asia Express train

small bullet point  Istanbul-Thessaloniki-Athens by train

small bullet point  Istanbul-Cyprus by train+ferry

small bullet point  Istanbul-Odessa (Ukraine) by ferry

Route map:  London to Istanbul by train

London to Istanbul train routes


Useful country information

Train operator

in Turkey:

TCDD (Trkiye Cumhuryeti Devlet Demiryollan) www.tcddtasimacilik.gov.tr

Train travel within Turkey     Istanbul-Athens     Istanbul-Sofia/Belgrade 

All-Europe online train times      Istanbul-Iran     Istanbul-Syria/Jordan

 

Railpasses:

Beginner's guide to European railpasses    Buy a rail pass online

Time zone:

GMT+3. No daylight saving time as of 2016.

Dialling code:

 

+90

Currency:

1 = 35 Turkish Lira  1 = 31 TL.  Currency converter

Tourist information: 

www.turizm.gov.tr     www.turkeytravelplanner.com    

Recommended guidebooks    Map of Istanbul

Hotels:

Hotels in Istanbul including the famous Pera Palas Hotel.   Tripadvisor

Visas:

As from March 2020, UK & EU citizens no longer need a visa for Turkey for stays of up to 90 days.

Page last updated:

15 November 2023.  Train times valid 10 December 2023 to 14 December 2024.


Which route to choose?

There are two basic route strategies:  Through Budapest & Bucharest, and through Zagreb, Belgrade & Sofia.

Unfortunately, the Zagreb-Belgrade train was suspended during the pandemic and is still suspended due to general Balkan incompetence.  Belgrade's other link with western Europe, the Budapest-Belgrade line, is closed for reconstruction and won't reopen until at least 2025.  Meanwhile, a combination of track reconstruction and similar incompetence has buggered the Belgrade-Sofia line.  So Zagreb-Belgrade-Sofia is currently a dead loss.  Serbia is becoming a travel black hole.

So at the moment it's a no-brainer, you should travel from London or Paris to Istanbul via Budapest and Bucharest as shown below.  On this page I show arguably the most obvious combination of trains via this route, but there are endless permutations, I show a few possible variations here.

Istanbul Sirkeci closed to mainline trains

Sadly, Istanbul's historic Sirkeci station closed to mainline trains in March 2013.  The suburban trains now call at Sirkeci's new underground platforms before passing through the Marmaray tunnel under the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul.  The one daily international train now terminates at Halkali, a suburban station some 25km west of Sirkeci station from where you can take a Marmaray suburban train to Sirkeci in the city centre.

Sirkeci station's long-term future is not clear.  It may become a museum, it's just possible that a single-track connection to one or two platforms will be restored and the international train will once again reach the shores of the Bosphorus at Sirkeci.  Or they may continue to use Halkali permanently.  We shall see.

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London to Istanbul via Bucharest

This section explains the train times, the cost, what the trains and the journey are like, and how to arrange tickets.  If you'd prefer to travel via Brussels rather than Paris & Stuttgart, or would prefer to take a ferry via Harwich-Hoek van Holland instead of Eurostar, no problem, see the suggested variations heres.

small bullet point  London to Istanbul train times, eastbound 

small bullet point  Istanbul to London train times, westbound

small bullet point  Can I stop off on the way?

small bullet point  How much does it cost?

 

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  What's the journey like?

small bullet point  How to book using an Interrail pass

 

London ► Istanbul

Istanbul ► London

Can I stop off on the way?

How much does it cost?

There are two different ways to ticket a London to Istanbul train journey: (a) Normal point-to-point tickets for each train or (b) an Interrail pass.

Point-to-point tickets are cheapest, if you buy cheap advance-purchase tickets for each train several months ahead at the cheapest prices.

But advance-purchase tickets commit you to a specific train with limited or no refunds or changes allowed.  I recommend using an Interrail pass because of the extra flexibility it offers.  With a pass you can simply reschedule or re-route if fire, flood, or missed connections affect your journey.  If you live outside Europe, you qualify for a Eurail pass rather than Interrail, but pricing & reservations are exactly the same as for an Interrail.  Here is a rough summary of the total costs:

 Rough total cost

 Very approximate total cost from

 London to Istanbul by train, including

 a couchette Stuttgart-Budapest,

 Budapest-Bucharest

 & Bucharest-Istanbul

 Point-to-point tickets - all ages

 assuming cheapest possible fare, bought online from cheapest source.

 230 one-way

 430 return

 Using an Interrail pass - Adult

 5-travel-days-in-1-month Interrail for one-way,

 10-travel-days-in-2-months Interrail for a return,

 plus couchette & sleeper supplements:

 355 one-way

 540 return

 Using an Interrail pass - Youth under 28

 5-travel-days-in-1-month Interrail for one-way,

 10-travel-days-in-2-months Interrail for a return,

 plus couchette & sleeper supplements:

 290 one-way

 460 return

 Using an Interrail pass - Senior over 60

 5-travel-days-in-1-month Interrail for one-way,

 10-travel-days-in-2-months Interrail for a return,

 plus couchette & sleeper supplements:

 330 one-way

 520 return

Cost if you use point-to-point tickets

Calculating the cost of a London to Istanbul train journey is a black art.  You're not buying a London to Istanbul ticket, there's no such thing.  You're buying a separate ticket for each train, and the price varies depending how far ahead you book.  So get a calculator and add up the fare for your chosen class or sleeper or couchette for each leg of the journey.  Fares for Eurostar, TGV, Kalman Imre & Railjet are dynamic like air fares, varying depending on how popular that date & train is and how far ahead you book.  Budapest to Bucharest also has some limited-availability offers if you book online direct with Hungarian Railways.  From Bucharest to Istanbul, the price shown below is fixed and is what you pay even at the station on the day.

 1. London to Paris

 by Eurostar

 From 52 one-way, 78 return 2nd class.

 From 97 one-way, 168 return 1st class.  Child fares 

 

 2. Paris to Stuttgart

     by TGV

 From 39.90 each way in 2nd class

 From 69.90 each way in 1st class.

 The price varies like air fares, so book ahead.

 If you book at int.bahn.de, accompanied children under 15 go free.

 

 3. Stuttgart to Budapest

 on the Kalman Imre

In a  

seat:

In a couchette

In the sleeping-car

6-berth

4-berth

3-berth

2-berth

single

 Fares start at (each way):

29

49

59

69

79

139

 

 4. Budapest to Bucharest

 on the Ister

 Bought online at MAV or CFR website

 From 39 with a bed in a 6-bunk couchette;

 From 46 with a bed in a 6-bunk couchette;

 From 69 with a bed in a 3-bed sleeper;

 From 84 with a bed in a 2-bed sleeper;

 From 162 with a single-bed sleeper

 All per person, berths sold individually, you don't need to fill the whole compartment.

 Booked in the UK

 87 each way in 6-berth couchettes.

 95 each way in 4-berth couchettes.

 99 each way in 3-bed sleeper

 112 in 2-bed sleeper

 198 in single sleeper.

 162 each way in 2-bed deluxe sleeper with shower, 209 in single-bed deluxe.

 All per person, berths sold individually, you don't need to fill the whole compartment.

 

 5. Bucharest to Istanbul

 Bought at the station in Bucharest or Istanbul or

 (in summer when the direct car runs) online from Romanian Railways

 37.20 for a ticket + 14 supplement for a couchette in 4-berth compartment.

 The train is priced in euros, but you will be charged in Turkish Lira or Bulgarian Lei.

 Booked in the UK

 76 each way in 4-berth couchettes.

Cost if you use an Interrail pass

Using an Interrail pass is the most flexible way to travel from London or Paris to Istanbul.  It costs almost the same as point-to-point tickets if you're under 28 years old, it costs a bit more than point-to-point tickets if you're over 28, but the extra flexibility is worth it, especially for a round trip.  After buying the pass, you still need to pay for a Eurostar passholder fare & sleeper or couchette reservations.  More information about Interrail passes & how they work.  Here's the breakdown:

How to book using an Interrail pass

How to book using point-to-point tickets

  Tailor Made Rail

Or let Tailor Made Rail arrange it for you

Or buy tickets by phone

If you're in Istanbul, how to buy tickets to western Europe

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Gare du Nord station guide.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Stuttgart by TGV Duplex   See the video guide

In Paris it's an easy 7 minute 500m walk from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de l'Est for the TGV to Germany.  Sit back with a glass of red and enjoy the ride - book an upper deck seat for the best views.  The train is equipped with power sockets for laptops & mobiles at all seats in both classes, and a cafe-bar serves drinks, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.  The train soon leaves the Paris suburbs behind and speeds across a vast wide open plateau of woods & farmland at up to 320 km/h (199 mph), past picturesque French villages of the Champagne region.  An hour or two later, the train leaves the high-speed line and slowly meanders through pretty wooded hills, the countryside eventually flattening out towards Strasbourg.  On leaving Strasbourg, look out for Strasbourg cathedral on the left with its famously missing second tower.  Minutes afterwards you rumble across the river Rhine into Germany, before heading on to Stuttgart.  Paris Gare de l'Est station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de l'Est

TGV Duplex at Paris Est. These impressive 320 km/h double-deck trains link Paris & Stuttgart, a relaxing journey with reading book & glass of wine.  Book an upstairs seat for the best views.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck in car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on the upper deck.  There's a mix or tables for 4 and unidirectional seating.  360 photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   An TGV Duplex to Munich at Paris Est.

1st class on upper deck, a club duo on the left, a club quatre on the right.  360 photo.

 

TGV Duplex.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

3. Stuttgart to Budapest by sleeper train Kalman Imre

Cosy & inviting, the photo below shows the modern air-conditioned Hungarian sleeping-car of the Kalman Imre at Munich.  The sleeping-car has 11 compartments with washbasin, each of which can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth room, with toilets at the end of the corridor.  The fare includes a light breakfast of coffee, juice & croissant More about the sleeper train Kalman Imre.

The sleeper train Kalman Imre from Munich to  Budapest

Sleeper train Kalman Imre at Munich Hbf.  More information about this train.

The sleeper train from Zurich to Budapest   4-berth couchettes on train to Budapest   6-berth couchettes on train to Budapest

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper, set up as a 2-bed.

 

4-berth couchettes.

 

6-berth couchettes.

City of Budapest & the Danube

Good morning Budapest!

4. Budapest to Bucharest by sleeper train Ister

The Ister from Budapest to Bucharest has a modern air-conditioned Romanian sleeping-car with carpeted 1, 2 or 3-berth compartments with proper beds & washbasin, plus several deluxe 1, 2 or 3 bed compartments with private toilet & shower, see the photos below.  Travelling in the sleeping-car is safe, comfortable & civilised.  The Ister also has a Romanian couchette car with 6-berth & 4-berth compartments, each berth with rug, sheet & pillow, berths converting to seats by day.  Couchettes are fairly basic, and a proper bed in the sleeper is much more comfortable and secure yet costs very little extra, so is the recommended option.  There's a Romanian bar-bistro car attached in Romania serving a cooked breakfast eastbound and dinner westbound, but taking some supplies of your own is always a good idea.  The Ister also has air-conditioned seats cars, but a mere seat is not recommended.

Traveller Philip Dyer-Perry reports:  "Budapest to Bucharest on the Ister is an absolute pleasure. I booked online with MAV and travelled in the new sleeping car, which was comfortable, smooth, and clean. There is a shower, but obviously not intended for use as most of the hose assembly was missing.  There was a dining car, and if you ask you can get a menu, but it's better to ask the man what he's got and negotiate a price.  If you have hard (non-Romanian) currency there is a certain amount of flexibility.  In the evening it was chicken & potatoes, next morning it was a rather tasty omelette.  Just be aware that the main purpose of the dining car is as a place for the traincrew to smoke!  It's good though, and a world away from Western Europe.  The Ister was around 20 minutes late on arrival in Bucharest, but the sleeping car attendant assured a fellow traveller that he would make the connection to Istanbul. In fact he even phoned his colleague on that train.  Once we pulled in we both ran, he to the Istanbul car, me to the Sofia portion, and we made it..."

2-berth sleeper on the Ister   The Ister at Bucharest Nord

A 1, 2 or 3-bed sleeper with washbasin.  Larger photo.

 

The sleeping-car (vagon de dormit) on the westbound Ister at Bucharest.  Sleepers convert from beds to private sitting rooms for day use.  Courtesy of @AndyBTravels, DiscoverByRail.com.

Couchette car on the Ister EuroNight train from Budapest to Bucharest   Romanian couchette car from Vienna to Bucharest

The vagon cuseta (couchette car) on the westbound Ister, boarding at Bucharest.  Couchettes convert from bunks at night to seats by day.  Courtesy of @AndyBTravels, DiscoverByRail.com.

 

4 or 6-berth couchettes.  Larger photo.

Brasov station, Romania   Scenery approaching the Carpathian mountains

Brasov station in Transylvania.

 

After Brasov, the train climbs into the Carpathian mountains.

More Transylvanian scenery Predeal station, Romania

Scenery between Brasov & Predeal.

Predeal station, with Carpathian crags visible behind.

5. Bucharest to Istanbul

In summer between June & early October, an air-conditioned Turkish couchette car with 4-berth compartments operates direct from Bucharest to Istanbul Halkali.  In winter between October & June you travel in seats cars on a series of connecting trains from Bucharest to Dimitrovgrad, then in the sleeping-cars or couchettes of the Sofia-Istanbul Express to Istanbul.  The route and scenery are the same.

A few hours after leaving Bucharest the train reaches the Romanian border point, Giurgiu.  It then crosses the Danube into Bulgaria on a 2.5 km long steel bridge, the longest steel bridge in Europe, built in 1954 and now fitted with a road deck above the railway.  The Bosfor then spends a lazy afternoon meandering along pleasant river valleys across rural Bulgaria.  Pour yourself a beer or glass of wine (remember to bring your own food & drink as there's no catering), read away the hours & enjoy the trip.

After a late-night passport check at the Bulgarian border at Svilengrad, the train reaches the Turkish frontier at Kapikule well after midnight.  Here you will need to leave the train briefly to get your bags X-rayed then your passport stamped.

The train used to make a dramatic entry into Istanbul, passing through the Byzantine Walls of Theodosius and skirting the Sea of Marmara underneath the very walls of the Topkapi Palace, but now it terminates at Halkali and you take a Marmaray suburban train for the last bit into Istanbul.  However, you still arrive at Istanbul's historic Sirkeci station built in 1888 in the heart of the city, albeit at the new Marmaray platforms which are underground.  Sirkeci station is walking distance from all the sights, or you can hop into a taxi to the famous Pera Palas Hotel.  Expect an arrival an hour or two late, so allow for this and enjoy the ride.  Map of Istanbul showing Sirkeci station For more information about this journey, see the Bucharest to Istanbul page.

The Sofia-Istanbul train at Sofia   Fridge & table in a Turkish sleeper on the Sofia-Istanbul train

Boarding the train.

 

4-berth couchette compartment with berths folded away.

Scenery in the Shipka Pass, Bulgaria

Across Bulgaria.  Lush green scenery as the train descends the Shipka Pass.

Veliko Tarnovo station, Bulgaria   Craggy scenery in Bulgaria

Veliko Tarnovo station.

 

Crags near Veliko Tarnovo.

The Turkish border at Kapikule   Passport office, Kapikule

At Kapikule after midnight you must get off to have your bags X-rayed.  Courtesy of Frdric Pard.

 

...and then get your passport stamped in the passport office.

Sunrise over Turkey

Good morning Turkey!  Dawn breaks as the train speeds east towards Istanbul.

The train at Halkali

Halkali  The Sofia-Istanbul Express with through car to/from Bucharest, at Halkali.  Courtesy of John Mcnamara.

The transfer bus from Halkali outside Istanbul Sirkeci station.

Istanbul Sirkeci station.  You travel from Halkali to Sirkeci by frequent Marmaray suburban train, arriving at the new underground platforms beneath this historic station.  Courtesy of Philip Dyer-Perry.

Bosphorus ferry   View over Istanbul from the Galata Tower

Ferries sail frequently across the Bosphorus from Europe side to Asia.  They also run occasional cruises through the Bosphorus to the edge of the Black Sea, well worth taking.

 

The Haghia Sofia (left) & Blue Mosque (right) seen from the top of the Galata Tower.  The equally famous Topkapi Palace is just out of shot to the left.

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Possible variations

Variation via the Harwich-Hoek ferry

  • This is worth knowing about if you need to travel at short notice when Eurostar is expensive, or if there are any problems affecting the Channel Tunnel or Eurostar, if you want to avoid the Tunnel, if you live in East Anglia, or simply want to travel via Amsterdam.

  • Simply book an overnight journey from London (or any Greater Anglia station such as Norwich or Cambridge) to Hoek van Holland by Stena Line Rail & Sail service as shown on the Stena Line Rail & Sail page and continue to either Amsterdam or Utrecht as shown.  Then take trains to Munich, or the sleeper to Vienna. 

  • In Munich or Vienna you can pick up the route via Bucharest shown above.

Variation via Paris/Brussels & Vienna

  • You can travel London-Paris/Brussels-Vienna-Budapest instead of London-Paris-Munich-Budapest, it makes relatively little difference to the time or cost, see the London to Hungary page for details of train times, fares & how to buy tickets. 

  • You take Eurostar from London to Brussels or Paris then the excellent Nightjet sleeper train from Paris or Brussels to Vienna for a connecting railjet train to Budapest.  From Budapest onwards you join the route via Bucharest shown above.

Variation via Sofia

  • This adds an extra day and night, but you may want to stop off in the Bulgarian capital with the advantage that there's a direct Sofia-Istanbul sleeper train with proper sleeping-cars all year round, not just a summer-only couchette car and off-season multi-train combo as from Bucharest to Istanbul.

  • You take the daily train from Bucharest to Sofia as shown here, it's direct in summer, change at Ruse off-season, and spend a night and next day in Sofia.  You then take the Sofia-Istanbul sleeper, as shown here.

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London to Istanbul by Orient Express cruise train

  • The Venice Simplon Orient Express runs from Paris to Istanbul once a year, usually in August, with vintage 1920s Wagons-Lits sleeping-cars, restaurant cars and lounge.  The journey costs around 5,000 per person, but it's very popular and normally leaves fully-booked, so buy tickets as soon as you can.  To find out more about this train, see the Seat 61 Venice Simplon Orient Express page.  To check prices & to book online, go to www.belmond.com/venice-simplon-orient-express.

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Train travel within Turkey

  • There are some excellent train services in Turkey.  For train travel within Turkey, including onwards express trains from Istanbul to Ankara, Konya, Izmir, Cappadocia and Pamukkale, see the Train travel in Turkey page.

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European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses) or www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide) or at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses).

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GuidebooksAmazon logo

To get the most out of your trip, definitely take a good guidebook - I'd recommend the Lonely Planets guides as about the best out there for independent travellers.  The Middle East guide is less detailed, but covers Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iran, Israel and other countries as well as Turkey.

Click the images to buy online at Amazon.co.uk

Lonely Planet Turkey - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Middle East - click to buy online

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Hotels in Istanbul & Turkey

Without a doubt, the historic Pera Palas Hotel is the most interesting place to stay, see the section below.  It wasn't that expensive, by grand hotel standards, although prices have risen after refurbishment.  The nearby Grand Hotel de Londres offers similar affordable grandeur, www.londrahotel.net, it's apparently a favourite with archaeologists working in Turkey!  Alternatively, the Yasmak Sultan is a good choice.  For a good cheap hotel in the Sultanahmet travellers' area, try the Park Hotel.

Pera Palas Hotel, Istanbul.  Check prices

Easily the most famous and historic hotel in Istanbul is the Pera Palas, built in 1892 by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits to accommodate the passengers arriving by train on the Orient Express from London and Paris.  Agatha Christie, Mustafa Kemal Attaturk and even King George V have stayed here.  It was completely refurbished in 2010 with its delightfully faded grandeur fully restored.  If your budget will stretch, it's a wonderful and historic place to stay.  One of it's rooms has been kept as a museum to Turkish leader Ataturk, another room (411) was regularly used by Agatha Christie, and can actually be booked by guests.  Check prices & book the Pera Palace.

The Man in Seat 61 says:  "Istanbul's famous Pera Palas hotel is a classic, one of my favourite hotels anywhere - admittedly much pricier after its refurbishment, but now a true 5 star hotel with helpful & friendly staff.  It's a special place for my wife and I, it just happens to be where I told my wife she was pregnant with our first child, after the hotel's duty manager translated a certain Turkish word..."

Pera Palas hotel main entrance   The Pera Palas Hotel, Istanbul

The Pera Palas hotel, main entrance.

 

The Pera Palas hotel, after its recent refurbishment.

Pera Palace Hotel, lobby   Pera Palas Hotel, main lounge   Pera Palace hotel lift

Pera Palace Hotel, lobby.

 

Main lounge.

 

The old lift.

Pera Palas Hotel, Istanbul:  Typical bedroom.   Agatha Christie's room 411 at the Pera Palas Hotel

Bedrooms have been elegantly refurbished.  This is a corner suite, with sitting room next door.

 

Room 411, where Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express (before refurbishment)

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

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Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection and gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Maya.net logo

Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list.  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card!  Maya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you 5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Buy from Amazon.com.

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!

 


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