- I left the US to start over and have spent the last few months loving Istanbul.
- I realized that the city is suitable for me. It is also beautiful and very social.
- I love taking the ferry instead of the subway to walk around and eat so much delicious food.
I left the US a few years ago to start over.
After spending time traveling the world, I wanted to find a new city to call home. After all, I’m a big city girl living in both Los Angeles and New York – although I’d definitely prefer somewhere more affordable.
About nine months ago, a friend suggested I go to Istanbul. It didn’t take long to see why.
The city is amazing and buzzing – and I find my American dollars go a long way here. I have officially fallen in love with this ancient and modern metropolis.
I was able to extend my tourist visa, but my time here is almost up and I don’t want to leave. Here’s why.
East meets West – perfect for those who appreciate history and culture
One of the most beautiful parts of Istanbul is how it mixes Asian and European cultures, from its cuisine to its architecture.
I can see, taste and feel parts of Central Asia, the Middle East and the Mediterranean as I walk.
As a former New Yorker, it’s important to me to live in a place that feels like a real mix of cultures. Istanbul feels a little familiar and foreign, ancient and modern — I get the best of many worlds here.
Living here has been incredibly convenient for me
The local currency, the lira, has weakened against the US dollar in recent months, allowing my American cash to go far.
For example, I live in a digital nomad hotel in Kadıköy, one of the most popular neighborhoods on the Asian side, right by the water.
Such a cool neighborhood would be way out of my budget in NYC or LA, but I only pay $400 for my room here – and that includes internet, electricity, and other utilities.
I only spend $100 a month, if that. I also regularly buy delicious food at low prices.
I recently had an artisanal kombucha and salmon dish at a restaurant for $12. This price wouldn’t give me much when I was eating at home.
I also went to a concert recently and got one of the best seats in the house for under $5.
All in all, I spend about $1,500 a month to live very comfortably. I am able to save money every month, which I always found difficult when living in NYC.
Still, foreign debit card fees add up, and Istanbul’s ATMs often charge 6% to 8% withdrawal fees. I pay cash when I can and try to withdraw larger amounts from my bank during the month.
The fact that Istanbul is a mecca of beauty and health means that I can take care of myself
Istanbul is a popular destination for medical tourism.
nation go to Istanbul to complete the procedures because the prices for things like botox, facials, dental work, and microneedling procedures are pretty cheap.
The affordable prices mean I’ve been able to prioritize self-care in a way I couldn’t when I lived in the US.
For example, I got a massage in Istanbul for $30 a pop. When I lived in the US I couldn’t find one for less than $75. Since I can afford a massage, I have a massage once a month.
I also now have a personal trainer who costs me $10 an hour for 10 sessions – less than half the lowest prices I’ve seen while living in the US.
It is a super social city
As a sprawling metropolis, each neighborhood feels like its own little world, with alleyways lined with bars, shops, restaurants, markets and cafes.
In my experience, Istanbul has a lively nightlife and many people like to go out and socialize. The terraces are often full of people as soon as the sun starts to set.
Many neighborhoods are so lively and welcoming that even when I’m alone I feel like I’m social.
I travel almost exclusively by ferry
Istanbul is a major port city along the Bosphorus Strait, which spans Europe and Asia. Fortunately, my proximity to the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara, connected by the Bosphorus, means I can go almost anywhere by ferry.
Ample ferry access is probably the most exciting part of living here. It’s a quick way to get around, the views are spectacular, and the ride cost me less than $1.
In my opinion, Istanbul’s elevated trains, buses and subways are also quite efficient and well designed.
Stunning art and architecture it’s everywhere
I feel very lucky to be able to visit Hagia Sophia at sunset and watch the Blue Mosque glow at night. The remarkable monuments alone are worth returning to the Sultanahmet area, regardless of the hour.
In addition, there are ancient ruins and more than 3,000 mosques all over the city.
I also enjoy the museum and gallery scene, whether exploring contemporary art galleries in Beyoğlu or visiting contemporary museums in the seaport.
I find great coffee and food everywhere I go
Turkey’s coffee culture is incredible and I love enjoying the delicious drink and rituals surrounding it all over Istanbul.
Delicious and full-bodied Turkish coffee is often served in real porcelain and can be ordered from street carts, which prepare it the traditional way using hot sand.
When it comes to food in Istanbul, I especially love mezes – small appetizers like orzo, salad, grape leaf stuffing and yogurt-based spread served as an appetizer.
The street food I ate was also tasty and affordable. I had mussels stuffed with chestnuts, corn and seasoned rice and drizzled with fresh lemon juice for a few bucks.
And of course the desserts are dreamy. The Turkish Delight is chewy and delicious, and I have baklava filled with pistachios, walnuts, and almonds every night.