Crossing borders is always an exciting aspect of travelling. Often it leads to a new passport stamp, and can introduce you to a new culture, language and different food. I have done many border crossings recently, often in long, hot bus rides, taking up to 12 hours. I have crossed overland from Singapore to Malaysia, to Thailand, to Laos, into Cambodia and then Vietnam. Pretty standard on the South East Asia backpacker trail.
Flying is obviously easier, but not as fun.
Crossing continents however, can be a different kettle of fish. The seven continents of the World are huge and cover great land masses, so often you do need to fly to get into a new continent.
Well, not if you are in Istanbul. You can get from Europe to Asia in 20 minutes, by boat.
Pretty cool, eh?
Istanbul is the only Transcontinental city in the World, with part of it being in Asia and the other in Europe. Many tourists will stay on the European side (as did I), but will rarely explore beyond this, or even go to the Asian side.
I, on the other hand, thought it was pretty cool that you could get a boat to a new continent in twenty minutes.
When I arrived into Istanbul, it was actually the first thing I did.
How to get from Europe to Asia by boat
There are two options for boats to the Asian side (whose port is called Kadikoy). You can get a boat from the main ferry terminal in the city centre (Karakoy).
There is another Ferry Terminal at Kabataş (pronounced Cab-a-tash). This is easily accessible if you are staying in and around Taksim Square area. The metro also runs a line into this station too, as does the Taksim to Kabataş tram tunnel.
4 Turkish Lira (£1 or US $1.50)
You can use your Istanbul card for this, which will just take off one journey from it. As I was in the city for a few days, and mostly walk, I paid for journeys as I went along. If you are doing this, you will see ticket machines to the left as you walk in, at Karikoy. Insert the 4 Lira (they accept larger notes too), and you will be issued with a small token (coin), this then gets put into the ticket barrier, and you walk through. Just don’t get it mixed up with your other coins, as I did once.
The token for the ferry has an anchor on one side of it, and is a bit smaller than other coins, so easy to spot.
Do I need an alternative currency? Do I need my passport? Is there a different language?
All legitimate questions perhaps. However, unlike crossing a border to a new country, you will not need your passport, or a different currency (you can pay for the ferry as you have down on the other side). The language is all the same, and many people speak English, as they do on the European side.
The boats are pretty big, and you won’t be short of a seat. The seats in the middle deck appear to be slightly more comfortable (they have padded seats) but it in top deck they have harder wooden seat. It is however, more open, and therefore you can get better photos and feel the sea breeze.
What is different about the Asian side of Istanbul?
Personally speaking, I found the Asian side of Istanbul to be much more relaxed, less in your face tourism, cheaper and a bit more artsy in places. I spend most of the morning, exploring Kadikoy, and loved it. I will write up about this very soon.
If you’re in Istanbul. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to jump from Europe and Asia, and spend some time exploring there too.