Wheelchair Travel in Istanbul
Getting around Istanbul
The biggest concern I had about traveling to Istanbul Turkey was how was I going to get around. I searched the internet to find that the options we have in the U.S. just didnt exist. What I did find turned out to be wonderful! ENGELLI TAKSI, part of SURF RENT A CAR. This is basically the only accessible van for hire. Our guides name is Askin Kirimli. He is friendly, courteous, and knowledgeable. We had arranged to be picked up at the airport, and upon arriving, he was there waiting. We had a choice of half day(am/pm) or full day to go sightseeing. You can also use his service for one way trips around town. The local taxi company's don't even have accessible vans which surprised me. We used his service to go to sites such as Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace and Blue Mosque just to name a few. Below I will give a description of each place I visited and the accessibility of each. I hope that this lens helps anyone in a wheelchair planning to visit Istanbul.
The Grand Bazaar is an extremely large, indoor market that sells items crafted in Turkey. You will find leathers, carpets, jewelry, clothing and many smaller items. There are no prices on anything, so be ready to bargain them down. Accessibililty is good. There was a 4 inch threshold to go over at the entrance. A manual chair will easily go over with no problem. Being in a power chair, we needed help to lift the chair slightly, and the locals were quick to offer help. Once inside, everything is pretty smooth. There are a few short inclines but nothing big.
Topkapi Palace was the home of the Ottoman Sultans. There are different areas to see within the palace. The Harem section has a 5 inch drop to get in, then once inside doorway thresholds have ramps, except for 1 door half way through which forced me to turn around and go back a different way. A manual chair will have no problem for someone to pull you over the step. Pathways throughout the palace are different types of cobblestone and make for a bumpy ride in any chair. The palace is closed on Tuesdays
The Blue Mosque was built starting in 1609. It is spectacular looking both inside and out. Everyone must remove their shoes before entering and women are given scarfs to cover their head and arms. There are steps to enter the main gate of the property. We were sent around the corner to the north/west side where there was a smaller 5 inch step. A few locals standing nearby helped lift my chair over. Then there is a long ramp to go up to enter the court yard. At the door to go inside is where you must transfer to the provided wheelchairs so not to track in any dirt onto the carpets. The mosque closes 30 min before till 30 min after prayer times.
Hagia Sophia was originally built as a church in the year 537, then became a mosque in 1453, then finally became a museum in 1934. Access is easy for manual chairs. There are some ramps at doorways and 4 inch drops as well. I don't understand the use of ramps within as they put a ramp on one side of 4-5 inch thresholds, but not the other. Exiting, there is a bumpy courtyard and a upward ramp to leave the property. Hagia Sophia is closed on Mondays
Out of hundreds, this is only one of two that are open to the public. This site is 100% accessible There is a lift to bring wheelchairs down. Wheelchair users must enter at the exit on Alemdar St.
BIG THANKS!! to Askin Kirimli for helping to make our trip wonderful. We could'nt have done it without you!