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I took a 20-minute ferry ride from Europe to Asia for $1. I was shocked I didn't see more tourists on board.

Author Jamie Davis Smith posing with ferry at night
Because my children have never been to Asia, I wanted them to set foot on the continent while we were so close.
  • I wanted to set foot on the European and Asian side of Istanbul during a recent visit with my kids. 
  • A $1 commuter ferry was the cheapest option for us to go from the European side to the Asian side. 
  • The ride was only 20 minutes each way, and I was surprised not to see more tourists on the ferry.

Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world — and it's a popular one, too. Last year, it was the most visited city in the world, and Istanbul is expected to welcome even more visitors in 2024.

It's a beautiful blend of the old and the new and one of the very few to span two continents. The Bosphorus Strait cuts through Istanbul, separating the city's European side from its Asian side.

Many first-time visitors to Istanbul stay on the European side since that's where most of the city's major sites are located, but I wanted to stop by Asia on a recent trip with my kids.

Fortunately, I discovered that getting Istanbul's Asian side doesn't have to be expensive nor does it have to take long.

I wanted to avoid touristy cruises, so I looked into commuter ferries

Cruises on the Bosphorous seemed like the most popular option available, but I've taken similar rides and found them to be too long with too much pressure to buy overpriced food and drinks.

I also didn't really care about having an onboard tour guide, which many of these cruises have, since I already knew a lot about the location. And I didn't want to spend almost two hours stuck on a tourist boat for about $30 a ticket.

Plus, although they technically go through Asia, none of the cruises I found let passengers disembark in Asia.

After speaking to a local, our best option seemed to be a 20-minute commuter ferry that some residents of Istanbul take between Europe and Asia every day on their way to work.

The ferry was surprisingly fast, comfortable and affordable

Boarding area for Istanbul ferry
The ferry boarding area was simple.

It was easy to find a centrally located ferry station, and we found one in Eminonu not far from Istanbul's famous Galata Tower and Blue Mosque.

The ticket agent tried to steer me toward a more touristy cruise, but I declined. I'm glad I did — I was stunned to discover that our one-way ferry tickets would only cost about $1 a person.

We hoped for the best as we boarded and I was relieved to find that the ferry was spacious and comfortable.

My family settled into seats on a long bench near a big, bright window and watched the European side of Istanbul recede.

Interior wooden benches of Istanbul ferry
The ferry's seats were quite spacious.

About 10 minutes into the ride, I grabbed a candy bar and bottle of water for my son from the ferry's basic but well-stocked snack bar.

We were also able to sit at a bench with a table while he ate.

Snack kiosk on Istanbul ferry
The snack area was simple but worked well for the 20-minute ride.

About 20 minutes after setting sail from Europe, we arrived in Asia at Kadiköy.

We'd planned to wander around the Asian side of Istanbul and get dinner, but it was getting late, and a rainstorm was predicted to hit soon.

Instead, I bought us return tickets back to the European side. After a short wait, we were on our way.

The views were one of the highlights of the ride — especially at night

Views of Istanbul at night from Istanbul ferry
People pay more than $1 for views like this.

On the return trip, we decided to explore the ferry.

Instead of sitting inside, we made our way to the second level of the ferry and took seats on the rooftop deck. The nighttime views on the return trip were stunning and an unexpected highlight of my visit to Istanbul.

Boy sitting on rooftop deck of Istanbul ferry
We were exposed to the elements but the views felt worth it.

It was magical seeing the outline of the city's gorgeous mosques lit against the night sky as we approached Istanbul's European side.

These are the same views we'd have likely paid 30 times more for on a touristy cruise advertising views of Istabul's skyline at night.

I can see why moonlight cruises charge a premium, but we got to look at the same stunning skyline for just $1 a person.

Overall, I was surprised not to see more tourists on board

Boy looking at views of Istanbul from ferry window
The ferry was a great way to set foot in Asia and enjoy views of Istanbul.

Given how fast, cheap, and easy it was to take the ferry from the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side, I was surprised that there didn't appear to be any other tourists on board.

I think it's the best way to make the transcontinental trip, and I would definitely do it again.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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