10 podcasts to help you beat the Istanbul commute

If you’re anything like me, or the average Istanbul resident, you probably spend a larger percentage of your life commuting than you’d like to accept or admit. Traffic here is sort of like advertisements on YouTube; you put up with it but if there was an option to skip ahead you definitely would. And, so, we sheep of Istanbul flock to work then flock back on a daily basis, tacking on a little more stress each and every day. But what if I told you I found the cure? That I found a way to make myself even look forward to the commute everyday…

If you took the required millisecond to read the above title, you’ll already know what I’m getting at. . I’m talking about the power of the podcast. Now, this isn’t a revolutionary idea—I’m not Bernie Sanders over here—but I am here to tell you that I’ve been listening, borderline obsessively, to an absurd array of podcasts for quite some time, and I know which podcasts can take your commute from a disappointing C+ to a surprising A- or even A+.

I’ve done the grunt work, I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, some of which immediately caught my eye (or ear, I suppose), and some of which made me wish the hosts had stuck to their day jobs. I’ve put in the time to make sure you don’t have to and so below is my suggested podcast prescription to get you through your Istanbul commute.

Am I having too much fun with this already? It’s likely, but I do believe that checking out some of the below podcasts can have a profoundly positive and transformative impact on your life, and it’s not taking any extra time from your day, seeing as it’s a commute and all. Naturally, these are based on my tastes, but I’ve tried to include a varied list. As you may have discerned for yourself, these are podcasts that I think do a great job helping to pass the time. The following podcasts are your bread and butter of passing time; they’ll make the hours melt away.


Honourable Mentions

Here are some great podcasts that didn’t quite make my top ten for a commute, but could make yours!

The Joe Rogan Experience – Crude, entertaining, and lengthy. Joe’s got an eclectic group of guests that keep every episode interesting.

StarTalk Radio – It’s hosted by Neil Degrasse Tyson. Enough said.

Mysterious Universe – All the weird and bizarre you could ever need. I’ve come across some pretty interesting and memorable content on here.

Stuff You Should Know – I’ve loved some episodes, and found others drier than burnt toast.

Someone Knows Something – It’s basically Serial without any concrete evidence or quality theories (at least not yet.) That aside, Host David Ridgen does a hell of a job narrating and keeping listeners engaged.

Jay and Dan Podcast – If you’re interested in turning off your brain after work and feeling like a brainless sports fan, you’ll get your fill right here!


The Good Stuff

  1. Freakanomics Radio

Personally how much I enjoy each episode is quite topic dependent, otherwise this might have been even higher for me. I was destined to like this podcast based on how much I appreciated the Freakanomics books, which, naturally, came before the podcast. For the most part, Steven J. Dubner is talking about some seriously fascinating stuff in an informative, quirky, and accessible way. It’s not my favourite, but it still cracks the top ten for me!

  1. WTF with Marc Maron

This is a podcast which is easy to listen to for a long period of time due to the fact that Maron’s guests, largely comedians and celebrities, come to just relax and converse. There’s something about Maron that makes people entirely comfortable and willing to share, and I would say it’s his honest and non-judgmental approach. If I were you, I’d look through the feed, and see who you’d be interested in listening to for more than an hour, and choose episodes that way. This approach is also fitting for Joe Rogan’s podcast!


  1. TEDTalks (audio)

I’m not sure this needs much in the way of an introduction; it’s merely live TEDTalks, which translate well to the podcast form. I’ve listened to some great content on here, anything from a talk on trust from the co-founder of Airbnb, to a presentation by the prime minister of Bhutan on their carbon negative policy. What makes this podcast particularly alluring for the commute is that its episodes, or presentations in this case, are usually fifteen minutes or less. So they’re perfect for when you’re almost home, or almost at work, but don’t want to start a large episode of another podcast, but would prefer to listen to something short, but deeply intriguing.

  1. This American Life

Anybody who knows podcasts won’t be surprised to see this make the list. It seems like you could listen to episode after episode of This American Life, and then all of a sudden realize it’s dark out. Hosted by Ira Glass, whose voice has a distinct familiarity for me now, this podcast is, more than anything, human. Stories are shared in a variety of forms, all of which, somehow, we can relate to, and it makes for a beautiful experience. In the podcast and radio world, This American Life is an institution.

This American Life

  1. Invisibilia

This podcast would be higher on my list if they had a more consistent production schedule, as the most recent episode was released all the way back in July 2015. The good news is that I sent them a tweet last week, and they got back to me to let me know that they’ll be back in action in June. The episodes they’ve produced thus far are top-notch. Invisibilia, as you may have guessed, is about all the invisible forces that control human behaviour. Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve listened to an episode, but those I did listen to were astonishing.

  1. Under the Influence

This doesn’t just make the list because the host, Terry O’Reilly, is a Canadian and it’s produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and I’m all kinds of biased…as a Canadian. No, this makes this list because the program’s regular thirty-minute contributions are thought provoking and addictive. O’Reilly shines the spotlight on marketing through the ages, and brings us up to speed on today’s trends, and the ways in which companies have got us “under the influence.”

  1. Serial

Cue the eye-roll—I know, this is something akin to recommending Game of Thrones when suggesting TV shows, but I had to do it. I, much like the rest of the world, think season one has more pull to it, but season two is still, unquestionably, quality reporting. For those who don’t know, season one deals with the potentially wrongful conviction of one Adnan Syed, while season 2 deals with Lt. Bowe Bergdahl’s complicated (to put it lightly) tenure as a solider in Afghanistan. Some would disagree with me, but I’d say the whole series is worth a listen. Season one in particular will have you eagerly waiting for your commute, so you can put in your headphones and zone-out from the world.

  1. Hello from the Magic Tavern

I may have two podcasts marked higher than this, but this is probably the podcast that crosses my mind most frequently because it’s hilariously absurd and absurdly hilarious. I’d say I’ve recommended (rather forcefully) this podcast to ten friends at this point, and eight absolutely love it. The two who didn’t like it? They hated it, and I’m fairly sure they’re avoiding me. The point is, you’ll either love it or hate it. But you’ll probably love it. This podcast follows the adventures of Arnie (comedian Arnie Niekamp) who falls behind a Burger King into a portal of sorts, and begins recording podcasts in the magical land of Foon. It’s heavily improvised and somewhat reminiscent of Monty Python, which keeps the randomness at an all time high.

  1. Hardcore History with Dan Carlin

Even if you aren’t a history buff, the content Carlin dives into is equal parts unbelievable and enticing. He’s created over 50 episodes, many of which are hours in length, and would have taken many more hours to put together (you can access his most recent ten for free.) His topics range from World Wars, to the rise and fall of empires, and everything in between. If you’re looking for a starting point, I’d recommend checking out his coverage of the Mongols, entitled “The Wrath of the Khans,” which spans five episodes and is nothing short of remarkable. As far as passing time on a commute, it doesn’t get much better.

  1. Radiolab

Hosted by  and Robert Krulwich, perhaps the only unifying feature of the podcast week to week is the consistently quality journalism and production value. The host, and guests, carefully investigate and discuss stories you may not have heard of otherwise, with a totally enriching, music laden, aesthetic appeal. It is my favourite podcast, and I’ve yet to be let down by a single episode. More than any other podcast, it’s Radiolab episodes which have stayed with me, and continue to do so.

(source: Courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationCC BY 4.0)
Christopher Mitchell
Born in Toronto, Chris is a teacher by trade with an untold number of passions, the foremost being writing. After studying in Oslo for a period and teaching in Seoul for another, he now shares his thoughts on bustling, ever-changing Istanbul. For the foreseeable future, he’s awfully happy about that. His writing has been published in a handful of countries, and he’s also been running a travel blog along the way.


  1. May I give a shoutout to a wonderful Turkish podcast? I met the couple who launched it. They are terrific!
    I think this would be a great listen for advancing our own Turkish language knowledge, but more importantly why not recommend it to all of your Turkish friends so that podcasts take off in the Turkish market? When I talk about podcasts with Turks they’ve never tried one. Let’s be the wind beneath the wings of this one. Share it with your Turkish friends! It’s called “On Bir On Sekiz.”


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