How To Maximize Your Stopover In Istanbul

Recently, I travelled to the Middle East and decided to take advantage of a stopover in Europe’s fifth busiest airport, Istanbul Atatürk (IST). 

As a travel enthusiast, I am always looking for ways to maximize my travel experiences i.e. cheap flights which often comes with long stopovers instead of layovers. En route to Israel, I opted to book my flight with Turkish Airlines and the itinerary had a 9 hour stopover in Istanbul. As you would imagine, it was one of the more cheaper flights. After booking I learned that Turkish Airlines offered a free guided tour for international passengers in transit. How awesome is that? After flying for 10 hours, why wouldn't I opt in for the free tour? 

U.S Citizens are required to get a visa on arrival if you plan to leave the Istanbul airport. A few hours before departing the U.S I applied online and paid $20 for an e-visa. The process was very seamless and I got the visa within 3 minutes of applying. The alternative is to get the visa on arrival, however the lines can get very long so I highly recommend applying before you leave.

The  free tour with Toursistanbul vary by days of the week and time of the day so be sure to confirm your travel details and check out the tour schedule for that day. On arrival at the airport, once you’ve cleared immigration and customs turn right, walk pass all the money exchange desks and you will see the Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk right next to Starbucks. They desk receptionist will ask for the boarding pass for your connecting flight and will keep it until you're ready to board the tour bus. My flight landed around 5:30am and the first tour was scheduled for 8:30am.

The itinerary for the 8:30am-11:00am trip is as follows:

  1. Departure from Istanbul Ataturk Airport
  2. Following the Coastal Road
  3. Sight Seeing Tour (Outher visit & Sight Seeing Tour)
  4. Yedikule Fortress
  5. Old Samatya Armanian District
  6. Yeni Kapı Harbour
  7. Walls of Constantine
  8. Eminonu District
  9. Photo Break on Galata Bridge For 10 mins
  10. Dolmabahçe Palace
  11. Free time at Dolmabahçe Palace For 20 mins
  12. Depart from Dolmabahçe Palace
  13. Taksim Square
  14. Galata Tower
  15. Golden Horn
  16. Aqueduct Of Valens
  17. Return to Istanbul Ataturk Airport

To qualify to free tour is quite simple. You’ll need to ensure your flight is flying in or out of Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. In addition, your layover must be a minimum of 6 hours and a maximum of 24 hours. It’s important to note that not all flights with stopovers are in sync with the free tour schedule.

Here are a few more photos from the tour.

 Dolmabahçe Palace

Dolmabahçe Palace

 Galata Bridge

Galata Bridge

 The Bosphorus Bridge in the distance connects Europe and Asia

The Bosphorus Bridge in the distance connects Europe and Asia

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