Exploit the Layover at Istanbul International Airport
Got a long layover at Istanbul Airport ahead of you? Layovers can certainly be tiring and nerve-racking, especially after a long flight or before a long-lasting onward journey. However, there are ways to make your layover more than just a waste of your time. In fact, as Istanbul is a common stopover for flights from the Middle East to Europe, it is very probable to find yourself waiting at the brand-new airport. So, how can you make the most of your downtime?
To begin with, you must define your exact spare time. Your options should differ depending on whether you have a quick passing-through of the airport, a few hours layover, or even a sleep-over at Istanbul Airport. Therefore, you should keep in mind that the new airport is located in Arnavutkoy Area, almost 50km away from the city center. Moreover, you will probably need 1-1.5 hours to pass through all the airport controls while the walking distances inside the enormous Istanbul airport terminal are considerable. Finally, under normal traffic conditions (note that Istanbul traffic is usually heavy), you will need 50-100 minutes to reach the city center by taxi and bus accordingly. The new subway line M11 which is expected to be launched by end-2020 will shorten traveling time.
Things to Do at Istanbul Airport
If you have up to 10-hour connection time between flights, it is advisable to stay at the airport and not risk losing your next flight. After all, you will undoubtedly enjoy your time at Istanbul Grand Airport (IGA), discovering the numerous and worthwhile facilities and amenities at your disposal.
Istanbul terminal building (the first operating out of the 4 terminals in total when the airport’s construction will be completed) is the biggest terminal (under one roof) worldwide. So, imagine all the options available to you!
- Ceaseless Shopping: Countless retail shops are at your disposal as well as a giant Duty-Free area with the latest technology infrastructure. (If you find yourself in need of money, you will find ATMs and Currency Exchange Offices all around the airport.)
- Free Wi-Fi: Surf through the net, check your social media or even finish your latest business project.
- Children’s Playground: If you travel with children, what’s best than using Istanbul airport’s play area? Relaxed time for you and endless fun for them!
- Prayer Rooms: Prayer rooms for men and women are available at Istanbul Airport. You may find comfort or perform your religious duties undisturbed.
- Art Galleries: Two IGA photo exhibitions offer IST airport passengers a unique cultural experience. Ara Güler Exhibition displays the photo work of Ara Güler, a distinguished photographer and journalist, while “A Victory Monument Exhibition” tells the story of the airport’s construction.
- Drinking & Dining: An impressive wealth of restaurants and coffee shops are gathered in the huge Istanbul airport terminal area. Local flavors, as well as international culinary suggestions, will make your layover at the airport a delight!
- Spoil yourself: Enjoy the spa treatments at the airport and offer yourself an exhilarating and relaxing experience during your downtime. Moreover, you will find shower facilities to freshen up.
- Take a rest: Several lounges are spread throughout the airport. If you travel business or first-class, you should have free entrance in those areas but in any case, you can pay to enjoy their facilities. Relax and fill in your batteries before your next flight. Moreover, there are “Nap Zones” in the airport, in the international area. Day beds and lounge chairs will help you settle in comfortably.
- Check-in to the airport hotel: YOTEL Istanbul Airport (landside and airside) offers luxurious and cozy accommodation services. If you want to really revitalize and re-energize yourself, benefit from the 4-hour checking-in options, sleep, eat and relax inside the airport, without having to worry about losing your flight.
The Most Popular Tours from Istanbul Airport
If your spare time between flights is more than 10 hours, then you should definitely leave the airport and get the first taste of charming Istanbul. No worries about carrying your luggage around. You will find designated storage areas at Istanbul Airport. Moreover, if you originate from a visa-required country, it is advisable to apply for your visa online before your trip to avoid waiting time at the airport. Enter the official website and learn everything you might want to know about your visa application.
Istanbul has so many things to see and do that you will have an extremely hard time choosing among them. Therefore, the best option for your layover is to decide which of the two most popular areas of the city you want to visit, Sultanahmet or Taksim.
If you want to experience the original, oriental, and historical character of the city, Sultanahmet is your destination. Even so, you will face difficulties in selecting which attractions to visit. Hagia Sophia Museum and Blue Mosque are extremely close to each other, so you can admire the exterior of the amazing monuments and perhaps visit one of them. Basilica Cistern is another excellent option and is also in the area. What’s more, a little bit further (but within walking distance), you will find Grand Bazaar (keep in mind that the prices might be rather high as it is a very famous touristic attraction) while in the opposite direction, you can reach the Spice Market (where you should find more affordable prices) as well as the impressive Topkapi Palace.
On the other hand, Taksim is the modern city center of Istanbul along with a very popular destination for tourists. Taksim Square is impressive while nearby you will find Dolmabahce Palace. Istiklal Street is an endless pedestrian shopping street starting from Taksim Square. Dozens of retail shops, scenic cafes, and traditional restaurants are scattered alongside the street and the famous “Nostalgic Tram” is crossing the road giving a taste of the past to today’s reality. At the other end of the street, you will also find the Galata Tower, which offers an unbelievable view of the city.
Istanbul Ferry Tours
Another alternative that will allow you to take a good look at Istanbul city without any tiredness and hassle is the popular ferry tours. Boats depart from several parts of the city and offer incredible rides through the Bosporus and Golden Horn. Get a glimpse from both Asian and European Istanbul with useful guides about the passing monuments and if you choose the respective boats, also enjoy a delicious meal on board.
Finally, if you travel with Turkish Airlines, you should be aware that they usually offer free Istanbul tours to their passengers with long layovers at Istanbul’s new Airport. At any rate, it is always a good idea to book a Layover Tour from the IGA Airport and enjoy its benefits (professional guides, pre-booked tickets, arranged transfers from and to the airport, etc.)