Go On A Free Tour In Istanbul During A Turkish Airlines Stopover
Having a long layover between flights can be the perfect way to spend a day in a different city. Depending on the airline you’re flying with you might even be able to join a free layover tour; like with a Turkish Airlines Stopover you can join a free tour in Istanbul. Read on for more information on the Free Turkish Airlines Istanbul Tour.
My husband and I managed to book flight tickets from Seoul, Korea to Brussels, Belgium with a 16 hour layover in Istanbul. As my husband Evan never experienced Turkey before it was a great opportunity to discover a completely different culture.
- You need to book an international flight with Turkish Airlines stopping over in Istanbul.
- The layover needs to be at least 6 hours and maximum 24 hours.
- No reservations are need to join the tour; after passing passport control and luggage, you will find the Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk where you sign up.
- At the Turkish Airlines hotel desk you will have to present your flight tickets and passport.
- Each day you’ll have the option to join one of the 5 layover tours.
- Make sure to have a valid visa to enter Turkey!
Want to book a flight with stopover in Istanbul and receive a Turkish Airlines tour of Istanbul? Check out prices and more information here.
As we had a 20h layover, we had enough time to join the full day 9 AM – 6 PM tour. After landing at 6 AM from Seoul, we made our way through immigration. Unfortunately I forgot to check if Evan or me needed visas to enter the country. So after queuing 30 minutes I was sent back as I didn’t have the proper visa, to enter the country.
Next to the immigration lines you can find a visa desk, but of course, payment was only in cash (euro’s, dollar, or Turkish Lira), so I had to withdraw money first and then I could purchase a visa for 25 euros. Evan, as he’s Korean, he didn’t need a visa at all to enter. You can purchase an e-Visa in advance online.
Back to queuing, now with success! Once we went through immigration and luggage we headed straight for the Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk to sign up for the tour. The hotel desk is a bit hard to find, but is located just next to Starbucks and Cafe Nero all the way to the right of the arrival hall.
At 9 AM our tour commenced and we headed for the bus together with 20 other people from all over the world. After boarding the shuttle bus, the guide returned our passports and boarding passes to us.
9 AM – 6 PM Tour Overview
- Depart from Istanbul Ataturk Airport by bus at 9 AM
- A complimentary Turkish Breakfast in the city center
- Stroll around Hippodrom, the Blue Mosque and Topkapi Palace with a local guide
- Complimentary 3 course lunch
- Visit the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts with a museum guide
- Free time at the Grand Covered Bazaar
- Return to Istanbul Ataturk Airport (we arrived at the airport at 5 PM)
After a 50 minute drive from the Airport to Istanbul city center we stopped for breakfast at a local restaurant. Here we had around 40 minutes to enjoy a Turkish breakfast and briefed on what we could expect from the tour. From the restaurant we continued our tour on foot.
BLUE MOSQUE & TOPKAPI PALACE
From the restaurant we had a 10 minute walk through the beautiful streets of Istanbul to the Blue Mosque just next to the Hippodrome; also called the Sultanahmet Mosquee; a historic mosque in downtown Istanbul. Built during the ruling of Ahmed 1st in early 17th century. The name ‘Blue Mosque’ comes from the fact that the interior is covered with blue tiles.
At the entrance you’ll have the possibility to borrow a long dress and a headscarf to cover yourself if necessary. Together with our guide we spent around 40 minutes in and around the mosque admiring it’s beauty! For more info check out the official Blue Mosque Website.
The Topkapi Palace is by the far the biggest and most popular tourist site in Istanbul; built at the end of the 5th century under the ruling of Sultan Mehmet II. What’s special about the palace is that it lies next the the Bosphorus; which offers amazing view of the Asian continent.
Normally to get into the palace you have to buy an entrance ticket; but this was also complimentary by Turkish Airlines. We had around 1h of free time in the palace; which is not enough as the palace is massive. From here on, the tour continued to the lunch place and after lunch to the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts; where a Turkish guide who studied in England showed us around.
The last stop on the tour is the oh-so famous Spice Bazaar, one of the largest Bazaars in the city! The colourful, fragrant and fun bazaar is a must place when in Istanbul. The bazaar mainly focuses on selling spices; but you can find all sorts of items like candy, souvenirs, clothing, tea, etc.
How To Book Stopover Flights And Get A Turkish Airlines Free Tour
You’re lucky, booking flights with long stopovers are most of the time cheaper than direct flights; but it does require a bit of searching. My favourite search engine for this is Momondo; I’ve had the most luck finding really good stopover flights with this flight search engine.
Type in your departure & destination and hit search; after Momondo generates all the flights; you will have to play with your settings a bit to find the best results.
1. Deselect nonstop flights (to make sure there is a stopover)
2. Increase your layover time to at least 10 h or more
This should display all the stopover flights; make sure to check flights that arrive at the stopover location in the morning and leave in the afternoon or evening.
Special Thanks To Our Passionate Guide! (AKA The Smallest Guide of Istanbul)