Turkish Airlines Long Layover


Free City Tour of Istanbul

I love long layovers if it allows me to explore a new city. And Turkish Airlines offers a great perk if you have a long layover Istanbul. They offer ticket holders a free Istanbul tour. It’s a great option if you have at least a 4 hour layover. Best of all– its free. This year, I booked a paid tour because our arrival didn’t coincide with any of the tours offered. But I highly recommend this service as a great introduction to the sights and sounds of Istanbul.

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Free-Breakfast Turkish Airlines Long Layover

I had never been to Turkey and thought it would provide a great introduction. Of course, I booked this before the attempted military coup. And even though I heard there was heightened security at the airport, I ended up going through with my travel plans. In the end, I was really happy I went.

Turkish Airlines, a Long Layover and a Free Istanbul Tour

The free Istanbul tour offered by Turkish Airlines make it easy for transit passengers– no matter what time you arrive. There are walking tours, sightseeing tours, night tours and even a cruise on the Bosporous Sea. You don’t need a reservation. Take a look at the tours available at Turkish Airlines.

  • The tours are for passengers flying Turkish Airlines internationally with layovers of at least six hours.
  • You must present your boarding pass at the touristanbul desk in the international arrivals hall before it starts.
  • Some tours include free meals, like breakfast and lunch, depending on the length of the tour.
  • Itineraries vary depending on the length of your layover.
  • Remember many of the sights are religious in nature. So dress accordingly. Hint: cover everything, from head to toe.
  • Tours are completely free, but make sure you have TL (turkish Lira) for souvenirs. Check out the exchange rate here. A VAT refund may apply.
  • Passengers may not get both free accommodation service and Touristanbul on the same journey
  • Don’t forget you’ll need to apply for an eViisa.
Tour-Istanbul-Check-In-Desk Turkish Airlines Long Layover

At the Airport

If you are interested in the free Istanbul tour, go to the hotel desk 30 minutes prior to the departure time. Make sure to bring your boarding pass to register. You can stow your luggage in the custody office next to Hotel Desk with a service fee ($7 per day). You may check the conditions and prices at Ataturk Airport. If requested, Touristanbul participants can request to leave their non-electronic or precious items baggage on the tour shuttles at their own risk. However, Turkish Airlines is not responsible for any lost and damaged items.

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My Free Istanbul Tour Included

All tours are conducted in English and include all fees and transportation to and from the airport.

  • Complimentary Turkish-inspired breakfast
  • A visit to the Blue Mosque
  • A stroll through the city center to see monuments such as the Hagia Sofia, the Hippodrome, the Serpentine Column and Obelisk of Theodosius
  • A visit to the Topkaki Palace
  • Free lunch, a fixed menu of traditional Ottoman cuisine
  • Those staying on for the tour until 6 pm could also visit the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar.
Tour-Bus Turkish Airlines Long Layover

Touring Istanbul Sights & Sounds

The bus left promptly at 9:02 am, driving along the coastal road that connects the airport to the city center. By 10 am we were seated at a seaside restaurant for breakfast. Breakfast was simple: tea, cheese, meat, olives, bread, jam, honey and a boiled egg. 20 minutes later we were making our way, by foot, to our first destination: the Blue Mosque.

Blue Mosque

The mosque does provide cover-ups. You must also take off your shoes and place them in a plastic bag to carry around with you.Covered in blue tiles with high, arched ceilings, the inside of the mosque was stunning. However, the interior is currently under renovation. We took in one of the oldest monuments in Istanbul, the Egyptian Obelisk of Theodosius and another important site, the Serpentine Column.

Hagia Sofia

From there, we took a brisk walk to photograph the outside of the Hagia Sofia, which started off as a Greek Orthodox church, was turned into a Catholic church by the Crusaders, became an Ottoman mosque and is now a secular museum. In all, this was a beautiful representation of Turkish history.

Topkaki Palace

Admission to Topkaki Palace is normally about $15 per person, but was included as part of the city tour. The palace itself was more like a small village, with floral gardens and several buildings and rooms each dedicated to specific artifacts like porcelain or ancient kitchenware.

We had about 50 minutes of free time to walk around, which wasn’t nearly enough, but it still was amazing to see the beautiful buildings and charming gardens.I stayed at the back of the group so I’d have enough time to enjoy the panoramic views of Istanbul and the famous Bosporus Bridge, which connects Europe with Asia.

From there, I explored the Sultan’s old rooms, which were beautifully preserved, the weapons room, with plenty of old swords and armor, and the Islamic Holy Relics room, which showcases important artifacts like what’s reputed to be the staff Moses used to part the Red Sea. This room has been the site of people reciting the Quran since the 17th century.

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Turkish Lunch

When the 50 minutes were up, we regrouped and headed down the palace stairs to eat lunch at a beautiful spot overlooking the water. A typical Turkish lunch was served as a preset menu, including salad, juice, water, meat pastries, chicken and lamb shawarma, rice, vegetables and a sweet custard. There was also a vegetarian option available. The food wasn’t incredible, but was still pretty good, generously spiced with the fact that it was totally free and came with awesome sea views.

Return to the Airport

After eating, it was time to head back to the bus and return to the airport. Those on the 6 pm tour continued. We even managed to get to the airport on time despite the rush-hour traffic.

Though I am not typically a fan of big group tours, I love that Turkish Airlines offers this. It’s a really nice way to take advantage of a long layover and get a brief peek at such a beautiful city. I loved how they arranged everything for you and included meals, too.

Final Thoughts on the Night Layover Tour

The tours are provided to pique interest in Istanbul and motivate visitors to return to the city later, and it totally worked. I can’t wait to go back someday and see more of this incredible city.

Of course, if you are worried about the state of the country in today’s troubling times, use your best judgment and check in with the US State Department for travel warnings and recommendations.

Keep in mind that if you have a longer layover and there are no earlier flights available, you can choose instead to get the free hotel offered by Turkish Airlines. But if you do that, you can’t do the tour as well, so you’ll have to pick which one you want most.

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45 thoughts on “Turkish Airlines Long Layover

  1. Now this is valuable information. I had no idea this offer existed. I think it’s a brilliant idea. I’ll love to take the tour even if it’s for a couple of hours.

  2. I have never been to Istanbul before but I have heard great things. A free city tour is definitely worth a long layover though! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Looks a had a great time in Istanbul. In a very short period you covered almost each and everything. Good to know that the Turkish Airlines offers a Long Layover and a city tour of Istanbul

  4. Is the blue mosque the building in the featured picture. My sister has ever been in Turkish and she love it. Hopefully I will get my turn in the future.

  5. I have been to Turkey few many years ago I remembered it was my first ever step into Europe so I was pretty excited and memory was still there. I love Istanbul, simply stunning city full of things to do. Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia are the two must see. Thanks for sharing and you make me wanted to re-visit soon.

    1. I agree. Istanbul really took my breath away. We didn’t get to 10% of the things we wanted to do. A retrun trip is also in our cards.

    1. Hi Heather, it is truly a wonder, then I’m happy. I hope this post peeks the curiosity of a lot of people.

  6. Wish I could do that with all my long layovers. I will look into next time I fly. Thanks for sharing your experience

  7. This sounds like great to have layover, I always dread by thinking of layover. If Turkish airlines give this kind of treatment then I will fly with them next time.

    1. IKR. This isa definite benefit to fly into Istanbul with them. Some hotels also have free tours of the city too.

    1. Hi Heather, thanks for sharing it with me. Come back again soon. I have a lot to say about our two days in Istanbul. I need a vacation from my layover. lol

  8. Free tour of Istanbul? That is great. Never got a chance to go at foreign country but Turkey is in my list also. City tour is really under rated, I have seen Turkey through TV Shows and Movies, I am sure it will be a refreshing journey.Wish every airport would give this oppurtunity while you wait for layover, you get a trip.

    1. Hi Aditya, you are so right. Many people are turned off from the free part. But its hard to argue that you don’t get your moneys worth on any one of the freee tours offered by Turkish Air.

  9. Istanbul sounds like a great place to tour. Super convenient that they give you something to do while hanging around on your layover!

    1. I know right. Surely beats hanging out in an airport that doesn’t have free WIFI. Its awesome, just show up and they entertain you. Can’t beat that.

  10. Wow this is such an interesting read! I didn’t know that Turkish Airlines provides a free Istanbul tour for their passengers; it is such an impressive service! Thank you for sharing this.

    1. No problem Ola. Thanks for thaking the time to share your comment. Come back again soon. I have had such an adventure in Istanbul in just two days.

  11. It’s great that you can get a free city tour of Istanbul and that they make sure you are back in time to make your connection flight. I have a long layover in Hong Kong in a couple of months, I wonder if Cathay Pacific offers this kind of deals as well.

    1. Hey Joanna, you sould definitely look into it. You usually only need 5 hours to join the airport tours. And it beats sitting in an airport paying for WIFI or trying to find a comfortable place to chill.

  12. What a wonderful opportunity for us to bet an inside look at your travels. It’d be nice if we could get out a bit more than we do over here!

  13. This is such a wonderful idea! I love that they offer free tours to those who are on a layover like that. So convenient and more fun than waiting around an airport!

  14. I always travel with Turkish Airlines but have never been able to actually explore Instanbul I hope to do that one day and learn more about the culture.

  15. This is very cool info! I do a lot of traveling and I love this idea of taking advantage of a long layover!!

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