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Destinations / Itineraries What to do? Long layover in Istanbul this May

Discussion in 'questions. answers. conversations.' started by travelbunny, Jan 14, 2018.

  1. travelbunny

    travelbunny Reader

    I have a long layover in Istanbul early may via Turkish Airlines. My flight is scheduled to land in IST around 7pm and my flight back to the US is scheduled to depart around 1pm the next day. I realize this doesn't leave me much time to sightsee, but I'd like to at least visit the Blue Mosque and get some authentic Turkish food since this is my first visit to Turkey. Any ideas about itineraries or recommendations on where to stay? Also, how early should I plan to get to IST?
  2. MidSouth Skier

    MidSouth Skier Well-Known Member

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    I'd suggest getting a guide with a driver so they can drop you off at the door and be waiting to take you to the airport as you won't have a lot of time. I can't find a specific time that the mosque opens but it is open for sunrise prayers though it's closed to visitors for 90 mins during that worship time. The mosque is free to visit but remember you'll need to take off your shoes (they provide bags) and, if you're a woman, you'll need to cover your head and shoulders. They do have scarves available but I'd prefer to bring my own.

    Ideally, if you could visit the mosque at 7:30ish you would also have time to visit the Hagia Sophia next door. A ticket is required for Hagia Sophia but a guide could have already purchased this for you and you would have time for a quick tour when the doors open at 9 AM. Then, depending on traffic you could be back at the airport by 11 AM. That might be a bit too aggressive of a plan, especially if you're flying on a weekday when you'd hit rush hour traffic and that's where a local guide would help to determine what works.

    I've stayed at the Marriott Courtyard near the airport and it was fine for an overnight stay, plus they had free airport transportation. I also stayed at the Ritz Carlton and at the Radisson Blu Bosphorus. We paid cash for the Marriott and used points at the other locations. The second two hotels were more centrally located though there are definitely hotels closer to the mosque. Since you won't be landing very late at night like we did (and we had to catch a domestic flight the next morning) it might make sense to stay closer to the mosque then your guide could pick up you and your luggage and head straight to the airport after your tour.
    rickyw likes this.
  3. Gaurav

    Gaurav Well-Known Member

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    Solid advice by @MidSouth Skier. If you are still looking for a guide in Istanbul I'd highly recommend Mehmet Tetik ( He showed us around in 2014. There is a railiway line that connects the airport and the city as well. You could use that on your way in and then do a car and driver with the guide to get you to the airport on time.