If you’re traveling through Istanbul Airport and have an extended layover, it’s worth being aware of Turkish Airlines’ free city tour program (in addition to the airline offering free transit hotels). While I haven’t had the chance to take advantage of this myself, I figured it’s worth covering the details of the program.
Turkish Airlines’ Touristanbul complimentary city tour
Touristanbul is the name of Turkish Airlines’ program that offers a free city tour if you have an extended layover at Istanbul Airport (IST). Here are the basic things to be aware of:
- This is available to international Turkish Airlines passengers when you have a connection of six to 24 hours
- The tour is only available to those with tickets issued by Turkish Airlines, so your ticket number has to start with 235, though it’s fine if there are codeshare flights on the itinerary; award tickets issued through Turkish Miles&Smiles qualify (and fortunately the program has lots of sweet spots)
- The tour will pick you up at the airport and return you to the airport at the end; tours range between 3.5 hours and 11.5 hours
- You can sign up for Touristanbul in person, and you don’t need to reserve in advance; just go to the hotel desk in the international arrivals hall at the airport, near meeting point four
- You still need to meet the entry requirements for visiting the country, so many nationalities will need to register for an e-visa, which can be done in advance
The kinds of Istanbul tours you can expect
With Touristanbul, Turkish Airlines offers eight different tours daily, based on the length of your layover and your preferences. The tours range in length from a 3.5 hour morning sightseeing tour, to an 11.5 hour all-day tour.
On this page you can click on each tour option, and see exactly what it entails. For example, the full day-tour includes breakfast and lunch, a visit to the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Serpentine Column, Obelisk of Thedosius, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Topkapı Palace, and Grand Covered Bazaar.
It’s worth noting that in the unlikely event that you’re unable to make your flight due to something going wrong with the tour, the airline will ensure the passenger reaches their next destination by rebooking them on the next flight. So if the airline books you on a particular tour, you don’t have to worry that you’ll miss your flight (at least in terms of your liability).
Istanbul is an absolutely incredible city, with so much history and culture. To me it’s probably the single most interesting city in the world, as it’s truly where east meets west. So if you haven’t been to Istanbul, this is a great opportunity to see it.
A few more things to keep in mind:
- Istanbul Airport is about 45-60 minutes from the city, so expect that if you take the 3.5 hour tour, around half the time will be spent driving to and from the airport
- These tours can be on buses with a capacity for nearly 50 people; Istanbul is a fairly inexpensive city (at least for foreigners, given the value of the Turkish lira), so some people may prefer to hire a private guide to see the city more efficiently, and customize it to what you most want to see
- For those in business class, Turkish Airlines has an excellent lounge at Istanbul Airport; if you’re connecting between four and nine hours, and are taking the next available flight, you can also get a sleeping room there at no extra cost
If you have an extended layover on Turkish Airlines at Istanbul Airport, it’s worth being aware of the carrier’s city tour program. With this, you can enjoy a tour ranging anywhere from 3.5 to 11.5 hours, depending on your layover time and preferences. This is a great way to see one of the world’s most amazing cities on a layover.
What do you make of Turkish Airlines’ Istanbul stopover program?