Whenever I am looking to book a ticket, one of the first websites I go to is Skyscanner. Often, this means that I will end up booking my ticket through a third party website. Which means I will sometimes have a long layover somewhere to help curb the costs. (I don’t know why this curbs costs, but whatever)
On our recent trip to Brussels, we had a 13-hour layover in Istanbul going there and a 23-hour layover coming back. That’s a looooooong time to be sitting in an airport when you don’t have lounge access. So once the ticket was confirmed, I began looking online to see if the airline or the airport offers a free hotel say.
Turns out, Turkish Airlines offers you a free hotel stay if you have a layover 10 hours or longer (7 hours if you’re balling enough to fly business class). The only catch is that they check to see if there is another flight leaving earlier than 10 or 7 hours and if so, you miss out on the free hotel.
This is what happened to us. (womp womp)
But we were lucky enough to get a free 6-hour tour out of the deal. We checked with the hotel desk and the guy gave us the bad news that we could have left on an earlier flight but we could receive the consolation prize of touring Istanbul for 6 hours FOR FREE!
If you find yourself in Istanbul Ataturk Airport for longer than 10 hours, go and see if you qualify.
We went on the 6-hour city sightseeing tour and it was pretty cool. We started the day off with a bus ride into the city and grabbed breakfast at this cute place surrounded by shops. Afterward, we took a boat ride and took the Golden Horn and Bosphorus cruise. From the boat, we were able to see both the Europe and Asian sides of the river/sea. After cruising for an hour or so, we went to the restaurant to have lunch, but passed through the Hippodrome Square, saw the German Fountain and even caught sight of the Obelisk of Theodosius.
The tours change daily, so what we saw may not be what you experience, but it’s a pretty cool way to get out of the airport for a while and see some of Istanbul, get fed, and meet new people…FOR FREE!
Here’s how you do it:
First, make sure you have an international transit flight through Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. Get off your plane and head to passport control. You can get an e-visa online, but there is also an option to get your e-visa in the airport right before the immigration line.
After making your way through immigration, you pass baggage claim and head through customs and walk out into the arrivals area.
Take a right and you’ll eventually see the Turkish Airlines Hotel Desk right next to Starbucks and across from the Turkish Airlines lounge that you won’t have access to.
Give them your boarding pass for your next flight and see if you’ll win the free hotel lottery. Even if you don’t, if your layover is at least 6 hours long, you’ll be able to snag a tour.
I flew through this airport back in February when I was attending a conference in Chicago. Not sure I would have wanted to traipse around Istanbul in the middle of winter, but it would have been a good alternative to sitting in the airport for 7 hours.