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Istanbul (IST) Stopover Tips

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This thread is a place to share tips and recommendations for stopovers at Istanbul Airport (IST) in Turkey. You can discuss things like:
  • How to get from the airport to the city
  • Things to do (both near the airport and in the city)
  • Where to stay/hotel recommendations (both near the airport and in the city)
  • Your favourite IST airport lounges
  • Airport facilities such as luggage storage and showers
  • Any other destination-specific tips or "hidden gems" you've discovered that could be useful for someone stopping over
  • Transferring between Istanbul Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW)
Do you have a great tip that other travellers might find useful when stopping over in Istanbul? Add your suggestions to this thread, and your advice could make it into an AFF Stopover Guide article!
 

RooFlyer

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Any experiences with ground transport from the new IST into downtown? Form what I can see ATM there are taxis, (maybe TL 100-150 depending on destination and delays), Havaist Airport Shuttle, (several routes, <TL20, fixed drop off points) or private shuttles (expensive).

Anyone taken a taxi - any tips in using them ... is there a taxi counter, or do you grab a guy from a scrum out the front?

Are ATMs easy to find in the arrivals area?
 

QueenG

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Nov 28, 2019
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Hi
I suggest either using the shuttle and they tend to run on time (surprisingly) or BiTaksi app if you have wifi/4G available. I struggled a bit as app was in turkish but they might have introduced other languages.

It is a long drive from new airport to the city, approx 40-50 mins.

Airport is hectic and unorganized but lounge is amazing though.

IMG_4496.JPG
 

RooFlyer

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I arrived at IST today. As advertised, the airport is huge. We arrived at the end of one of the piers and it was a ridiculously long walk just to the beginning of the pier. Plenty of travelators and you'll need 'em all

IMG_0905.jpg

At the end of the pier, its down escalators to another long walk along the base of the terminal:

IMG_0906.jpg

IMG_0907.jpg

From our particular pier, immigration was on the right. There were a long expanse of different rope-lines and no-one there to guide you to the right one. I held an eVisa and the sign to the first rope-lines said 'Other nationalities' with an arrow to 'Visa' pointing further along. I guess right and just went for 'other nationalities'. No queues, so straight through having handed over the eVisa bit of paper.

Then the the enormous baggage hall and duty-free shopping precinct IMG_0910.jpg

Bags came out quick (the airport in general didn't appear busy). Walked the green zone and looked for ATMs. None in sight - only FX shops. Eventually found the ATMs - there is a bank of them way right down to the right as you exit customs. Pretty well hidden, no doubt due to the FX shops. Must have been machines of 10 different banks; I chose this one at random for my Citi debit card. The machine gave a good variety of notes - even down to 5 TL, which was great.

IMG_0913.jpg

The land side concourse from the ATMs:

IMG_0914.jpg

I decided to get a taxi as my hotel wasn't near any of the shuttle stops. The taxi stand is right where the arrows point to (exit just before the ATMs) - a rope line and yellow taxis pull up regularly. To my hotel, near the Galata Tower in Karakoy, cost 145 TL (A$36) and took about 50 minutes, starting at 12:30pm. Traffic wasn't heavy; a few slow spots but no 'jams'. The taxi had credit card facility (I think he said 'most' yellow taxis have CC); there is also the iTaxi system/app.

I'm staying at the Hotel DeCamondo


Its new-ish, a 'boutique' hotel and all good so far. 10 mins walk from the Karakoy tram stop, although there is a good bank of steps (down) in between :)
 
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RooFlyer

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My trip out of IST. Leaving the city at 1pm on a weekday, the journey out took 50 mins and cost 135TL (A$33) in a yellow taxi.

IMG_1023.jpg

Doors 1 and 2 to the terminal are domestic, 3 and 4 are international, except for TK business (there is 'fast track' for business class other airlines), door 5 is TK Business check-in. I'm not sure what Doors 6 and 7 are - maybe not in use. I wrongly went to Door 3 initially, but got sent outside to go to Door 5 (as I was TK Business) - you can't cut across in the inside front of the terminal.

IMG_1025.jpg

IMG_1026.jpg

After you enter, your bags are x-rays in bulk, but I had to take my lap-top out (monitors tell you the wait time at these) .

Then to business check-in; plentiful and there are seats etc.

IMG_1028.jpg

Then to security, again plentiful (probably a dozen lines open and only pax at a few). I was asked to turn my lap-top on.

The concourse is massive of course. The Business Lounge is OTT, of course and you have to walk well across to the left to find the entry, back behind either Door 2 or 3! Lucky there is a map of the Business Lounge as you walk in. (There is a separate 'Miles and Smiles' Lounge for TK FFers not in Business.)

IMG_1036.jpg

The essentials:
* Entry by scanning BP and electronic gates - no talking your way in!
* There are lockers. So you can stow your stuff and go explore
* Maybe 8 or so 'kitchen stations' where they are freshly preparing ranges of Turkish and other cuisine - from kebabs and pizza-like pita, to noodles, soup etc. A salad bar, several sweets stations ... really, you could have 5 meals here and not visit the same cooking station twice.
* Lots of different sitting zones, dining areas etc.
* A row of beds/couches ... these face over the concourse, so would be pretty noisy. They didn't look very comfortable.
* Booze. this is the bad part. I eventually noticed a number of discretely parked trolleys with bottles of wine on them. And later, a place where the spirits were. But all very discrete. The range didn't look bad, though.

More pictures etc in my Trip Report.
 

QueenG

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Nov 28, 2019
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Their lounge indeed is amazing and i couldn't fault the service. Completely agree about the booze which was almost hidden.
 

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