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Istanbul Layover At Ataturk Airport

| December 12, 2015 | 71 Comments

Stuck on a Istanbul layover at The İstanbul International Ataturk Airport in Turkey? Istanbul offers a lot for those stuck on a long layover, both inside and outside the airport. The Ataturk airport is the largest in Turkey and one of the top five busiest in all of Europe. The airport is located 15 miles west of Istanbul’s city center which makes it an accessible destination for those stuck on long layovers. If you’re trying to figure out if you are able to leave the airport on your Istanbul layover, click here for useful tips.

Istanbul Layover things to doIf you’re stuck inside the airport during your Istanbul layover, there are many services and amenities found inside the Ataturk airport including kid’s play rooms, hairdressers, photography service, shoe shiners, food and beverages, news stands, grocery, florist and medical services. You can find out more information here.

The Ataturk airport offers “Primeclass” CIP Service, regardless of airline or flight class, for all passengers that may need help in the airport. Click here to find out more.

There are also a number of lounges for weary travelers to rest including the Emirates lounge (for those flying first and business class on Emirates), and Turkish Airlines Lounge (for those who purchased first and business tickets on Star Alliance and Turkish Airlines). There is also a new SkyTeam exclusive lounge in the International Terminal near Gate 224.

For the full Layover Guide to Istanbul’s Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, CLICK HERE.

There’s a hotel inside the Istanbul airport for weary travelers. The International Airport Hotel of 85 rooms, which offers hourly accommodation. All rooms come with with TVs that show flight details, music system, 24 hour room service, internet access and minibar. Here’s additional hotels near the airport, and for Istanbul hotels of varying price points, click here.

For those looking to stow your bags while you explore the city, there are Baggage Custody Services on the Arrivals Floor of both the International and Domestic Terminals. They are open 24 hours a day in both locations. Fees are charged on a daily fee.

Getting to and from the airport into Istanbul is relatively easy, as the city center is not far and you can get there by:

  • Car Hire: Companies include Airport VIP, Alamo, Avias, Avis, Budget, Hertz, National Car, Sixt and Ülger. You can find more information at counters at the International Terminal (Arrivals) just past baggage claim.
  • Rail: You can get on the rail from the airport in the Esenler Terminal. You can find a map and more information on the rail system here.
  • Bus: Havas operates airport shuttle buses to central Istanbul (Taksim Square) and to the bus terminal on demand (trip time is roughly 30 minutes). Here’s the Havas schedule from Ataturk.
  • Taxis: Taxis or shared taxis, known as dolmus, are available outside the terminals.
  • Private transfers can be arranged.

Layover Guide’s Suggestions Of Things To Do On An Istanbul Layover:

Istanbul Tours

There are many tours available in Istanbul, based on your interest and depending on the length of your layover. There are bus and walking tours, boat rides, day trips, cultural, food, wine, dinner theater, nighttime tours for those on overnight layovers and tons more!

The Blue Mosque

One of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks, this mosque got its name from the color of the tiles inside. The Blue Mosque, with many domes and minarets, was built in order to compete with the Hagia Sophia, just across the street. The two popular sights are a great way to see a couple of spots if you’re limited on time during your layover.

Galata Tower

Built in 500 A.D., Galata Tower is one of the recognizable landmarks of Istanbul and offers great panoramic views of the city. Originally named the Tower of Christ, it was used as a watchtower but now is a restaurant/club and lookout balcony.

Grand Bazaar

If you want to pick up some gifts or keepsakes during your Istanbul layover, this is the place to come to shop! At what is said to be over 4,000 shops, bargaining is standard practice here, in the largest covered market in Turkey. You can buy anything from pottery and spices to leather.

Turkish Baths

The Turkish Baths offer it all – soaking, steaming, and tons of different types of massages. You can find listings of the best baths in Turkey here. It’s a great place to relax and unwind after, or between, long flights during your layover.

Topkapi Palace

This palace is a “historic area of Istanbul” and was the residents of the Ottoman Sultans from 1465 to 1853.  It’s picturesque and an interesting place to learn about Istanbul’s rich history. Click here for museum’s contact and visiting information.

Leave suggestions below for Istanbul layovers!

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Category: Europe, layover, things to do

Comments (71)

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  1. Hi Everyone from Istanbul-Turkey
    I am Private Tour Guide doing layover guided tour in Istanbul.
    You can find the comminication details at the web page.

  2. Navjit kaur says:

    Hi, I have a 14 hour layover in Istanbul… Was wondering how much u charge for 8 hours for one person? Picking up from airport and dropping off at airport and showing iconic sites extra. Please replay ASAP.

    With regards

  3. Becka says:

    Hi, I’ll have an hour Layover in this Airport, do you have to leave the airport?
    If not, is an hour enough time to get around to the next flight?

    • Hanifi says:

      Hi Becka,
      YOu do not need to leave the airport to get other plane.
      But do not forget you need to get two hours before the departure time to other flight.


  4. Latiefa says:

    Hi Hanafi

    i have a 6 hour layover at night time.What is there to do inside the airport terminal? i’m traveling alone.is it safe to go to the city? will a cab driver take US dollars? will i have enough time?

  5. Hanifi says:

    Istanbul is very safe.
    Our driver guide will pick you up from airport and show you highlight of Istanbul.
    You should check your time table first. You need a vise to get out of the airport.
    You need to have at least three hours to see the city
    We ask USD 225
    You can pay at the airport to our guide.

  6. Patricia says:

    i have 28 hours stop over, i am travelling with my baby, pls how easy is it to get turkish visa so we can do some shopping, we will be coming from London. and waht hotel do u advise we stay that is close to ataturk airport and also a close shopping mall. thanks

  7. liaqat says:

    I will be coming back from umrah (turkish airlines) in May and have a 6 hours layover in istanbul,
    Can i leave the airport and would i need a visa.
    And how much will is cost to get to the blue mosque from ataturk airport?

    Your help will be much appreciated,

    • hi there,
      You didn’t write your nationality. Every country has different visa rules.
      From ataturk airport to Sultanahmet whic is district where the blue Mosque located is 40 Km from airport.
      By taxi it will cost you TL 40 which is USD 22 one way.

  8. Mark says:

    Hi everybody, we are looking for guides to arrange sightseen in Istanbul to our customers.
    If interested please contact us


  9. I am British and I will have a stopover in Istanbul for 12 hours.
    I am traveling from Valencia(Spain) to New York (USA) with Turkish Airline with a stopover for 12 hours in Istanbul.
    Do I need a visa when staying in hotel in Istanbul.

  10. Sofie says:

    Don’t miss this if you are flying Turkish Airlines and have a long layover in Istanbul:

    Go om a free tour including guiding and food!

  11. Lexie says:

    Hello! My nationality is Canadian and I will be flying from Toronto to Kathmandu with a 5 hour layover in Istanbul. I know 5 hours is not a lot of time but I am dying to see the city! Is it possible to see a few sights of Istanbul in 5 hours or is it too risky?


  12. sahara says:

    Hi, I have Pakistani Nationality. I have a valid US visa, I have a stop over in Istanbul for 4-5 hours excluding the two hours for checking in to the next flight for Cyprus.Is it possible to leave the airport and squeeze in a short sightseeing tour?

  13. junebug says:

    I’m a US citizen on a 9 hour layover in IST from JFK to Capetown, then another 8hr layover over return flight. Do I need a visa to hangout in the town and should I get a tour guide? Thank you.

    • Hello There,
      Visa for US citizen?
      YOu have to get a visa for Turkey. But it doesn’t take more than 45 minutes. They put a stamp at the airport.
      You do not need a tour guide hongout in the town. But you should consider that would be nice to have a guide to use your limited time useful.
      Best wishes from Istanbul
      Tourist Guide Turkey

  14. Charlie says:

    HI, I will be on an overnight layover in late January 2015, arriving around 18:00 Sunday and flying out at 07:00 the following morning.. would it be possible to do a night tour of Instanbul? is this worthwhile? at what cost?


  15. Hello,
    there are a lot to see in istanbul.
    You can start at the arrival. Do a night cruise of bosphorus.
    Seeing istanbul by night specialy bosphorus is wonderful.
    The price is Usd 360 for one to three people.
    if you are more than that let me know.
    it is included guide service and car.
    tour guide

  16. Mj says:

    Do you have to take your checked luggage with you when you leave the airport and recheck?

  17. Selahattin says:

    Dear Layover Guests

    I am licensed and experienced English Tour guide in Istanbul and around Turkey. I have been guiding for more than eight years. I love having the opportunity to share historic, cultural, local and contemporary Istanbul to travellers all around the world. And lead private tours for layover travellers. If you have any questions or interests for Istanbul sightseeing tours, I would be very happy help you to make your short staying most memorable. Layover can actually be a memorable part of your trip:)
    Welcome to magical city Istanbul in advance.

    Professional Tourist Guide
    Selahattin Acar
    [email protected]

    • mike says:

      Hi Selahattin

      Am i able to leve the airport ? I have a 18 hour layover on my way to brussels. I am south African. Also please let me know your rates for a half day tour?


  18. Sulaiman says:


    I am a Saudi traveling from the U.S. To Saudi Arabia on May 16th, 2015 and I have a 6 hour layover. should I get the visa before arriving to Isranbul or get it at the airport? How many sites can I see? What are they? In this time period. How much would this tour cost me?

    Thank you,

  19. Renee Bowman says:

    I have a long lay over in Istanbul. I shall arrive at 2:25 pm and leave the next day at 1:40pm. first of all do I need to check my large baggage out of the air port and second, what can I do in this short time. Is it better to take a bus or taxi I will be staying at Tempo Suite Airport. Thank for any help you can give me.


  20. Moamen says:


    We are 7 hours layover at Ataturk airport, and we would like to have private guide tour to pick up us from the airport around 5PM on July 16/2015 and the bring us to airport before our flight.
    How much the total cost and that is the recommended program of the tour. Thanks

  21. Amanda says:

    1. We have a group of 75 traveling to Los Angeles with a 17 hour layover in Instanbul. We get in at 5pm and leave around 12pm the next day. We are all Americans and 1 Costa Rican. How easy is it to obtain a VISA and are there any tours or activities that we can do that night?

  22. Sonal Kadu says:

    Hello, I will be traveling to Ukraine via Istanbul. And I have a transit of almost 8 hours. I am an Indian…Can you please guide me about the visa procedures…Also I want to check out some nearby Tourists spots…how much will it cost?!

  23. Tara Asturias says:

    Hi I will have a layover in istanbul for 13 hours on November 14. I would like to check with you the rate , and itinerary, I am traveling alone. Please advise and get back to me as soon as possible. I am holding a Philippine passport would I be needing a visa?

    Thank you.


  24. praod says:

    i have 12hrs long layover in ataruk airport .
    i am not eligible for visa.
    will i get any hotels inside airport which i can access without visa.

  25. sam says:

    I have a 4.5 hour layover in istanbul. I will get the e-visa online. Do i have enough time to go to the blue mosque and also try some famous turkish ice cream?

  26. mark says:

    I am a philippine passport holder , shengen visa working in norway . i have 12 hours layover . can i leave the airport or need to process a visa ? want to avail ur tour



  27. S Rod says:

    Hello there,

    I am America female and I’ll be traveling to Greece in February. The flight I’m considering booking has a 7hr layover in Istanbul. I would arrive around 12:20pm.

    Do you think I would have enough time to leave the airport and do some sightseeing (specifically visit the Blue Mosque) and make it back with enough time to catch my next flight?

    Thank you in advance. I hope to hear from you soon.

  28. Ronell says:

    We are 2 US citizens laying over at Istanbul airport arriving at 5 pm on a Friday and departing at 1 am the next morning. Any suggestions what and if we can do something.

  29. Samantha says:


    I have been reading many posts on Istanbul and I now this whole thread. I am a US female, traveling alone and first time in Istanbul with a flight coming in at 5 pm and leaving at 1 am, so I am wondering how I could maximize my time without rushing around. Just feeling the atmosphere in Turkey would be enough. Food is also good too. Any help? Thank you.

  30. Amani says:

    I am an American citizen with 3 kids. I have 11 hrs layover in ataturk airport. I want to know if i can leave the airport to see some historic landmarks. What do i need to leave the airport and come back ?

  31. Selahattin says:

    Hi Amani
    Hello Farina

    The Electronic Visa (e-Visa) Application System was launched on 17 April 2013 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey. This system allows visitors travelling to Turkey to easily obtain their e-Visas online (www.evisa.gov.tr), in approximately three minutes.

    You can also get visa at the desks in the airport.


  32. Imran says:

    Is 5 hrs layover safe to get out and tour a bit

  33. Mike says:

    Will be travelling with turkish air and a layover of 9hrs in istabul in April 2016 with my family(2 adults and 3 kids). I will like to get some of the hotels withing the airport that won’t require us getting a visa and their likely prices.

  34. Oguz says:

    for the layover tours in istanbul, you may contact our webpage and leave a message to contact form, we will come with the best itenary and best price

  35. Anna johnson says:

    We have a 2.5 hour layover in ataturk airport en route to Abu Dhabi
    Do we need to get an e visa for this , we will be staying in the airport and going straight to get out next flight . We are flying gatwick to Istanbul and then in to Abu Dhabi – all with Turkish airline ? Than. You

  36. Frank says:


    My girlfriend and I are looking at two 20 hour layovers in Istambul, probably arriving there on the afternoon of July 1 at and leaving on July 2 at around lunch. We will then go back to Istambul on July 20 in the late afternoon and leave on July 21, at lunch 1:45 p.m. Is there tour or a guide to show us around and help us figure out things to do, and what would be the cost?

  37. Imran says:

    Hi I am going to uzekbakistan on business visa. I have 10 hour layover on Istanbul airport. I want to see the blue mosque and grand bazar of Istanbul. I want to know that do the authorities permit me to visit them or should I have to wait on airport.

  38. Selahattin says:

    Dear Layover Friends

    Whether you have short or long layover If you like to see our magical city. Here is the link that helps you to make visa process easier.

    If you have long layover or flight changing but enough time to want and do something. There is left baggage room to leave at airport. Right after luggage delivery hall to the right at the end.

    Freelancer Tour Guide

    • Doug Peterson says:

      We have a 10 hour layover in Istanbul on April 20th from 3:00 AM to 1:30 PM. We would like to see some of the highlights of Istanbul during our layover. There are four adults in our party. What would you suggest?

  39. Dalia says:


    I will have a 5 hours layover in IST in July. We both are Canadian citizens . We would like to do some site seeing. is this enough time to do a tour and return to airport for the connection flight on time


  40. Prerna tandon says:


    I am an Indian citizen and I have a 4.5 hours layover in Istanbul.. Would I be allowed to leave the airport?
    If so, what places can I explore in such a short span of time. Do suggest.


  41. Maria R says:

    Hello, I am Venezuela, do I need visa to get out of Istanbul Airport.? And how difficult it is to get it? I will have a layover of 6 hours, is this a good time? To go out and take a look for the city and most popular places? with you tour guide? and how much it will be?

    Thank you!!!

  42. Hoan Le says:

    Hello, I am a Vietnamese. On the way back Vietnam from Zagreb, Croatia in September 2016, I am having 14 hours from 12:20pm to 2:30am. I don’t have Turkish visa but I flight with Turkish Airline. If I want to get out of the airport, should I need a Turkish visa? How much for a city tour for 6 person in 10-12 hours from/to the airport? My group consists of 3 people.

    Thank you!

  43. Hanifi says:

    Hi I dont know if you need via to enter istanbul.
    Here is the infromation I get from govenrenr web page.
    Vietnam: Ordinary passport holders are required to have visa to enter Turkey. These passport holders with a valid Schengen members or USA, UK, Ireland visa or residence permit may get their one month period single entry e-Visas via the website http://www.evisa.gov.tr. Official passport holders are exempted from visa for their travels up to 90 days.

    It will cost yoıu USD 300 fro three people. More infromation contact with me

  44. amit daga says:

    Dear Hanifi

    I need to talk tyou related to travelling in dubai. Can i have your contact number

  45. Amruta says:

    Hi, I have 3hrs 55 min hrs layover while going to London and 3hrs while returning from Paris to Dubai. Do we need transit visa if we’re not going out of the airport? We’re planning to stay in the airport due to less time. Please suggest.

  46. Sam says:

    Hello. I know this might seem a little overly cautious. I am planning on flying turkish airlines from Miami to the Maldives in November for my honeymoon. I have a 9 hour layover in the Istanbul airport. I am an American Citizen and was wondering if it was safe for me to be in the airport or do I have to be cautious. I definitely wont be venturing out of the airport. Thank you.

  47. farrukh says:

    HI, hanifi my brother has a 10 hour stay at istanbul ataturk airport.can he leave airport? and visit to some places. how much time it take to go to blue mosque and grand bazar. how much it cost. waiting for your reply.

  48. Tarik Saylan says:

    Hi Everyone

    My Name is Tarik and I am both the owner of Guided Istanbul Tour company as well as licensed tour guide. I will be more than happy to help you with your layover tours from Ataturk Airport with private airport transfers included also if you have any questions about our city f.e safety, transportation or food please do not hesitate to contact.

    • Niyaz says:

      I am Niyaz n have a layover period of 6 hr could you plz help me with any layover tour n do i need to apply for the visa
      Iam indian citizen n please let me know the charges

  49. Michael Abboud says:

    I have 6 hrs layover from 10:20am – 4:20pm. Do I have time to see the blue mosque?

    • Hanif YILMAZ says:

      Hello Michael;
      10:20 You wil arrive. It takes 1 hour to leave from airport. 11:20 Driving to old city 40 Minutes.
      12:00 to 13:20 You have enough time but that hours might come across praying time.
      13:20 Drive back to Airport to flight.
      You can decide.

  50. Hello Michael,
    After you take off checking for passport control, Driving and coming back. You will have around two hours.
    Hanifi YILMAZ

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