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I'm flying to Barcelona from Israel via Istanbul. The layover in Istanbul is 12 hours, and I'm thinking about leaving the airport and entering the country for a couple of hours. Would that be possible? Are there any Border/Airline restrictions?

I'm Traveling with Turkish airlines, and hold a passport which does not require a visa to enter Turkey.

I've done this in the past, but only inside the Schengen area, so this question is Turkey-specific.

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    Not a duplicate at all! – Maître Peseur Jun 15 '15 at 20:41
  • Actually it looks like a duplicate to me. OP states no visa needed, so ... what's the question here, exactly? If the user wants to leave the airport to visit Turkey, how would there be a border restriction? – CGCampbell Jun 15 '15 at 20:46
  • @AndréPeseur Care to elaborate? – JoErNanO Jun 16 '15 at 6:05
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    Sounds like a duplicate, however the answers here are elaborate enough to keep this alive – jbkkd Jun 16 '15 at 8:38
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The other answers are really awesome. To me it looks a bit like all your asking is are you allowed to leave the airport on this layover?

Given that you

hold a passport which does not require a visa to enter Turkey

You are basically a free person in Turkey, you are not being held in the airport etc, you can go where you like. There are no border restrictions against you going into the country, though it's possible there may be restrictions about what you can bring in with you, scans, bag checks whatever, which you should be informed about as you pass through on your way out of the terminal.

There are also no airline restrictions. As long as they let you off the plane, and have given you the time of the connecting flight, they do not require to you remain in the terminal, except, of course, that you should be there in time to catch the connecting flight. You can leave the terminal and go where you like in the meantime.

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As you're traveling with Turkish Airlines and have a long layover, you can ask for a free tour of the city, hosted by Turkish Airlines. Here's some info:

http://www.istanbulinhours.com/tour-schedule

You should confirm this with the airline beforehand, as what's available depends on your schedule. Depending on the time and duration of your layover, you might be able to get a free hotel instead.

I've used this service in the past. It's a bit touristy, but also surprisingly decent.

When I got the tour, I did not have to book beforehand. I just presented myself at a Turkish Airlines desk at Ataturk International Airport.

  • I think this is the best option, as it is then THEIR problem if the couch gets stack in traphic and you miss your flight. – Ian Ringrose Jun 16 '15 at 8:30
  • Thanks, though my flights hours won't work with the tour hours – jbkkd Jun 16 '15 at 8:45
  • You've got a 12-hour layover and the half-day tours don't work for you? That sounds like you might be able to get a free hotel stay. – MastaBaba Jun 16 '15 at 15:05
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Just after leaving the airplane, there's passport control, which is long because they're understaffed.

It takes 45-60 minutes to get to taksim square, by either shuttle bus or metro. The bus because is easier, the metro is more dependable. A bus leaves every half hour. Hop in, the driver will walk and ask all passengers for money. In Turkey euros and dollars are commonly accepted.

Taksim square is pretty boring for a tourist. The nicest area is between Sultanahmet and Eminonu.

Your plan is totally doable. Have fun!

EDIT: The bus has "Havatas" written in large letters on the sides, you can't miss it. It costs 14 lirasi, around 5 euros. It's a direct bus to Taksim, if i recall correctly (in all other turkish cities i visited, it was not direct).

Alternatively, for the metro, you need to take the red line to the terminus, Aksaray, and from there take the tramway direction Kabatas, and it's 4 stops to Sultanahmet. There you'll find Hagia Sophia and delicious ice cream.

  • Do you have any more information on the bus (number, location of the stop, costs, etc.) and the metro (line name, where to take it, costs, etc)? – JoErNanO Jun 15 '15 at 15:30
  • Donkeymaster, some of your statements are really gross. For instance "In Turkey euros and dollars are commonly accepted." and also "Taksim square is pretty boring for a tourist. The nicest area is between Sultanahmet and Eminonu." Nowadays, depending on the day, Taksim may not be the most peaceful place to stay. But the area is far from being boring. Also, there is no need to make a detours through Taksim to reach Sultanahmet or Eminönü. – Maître Peseur Jun 15 '15 at 20:40
  • @Andre Peseur I don't live in Turkey, but i was there a couple of months ago. I mentioned Taksim in the context of the havatas shuttle. Indeed the metro doesn't require you to go there. Euros are widely accepted in all places that expect tourists. I often had to explicitly ask for the price in liras because merchants would always state the price in euros first. – DonkeyMaster Jun 16 '15 at 1:04
  • They do that for tourists. That's rip-off – Maître Peseur Jun 16 '15 at 4:03
  • Most of the time, yes. They can get 1-5 lirası from rounding up the prices. – DonkeyMaster Jun 16 '15 at 7:10
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I had an eight hour layover on my way to Damascus so I got out and took the train to the center. I enjoyed a lively Friday evening on İstiklal and then took a cab back to the airport at 01:00 or so.

So yes, very easily doable.

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