Make the Most of Your Layover in New Istanbul Airport (IST) (Insider Advice with best Layover Tours 2020)

Layovers can be a very painful thing, hours of boredom, leg cramps and less than appetizing food choices when you’re traveling. And it happens to all of us in one way or another. But if you plan your layover in good way, you can often use this to your advantage and see Istanbul with a micro-trip. Here, you can read our recommendations on what to focus on, regarding how much time you have during your flight layover at New Istanbul Airport (IST).


Some Helpful Information

  • Istanbul is a popular stopover for flights en-route to Europe. New Istanbul Airport (IST) is located north-west of central Istanbul, in the Arnavutkoy district, by the Black Sea shore, on the European side. And about 45 kilometers from the city center.
  • As the airport is newly opened in late 2018 and became fully operational in April 2019, there are some issues with the transport connectivity with the entire city.
  • You can travel between New Istanbul Airport and central Istanbul directly by municipal public buses, HAVAIST Airport Shuttle, taxi and Private Shuttles.
  • You can store your luggage at the airport luggage storage.
  • On average it takes about 1,5 hours to pass through the passport control and security checks at the airport.

How long of a layover do I need to see Istanbul?

Everyone’s definition of a long layover can be different and no one likes that last minute dash and panic running to catch a flight.  For layover in New Istanbul Airport, we recommend you always have a layover of at least 10–12 hours so you can enjoy your time in Istanbul’s city center; however you choose to spend it.

The recommended layover duration is higher because New Istanbul Airport (IST) is located far away from the city center.

Make sure that it takes a minimum of 1,5-2 hours each way to get to and from New Istanbul Airport, with the fastest one way transportation. Also, when going back to the airport, you will need to pick up any baggage you may have checked; clear security, as well as taking a long walks from the entrance of the terminal to the departures (which takes about at least 15–20 minutes).

As a result, we can say that you should allow 1,5-2 hours (for each way to and from Istanbul city center), plus 2 hours inside the terminal issues, and any transit time; which makes at least total 6–7 hours. So, you should decide your New Istanbul Airport Layover regarding the hours we mentioned above.

Before You Go: Layover Tips

  • If you are enough motivated and excited for your mini layover trip to Istanbul, just make sure to check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you go.
  • Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements may change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
  • When is the check-in time of your next flight? Make sure you double check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport and plan your layover accordingly.
  • What are the security wait times like at the airport? You should allow about 1,5-2 as New Istanbul Airport is notorious with the long security wait-times and inside the airport way in between terminals.
  • What’s happening with your luggage? Make sure to confirm whether your luggage is checked through or needs to be picked up through your connecting flights.

A Few Hours Layover / Less Than 10-12 Hours

If you have less than 10 hours, you shouldn’t leave the airport. You’ll need to think about how to spend your time inside the New Istanbul Airport (IST) with this amount of time. There are many services and amenities that you can spend time inside the airport.


  • Kid’s playground – located at the airside of departures
  • IGA Galleries – There are 2 exhibition areas located on the airside of the Domestic Terminal, Departures Floor. Ara Güler / Istanbul Exhibition: The photo exhibition of Ara Guler, the iconic Turkish photographer and journalist who recently died. A Victory Monument Exhibition: The photo exhibition showing the 42-months construction story of New Istanbul Airport.
  • Food & Beverage – There are variety of nice cafes and restaurants at the New Istanbul Airport offering Turkish and world cuisine. Located at the International Terminal – Airside, Domestic Terminal – Air-side and Land-side.
  • Shopping – There are variety of local and international fashion brand stores at the airport to enable passengers to buy accessories, jewelry and watches, kids wear and toys, home textile, electronics and more. Shops are located on the Arrivals and Departures Floors (International & Domestic Terminals – Land-side and Air-side)
  • Duty Free – It is designed for passengers to feel the sense of Istanbul, and consists of 9 sections that houses different concepts, including Fashion Garden, Family Palace, High & Lux Hills, and Style Beach.

A Longer Layover / More Than 10-12 Hours

If you have layover time for more than 10-12 hours, it means that you may prefer to pass through the airport and visit the Istanbul’s city center.

Please remember it takes two hours each way to and from Istanbul city center, so you won’t have much time and you’ll really need to keep moving. You should focus on the one or two things you really care to see. Our recommendation is to focus on;

Option A:

Visit Sultanahmet (45 km.) and see Sultanahmet Square (Hippodrome, 20 mins), Topkapi Palace (one hour), Hagia Sophia Museum (one hour), Archaeology Museums (2 hrs), Blue Mosque (45 mins), Basilica Cistern (30 mins) and Grand Bazaar (one hour).

Plus a quick lunch or dinner somewhere you find attractive. You probably won’t have enough time to see all the sights at once, so you’ll need to visit Istanbul again to see them all. See our complete Sultanahmet guide page.

Make the Most of Your Layover in New Istanbul Airport (IST) (Insider Advice with best Layover Tours 2020)
Sultanahmet

Option B:

Visit Taksim (40 km.) and stroll along the famous pedestrian Istiklal Street, see Madam Tussauds Wax Museum (30 mins), Anthony of Padua Church (30 mins) or Pera Museum  (30 mins), have rest in one of the cafes and restaurants in Asmalimescit, Flower Passage, or make some shopping boutiques and shops along the Istiklal Street. See our complete Taksim guide page.

Make the Most of Your Layover in New Istanbul Airport (IST) (Insider Advice with best Layover Tours 2020)
Taksim

Getting from New Istanbul Airport to City Center

Best of New Istanbul Airport Layover Tours

We highly recommend you to take Layover Tours from the New Istanbul Airport (IST) with a handpicked, local, English speaking professional guide with transport by private vehicle. It is a very good option if you don’t want to go through the hassle of making all the arrangements by yourself, including the tickets, waiting at the queue and 2-ways transportation.

You will receive refreshments, and your driver will point out the sights you won’t want to miss seeing. And you can be sure that you will arrive on time to transfer on to your next destination. You can pre-book your guided New Istanbul airport layover tours below.


VIP Layover Tour from New Istanbul Airport

This is one of the best ones offered by Istanbul Welcome Card and we highly recommend.

Make the Most of Your Layover in New Istanbul Airport (IST) (Insider Advice with best Layover Tours 2020)Highlights
  • All sites in 6 hours
  • Enjoy a private transfer
  • Skip the lines at the museums
  • See the most famous landmarks in Istanbul
  • Get first hand information from historian guide
Tour Itinerary

You’ll be picked up and taken to the Hagia Sophia, and meet your historian guide. You’ll visit Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace and the Harem with an historian guide and get first hand information of the most significant historical sights of the city.

Make the Most of Your Layover in New Istanbul Airport (IST) (Insider Advice with best Layover Tours 2020)

You’ll have free time to visit close by attractions such as Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern or Grand Bazaar. And if you would like, you can also make a FREE 90 minute Bosphorus cruise.

Guides will meet you again in front of the Hagia Sophia afterwards, and bring you back to New Istanbul Airport.

Important Notice: This package is suitable if you arrive in Istanbul before 08:00 am. and will have a layover time of 6 to 9 hours.

Included
  • Private Round-trip Transfers
  • Tours by Historian Guide
  • Fast Track Entry to Hagia Sophia
  • Fast Track Entry to Topkapi Palace
  • Fast Track Entry to Harem
  • Bosphorus Cruise
  • Public Transportation
Not Included

Basilica Cistern

Available days and hours: Daily except Mondays and Tuesdays at 09:00
Tour duration: 6-9 hours

Meeting point: Meet your driver after the luggage claim area. The driver will bring you to your tour guide waiting for you at the Hagia Sophia.

Ticket price: €149

Notice: Our website visitors will get 5% extra discount. Just click the red button below and make sure you see the discounted price on the official page.

Book Your New IST VIP Layover Tour


Alternative Tours


There are also a number of alternative transport options to the city center such as taxis, private or airport shuttles, but if you don’t have much time, we don’t recommend them for a good organized sightseeing tour to the city center for layovers. You can read all the transportation options from our Travelling to and from New Istanbul Airport (Insider Tips, Buses, Shuttles, Taxis) page.

An Overnight Layover

If you have a layover during the night, this may be an excellent opportunity to take a good rest. If you wish to stay at a hotel or guesthouse near New Istanbul Airport (IST), we can say that you have very less options. You can only find couple of hotels near the airport located within 14 km. (the closest one) and 30 km. and it takes about 30 minutes to reach from and to the airport. Prices are likely to be more reasonable than on-site airport hotel. You can see them all from our Hotels near New Istanbul Airport page.

But what it great that there is an on-site airport hotel named YOTEL, located both on the air-side and land side of the New Istanbul Airport (IST), and you can have a very good and quality relaxation during your layover.

Make the Most of Your Layover in New Istanbul Airport (IST) (Insider Advice with best Layover Tours 2020)
YOTEL Istanbul

YOTEL serves in two separate parts of the New Istanbul Airport (IST), YOTEL Istanbul Airport (Landside) and YOTELAIR Istanbul Airport (Airside), with total 451 rooms (also known as cabins). You can take the advantage of comfortable luxury bedding, rejuvenating rain showers, relaxing mood lights, numerous charging points and smart TVs there. You are able to make hourly bookings as well. See our YOTEL Istanbul Airport Hotel, Rooms and Fares page for details and booking information. You can book the YOTEL from below. Note that there is a high demand on the rooms, so book in advance to guarantee your room.

YOTEL Istanbul Booking & Price Information

As for sleeping on a seat within the airport, the Airport staff typically tolerant of sleepers as this is quite a common practice. The chairs are usually fitted with armrests and also note that the lights can sometimes be very strong. Therefore, you might want to bring an eye mask and earplugs for a less interrupted rest.

As for taking a shower at the airport, there are several lounges (IGA Airport Lounge, Turkish Airlines Lounge Business and Turkish Airlines Lounge Miles&Smiles) offer shower facilities, as well as the YOTEL Istanbul Airport Hotel.

Summary of All

* You should allow 1,5-2 hours for each way to and from Istanbul city center, plus 2 hours inside the terminal issues, and any transit time; which makes total at least 6-7 hours.

* Don’t leave the airport if you have less than 10-12 hours.

* For a longer Istanbul layover, we recommend you to visit Sultanahmet or Taksim.

* We recommend Layover Tours from the New Istanbul airport to take the advantage of sightseeing and planned experience for the Istanbul layover.

* For overnight layover, we recommend you to book YOTEL Istanbul Airport (Landside) or YOTELAIR Istanbul Airport (Airside) and have a luxury relaxation including comfortable luxury bedding, rejuvenating rain showers, relaxing mood lights, numerous charging points and smart TVs.

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