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Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

by kharwalkar Online Now Jan 23, 2013 at 2:42 AM

I am transiting via Istanbul Airport and I have a transit time from 09:50 to 18:10 (8 hours) Onward Journey and 12:10 to 19:35 (7 hours) return journey.

I saw that TOURISTANBUL offers a free 6 hours Istanbul tours for international transit passengers. However the timings are not suitable for me (as it is either between 09:00 to 15:00 or 12:00 to 18:00). I miss both the tours by 1 hour.

Is it possible for me to explore Istanbul on my own for around 5-6 hours by using the public transportation from the Airport? If so,
- What are the places recommeded for 6 hours
- What sort of transportation should I take and the cost for the same.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.

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12 Answers
  • muratkorman's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by muratkorman Online Now Jan 23, 2013 at 3:02 AM

    Of course you can explore Istanbul by yourself, but please take into account a few points. Once you leave transit passenger area, you need a visa to leave the airport. The visa is easy to obtain, but sometimes you may need to wait for a long queue to exit passport check. You may arrive at 09:50 to Istanbul, but perhaps you will be ready to leave only around 11:00. On the way back, you again need to go for check-in and passport control which may shorten your time. If I were you, I would take a taxi to Bakirköy, take a walk on the seaside, enjoy a lunch and return. You can also take train from Bakirköy to Sirkeci (Eminönü) which should take about 45-50 minutes and walk around in historical peninsula for a couple of hours. Your other option is to take metro from the airport and reach Sultanahmet area (you need to change the line on the way). Most tourists spend their time in this area and even for a few hours you can do that too. In summary, if you see that you lose a lot of time in the exit, just visit Bakırköy/Ataköy and come back. If you are fast with exit, take the metro and enjoy Sultanahmet area. You can check my Istanbul pages for many useful tips.

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  • davidjo's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by davidjo Online Now Jan 23, 2013 at 3:29 AM

    From Ataturk Airport take the train to Zeytinburnu then change to metro and go to Sultanahmet. From there explore the palace, then the Blue Mosque, walk down to the Bazaar with 3000 shops , see the floating Bridge and back to the airport.
    Study the attached map so you can prepare your plan for your two stopovers.

    istanbultrails.com/2009/02/m...

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  • vpas's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by vpas Online Now Jan 23, 2013 at 6:45 AM

    I agree with Davidjo. You could also have a quick dekko of the Grand Bazaar, it is such an old bazaar, but make sure you don't get too involved in the shopping.

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  • June.b's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by June.b Online Now Jan 23, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    In addition to what has been mentioned above, so you have a limited time and you want to see more, try taking a bosphorous tour:

    "Bosphorous Tour by Turyol Ferry" - Istanbul Things to Do Tip by June.b

    I recommend the Turyol (link above) as it's only about less than 2 hours, so after wandering around Sultanahmet, say from 11 to 1pm, you can have a refreshing ferry tour and see sights along the shores of the bosphorous straits.

    And before sunset, you're off to the airport.

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  • leics's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by leics Online Now Jan 23, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    I would not suggest visiting Topkapi. You will almost certainly have to queue (for tickets, possibly for security screening and possibly for the Harem and Treasury too). There is simply too much to see to make a visit worthwhile in a short time (unless you don't intend to visit anywhere else).

    The points about the actual time you have available are also worth noting. Getting a visa (assuming you can get a visa on arrival) can be quick or not quick, depending entirely on how many other people have arrived at the same time. You will need to be back at the airport in good time to check-in or go through security (be aware that, as I recall, Ataturk has security screening to actually enter the terminal as well, and that can be busy).

    Be wary too of road transport. The road to the airport is always busy and can be *very* congested at commuter times. Allow plenty of time to get back.

    I'd suggest you focus on Sultanahmet, as suggested, but mostly to walk around, soaking up the atmosphere. Have a look at Topkapi and Ayia Sofia from the outside, maybe go into the Blue Mosque and Grand Bazaar but probably best to avoid anywhere which has queues.

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  • Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by kharwalkar Online Now Jan 23, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    Thank you all for your good suggestions. I have another questions: is it possible to buy one day pass for Public Transport, or just or just buy a return ticket to Sultanahmet. What would be the cose for the same?

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  • muratkorman's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by muratkorman Online Now Jan 23, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    There are token machines available in every station. There are also booths where you can buy tickets/tokens. As you will only travel a couple of times, there is no need to buy a daily card or something like that.

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  • June.b's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by June.b Online Now Jan 23, 2013 at 11:54 PM

    Akbil or Istanbul Kart is only beneficial for long stays. You'll be fine buying jetons (tokens) at each station, starting at the airport Metro.

    It would be wise to buy 4 right at the airport (TL2 each token), that is, if you plan it carefully and sure not taking a taxi back to the airport. Buying multiple tokens will save you time from occassional queues at the jeton machines, so you just have to breeze through the turntiles.

    Here's a detailed way to go to Sultanahmet from Ataturk airport by public transport ....and more:

    "From the Airport to Sultanahmet" - Istanbul Ili Transportation Tip by June.b

    ENjoy.

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  • stream&rain's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by stream&rain Online Now Jan 25, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    Best will be using public transport system. Tram is the best to reach to Sultanahmet area firstly after Sultanahmet walk down to Eminonu area via last rail station of Europe and use public ferry to Uskudar and return back for mini tour just to get some photos and get some fresh air. This trip will take about 40 minutes at total. Let's say an hour . At the return , enter from street door (main door and only one and it s only 4-5 minutes walk from ferry) Spice market (Eigtian bazaar and exit from back door and start to explore the crowd and keep walking to Grand Bazaar. (Probably 15 minutes in Spice market and lazy walking to Grand Pazaar by also looking shops on the way takes around an hour) . Grand Bazaar ; spend some time , maybe around 45 minutes) u may buy small gifts but not carpets please...) And exit from Beyazıt door from Grand Bazaar . The tram u need to use also has stop at Beyazit. Look at your time and if you think time is okey, you can return back to Airport.
    Please also check how to reach Sultanahmet from Airport at "Istanbul transport pages".
    Hope you enjoy my advices. Have a nice time.

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  • Raimix's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by Raimix Online Now Jan 29, 2013 at 5:28 AM

    I suggest you just to visit Sultanahmet (Blue mosque, Aya Sophia, Grand Bazaar (a bit;), some other mosques, a view to Galata bridge, maybe Spice bazaar), without visiting any museum or too much busy place. I think you still have a time to eat something and try Turkish apple tea. Overall it is huge place, so better to visit it for a one week or so :)

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  • Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by alamak123 Online Now Nov 7, 2013 at 2:26 AM

    My transit in Istanbul is from 5pm to midnight. I know it will be winter during that time. Is it advisable for me to visit Sultanahmet and explore the place?

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  • Raimix's Profile Photo

    Re: Transit time of 8 hours in Istanbul, not suitable for schedule of Free Istanbul Tours

    by Raimix Online Now Nov 7, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    That looks not so much time, maybe only to walk a bit in Sultanahmet always watching to your clock.. Maybe to see Blue mosque, Hagya Sophia and a bit around,

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