Have you been dreaming of the cultural melting pot that is Istanbul? Let us show you how to score the ultimate deal to travel there. First, make sure you open a private browser window to keep your cookies hidden and stop flight prices from surging. Now we’re ready to start.
The first thing you need to know is that Istanbul has two airports: Ataturk International Airport and Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (airline codes IST and SAW, respectively). Knowing this doubles your chances of finding cheaper flights, so do every search for both destinations and compare fares.
Use Hipmunk’s search engine to look for your available travel dates. Flights from Los Angeles, California, to Istanbul cost around $850 with 50 days advance purchase. Delta, KLM, United, Lufthansa, and, of course, Turkish Airlines are the main carriers for these routes and are similarly priced. If you already have a loyalty card, choose the carrier that offers you the most bang for your buck.
Another travel trick is to check out the layovers; often, flights with extremely long layovers are cheaper. For instance, one $821 flight from Los Angeles to Istanbul offers a 10-hour layover in Amsterdam. That’s a bonus trip! Another workaround is to look for a cheap ticket to anywhere in Europe. It’s easy to find cheap flights to Istanbul from Europe that leave midweek; Barcelona and London are incredibly affordable at $190 round-trip.
How Can I Get to and From the Airport?
You have a few ways to get in and out of the airport depending on your budget and the time of day. It costs around 40 lira for a ride into the center by taxi. If your driver doesn’t turn on the meter, make sure you ask them to right away! Also, there is no difference between day and night fares, so be aware of that if your driver pulls a fast one. For the ultimate combination of budget and convenience, take the Havatas airport shuttle for 11 lira, which drops off in Taksim Square.
To save money on transportation in Istanbul, take the metro/train combination. The metro runs from 6 a.m. to midnight daily, and a token n the red line costs 4 lira. Staying in the Sultanahmet area means you will need to transfer and pay another 4 lira at your connection. All told, the trip into the center will take around 45 minutes and cost 8 lira. Do note that the metro has many stairs, so if you’re traveling with several suitcases, be prepared for a workout.
What Nearby Hotels are There?
The closest hotel to Ataturk International Airport is TAV Airport Hotel. Because the hotel is on airport grounds, you don’t have to bother with customs, passport control, or even a visa, easily making this an ideal choice. Breakfast starts at 4 a.m. and includes a variety of delicacies from smoked veal tongue to freshly squeezed orange juice.
If you don’t need to be in the airport, try the WOW Airport Hotel, which offers shuttle service every half hour from the airport to the hotel and is a 5-minute walk from the metro exit World Trade Centre. Enjoy several restaurants nearby, or stay on budget by shopping at the grocery store Carrefour located inside the WTC building.
For an even more budget-friendly option, try the guest house Florya Konagi which is 5 to 10 minutes away by taxi. It has a homey feel and offers a traditional Turkish breakfast buffet replete with marinated olives, cheeses, fresh bread, coffee, and, of course, Turkish tea! Perfect for those long layovers, this hotel comes with free Wi-Fi to let your loved ones know you are on your way.
Do You Have Any Additional Tips or Tricks?
Be savvy: Many people inside the airport are working on commission, and you will pay much more through them, so try to DIY. Use an ATM at the airport to withdraw Turkish lira, as foreign currency is not accepted outside the airport and the converters charge a steep commission.
With these tips in mind, you can enjoy an affordable and hassle-free trip into Turkey's largest city, Istanbul.