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Turkish Layover Worth It?

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Hey all,

I have a nine hour layover in Istanbul in both directions en route from Boston to Cape Town coming up. On the way out, I arrive in Turkey at 4:25pm (Sunday) and on the way back, I arrive in Turkey at 5:20am (Sunday). Is it worth getting out into the city to explore? I can get my Visa online to save myself some time. I am a single traveler and would rather go eat and see some sights than sit in a terminal for hours on end, trying to stay awake (my flight to Africa leaves at 1am). I usually carry-on my luggage, is there a place to leave it for the time being so I don’t have to lug it around the city or should I just check my luggage and hope for the best?

Suggestions on getting around and what to see/do would be most helpful! I am familiar with Uber as I drive for them here in Boston, but do they have that in Turkey? Turkish Bath worth the time/money? I assume the market will be closed on both days, but I wouldn’t want to waste time not seeing some of the sights! Also, should I bother getting some Lira? I don’t typically carry cash, but I will have Rand on me which is obviously no use to me in Europe!


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    If you are flying Turkish both legs, they may arrange a free tour for you both arrival and departure.

    There is a facility for left luggage, which should be useful even if you check-in your main case.

    There is uber in Turkey but they mostly utilize taxi cabs for the cheaper standard option (they screen them well though) and there is no guarantee that the higher grade car driver will speak English. You can use your United States app for Uber in Turkey.

    The Turkish Bath (hamam) idea sounds good as they are open in the evenings but possibly not so early in the morning. However, unless you really must have a massage, the alternatives are more interesting.

    I recommend a Bosphorus cruise on the evening and a historic peninsula tour on the Morning of your return.

    Both are doable and will be enjoyable.

    Take Uber or taxi to Eminonu for the Bosphorus cruise. Turyol boats leave to the left of Galata bridge and usually take 90 minutes to return.

    You can have a reasonably good dinner at Hamdi Restaurant at Eminonu also or if you have time, walk over the Golden Horn on Galata Bridge to Karakoy, turn right to walk another two hundred meters to buy the best Turkish Baklava at Gulluoglu and eat at a good Turkish Meyhane, Karakoy Restaurant another 30 meters past Gulluoglu. There are some other in places in that area also.

    Hamdi has terrific view and meat (kebap) Karakoy has no view but fish plus meze, and the opportunity to take some baklava back with you.

    For your return. Just take the cab to Sultanahmet. Walk around the Hippodrome, go in Sultanahmet mosque and possibly visit Hagia Sophia and/or Basilica Cistern before you rush back to the airport.

    The drive back to the airport in both cases will not be longer than 30 minutes or so and if you already have your boarding pass, allowing yourself 90 minutes for security and passport control should be sufficient.

    Make sure you have your seats reserved well before your flights, so you are not stuck with middle seats. If flying THY try reserving on-line (it may be possible 24 hours before the flight) if you cannot do it when you purchase the ticket or by telephone.

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    Thank you so much for the reply, that information is super helpful! I'm going to follow what you said as far as yours and places to eat, I truly appreciate it! I am flying Turkish Airlines both ways so I will check with them. This is my first international trip, so I'm not well versed in traveling this way.

    Again, thank you!

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