Advice for overnight Istanbul layover?

May 1st, 2015, 07:55 AM
  #1  
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Advice for overnight Istanbul layover?

Hi - my husband and I have an overnight layover in Istanbul on Turkish Airlines in mid-Sept. We arrive IST a little after 5PM and depart the next morning around 9AM. I know that we will have a somewhat random hotel assignment from Turkish Airlines for the night. So we are trying to figure out how to make the most of our time. I already know that we won't be able to go inside the Blue Mosque, etc as everything will have closed by the time we get out of the airport and will not have opened by the next morning when we have to go back to the airport. I am thinking of trying to book a private evening tour as we will be coming off a long flight from LAX (though business class on miles-yay!) and not sure if we will have energy to figure things out on the fly. I was kind of thinking it would go like this:

deplane, get the visa (should we do that in advance?), get the hotel voucher from Turkish Airlines.
Then the question is should we just have a guide meet us at the airport and help us figure out how to get to the hotel later, or take whatever shuttle is offered and check in to the hotel and then just look around ourselves? We travel light-usually with just carry-on even for 2 wk long international trips - so we have to decide about how to handle those bags also. My husband (and honestly, me too) would kind of like to have a guide to maximize our time (we will return for a full fledged trip to Turkey - definitely on our bucket list!)

so any opinions/recs for tour guides would be much appreciated. Normally I can figure this out just by reading all the great advice on these forums but the added part of getting the hotel assignment from Turkish Airlines sounds kind of chaotic and I don't know how to factor that in to my planning.

so hoping that this kind of weird post gets some replies!
61luv2travel is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 08:01 AM
  #2  
 
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You could sleep at the airport if you don't plan to sigh-tsee in the morning - the airline should be willing to give you vouchers for the WOW Hotel, just outside. You can take public transport in from the airport. I did that when I had an overnight and the hotel is fine.

http://www.wowhotelsistanbul.com/WOW...N/ENGLISH.aspx
thursdaysd is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 08:18 AM
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but we want to try to at least do a little sightseeing even if it is at night. can't pass up a chance to see Istanbul even if it is just a tiny slice of it!
61luv2travel is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 08:46 AM
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That's why I pointed out that you can take public transport from and to the airport.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 09:01 AM
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Luv2travel (L.A):
Where are you headed after the overnight? Within Turkey? On to where?
Stu (Ojai)
tower is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 11:47 AM
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- Get your visa on-line before you travel. saves you precious time.

- By the time you clear theairport it will be rush hour. Although thursdaysd recommendation makes sense due to the time, you would be too tired and should appreciate the rest in the THY shuttle which my actually be a private car or a decent small van. Rushing through the metro and trams and lugging carry-ons in streets looking for your hotel in a strange city after a very long flight is not something you would enjoy.

- I would prefer to get the guide at the hotel, to make sure of the THY vouchers applicability and possibly negotiating a good room before taking off on an adventure.

- Almost all major sites are well lit at night. So you will have a feast by just walking around the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the entrance to Topkapi Palace and then driving on the Galata bridge across the Golden Horn.

- I will also recommend that you squeeze in a commuter ferry ride to Kadikoy in Asia from Eminonu, a short walk up the pedestrianized streets there and back with another ferry sometime before the ferries stop running at 11PM or 11:30PM, although they have smaller ones that run 24 hours. This way, you will get to see up the Bosphorus a way and also the old city as well as the new areas and the Dolmabahce palace from the sea.

- Familiarize yourself with the layout of the city before you start off.

- You can eat at Kadikoy or at Karakoy or Eminonu, depending on your taste buds, but do not eat at Sultanahmet your one Turkish meal.

- Although expensive, check with Fest Travel for a guide because I know them to be the best. I have also used www.allaboutturkey.com/ Burak Sansal and find him to be a pleasant person but think he overcharged me for my daughter's in-laws arriving from Detroit some years ago.

- Finally, I do not recommend an extensive tour which can leave you totally confused and hope that your guide will understand your situation.
otherchelebi is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 12:11 PM
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If I had time for only one Istanbul sight, it would be the Grand Bazaar. If I could do a second sight, it would be Hagia Sophia.
Edward2005 is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 12:46 PM
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Edward2005, Unfortunately both the grand Bazaar and Hagia Sophia will be closed by the time the OP can get to them. But they can at least see Hagia Sophia from the outside. The Grand Bazaar after it has shut down, from the outside is not a pretty sight, and could even be downright scary in the dark.
otherchelebi is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 02:55 PM
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Thank you so much for all of your replies and suggestions! I really appreciate them - now I can go back and discuss with my husband so that we can come up with a rational plan. Fodors forum posters are the best!
61luv2travel is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 02:58 PM
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oh - sorry forgot to add - we are on our way to Prague. Even though this is a really roundabout way to get to Prague, could not pass up the great miles deal for business class and the overnight in Istanbul just intrigued us. We know - it isn't the most restful way to get there but we thought "what the heck? Let's just go for it."
61luv2travel is offline  
May 1st, 2015, 03:10 PM
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My top Istanbul sight is probably the Blue Mosque - from outside. The good news is you can see it and Hagia Sofia from pretty much the same place. Also, plan to eat dinner somewhere with a roof top terrace or at least a roof top view.

From one of my TRs:
... truly memorable meal, not cheap, but so, so worth every lira. Not so much for the food, bland lentil soup and shrimp with rice, but the view was quite magical. I ate on the top floor of the Hotel Armada in the Terrace Restaurant, which has walls and ceilings of glass. To my right, the Sea of Marmara, busy with ships, to my left, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, serene in the sunset, and then floating floodlit against a black sky. Mesmerizing. For comic relief I could watch the sea gulls walking on the glass roof or peering curiously in through a partially open window.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 2nd, 2015, 09:38 AM
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61:

Have you been to Prague before? If not these Prague pics below may help you familiarize you with the wonderful city.
tower is offline  
May 2nd, 2015, 09:42 AM
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https://picasaweb.google.com/stuartt...cenesOfPrague#

In March of that year, it was snowy and verrryyyy cold (see pix)
tower is offline  
May 3rd, 2015, 07:33 AM
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thursdaysd - thanks for the suggestion! will definitely look into that.

tower - no - have never been to prague - looking forward to exploring - I guess the one benefit to going in the winter - it looks as if you had the whole city to yourself.

otherchelebi - your practical advice is so helpful.
61luv2travel is offline  
May 3rd, 2015, 08:02 AM
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61:

I think you should know that Other Chelebi(we call him "other" for a variety of unsavory reasons, most of which are pretty grims-ville) is not a Turk at all. He's a defrocked Imam and....

he lives with his quite elegant wife in worldly Cucamonga, California, never leaves his ramshackle hermit digs, and has put on this all-knowing charade for years. To blindly follow his recommendations can be exceedingly adventurous, for lack of a better word. When he starts asking for up-front money for his tainted advice it's time to walk away. We all have. Good luck.

Hey OC, I see you're still at it!!
tower is offline  
May 3rd, 2015, 08:21 AM
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LOL - having actually visited and golfed there (our daughter went to Scripps College) I find that hilarious. How did you know that I was imagining OC as someone either living or working in Istanbul right this very moment?
61luv2travel is offline  
May 3rd, 2015, 10:46 AM
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61luv2travel, please disregard the ramblings of the man who likes to think of himself as the only real Nazi hunter in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and who had a colleague thrown out of Fodor's lounge so that he would have time to review and edit Stu's last novel. Mind you, I am being respectful to him because of his seniority, in physical appearance if nothing else.

Stu, you should be following my, now almost two year long, thread on what's going on in Turkey which includes juicy bits of gossip to whet your appetite.

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ration.cfm?171

61luv.... I really am in istanbul and teaching a graduate seminar, INT576 at Bogazici University.
otherchelebi is offline  
May 3rd, 2015, 03:21 PM
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Be sure to get your visa on-line. It is very easy to do, and I understand you can no longer get it at the airport.
lilla is offline  
May 7th, 2015, 09:15 AM
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Yes, get your VISA online to save time. A tour guide would be helpful also to drive you around Sultanahmet area to the main attractions.

Two recommendations if you have time.

1. Have a Turkish Bath. Here's the one we went to and LOVED -- Suleymaniye Hamam. It's the only one I found in Istanbul that does not separate by gender i.e. couples can be together. Takes about 1 - 1.5 hrs. You can make a reservation on their website. Steam, massage, scrub, etc. So wonderful!! Highly recommend the Turkish Bath after a long flight (or before the next one!).

2. Have meat pies cooked in individual cast iron skillets. Very yummy! Also, pita bread served prior to the meal is about a yard long, fresh out of the oven, served with butter, soft cheeses, etc. Both are wonderful and are served almost anywhere. Your tour guide can recommend a place.

Have fun!
kwood1955 is offline  
May 8th, 2015, 06:57 PM
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Just walking around Sultanahmet at night is so much fun. You are right in front of the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia. We had a fabulous Sea Bass meal on top of the Panoramic Hotel across from the Terrace. The Terrace wsa ridiculously expensive and we had the same view at the Panoramic. It's up the street or up the hill on the left from the Cistern. Rooftop with amazing views of the Hagia Sophia and food was very good. I know you don't want to spend a lot of time in a restaurant when you can just walk and take in the sights and ambiance. There are so many roof top restaurants, you can't go wrong. Personally, I would eat light order a meze and just walk and look at the beautiful things to see. I'm a city girl. Oh and pop into one of the fabulous bakeries everywhere! Amazing deserts! If you could pick your hotel, the Tan Hotel offered free pick up and return to the airport last September 2014 and they are right there maybe a 5 minute walk to the Blue Mosque. Check their website to see if it's still available, but I imagine the airline will keep you close to he airport. Or forget about the voucher and pay for the hotel yourself it was only about $150 for the night. Hey we just paid $150 for a meal at a restaurant tonight. I think it took more than 30 minutes to get to Sultanahmet from the International Airport. or a little more, can't remember.
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