Learn everything you need to know about Istanbul Airport with our detailed guide.
The new Istanbul airport is the main airport for international flights in Istanbul, and it started operating on April 6th, 2019. Istanbul is a bustling hub that has millions of travelers coming to visit or transiting to the other countries. This large airport was built to meet this demand, and it will be able to have 200 million passengers in 2025 once all the sections of the airport have been completely finished.
In this article, we’ve gathered all the information you’ll need to breeze through your visit or transfer to Istanbul Airport.
Where is Istanbul Airport?
Istanbul Airport is located in the northern part of Istanbul, in the region facing the Black Sea. Istanbul Airport was built between the villages of Tayakadin and Akpinar, and it is on the intersection of Catalca, Gokturk, and Arnavutkoy. It is also near Duru lake.
How to Get From Istanbul Airport to the City Center
Istanbul Airport might seem far away from the city center, but it has many transportation options connecting to the popular parts of Istanbul. Below we have listed some of these locations and how to get to them from Istanbul Airport.
Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque)
If you are visiting Istanbul for the first time, chances are you’ll spend a lot of time in Sultanahmet, the historical part of Istanbul. If you choose a hotel in Sultanahmet for this reason and you are going straight to Sultanahmet, here are your options to get there:
HAVAIST buses provide a comfortable and stable transfer from Istanbul Airport to various locations in Istanbul, including Sultanahmet. It takes from 60 to 100 minutes for a HAVAIST bus to arrive in Sultanahmet from Istanbul Airport.
HAVAIST buses depart from the airport every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. No matter what time of day you arrive in Istanbul, you will be able to catch one of these buses without long waiting times.
A HAVAIST bus ride to Sultanahmet costs 18 liras per person, which is about 3 dollars. The critical thing to remember is that you can’t use cash or credit card for your seat. You need to get an Istanbulkart. These cards are straightforward to get from vending machines at the airport. You can use this card for other public transit in the city as well.
You can use the same bus to return to Istanbul Airport from Sultanahmet when your visit is over.
Istanbul Airport metro line M-11 is currently being constructed and is expected to be ready for use sometime in the second half of 2020.
Once the metro line is opened, you can use it to reach Sultanahmet from Istanbul Airport, though a couple of transfers will be required.
Using the Istanbul Airport Metro Line, you’ll get to Gayrettepe Station. You’ll transfer to the M-2 Taksim Line from there to reach Vezneciler Station. This station is the Grand Bazaar metro stop, a big attraction of Sultanahmet.
If you have a lot of luggage with you and you’re tired, the metro might not be the best option to reach your destination when compared to the convenience of the HAVAIST buses. Still, it is a practical way to go to Sultanahmet.
You can easily get a taxi at Istanbul Airport and go to Sultanahmet. If you are planning to do so, make sure to get an official airport taxi and not an unregistered one to ensure you pay a standard fare. It takes 45 to 60 minutes to get to Sultanahmet with a cab.
You’ll see that taxis at Istanbul Airport have three different colors, yellow, turquoise, and black. The color of the taxi changes the cost of your travel. The turquoise ones are 15% more expensive than the yellow taxis, and for the black ones, you’d need to pay double the price of the yellow taxis.
You can also use apps to get a private car service, and this can ensure you are paying a pre-arranged price to get to Sultanahmet.
Istanbul Airport to Taksim
Taksim is another very central and easy to reach part of Istanbul. Here are your options to get there.
HAVAIST Buses, as we mentioned above for Sultanahmet, also cover the Taksim area. The frequent and non-stop HAVAIST buses take passengers to Taksim Square for the same cost of 18 Turkish liras, and it takes about 90 minutes to get there.
Once the new Istanbul Airport Line is opened in the second half of 2020, you will be able to take the metro to Taksim Square.
Once you get on the metro on the Istanbul Airport Line (M-11) and reach Gayrettepe Station, you’ll switch to the Taksim Line (M-2) and get off at the Taksim City Center stop.
Just like mentioned above for Sultanahmet, you can easily get to Taksim with one of the many official airport taxis waiting outside. You can also use car service apps to see the fare beforehand. It takes taxis about 40 minutes to get to Taksim.
Istanbul Airport to Kadikoy
Kadikoy is a bit further from the airport than Taksim or Sultanahmet, but reaching Kadikoy is still pretty straight forward.
Kadikoy is the last stop of the HAVAIST Bus route, and you can reach there in about 120 minutes. Because of the long-distance (approximately 64 km), the ticket price for a Kadikoy trip is 25 Turkish liras instead of 18. Still, it is very inexpensive.
Taxis provide a fast and easy way to reach Kadikoy from the airport. You can reach Kadikoy in 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the weather and traffic. You can choose one of the airport taxis waiting outside, or you can use an app to arrange your own car service.
How to Use Free Wi-Fi at Istanbul Airport?
Istanbul Airport offers free Wi-Fi to all passengers for up to an hour. There are two ways to connect to the system and use the internet provided. You can connect to the internet by using your phone number or passport number.
Connect via Phone Number
Once you click on the mobile connection, you’ll choose the flag representing your country, which will fill in your country code. Then, you’ll enter your phone number without providing this code in duplicate. Your phone will receive an SMS with a code allowing you to use the internet. Once you enter this code on the connection screen, you’ll be good to use free Wi-Fi.
Connect via Passport Number
You can alternately use one of the Wi-Fi kiosks that are located around the airport to scan your passport. Once you scan the passport, the machine will provide a code to use the internet. Enter this code to the connection page, and you’ll be good to go.
What to do at Istanbul Airport?
If you have a layover at Istanbul Airport, you’ll have plenty of options to entertain yourself. Istanbul Airport is huge, and it is filled with interesting restaurants, shops, and even art galleries. Here are some options to spend an enjoyable, relaxing day in between your flights.
Have a Nice Meal
Istanbul Airport has an extensive number of restaurants that offer a large variety of dishes. You can enjoy Turkish delicacies while you are here, or you can stick to what you’re familiar with by selecting an international food option. If you are having a long day, there are many coffee shops and bakeries to have a nibble and get some caffeine.
Istanbul Airport has an extensive shopping area that is divided into different sections according to different concepts. The whole area is a massive 55,000 square meters, and you can find a wide variety of products at great prices.
Visit the Art Gallery
Istanbul Airport has an art gallery called IGA Gallery. Here you can see some photos of Istanbul taken by Ara Guler, the late Turkish photographer who gained international recognition from his beautiful shots. Another section of the art gallery has photos that document the construction of Istanbul Airport, which took 42 months.
The art gallery is on the Departures Floor of the Domestic Terminal.
Go on a day trip to Istanbul
If you have a long layover in Istanbul, the best thing to do is to explore what Istanbul has to offer. Luckily, most of the important historical sights in Istanbul are located very close to one another, making it easy to see many of them on a one day trip. You can take a HAVAIST bus to Sultanahmet and explore the history of this beautiful city. If you’d like to get more information, you can read our one day in Istanbul article. You can choose only a few of the places on that list according to your flight and ensure you are back in time.
Hotels in Istanbul Airport
If you have a long night between your flights at Istanbul Airport, the best thing to do is to get some shut-eye. Istanbul Airport has some very good options to have a comfortable night’s rest and feel energized before continuing your travels.
YOTEL Istanbul is the biggest airport hotel in Europe, offering 451 rooms to its customers in two locations. YOTEL Landside is outside of the passport control, and the rooms are open for all visitors. On the other hand, YOTEL Airside is located in the passport-checked section of the airport. This makes YOTEL Airside only available for passengers traveling internationally.
The YOTEL rooms come with comfortable beds, extra fast internet, relaxing lighting, and rain showers. Being a big upgrade from sleeping on the departure lounge chairs, these rooms might be in high demand, so it is best to book ahead if you are interested in staying here.
IGA Sleepods are little pods in a calm and quiet part of the airport, where you can take a nap and rest. The rates are hourly and much cheaper than the YOTEL, only 9 Euros per hour. And for a little extra, you can get a blanket and a pillow. If you are taking a nap during the day time (between 7 AM-7 PM), the price goes down, and the hourly rate reduces to 6 Euros.
Istanbul Airport Lounges
Istanbul Airport has several lounges for passengers to wind down before their next flight. Here is a list of lounges at Istanbul Airport and the requirements for using them.
IGA Lounge is located on the International Departures floor, and it aims to meet all of a passenger’s needs. There are playrooms for people with children, and there are smart boards and computers equipped with fast internet for business people. IGA Lounge comes with other services such as a buffet food area, personal assistants, and fast track service with a buggy as well. To use the IGA Lounge, passengers must own an IGA Pass.
Turkish Airlines Business Lounge
Turkish Airlines is a pro when it comes to treating its passengers well, and this lounge shows it. There are many facilities where you can relax and rest before your flight, and you can have a shower in their facilities as well.
Turkish Airlines Business Lounge is at the E1 Gate, and you can use this area if you are traveling in Turkish Airlines Business Class or Star Alliance Business Class.
Turkish Airlines Lounge Miles & Smiles
This lounge is a perfect spot to get comfortable and get away from the hustle and bustle of the airport. The lounge is available to you if you are a Miles & Smiles Elite or Elite Plus customer, and you are allowed to bring in a guest with you. If you are flying Business Class, you can use this lounge as well.
Turkish Airlines Lounge Domestic
Turkish Airlines Domestic Lounge is accessible from the landside, and it allows you to check-in through the lounge in a much more comfortable way. Once you are in, you can enjoy exquisite food, PlayStation games, and computers with fast internet. To use this lounge, you must be flying in Business Class or be a member of Miles & Smiles Elite or Elite Plus.
Istanbul Airport Duty-Free
Istanbul Airport offers a unique and fantastic duty-free experience. The duty-free area in Istanbul Airport is designed in a way that there is something of interest for every passenger. The airport tries to achieve this by dividing the duty-free area based on the concept. Some of these concepts are Family Palace, Style Beach, and High&Lux Hills. Another thing that makes this duty free area unique is the Bazaar area, where you can shop for local products in a more traditional setting.
The duty-free area in Istanbul Airport is also equipped with the latest technologies to make shopping fun and innovative. You can use the chargeable smart shopping baskets, interact with 3-D holograms, and also use magic mirrors. The magic mirror is a fun technology that helps you see how a product (such as a hat or sunglasses) would look on you without actually trying it on.
Istanbul Airport Final Thoughts
Istanbul Airport is a vast space equipped to meet a high number of travelers, and it aims to provide its passengers with a pleasant and comfortable experience. It has a very regular bus service to most of the commonplaces of visit in Istanbul, and there is a connecting metro line currently under construction. If you are at Istanbul Airport for a connecting flight, you can have a nice, relaxing day of shopping at the duty-free area, have great meals, visit the art gallery, or you can even have a short visit to some of the historical sights of Istanbul. If you are eligible, you can also use one of the various lounges to get the most out of your time at the airport. If you need to stay at the airport overnight, there is a fantastic hotel inside that helps you have a refreshing night with their comfortable beds and features designed to help you unwind. You can also use their sleeping pods for more affordable nap times. Overall, Istanbul Airport is a place that takes customer experience very seriously, and you can feel this during your time there.