As I did when visiting the city last year, I flew with Turkish Airlines direct from Edinburgh. Flight time is around 4 hours.
Departure from Edinburgh was 15:55 with arrival at Atatürk Airport for 22:10. On the way back the flight left Atatürk at 12:35 and reached Edinburgh at 15:00. In all respects those timings are good. You miss traffic rush hours, and you’re not leaving early or arriving late. Both flights arrived early.
You get a full lunch/dinner served, and I was very happy with the quality. You also get full in flight entertainment from a screen in the headrest in front. Check-in arrangements were quick and efficient for both flights, as was baggage retrieval.
Passport control at Atatürk was very quick entering and leaving, but do remember that UK passport holders needed a visa at the time of my trip (obviously check current requirements if you’re planning a visit, but this has been the situation since my first visit to the country in 2005). The E-visa is available online in 5 minutes for US$20 (multiple entry and valid for 6 months).
No embassy application is involved. You can buy the visa on arrival, but this might involve waiting in a queue and then waiting in another one at passport control.
My flight cost £176 return, booked about 3 months in advance. The price includes a 23kg checked in bag, and a carry on bag of up to 8kg (dimension restrictions apply).
I stayed at the Terrace Guesthouse as usual – I know the owner. It is 20 minutes from the airport at 10:30pm, but it can take over an hour at the wrong time of day. It is located in Sultanahmet, one of the key tourist areas. You have the Blue Mosque on one side, Aya Sofya on the other, and the Bosphorus in front.
The price depends on which room you take, but mine was €79 per night. The price includes a sumptuous Turkish breakfast, from the terrace looking out over the Bosphorus.
They will organise airport transport for you if you want, at €30 per trip. I use it because I like the “meet and greet” at the airport – a sign with your name on it, and then you are escorted to your vehicle.
It will usually be a smart air conditioned minivan, and most often you’ll have it to yourself. The alternative is a battle with a taxi driver… and every risk of being ripped off.
As well as being convenient for the airport and several major tourist sights, the T1 tram line runs very close to the Terrace Guesthouse – a 5 minute walk.
The trams will connect you with the Metro (for the airport if you prefer to get there by public transport), ferries at Eminönü and Kabataş, and the mainline (European side) railway station at Sirkeci.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2018