I recently returned from Turkey after spending 10 days in Istanbul with overnights in Izmir and Cappadocia. I used my credit from Turkish Airlines from a 2020 trip. I was there from April 24 – May 05.
We got our negative covid test here in Florida ($130.00 each) and flew to ATL to fly on Turkish airlines to Istanbul.
The check in process was easy – all documents checked including a travel authorization letter issued by Turkey’s department of health with a HES number. This document was issued when you filled some details about the length of stay and where you’re staying etc. on the TK website 72 hours prior to your flight.
At boarding, the passengers were given hygiene packs with bottles of hand sanitizer, 2 (very comfortable) disposable masks and sanitizing wipes.
Everyone wore masks on the flight except during meal times. The flight was not very full and may rows had just one person seated in it.
The attendants were strict about wearing the masks all the time and properly – covering nose and mouth.
Istanbul airport was very easy to navigate and we got to our hotel in good time with our private transfer.
At that time Turkey was in lockdown with a curfew.
Having been to Istanbul twice before I immediately noticed the more subdued vibe of the city.
There were tourists but they were very sparse and seeing the various sites without the massive crowds was really nice. We sat in the Hippodrome area and Gulhane park on most days people watching and admiring the tulips. There were 6 of us in the Dolmabache palace. One new thing is that visitors are now given a transmitter (?) with information about the rooms and items in the palace so there are no longer guides shouting in various languages. Not sure how new that feature is but it’s a great improvement.
The Blue Mosque is still closed off for renovation/restoration as well as the Basilica Cistern.
Some restaurants in the Sultanamet were open – mostly take out but dine in as well.
None were very crowded.
We flew to Cappadocia for one night – again very few tourists and we had many places to ourselves. The hotel – Yunak Elveri – was lovely and had about 20 guests for the night we were there. Masks required in all public areas.
You can tell that the lack of tourism business was really hurting the economy there.
We went to Ephesus for a day – very empty. We enjoyed walking thru the ruins at our leisure.
We went to Kusadasi and Pamukkale and Pamukkale was were it was really busy with many Ukrainian tourists (so our tour guide said). They were in the pools and the mineral spring there in large numbers.
They (the tourists) did not seem bothered about covid 😊. Very limited mask use and no social distancing but this was only in Pamukkale.
While we were in Turkey various curfews and closures were in effect but did not affect tourist and
Goods and services in the tourist areas. Some shops in the Arasta Bazaar were still open and many of the sweet shops. Sometimes passports were checked in the blue mosque/Aya Sofia area but that was always the case, I think.
One day before our return to the US our hotel arranged for a nurse/attendant to come to the hotel to take our samples for our covid test. She came at 10:00 am and we had the stamped, signed and dated result by 7:00 pm. The cost: $37.00. Negative result so we headed home the next day.
I will admit that I was hesitant about traveling during this time but I'm glad I went.
I felt safe at all times. Everyone we were with wore masks – tour guides, drivers, hotel and restaurant staff, and kept their distance as much as possible.
I had a more relaxed time and was able to do a lot without having to deal with large crowds everywhere.