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24 hour layover in Ist with quick visit to Blue Mosque

Hello!
We will have a 24 hour layover in Istanbul. We arrive Sat 6/4 @ 2:45pm and our flight out is on Sun @ 1:30pm. I see that the mosque is about 30-45 minutes from the airport. Does anyone think we can squeeze this in on Sat afternoon or early Sun am?
I hate being there for 24 hours and not getting to see it! (p.s. never have been to Turkey before...can you tell??!!)
Thanks,
Donna

Posted by
3251 posts
  1. To do this, you will go through passport control. To do that you will also need a visa for Turkey. You can get that online and print it at home.
  2. The Blue Mosque is a functioning place of worship. To visit it you will need to dress appropriately and you will have to go during the limited times allowed for tourists.

Google "turkey evisa" and "blue mosque" for more details. I'd give you links, but I'm on my phone to answer this.

The Blue Mosque is definitely a jaw-dropper, but if you can't work out the timing and logistics, the Hagia Sofia and Topkapi Palace are good alternatives.

Posted by
51 posts

Since you have 24 hours in Istanbul, I would indeed recommend booking a hotel for Saturday night (6/4) and taking advantage of the time by going into the city and visiting the Blue Mosque, or as Lo also mentioned, Hagia Sofia. [Edited 10/7/15 to remove Topkapi Palace, please see follow-up comment below.]

As Lo also mentioned, you will need to go through passport control, which means you will need to apply for a visa. The process is quite easy and just take a few minutes. Go to www.evisa.gov.tr, enter the required information and make your payment with credit card. The e-Visa will be emailed to you directly. You must print out your e-Visa, show it to airport officials and customs officers when you arrivd, and carry it with you at all times during your stay in Turkey. American citizens pay $20, while Canadians pay $60 (also in US currency, Canadian currency not accepted.)

Generally, the Blue Mosque is open daily one hour after sunrise until one hour before sunset, and is closed to visitors five times a day for prayer. Both men and women should cover their knees and shoulders when visiting a mosque. Women should also cover their hair with a scarf, which is appreciated as a sign of respect. (Loan sheets are available for this purpose.) Also, shoes must be removed before entering a mosque.

Posted by
5019 posts

Donna, by chance are you flying Turkish Airlines? If so, you may be in luck...you will want to verify this (I have not checked in a few months, sometimes things change...) but this airline has an incredible deal: if you have a long layover in IST, Turkish Airlines will provide you with your choice of either an overnight hotel room (in a nice hotel), or a guided tour of the city - at no charge. I know this sounds incredible (imagine a US airline doing this for passengers? HAH!) but it's true. IF you are flying Turkish Airlines, check this out. You need to reserve in advance, you can't just show up, but it's a pretty sweet deal.

Hope that helps.

Posted by
13933 posts

Assuming your luggage stays with the airline, you can take the tram from the airport to the center of town, you'll have to transfer once. Make sure you have your boarding passes before you leave the airport (you should get them when you check in for the flight to IST). It takes about an hour to get back to the airport by tram and you'll need to be there around noon to get through security and to your gate. That still gives you several hours to sightsee in the morning. Get a hotel that is within either very near the Blue Mosque or between it and the Spice Bazaar. You'll have time for the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar (closed Sunday) and the Spice Bazaar (open Sunday). You'll want about 1/2 hour for the Blue Mosque, an hour for Hagia Sophia (they are close to each other). Topkapi takes several hours, though. The Suleimani Mosque is quite beautiful, and the underground cistern (1/2 hours visit) is near the Blue Mosque too.

Posted by
338 posts

The other posts have pretty much covered it, but yes you do have time. Realistically by the time you get off the plane, get your luggage, and clear customs/passport control, you won't have much time to see the sites on your arrival day. I'd book a hotel in advance and take a taxi straight to Sultanahmet (i.e. the area where the Blue Mosque is located). There are several hotels nearby. The Blue House comes to mind as one very close option. You may arrive in time to see the mosque or you may have to see it the next morning. Check the closing times for the various sites nearby. You will have time to see the Hippodrome (open 24/7) and maybe also the Aya Sophia or Basilica Cistern which are sometimes open later than other sites. The next morning you can see the Blue Mosque if you missed it. I do recommend also seeing in the Aya Sophia which is right across the street and is the top site in Istanbul in my opinion. You can then taxi back to the airport for your flight.

Have fun!

Posted by
2028 posts

We were in Istanbul last week. There is something that you have not factored in to this. That is lost time We just flew in to Ataturk Airport midday Wednesday, not in prime tourist season, and it was still almost an hour to get out of the airport, 22 minutes alone actually IN the immigration line, not counting getting to it. Getting to your lodging by the Metro tram connection will take at least an hour. These same parameters hold or leaving Istanbul, as you again have to go through a long passport line to exit, along with security to enter the airport itself, and agaiin to go airside. You need to be on your way to the airport by 10:45 Sunday at the absolute latest.
The there are the lines. the Blue Laquita and Hagia Sophia are incredibly popular. The line to enter the Blue Mosque, unless you get there we'll before the first entry (that was 8:30AM last week, we gave up on the last afternoon entry as the line was too long). The line to get tickets for the Hagia Sogia was equally long, it can be bypassed with the Muze card but would you buy that for one attraction, and if so there is still the problem of the wait for that.
In my opinion you can do the Blue Mosque if you have your logistics planned properly. But that is alL you can count on.

Posted by
6147 posts

I had the exact same flight itinerary as you recently, except that it was on a different day (I had a layover both ways). Even if you cannot see the Blue Mosque for whatever reason, there are countless other mosques you can see that I would argue are just as beautiful. There is absolutely no reason to confine yourself to the Blue Mosque (Rustem Pasha comes to mind as a substitute, among many many others). Also, you can check what attraction may be open later on Saturday (past 5pm) and try to see that although you may not have much choice there...on the day I was there, the Archeological Museum (excellent, by the way) happened to be open late in the evening so I took advantage by booking a hotel very close by and just heading over first thing.

Passport control will take a long time and you'll probably get in to the Old City (Sultanahmet) at around 4:45-5pm like I did...if the typical tourist stuff is closed (it likely will be), go to the ferry docks and take a local ferry to the Asia side (I always go to Kadikoy to my favorite restaurant there). The ferry rides on the Bosphorus (either local or tourist) are one of the most memorable things to do in Istanbul...so is checking out the food markets, wandering around, and sampling all the food. You can also go to the New City which is called Beyoglu/ Istiklal Cadessi and you'll need to take a tram and funicular over the Galata Bridge....Istiklal Cadessi is also a great place to hang out at all hours and has tons of restaurants in case you want to grab dinner.

I was pretty frustrated with the timing of my layover since it doesn't give you good chunks of time to do anything substantive, but I still made the best of it. PM me if you need any hotel recommendations - I loved both places where I stayed this time around.

PS. You definitely don't have enough time for Topkapi and I would recommend getting there first thing in the AM to any site that's heavily touristed (Haghia Sophia, etc). Or you can stay off the tourist track altogether and still have a great time.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks to all of you for your info, advise and suggestions. I will plant to get my visa on line and my husband and I mastered the art of packing when we took our first trip to Italy last fall! We were gone 19 days and all we took with us were carry on items :)
We plan to do the same for this trip. Yes,we are flying Turkish Airlines. Our route is from Atlanta, layover in Istanbul, and then Naples as our final destination. Reverse the order for our trip back home. Great tip about looking for a "free hotel" from the airlines....will def look into that one! I wonder if there is a way to actually extend our layover for an extra day without to much trouble? Seems like there is a lot to see in Istanbul! (and I really would love to go to Ephesus, but southern Italy is calling our name!)
Thanks again,
Donna

Posted by
51 posts

After reading all of the other great comments, I also edited what I originally wrote as I agree that there won't be enough time for Topkapi Palace, which is time-consuming to visit. But it is definitely still worthwhile to go into Istanbul, even if just to wander around the streets of the old town. One additional thing I wanted to mention is not to drink the tap water--drink bottled water only!

Posted by
3251 posts

Something rarely mentioned, but definitely need to know is that those trash cans you see so close to the toilets are for all kinds of paper, including used toilet paper.

You will probably first encounter them at the airport. You will also see a little faucet handle on the wall at the back of the toilet. It's for little rear washers, so you don't have to use so much paper.

Compared to similar systems in other countries, these are fairly primitive, but they do work. And they are much needed in a city of 14 million with a water infrastructure that hasn't kept up with population growth. That's why you drink and brush your teeth only with bottled water.

BTW, the cleanest bathrooms will be the public ones near or on the grounds of mosques. There will be stalls with both western and squat toilets.

During your visit, be sure to have some hot apple tea and some Turkish coffee. Both are delicious. And if you see a Saray cafe, get some profiteroles. They have the best I have ever tasted.

Be sure your debit card people know you will be in Turkey, get some Turkish lira (TRY) at a cash machine, and make the most of your visit, even if you only have time for one amazing building, some walking around and dinner.

Oh, and don't worry about an alarm clock Sunday morning. The 06:00 call to prayer will wake you.

Posted by
13933 posts

Find out the prayer times beforehand for the days you are in Istanbul. They change from day to day. This will allow you to better time your visit. The mosques close to tourists during prayers and if you are inside, you will have to leave. Plan to use the trams or walk to get around - traffic can be incredibly slow and taxis can take longer than walking sometimes.

If you already have your tickets, it may be expensive to change them. Call the airline and ask. If you haven't bought yet, use their website's multi-destination option to price a longer stay in IST. You may even find that you have more flight options that way for your other flights.

Posted by
13933 posts

Should have been clearer - use google (or other search engine) to find the Muslim prayer times for the specific dates. There are prayers 5 times a day, beginning before dawn and ending around sundown and they change from day to day and are specific to location - so on June 4 they'll be different in Istanbul and, say, Paris.

Posted by
6147 posts

"That's why you drink and brush your teeth only with bottled water."

It never hurts to be overly cautious, but I just wanted to put it out there that I spent over 3 weeks total in Istanbul on several trips and never used bottled water for brushing teeth. Same on a 2 week RS Village Turkey trip, which went along the southwestern coast. Never got sick from brushing teeth using regular tap water in any city during the trip. I guess it depends on your age, health, immune system, etc.

Posted by
35 posts

Since recently seeing the airfare is half by using Turkish airlines.... I think I might use them to go to Austria in May.
If I do, my flight will have a 22 hour layover and I'm interested in seeing Istanbul.... all the sites sound amazing.
When I was in Masindi, we woke up every morning at 5am to the call to prayer... beautiful.
I am concerned about being a female solo traveler there....
Any suggestions?? Other than using common sense. When I was is Kampala, I didn't venture out at night, etc. I know that eye contact, smiling at men can be taken as an invitation in some countries.
Id like to know of places safe for me to stay 1 or 2 nights in Istanbul. I am interested in going to one of the bazaars, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern.
Thank you!!!

Posted by
60 posts

As a solo female visitor you will be absolutely fine provided you use the usual street smarts.Although not as strict as Kuala Lumpur similar nehaviour will be good for you.İ.e.not making unnecessary conversations or prolonged eye contact.Be polite but business- like in any interactions with waiters,shop keepers etc.
As you 'll only have a short time and most of what you want to see is located in Sultanahmet that would be the best area to stay.Look for hotels in Sultanahmet/Gülhane and Sirkeci.These 3 neighbourhoods are next to each other and the tram line runs right through all of them enabling you to travel to other districts of the city,cheaply and quickly.In the evening you can safely walk around the streets in these neighbourhoods and you'll likely be surprised at just how many people are out and about even at midnight :)

BTW,both legs of your flight will be with THY won't they?If your long layover is an enforced one,that is;no chance of a shorter connection,then you may qualify for a free hotel courtesy of THY.And in any event you'll also be entitled to take one of their free city tours which are excellent.perhaps take one and then revisit any particular places you want to spend more time at.
http://www.turkishairlines.com/en-int/travel-information/frequently-asked-questions/travel-information/special-service-requests
http://www.istanbulinhours.com/

May will be a beautiful time to be in Istanbul as all the tulips will be in full bloom turning the whole city into a colourful natural work of art!And the weather should be mild enough to be pleasant but not too hot for walking around.
In April last year I stayed at the very reasonably priced Empress Theodora Hotel which is only 100 yards from Topkapı Palace and the stunningly lovely Gülhane Park right next door(actually the park was originally the garden of Topkapı Palace ).Gülhane tram stop is close by so this would be convenient for you and the walk up into Sultanahmet Square is only 300 yards.
Enjoy your short stay in wonderful Istanbul but do try to get back for a longer visit some time.