Practical tips

  • If you are flying to Istanbul from abroad, you will most likely land at one of its biggest international airportsits main international airportIstanbul Atatürk Airport IST and Sabiha Gökçen Airport SAW.

    Istanbul Atatürk Airport, located on the European side of the city, is the larger of the two airports and the primary hub for the national carrier Turkish Airlines. It's well-connected to the city center by a variety of transportation options — including the metro, public bus, and taxis. Upon arrival, you'll find a range of dining options, shopping centers, currency exchange, ATMs, and luggage storage. There's a Wi-Fi network available for arriving passengers (free 1-hour free access, you must register first via SMS and using your passport number).

    Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport, located on the Asian side of the city, is a smaller but more modern airport compared to IST, and it primarily serves low-cost airlines. It is also less crowded, which can be a big plus if you're looking for a smoother arrival experience. SAW is known for its impressive views of the city and the nearby sea — plan ahead and book a window seat! After arrival, you'll have some good options to get to the city via taxi or private transfer services. However, public transport is less convenient than at IST.

    These are also the best (and cheapest) airports to fly into Istanbul. As they are used by many airlines serving the same routes, the competition for passengers is fierce, and airfare decreases as a result.
Best airports to fly into Istanbul: Istanbul Airport (IST) or Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW)
Istanbul has two international airports – Istanbul Airport IST located on the European side of Istanbul, about 24 km (15 miles) west of the city center, and Sabiha Gokcen International Airport SAW located on the Asian side of Istanbul, about 50 km (31 miles) southeast of the city center.
  • Once in Istanbul, take advantage of frequent intercity flights operated by domestic airlines such as Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, SunExpress, AnadoluJet, Onur Air, and Corendon Airlines. Those in-country carriers typically offer lower fares, operate from smaller airports located closer to city centers (you save on ground transportation) and provide flexible schedules – with a wide range of departure times.
  • Planning to explore the region? Popular destinations near Istanbul can be easily reached with regional low-cost carriers (LCCs) by the likes of AirArabia, Buta Airways, FlyDubai, FlyArystan, Jazeera Airways, Wizz Air, Air Europa, easyJet. If you have a layover in Istanbul and plan to fly only a short distance to one of its neighboring countries, these budget airlines are an excellent way to save money.

Flights to Istanbul
from United States and Canada

  • There are no direct flights from the US or Canada to Istanbul. However, most major hubs in Asia have non-stop flights to Istanbul, as do some larger airports in the Middle East – your journey will have at least one stop. Currently, only Turkish Airlines (THY) offers year-round direct flights on routes from the US/Canada to Istanbul. It flies out from most biggest cities in North America: New York, Atlanta, Washington, Chicago, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Dallas, Toronto and Vancouver. All scheduled flights arrive at the Istanbul International Airport. Expect to spend between 9 and 14 hours on a plane.
  • Istanbul is well-served via one-stop flights from North America. Flights to Istanbul with one layover depart from most major North American airports, including Atlanta ATL, Dallas DFW, Denver DEN, Chicago ORD, Los Angeles LAX, Las Vegas DFW, Miami MIA, Seattle SEA, Houston IAH, New York JFK, and San Francisco SFO in the United States and Toronto YYZ, Vancouver YVR, Calgary LAS, and Montreal YUL in Canada.
  • The best airlines to fly to Istanbul from the US and Canada are: Cathay Pacific, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Turkish Airlines. They are top full-service carriers, offering exceptional customer service, in-flight comfort, a generous checked baggage allowance, and reliable customer support channels – all included in the ticket price.

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Flights to Istanbul from Europe

  • There are no direct flights from Europe to Istanbul — you’ll need to get a connecting flight from elsewhere in the Middle East or in Asia. Direct flights from Europe to Istanbul are just few hours long (around 4 hours if you fly direct from London, and just below 2 hours from Athens). Most European hubs have a nonstop connection to Istanbul (as well to other Turkish cities). Among the airlines that operate those route you'll find both full-service carriers such as British Airways, KLM, LOT, Lufthansa, SAS, SWISS, and Turkish Airlines, and low-budget companies by the likes of Ryanair, easyJet, Wizz Air, and
  • Airlines that frequently fly from the UK, Germany, France, and other European countries to Istanbul include Aegean Airlines, Air Malta, British Airways, Croatia Airlines, Emirates, Finnair, KLM, LOT, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, SAS, SWISS, and Turkish Airlines.
  • Consider departure airports in neighboring countries to increase your chance of spotting the best deal. Especially look for large airports that serve as hubs for multiple airlines. For example, if you live in Western Europe, check air tickets to Istanbul from Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Paris, and Rome. Leverage frequent promotions from European budget carriers like RyanAir, EasyJet, and Eurowings to reach a major hub; from there, take a cheaper long-haul flight to your final destination, potentially saving hundreds of euros.

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Things to know before flying to Istanbul
Airlines flying to IstanbulAegean Airlines, Aeroflot, Air Albania, Air Algerie, AirArabia, Air Astana, AirEuropa, Air France, Air Malta, AirMoldova, Air Monte Negro, Air Portugal, ANA, AnadoluJet, AirSerbia, Ariana Afgan Airlines, Asiana Airlines, ATA Airlines, Avianca, Azerbaijan Airlines, Azimuth, Badr Airlines, Belavia, Berniq Airways, British Airways, Buraq Air, Buta Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Southern Airlines, Copa Airlines, Croatia Airlines, Delta Air Lines, EasyJet, Egypt Air, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Etihad Airways, Finnair, Flyadeal, FlyArystan, FlyBaghdad, FlyDubai, Fly Jordan, FlyOne, Fly OYA, Garuda Indonesia, Ghadames Air, Gulf Air, Hong Kong Airlines, IndiGo, IrAero, IranAir, Iran Aseman Airlines, Iraqi Airways, Japan Airlines, Jazeera Airways, JetBlue, Jordan Aviation, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Kuwait Airways, Libyan Wings, LOT, Lufthansa, Mahan Air, Malaysia Airlines, Malindo Air, MEA, Meraj Air, NouvelAir, Oman Air, Pegasus Airlines, PIA, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Qeshm Air, Red Wings, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Brunei, Royal Jordanian, Rossiya Airlines, RwandAir, SAS, Saudia, SCAT Airlines, Scoot, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airlines, Tarom, Thai Airways, TunisAir, Turkish Airlines, Turkmenistan Airlines, UIA, Utair, Uzbekistan Airways, Wizz Air
Airlines of TurkeyTurkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, SunExpress, AnadoluJet, Onur Air, Corendon Airlines, Freebird Airlines, Tailwind Airlines

Main airports in IstanbulIstanbul International Airport (IST) — Istanbul
Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) — Istanbul
Regular price (roundtrip)✈ €100 – €200 (from Europe)
✈ $650 – $900 (from USA)

Low-cost flights from Istanbul

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Turkish Airlines: long-haul planes on short-haul routes

Turkish Airlines has an enormous fleet of nearly 400 aircraft – from the small Airbus A319 (126 seats) up to the giant Boeing 777-300ER (249 seats). The good news is that the airline often operates long-haul configured aircraft on short and medium-haul routes.

So if you fly domestically from Istanbul or travel to one of the neighboring countries, choose Turkish Airlines – you may get lucky and be seated in a large cabin with generous seat legroom, even in economy class. Look for Airbus A330, Airbus A350, Boeing 787 and Boeing 777s when booking your ticket.

The cheapest time to fly to Istanbul

The low tourist season in Turkey typically occurs between November and April (excluding dates around Christmas and New Year) – it is also the cheapest time to fly to Istanbul. Airfares and hotel prices tend to be cheaper as the country is less crowded and there is less demand. However, the temperatures can be quite cold in some regions, and some attractions may be closed due to inclement weather.

Despite the cooler temperatures, the low season presents a great opportunity to experience Istanbul in a different light. You can still enjoy its rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and delicious cuisine – with the added benefit of having many attractions to yourself.

Know your time zone

Turkey uses only one time zone across the country – Turkey Time (TRT) – which is UTC+3 (GMT+3). As a result, clocks in Istanbul are 3 hours ahead of London and 7 hours ahead of New York. The country shares the same time zone with Ethiopia, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Ukraine. It does not have an associated daylight saving time.

Ensure you know the local time zone when checking flights and airport transfer times. The departure time on your plane ticket is always listed based on the time zone of the departure airport. We suggest resetting your watch during the flight – it will help your brain adjust to the new time zone and to deal with jet lag.

Duty-free rules

Turkey is serious about the duty-free concession. There is a limit for bringing in certain items. Alcoholic drinks such as wine or spirits cannot exceed one liter per person, and you can carry only 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars and 200g of tobacco. In addition to personal items, you may also carry items such as gifts – up to a value of €430.

Anything above those limits must be declared – at the airport in Istanbul, head to the Red Lane to declare your goods.

Next tips

Avoid currency exchange kiosks at airports

Airports are infamous for making an exuberant amount of money from their currency exchanges due to the extremely high margins, and the airports in Istanbul are no exception. Airport kiosks usually charge higher fees which are sometimes hidden within the poorer exchange rates they offer – their business is based on charging extra for being a convenient, last-minute option.

Plan ahead and exchange some money for the Turkish lira at home.

Download a VPN app

When it comes to media censorship, Turkey is one of the world leaders – it seems to have a problem with freedom of speech and certain online content. In the last few years, more than 250,000 websites have been banned temporarily or permanently – including Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, Wikipedia, IMDB, and Blogspot. You can use this website to check if a certain site currently works in Turkey.

If you want to keep access to your favorite websites while traveling to Istanbul, you should download a VPN app for your smartphone and laptop before you arrive. With the VPN app, you will be able to bypass government censorship and freely access all blocked content.

Uber has limited availability in Istanbul

Uber is available in Turkey but not everywhere in the country. The app will find you a ride easily in Istanbul, however, in most areas outside the city, it can be much more difficult to find a car (try BiTaksi and iTaksi apps there). If available, though, Uber is a good way for a cross-city journey: the cars are safe, usually air-conditioned, and there are fixed distance-based fees, so drivers can’t overcharge you for journeys.

Interestingly, Uber is easily accessible for airport transfers in Istanbul. So, instead of taking a bus or local taxi, you can simply use the Uber app at the airport to arrange a quick transfer to the city.

Long waiting times when calling the helpline?

Social media is usually a faster way to reach the airline when a problem arises. Use Twitter or Facebook Messenger to contact the airline customer service and get a response and solution within minutes (see detailed guides for Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and others).

When it comes to Twitter, there’s one more trick to get in touch with the airline faster: mention the airline in a tweet about your issue (add “@airline_handle”, for example: “@TurkishAirlines”). The social media team will often notice it immediately, ask you for a direct message, and respond privately.

Next tips

Domestic flights from Istanbul

Most domestic routes in Turkey are operated by local carriers. When traveling to popular tourist destinations such as Antalya, Ankara, İzmir, Bursa, Adana, Gaziantep, or Konya from Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gokcen Airport, you’ll likely fly with one of these domestic airlines: Turkish Airlines, Pegasus Airlines, SunExpress, AnadoluJet, Onur Air, and Corendon Airlines.

This is often the best transportation method, providing speed, convenience, and cost-effectiveness. Local airlines often offer multiple daily flights to key destinations, providing flexibility in scheduling and competitive pricing. They also serve smaller regional airports, enabling access to a wider range of Turkish destinations.

Flights to Istanbul
from Australia and New Zealand

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Flights to Istanbul
from major hubs in Asia

  • Many popular tourist destinations in Asia have convenient direct flights to/from Istanbul: Bangkok BKK, Bali DPS, Beijing PEK, Ho Chi Minh SGN, Hong Kong HKG, Jakarta CGK, Kuala Lumpur KUL, Manila MNL, New Delhi DEL, Phuket HKT, Singapore SIN, Taipei TPE, and Tokyo HND.
  • Asia is probably the best continent for short-haul and mid-haul flying. The sheer scale of this most populous region on Earth is reflected in the type of aircraft operating many shorter routes: intra-Asia flyers benefit from comfortable, wide-bodied aircraft by the likes of Boeing 777, 787 or Airbus A350, A330, and A380. When booking your flight to Istanbul look for these bigger planes as they will almost always give you the best experience in every cabin, including better seat pitches, higher ceilings, and larger overhead bin space.
  • Asia is also home to most of the world’s best airlines. There are only ten airlines that received the prestigious 5-star mark of quality from Skytrax, and all of them are from Asia: ANA, Asiana Airlines, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines. Choosing one of these airlines for your trip to Istanbul will guarantee a pleasant journey – delicious meals served during the flight, great in-flight entertainment, and above-average airline customer service.
  • Asia is extremely well served by low-cost regional airlines. If you are visiting Turkey and want to see several other countries on a tight budget, they often have great sales with rock-bottom prices, while still offering a relatively comfortable flight experience. Among the best Asian budget airlines you can book without hesitation are AirAsiaCebu Pacific, Citilink, FlyDubai, Indigo, Jetstar Airways, Scoot, SpiceJet, and VietJet Air. The cons? Being no-frills airlines they may not provide free baggage allowance, inflight meals, or onboard entertainment. The departure times may also be quite inconvenient as they try to save money by flying at off-peak hours.

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Flights to Istanbul dataset