That Girl Away

How I Spent My Layover in Istanbul

I came on here, all excited to write about how I killed 5 hours in Istanbul International Airport last year while on my layover to Budapest. I recently watched a video by YouTuber and traveler Christine Kaaloa about Turkish Airlines hotel offer for people flying Turkish Airlines with long layovers. I had no idea that Turkish Airlines offered these but I think it’s pretty cool.

BUT then I was Googling some information and I realized that I could only write about how I killed 5 hours in Istanbul’s FORMER airport – the Ataturk Airport. But I can’t be too harsh on myself – the Istanbul New Airport looks very similar to it’s smaller predecessor.

Let’s just be honest here: the Turkish people are very good at building sleek airports. 

Another side note: I really need to visit Istanbul ASAP. (I’m preparing myself now for the protests from my parents, don’t worry.)

On a semi-related note: I thought you needed a visa to go to Turkey if you’re a US citizen so I don’t know how that would work if I wanted to leave the airport to go to a hotel or a tour of Istanbul (edit: I was either incorrectly informed the first time or the laws have since changed since early 2018 and you now don’t need a visa to go to Turkey – the more you know!).

But when I went to Budapest last year, I had a five and a half hour layover in Istanbul (one that my parents 100% freaked out over – silly Americans) and I wanted to tell you how you could spend your short-ish layover there, too, in case you have one coming up!

But even though I did not visit the brand new, gorgeous Istanbul New Airport (which has a weird name, if you ask me) – it is the largest in the world and cost $12 billion to build, by the way – I thought I’d still write about my experience killing a quarter of a day in an airport in Istanbul.

I also wanted to tell you that it is totally safe.

My parents thought I would be landing in a third world country but they couldn’t have been further from reality. I knew that before boarding the plane, thankfully, having seen the documentary Kedi a couple of years earlier (about the community street cats in Istanbul).

People were sleeping on bench seats with their bags on the floor below them, not guarded or secured in any way, and no one was trying to lift their belongings. No one approached me in an unsafe way either. In fact, I didn’t even talk to anyone and no one spoke to me. (It was early. I was tired and needed a shower – don’t judge me.)

How I Spent My Layover in Istanbul

The first thing I did upon deplaning in Istanbul, besides take in the amazing Turkish sunrise, was get myself to the nearest bathroom ASAP. I needed to wash my face, put my contacts in, brush my teeth, and just generally freshen up because, after an almost 10-hour flight, you feel gross (or at least I do).

After that, I think I wandered around for a bit. Breakfast had been served prior to landing so I was incredibly starving. I ate more than my fair share of Turkish Delight samples and gazed up in awe of this state-of-the-art airport.

How I Spent My Layover in Istanbul

I resisted all of the Haribo kiosks despite wanting desperately to binge on all my favorite flavors. I didn’t know this until recently but Haribo is from Turkey. WHAT. For some reason, I thought it was from China. Please pardon my ignorance.

How I Spent My Layover in Istanbul

Ultimately I ended up ordering a Turkish coffee from one of the many Kronotrop cafes that were in the airport. I’m assuming this is like their Starbucks from the branding, but I could be wrong. My Turkish coffee was more of an espresso shot and because I’m not very into the taste of coffee, I had to add some milk and sugar before shooting it back.

I ended up buying a mango juice from a kiosk too before sitting down on a bench in one of the many walkways between terminals to rest. I turned on my phone and alerted those concerned with my well being that I’d made it and had yet to be taken, despite my best attempts (/s). My parents appreciate those jokes.

I almost bought various souvenirs with cats on them in one of the many shops selling souvenirs but I resisted because my trip had barely even started and it probably wasn’t the best idea to load up on souvenirs from a country I wasn’t technically visiting, right?


I spent a great deal of time just wandering around the airport, highly caffeinated, stopping for a pee or a coffee every now and again until it was time to get back to my gate to board my plane to Budapest (finally picking up some Haribo on my way to the gate).

Was it the most exciting of layovers? Nah, but it could’ve been worse. You could’ve been stuck for hours, say, in the Alburquerque Airport or something. Now that would be torture. (No offense to the city of Alburquerque, but their airport is the size of a New York City square block with almost zero amenities.)

I’ve never done the 12+ hour layover before anywhere though.

I’m almost tempted to book one at some point just to have the ability to go out and see a city for 10 hours. But what city? Would it be worth it? I’m almost positive I’d be incredibly tired by the time I landed and would want to do anything but tour a city. Maybe Munich or Frankfurt? I feel like I could get a good sense of Frankfurt in 12 hours and I’ve been to Munich before but would love to visit it again.

What would be the amount of savings (dollars-wise) that would make a huge layover worth it?

Have you ever had a super long layover before? Let me know where and how you made the time pass! And let me know below if you know of the perfect city to see on a long layover.






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