New Istanbul Airport (IST)

Istanbul Airport (IST) Walkthrough – 5 Things You Need to Know

Istanbul’s new mega-airport, named at first—creatively—Istanbul Airport (ISL), was inaugurated on Republic Day, October 29th, 2018.

At its inauguration, the airport’s first phase was not yet complete, so a limited number of flights (five daily) were scheduled. The transfer of all operations from Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport are now completed and the new Istanbul Airport (IST) is in full swing.

To be clear, when the new Istanbul Airport took over from the older Atatürk Airport, the new airport assumed the IATA code IST from the old airport.

I have no doubt that the new airport will continue to improve and facilitate Istanbul’s rising position as a major world air transport hub. But if you are flying to Istanbul during 2019, you can now be assured that you know which airport your flights will use, Istanbul Airport (IST).

Full airport construction will not be completely finished for years. The new terminal facility, all under one roof, has an initial capacity of 90 million travelers annually. When construction is complete (estimated for 2028), capacity is planned to be 150 million passengers—more than the 100 million passengers currently served by Paris‘s three airports.

Istanbul Grand Airport (ISL)Massive projects such as this often produce unintended and unforeseen consequences that can be accommodated over time—but time was necessary to complete the job.

Fog may be a problem because of the airport’s low elevation (60 meters above sea level). And the amount and composition of the immense amount of landfill used may not be optimal for the location, leading to the development of sinkholes.

 

Ground Transport

The new airport is 50 km (31 miles) northwest of Sultanahmet, the heart of historic Istanbula trip of less than an hour bycar/taxi at present depending upon traffic.

Airport Buses

İstanbul Otobüs A. Ş., a company associated with the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, operates an airport bus service named Havaİst serving the new Istanbul Airport.

The bus service is currently serving flights using the airport. Frequency of service will be increased as flights to the new airport increase.

The trip to/from Taksim Square takes 70 minutes and costs TL18; to/from Yenikapı, 75 minutes and TL18; to/from the Esenler Bus Terminal, 70 minutes and TL16. However, according to the company’s website, payment of fares is currently only possible with an IstanbulKartMore…

Private Transfer

More comfortable and reliable than a taxi, and not much more expensive, a good private transfer service is recommended for any traveler, and especially for couples with several pieces of luggage each, or any traveling party of three or more. (Read about Istanbul taxis here.)

Efendi Travel, a TurkeyTravelPlanner.com partner, operates a time-tested transfer service with high value-for-money. The fare for up to four passengers between Istanbul Airport and the city center is 45 euros single/one-way, 81 euros return/round-trip. Note that this is the fare for the entire vehicle, not per-passenger. (The ride in a taxi should cost about 35 euros—if the driver takes the shortest route….) More…

Efendi Travel also provides transfer services between Sabiha Gökçen Airport and the city center, and between cruise ship ports and main attractions, as well as all other travel agency services such as tickets, hotels, car rental/hire and tours. More…

Uber & Lyft

App-ride services such as Uber have had a difficult time entering the Istanbul transportation market because of resistance (sometimes violent) from Istanbul taxi drivers.

I have not found Uber service to be practical for the new Istanbul Airport (IST) or for anywhere in the city for that matter. Currently when you arrange an “Uber” ride from the new airport to the city center, the Uber website will offer you…a traditional Istanbul taxi instead of an Uber car. You might even have a normal yellow taxi try to pick you up while you are waiting for the “Uber Yellow Taxi”. So, for now I am not recommending an Uber experience in Turkey.

Metro

Two new Metro lines are being built to connect the airport to the city center: one from Gayrettepe (map), scheduled for completion in 2020; and one from Halkalı, Istanbul’s new western train station.

Hotels

Yotel advertises a new hotel right in the airport terminal, with access from both the general and secure (“airside”) areas of the terminal. More…

Visa

If you are required to have a visa to enter Turkey, you should already have bought it online through the excellent e-visa website. If you arrive without a visa, you may be able to buy one at a machine in the Arrivals area—but why take the chance? Without a visa, you may be refused entry. More…

Duty Free Shopping Upon Arrival

If you arrive from another country, you can buy duty-free goods at shops in the baggage claim area, then take them right into Turkey. The prices here used to be better than at European or North American airports, but now I’m not so sure. But even if the prices are the same or higher, you save yourself the trouble of having to carry the goods all the way to Turkey.

Currency Exchange

Currency exchange offices (döviz bürosu) are available after passport control in the baggage claim area, and in the Departures area, of the International terminal. Exchange rates here are very poor: you’ll pay a lot for your Turkish money. You may want to exchange for Turkish liras only enough of your money to provide for your transport and tipping needs until you can find an exchange office with better rates. More…

Lots of automated teller machines (ATMs, Cashpoints, etc.) are located outside the secure Customs area, after baggage claim.

Departures/Security

As at all Turkish airports, you will have to pass through a complete security check just to enter the terminal (International or Domestic), then a second full security check in the gate area.

Here’s info on transport to/from the airport.

International Terminal

The modern International Terminal Dış Hatlar Terminalı) is spacious and efficient, with all the expected services including ATMs (cash machines) from which you can obtain Turkish Lirascurrency exchange offices; shops, restaurants and cafés with surprisingly high prices; Emanet (Baggage Check, Left Luggage) and an Airport Hotel.

High Food & Drink Prices

Note that prices for food and drink at Turkish airports tend to be very high. My quick informal survey showed them to be 40% higher than at expensive Frankfurt Airport, and twice as high as at pricey Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Left Luggage/Baggage Check Room

Yes, there is a Left Luggage/baggage Check Room at Atatürk Airport. It’s expensive for long deposits, but handy. More…

Lost & Found

Here’s information on Istanbul Airport Lost and Found, if you’ve lost or forgotten something in the airport or on an airplane.

Domestic Terminal

You can walk between the International Terminal (Dış Hatlar Terminalı) and the Domestic Terminal (İç Hatlar Terminalı) via a walkway on the International Arrivals level without having to go through a security check when you get to the Domestic Terminal.

Istanbul Airport Lounges/Airline Clubs

Both the International Terminal and Domestic Terminal have comfortable airline lounges/clubs you can use. More…

Sabiha Gökçen Airport

Istanbul’s other airport is Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW) on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, about 55 km (34 miles) east of Atatürk International Airport (IST). Here’s how to travel from Istanbul Airport to Sabiha Gökçen Airport.

Seeing the Sights Between Flights

If you have a long layover in Istanbul you can deposit your luggage in the Left Luggage/Baggage Check roomgo into the city center and have some fun. But what do you do if you’re transferring between airports and you have most of a day in Istanbul? Here’s the answer.

—by Tom Brosnahan


Atatürk Airport, Istanbul

Sabiha Gökçen Airport

Airport Ground Transport

Flights to & in Turkey

Istanbul Transportation

Transport in Turkey

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