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Stopover programs are choices made by airways to make a layover extra compelling. Generally, when vacationers are reserving a flight that stops in an airline’s hub, they’re given the choice to remain for anyplace from just a few hours to a couple nights in that metropolis, at no added price; others supply reductions on lodge stays and excursions when flight routes require a cease a technique or one other. And who would not wish to discover a further vacation spot on a visit—particularly should you’ll be passing by means of anyway?
With rising ticket costs this summer season, the packages are seeing renewed curiosity from vacationers as a approach to make the most of their airfare. On a latest journey from Chicago to Singapore, my layover certified for the Turkish Airways’ stopover program in Istanbul, which just lately began up once more post-pandemic.
The airline affords two choices for vacationers. The primary, Stopover Istanbul, is designed for individuals who have a layover exceeding 20 hours, and the second, TourIstanbul, caters to passengers with a stopover of 6 to 24 hours. When reserving, search for the “Stopover Istanbul” brand on the Turkish Airways web site which marks flights which can be eligible for this system. Flights which can be eligible for the free tour can have the brand “TourIstanbul.”
As a result of my layover was simply over 20 hours, I may select between a tour of the town or a lodge room (economic system passengers get one free evening at a four-star lodge, whereas enterprise class passengers get two nights at a five-star lodge). I opted for the room as a result of I already had scouted out my excursions of alternative by means of Airbnb Experiences.
To truly get my lodge reservation, I reached out to the devoted e mail deal with related to my departure nation to safe the supply. (The airline’s stopover page lists the e-mail deal with for every nation of departure.) Though Turkish Airways suggests reaching out with at the least a 72-hour discover, inns are generally out there even later. Fortunately, inside days of my e mail, my lodge reservation was confirmed within the type of a voucher.
There was a bit of labor I needed to do by myself: To visit Istanbul as an American citizen, I wanted a visa. It is a straightforward online process that enables for a number of entries (particularly useful when you’ve got layovers on each ends of your journey), although, and the associated fee was simply $50 on the time of my go to.
Upon clearing customs on the Istanbul airport, I may have taken the lodge shuttle, however due to the provision of Uber within the metropolis, I used to be in my lodge room beneath half-hour. I selected to remain on the Pullman İstanbul Hotel and Convention Center, one of many companion inns for the stopover program, and I used to be impressed at how good the view of the town was from my room. As a lot as I needed to benefit from the queen-sized mattress, the pool, and the free breakfast, I used to be already operating late for my excursions. I had booked some Airbnb Experiences, which is my favorite way to expertise cities on a brief timeline—I’ve all the time discovered these excursions to supply a fast dive into the tradition, with native consultants who’re each laidback and educated.
With solely 20 hours, I selected to skip the traditional sights just like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and the Grand Bazaar, selecting as a substitute to dive into the abdomen of the town. I booked a extremely rated avenue food tour that spanned each the Asian and European sides of the town divided by the Bosphorus.