Flying time to Istanbul is 10–11 hours from New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, or Chicago; 12–13 hours from Houston; and 13–14 hours from Los Angeles or San Francisco. (Turkish Airlines has announced it will launch additional direct flights from Miami in 2015 and Atlanta in 2016.) Flights from Toronto to Istanbul take 10–11 hours. London to Istanbul is a 4–hour flight. In Turkey, security checks for travelers to the United States mean that you need to be at the airport at least two hours before takeoff regardless of which airline you are flying, though lines for check-in at Turkish Airlines are generally long no matter what.
Turkey's major international airport is Atatürk Airport, about 18 km (12 miles) from central Istanbul. Sabiha Gökçen Airport serves the Asian part of Istanbul and offers an increasing number of flights to European destinations along with international charters and domestic flights.
Adana, Adıyaman, Ağrı, Alanya, Amasya, Ankara, Antakya (Hatay), Antalya, Balıkesir, Batman, Bingöl, Bodrum, Bursa, Çanakkale, Dalaman, Denizli, Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Erzincan, Erzurum, Gaziantep, Hakkari, Iğdır, Isparta, İzmir, Kahramanmaraş, Kars, Kastamonu, Kayseri, Kocaeli, Konya, Kütahya, Malatya, Mardin, Muş, Nevşehir, Ordu-Giresun, Samsun, Siirt, Sinop, Sivas, Şanlıurfa, Şırnak, Tekirdağ, Tokat, Trabzon, and Van all have domestic airports.
Atatürk Airport. 212/463–3000; www.ataturkairport.com.
Sabiha Gökçen Airport. 216/588–8888; www.sgairport.com.
Ground Transportation from Airports
In major destinations such as Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Bodrum, Çeşme, Dalaman, Elazığ, Gaziantep, Hatay (Antakya), Hopa, İzmir, Kayseri, Konya, Malatya, Ordu-Giresun, Samsun, Sivas, Şanlıurfa, and Trabzon, the Havaş company operates shuttle buses to the airports. (In Istanbul, this service is provided by the similarly named, but separate Havataş.) These run at regular intervals in the major cities and in the provinces are timed to coincide with incoming and outgoing flights.
An alternative is to take a taxi. From the smaller airports, it is sometimes possible to negotiate with a taxi driver for less than the metered fare. Many hotels will arrange for a driver to collect you from the airport and for someone to take you to the airport. In Cappadocia and other popular tourist regions, it is not unusual for hotels to offer this transportation free of charge, although the driver will still appreciate being tipped a couple of TL.
Transfers Between Airports
If you have a connection between an international flight and a domestic flight in Istanbul, try to ensure that they both use the same airport, which will most likely be Atatürk Airport. While domestic flights to Sabiha Gökçen Airport are usually cheaper than flights into Atatürk Airport (although prices to the latter vary considerably according to the time of day), if you have a connecting international flight from Atatürk Airport, any savings will be more than offset by the time and expense of transferring between airports by taxi—the trip could easily take two to three hours at a busy time of day.
Havaş. 212/465–5656; www.havas.com.tr.
Havataş. 444–2656; www.havatas.com.
THY/Turkish Airlines operates nonstop flights from U.S. and European gateways, though an international carrier based in your home country is more likely to have better connections to your hometown. Third-country carriers (foreign carriers based in a country other than your own or Turkey) sometimes offer low fares. Air France, for instance, often has well-priced flights from the United States to Istanbul via Paris. Popular low-cost carriers like SunExpress and Pegasus offer cheap flights throughout Turkey and to/from European cities.
Turkish Airlines operates an extensive domestic network, with more than two dozen flights daily on weekdays between Istanbul and Ankara alone. In summer many flights to coastal resorts are added. Note that at provincial airports it may be necessary for checked luggage to be identified by boarding passengers before it is put on the plane, and all unidentified luggage is left behind and checked for bombs or firearms. If any luggage has not been identified, an announcement will be made on the plane before departure, based on the name on the luggage label, but attempts at the pronunciation of foreign names can often mean that they are unrecognizable. Airline staff will always announce whether you need to identify your luggage at some point before boarding but the messages may be difficult to hear or understand. If in doubt, ask a member of the airline staff as they are checking your boarding pass.