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Istanbul airport review (IST) | What to expect?

Istanbul Airport review (IST)

I have transferred through Istanbul Airport (IST) many times. My first visit to Istanbul New Airport was at the beginning of June 2019, when I was waiting for a connection flight for over seven hours with my toddler and husband. The last time I got to experience the airport was at the beginning of 2022.

Istanbul Airport (IST) review from the perspective of a transferring passenger.

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  • General Information about Istanbul new Airport (IST)
  • Istanbul airport transfer – Where is Istanbul Airport located?
  • What to expect from Istanbul new Airport (IST)
  • Istanbul new Airport layout and design
  • Sleeping and resting in Istanbul Airport (IST)
  • Restaurants at the Istanbul New Airport (IST)
  • Other facilities at Istanbul New Airport (IST)
  • Istanbul new airport pros & cons

Istanbul airport is the airport where I usually change a flight, therefore I am very familiar with it. The airport is a hub for thousands of flights and passengers travelling around the world. You can basically fly anywhere from Istanbul’s airport. It’s also a home airport for Turkish Airlines.

Istanbul new airport is one of the biggest airports in the world. When it’s fully completed, it has the capacity to handle 200 million passengers in a year. Can you imagine 200 million people! It’s 547 945 people daily!

#istanbul #istanbulairport #istanbulhavalimain #turkishairlines #IST #lifebeyondex

Istabul Airport
Istanbul new Airport is a massive airport, with capacity of 90 million passengers. Image: IGA

My first visit to Istanbul’s new airport was at the beginning of June at 2019.

This article has been updated in 2022 after my last visit to Istanbul Airport.

My first visit to the airport was only two months after the opening and I was super excited to see the new Istanbul Airport. I had seven wonderful hours to explore everything in Istanbul’s new airport and find the answers to my questions:

Is the new airport working properly? What about the architecture, interior design, usability, and everything else? Have they managed to solve the problems that Ataturk Airport had? What does it look like there? I wanted to see and feel everything.

During the last 3 years, the airport has improved and changed a lot to be one of the nicest airports I have had a chance to visit.

Next: General information about the airport

General information about Istanbul Airport (IST)

Istanbul new Airport (IATA code: IST) was officially opened 29th of October 2018.

All the commercial flights were transferred to new Istanbul Airport from Ataturk Airport 6th of April 2019. Imagine, everything happened in 45 hours.

Istanbul Airport (IATA code: IST) is called İstanbul Havalimanı in the Turkish language. It’s also a new home Airport for Turkish Airlines company. I fly a lot with Turkish Airlines and seriously like the company.

Istanbul new Airpor from above. Image: IGA
Istanbul new Airpor from above. Image: IGA

There are also hundreds of other airline companies flying from Istanbul Airport. Istanbul new Airport provides flights for 350 destinations. 80% of the flights from Istanbul New Airport are operated by Turkish Airlines.

When the last phase of the new airport is fully completed, the airport can handle 150 million passengers per year (capacity for 200 million). The constructions are expected to be finished in 2027. Expected. Let’s see, if it’s 2027 or what.

Next: Istanbul airport transfer

Istanbul airport transfer – Where is Istanbul airport located?

The new airport locates 50 kilometres away from Sultanahmed and 35 kilometres away from Taksim. It takes about an hour to get to the centre of Istanbul from the new Airport.

TAXI fare from the airport to the city centre is about 200TL.

Check the price at the airport! And use metered taxis, if possible. More information about the airport taxis from here.

There is also public transportation (IETT buses & HAVAIST shuttles) operating between Istanbul city and Istanbul new Airport. More information, schedules and prices: 



Metro connection between Istanbul and the Airport is supposed to be working in 2020.

More information about the airport from Official website of Istanbul airport.

Next: What to expect from Istanbul’s airport (IST)

Istanbul airport 2022

What to expect from Istanbul’s new airport (IST)

For the first time, I spent seven hours at Istanbul Airport waiting for my connection flight. It was two months after the opening of the new airport in 2019. I was super excited to see Istanbul’s new Airport.

This was also the first time when I was looking forward to a layover, despite the fact that I was traveling with my 1,5 years old daughter and husband. The husband is easy to travel with (usually), but traveling with a baby is always a little bit challenging, even though our baby is an easy one (not anymore).

The last time we had a layover in Istanbul in 2022, there were four of us. Me, my husband, and our kids, who are 4,5, and 1 year old. Now our family size was bigger and we had only 1 hour to change the plane.

And guess what, we did it! So it looks like I have to rewrite this post and say that even one hour can be enough for a transfer to Istanbul airport. Keep reading the post to read how did we manage.

Here are my thoughts, tips, and advice for everyone visiting Istanbul Airport.

Next: Istanbul airport layout & design

Istanbul Airport layout and design

We landed at the airport on Monday morning at 7.45 am. It was a perfect time since there were no big queues for security controls.

Off course, when you have lots of time to queue, but when you are busy, the queues are long. This is how goes.

This happened to me last time when I was transferring through Ataturk Airport. I had only 1 hour and 20 minutes to change the flights. And the queues were very long. I caught the flight, mostly because I knew where I was supposed to go.

Istanbul airport 2022.

How long does it take to transfer at Istanbul airport?

With this new airport, I’d say, reserve at least two hours between the flights. But like said earlier if it’s not possible you can choose a shorter and faster connection.

Even two hours is not enough if you can’t check in your luggage to the final destination. Also, I wouldn’t dare to book a flight with a short transferring time with any other airline company than Turkish Airlines.

Last time, we had only one hour time to change in Istanbul and it was enough. We had our kids with us, therefore I was worried that we are going to miss the flight and we have to spend a night there with screaming kids. But nothing like this happened, everything went smooth and we even had some extra time.

Istanbul airport shops.

As soon as we landed we got out of the plane and started to walk toward our gate. Our gate wasn’t far, but we had to go through passport control and walk a bit. There was an airport buggy waiting for people going to another flight, so I assume that their gate was far from the landing gate, since their plane took off 20 minutes later than ours. My conclusion is that if Turkish Airlines sell you the connection flight they will make sure you catch it.

If you are unlucky, you may have to walk more than a lot. Anyways, you are going to walk quite a lot. Here are some pictures to clarify the size of the airport. It’s huge!

Here is a link for an interactive map to Istanbul’s new airport. 

The thing I hate at airports is walking. For example, once, when I was transferring at Ataturk, I had a baby, buggy, carry bag, bags, and small shoes (my shoes were killing me.). 

You can only imagine how sweaty I was after walking from the other side of the airport to the departure gate.

The connection flight is always on the other side of the airport, isn’t it? Why? 

But what about Istanbul’s new Airport? Is it more user-friendly from this point of view?

Unfortunately not. The layout of the new Istanbul Airport is not very user-friendly.

There is only one huge terminal working at the moment (the other should be ready in 2025) and the transportation between the piers (there are seven of them) needs to be done by foot.

Luckily, there is paid buggy transportation available in Istanbul New Airport. More information: If you have a tight schedule or you have health problems or disabilities, pre-order the buggy. It’s not that expensive 5,00€+tax (5,90€) adult and 2,5€+tax (2,95€) for child age 7-12 years. Children under 7 go for free.

Families with kids under 2-years old are allowed to use the buggy for free for pre-determined routes.

You can order a transportation inside Istanbul Airport
Buggy is ready to transfer the passenger at the airport.

Even though airport is huge, at least you get to walk inside a nice environment. The new airport is modern and beautiful. I loved the ceilings and plants.

Airport design

My opinion is that when designing a huge building like this the design should look more into the future. But, I also understand that the design has to be timeless. Since there won’t be a new airport anytime soon. But still, it could have been so much more.

Where were all the technology and wow effects? Everything I saw at Istanbul’s new airport has been seen five years ago. I wish the design would have been more unique and special.

But still the airport looks amazing!

A woman walking in Istanbul Airport
Women walking in Istanbul Airport shopping area.

It could have been so much more. First of all, user-oriented design and architecture. User experience, the design is more than just aesthetics. Service design, Interior design, and Architecture all go hand in hand.

User experience is what should have been taken care of more in the airport design.

An example is the lack of airport maps. I didn’t see any airport map at the airport. And I had to google the map myself when I was at the airport.

I kept looking and looking, but I didn’t see any. Maybe they are installed later?

I read that the app is available now. An app? Excellent idea, but I wouldn’t count on it. Especially, when many people have been complaining about the WI-FI not working properly.

Is there a free WI-FI available?

For me WI-FI worked well, I managed to log in with an SMS code they send to my phone.

I thought the WI-FI at Istanbul new Airport is free for one hour, but I managed to get the code for at least four times. After an hour, I just ordered a new code and went back online. I don’t know if there was a bug or something, but I’m happy I could use the internet, basically as much as I needed. 

Guiding at Istanbul Airport
Istanbul Airport guiding is good and easy to follow.

Another thing which I was really happy about, was the info desks and the guides, who replaced the lack of the maps. The guides serve you in English and Turkish languages. We needed advice about something and they were very professional and friendly.

Next: Where to rest and sleep at Istanbul airport?

Where to rest and sleep at the Istanbul airport?

We left home at night and spend the night on the plane. All of us were very tired, but luckily our daughter slept on the plane for about three hours. The first flight was easy for us.

For us, the easiest thing would probably have been to book a room from the airport hotel (YOTELair). There are new airport hotels both landside and airside in Istanbul new airport. For more info about Istanbul airport hotels, click here to Yotels’ site (opens to the new tab).

Yotel Air entrance.

But, first of all, we are not that rich. Airport hotels are quite expensive, and I don’t want to spend over 150 €/night for staying at the hotel for less than five hours.

You can also book a room hourly. Prices start from 70€/4 hours. Contact Yotelair (airside) for more details.

It also takes time to get to the hotel, plus you need to eat and leave the room early enough to catch the flight and find the right gate. If I was alone with a baby, I would have considered an airport hotel as an option, but now there were two of us to make everything easier.

Next: Sleeping and resting areas

Instead of booking the hotel, we decided to find a place where to sleep from the airport. The most important thing was to find a sleeping place for our daughter.

We found some benches near the gates and around the airport. Like in Ataturk Airport, people were sitting on the floors, even it wasn’t the busiest time of the day.

I wish they had seated the new airport better than the old one.

The resting areas

After exploring Istanbul airport for a while, we found an area with multi-functional furnishing. The area is designed for hanging out, sleeping, resting, working, and so on. Pictures below. I loved it.

We took two chairs for ourselves and placed our daughter on the sofa to sleep. She had a good nap, despite the airport is not the most silent and darkest place to sleep.

Meanwhile, our daughter was sleeping on the couch, we took refreshing coffees from Starbucks and loaded our batteries for the rest of the trip.

If you want to rest properly, there are REST ZONES, where you can sleep in the lounge chair, that’s awesome.

If I was alone, I’d be there for sure! But for the family, it’s not ideal. Firstly, there was no room and second I wouldn’t like to wake up everyone, by taking a baby to the rest zone. Family rooms, for the next big airport, please!

Here are a few pictures of the rest zone, excellent idea, right?

Sleep pods at Istanbul airport

One of the things that have been added to the airport after the opening is Sleep-pods, the sleep pods are located in the international departure area. More information from the link below.

Restaurants at Istanbul Airport (IST)

Compared to Ataturk Airport there were fewer restaurants and coffee shops at Istanbul new Airport.

Maybe all of the restaurants aren’t opened yet and there will be more choices in the future (I hope.).

For example, I remember Ataturk had some healthier food options and lots of restaurants, which I didn’t find from the new Airport. Or maybe I wasn’t looking close enough.

I did see some restaurants in the terminal, but to be honest, they looked costly and too fancy to go in with the baby. So, we decided to go to eat in the restaurant deck upstairs.

In 2022 there were more restaurants open in the food court and all around the airport.

Food Court in 2022.

If you’ve been to Ataturk, you probably remember the big, noisy and chaotic restaurant area (I don’t miss it.). The area where Burger King, Popeyes, Sbarro, and some other fast-food restaurants were located. It was horrible.

Well, I have news for you: (you decide if it’s good or bad) there is a similar area at the new airport. The view is nicer, but the area and restaurants are the same (Pictures below).

When comes to food, not all the kids and families eat fast food. I tried to find something healthier or at least normal food to eat. I ended up having wedged potatoes and spaghetti with tomato sauce from Scbarros. This was the best food I found there.

Luckily, I had packed extra clothes and some snacks for the baby. Pasta and tomato sauce wasn’t the best idea. Next time we’ll go downstairs for steaks. Or probably not.

Have you found any good and affordable restaurants from Istanbul New Airport?

If yes, let me know, what and where. I’ll go there next time.

Other facilities at Istanbul new airport IST

There were ENOUGH TOILETS and most of them had toilet paper (still would recommend having your own with you).

PRAYING ROOMS: There are 44 praying rooms at the Airport (22 for women and 22 for men). There is also one room available for other religions.

TERRACE/SMOKING AREAS. There are 13 smoking areas at Istanbul new Airport. 10 on the international side and 3 on the domestic side. We did have some difficulties finding them, but the airport guides helped us to find them easily.

Smoking area at Istanbul New Airport
There were smoking roo at Istanbul Airport.

Duty-free shops: So I was complaining earlier about the lack of the latest technology in the airport. Now I read that the Duty-Free area has it! I wish so much to have visited Duty-Free shops. But I didn’t, for sure I will next time. There is supposed to be A “magic mirror” that allows guests to preview accessories, make-up, sunglasses, and so on. Without actually wearing them. WOW! Read more about the Duty-Free shopping, here.

WITH KIDS: Updated information about travelling with kids at the airport from this link.

There are five free-of-charge playing areas at Istanbul airport, all of them are located in the departures hall, the international terminal, after passport control.

Baby care rooms/breastfeeding rooms should also be available.

There are no buggies/strollers available, so take your own with you.

Istanbul airport review (IST) Pros & Cons:

All in all, Istanbul new Airport is nicer than the old one (Ataturk). It’s huge and beautiful.

In one sentence: Lots of walking inside a beautiful building.

+ Istanbul new Airport is better than the old one

+ Sleeping zones

+ Playing area for the Kids

– Lots of walking

– Restaurants

More information about the Istanbul new Airport:

Istanbul Airport Official website.

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4 thoughts on “Istanbul airport review (IST) | What to expect?”

  1. Bonjour
    très intéressant pour se retrouver dans l’aéroport !
    Mon avion arrive à 04 h pouvez-vous me dire s’il me sera possible de trouver à petit déjeuner à cette heure-là ?
    je vous remercie

  2. I go to Istanbul airport soon, my leg is not so good so I can not walk so mutch, how do I order a buggy ?
    Thank you for your information/Barbro

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