I mean, it is free…

Years ago, layovers meant one thing: hassle. Direct flights were always better than connecting flights and avoiding roundabout routings was everything. At the same time, airlines have home bases and many of them are sought after destinations in themselves. Why not turn the part of travel people hate most into something so exciting, it’s almost better than the final destination itself? Turkish Airlines stopover program has flown way too far under the radar, and it’s easily amongst the best

Free Stops And Free Hotels

If you’re flying Turkish Airlines from basically anywhere to anywhere, you’re going to be flying through Turkey en route, and that probably means beautiful Istanbul. It’s an awesome city. To encourage people to actually explore Turkey, rather than just fly Turkish Airlines, you can book free stopovers over 24 hours at no additional cost. The airline even picks up the tab on your hotel, even if you’re flying economy. Here’s what you get…

  • Economy passengers receive one complimentary night at a 4* hotel.
  • Business class receives two complimentary nights at a 5* hotel.

How The Istanbul Stopover Works

If you find great Turkish Airlines flight deals on Google Flights or Turkish Airlines, you can book a multi city journey for the same price as a standard round trip, as long as Istanbul is the city in the middle. For example, you’d book a multi city journey like New York to Istanbul on a Monday, then stopover in Istanbul until Wednesday and then fly on to Bangkok. On the return, you could just fly through without stopping. It works for departure points and destinations all around the world and looks something like this…

Once You’ve Got A Booking

A bunch of airlines now offer handy stopover programs, but this is amongst the most generous. Once you’ve made a booking with Turkish, you simply email the local Turkish stopover office, at least 72 hours in advance. A full list of contacts is here. Obviously, the sooner the better. When you email, include your name, your record locator/confirmation number and which date(s) you’d like to stay in Istanbul. You can also note if you prefer double beds, etc. Add in your email and telephone number and voila – Istanbul for free! Some of the hotels are legitimately nice too.

Getting a Turkey Visa

Turkey requires visas for citizens of many countries and to ensure the easiest entry process, it’s best to get one well in advance. You can read up on everything you need to apply online at the Turkey e-visa website. U.S. citizens would pay $20 for a 90 day entry visa, and can do so online. It’s the same for most countries and the process is quick and easy! Good to know, right?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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13 Comments

  1. Any idea if this is going to continue when they eventually move to the New Istanbul airport?

    Also, found a great ($2000 rt business class B787) fare ATL-IST-LIS for next January. Have a 20 hour layover in IST both ways. Firstly, do I get the hotel both ways and also is it too early to contact for the hotel?

    Thanks

  2. Will this still be available at the new Istanbul airport?

    Also, though my flight is a year from now, is it feasible to contact them now, or should I wait a while?

    Lastly, I have a 20 hour layover both ways ATL-IST-LIS, is the hotel available both legs?

  3. I hadn’t heard of the hotel benefit. I need to know if that works with Award Tickets. Turkish Air has had a free Istanbul tour for some time now. As long as you have a layover of 6+ hours between 9 am and 6 pm you can get either a 3 or 6 hour tour of Istanbul for free, meals included. It only works if you are flying in and out on Turkish Air. This does work with Award Tickets.

  4. While stopovers are permitted – and it is a good deal – free hotel accommodation is not available for Turkish Airline flights from Canada. Also, while Americans pay a $20 visa fee, Canadians pay $60 (USD!) or about $75 Cdn. Ouch!

  5. A couple of very important rules are not mentioned in this article nor are they anywhere on the website. I learned the hard way
    1) The ticket must be a ROUND TRIP
    2) The Turkish Airlines ticket agents have absolutely no idea what you are talking about when you call to book or inquire
    3) When writing to freehotelsouthafrica@thy.com the reply you receive will tell you your email could not be received because the mailbox is full.
    4) As an experiment I emailed a few other countries and simply got no response at all.
    I was “lucky” enough to get a hold of someone in marketing in the LA office & she assured me the program was still in place. She walked me through the ticket purchase (Business Class o/w $2800). Got me in touch with the freehotelusa@thy.com (Debbie) & then two days later I got an email stating that I needed to buy a round trip ticket to qualify. Obviously, one day too late to cancel without a huge penalty.
    Not trying to be rude, and I understand if you don’t have the time, but does The Points Guy try these things out first or just rely on the airlines word?
    Tim

  6. Be Aware that they added a rule out of nowhere that denied our free accomodation: “If your destination can be reached by an alternative flight to your first flight and the waiting time is less, you cannot take advantage of the hotel service.” Great communication, we actually chose the one that has more than 20hours stopover in Istanbul and got denied.. here’s the new rules that they sent me after everything: “For detailed information: http://bit.ly/TKHotelService Thanks for reaching out to us.”

    1. I believe that the free hotel with a stopover and the free transit hotel are two different programs with very different rules.

  7. They changed the time to minimum 20 hours! That’s just stupid! I have a stopover of 19:45 minutes on my way to Johannesburg and now I’m supposed to just sit in the airport?!

  8. It took me a while to figure this out.
    Lane (the above) is right. There are two different programs.

    1. 12 hrs stopover on economy or 9 hrs on business. Request hotel at airport desk. *(only if no shorter time connection than those hours is not available)

    2. over 20 hrs or more stopover.
    Request hotel 72hrs before your flight to the relevant coutries e-mail address.
    *Not available to all departure cities .Check your departure city.(Cities and countries in the scope of stopovers)

    1. According to Ben’s experience above, that condition of there being no alternative flights with a connection time shorter than the required amount for the same route also apples to 20+ hour stopovers. Would be good to get clarification on whether this condition applies to all programs.

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