Turkish Airlines connects Europe with Asia, so for this flight to Europe, I chose to fly with Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. The flight was not the shortest, but it was the cheapest. The only problem was that I had a 10-hour wait in Istanbul airport before boarding the connecting flight. Even for a Turkish Airlines Star Alliance lounge, this was too long. Then, I learned from friends that if you have a 10-hour wait before the connecting flight in economy class, or 7 hours in business class, you can get a hotel room at no cost, courtesy Turkish Airlines. Bingo! I could relax in a hotel after the long flight, and have a nap – and save some money!
Looking for the Hotel Desk in Istanbul airport
I was told by a travel agent that I would find the hotel in the Istanbul airport, but I had no clear direction as to where to find it. So, when I landed at Istanbul airport after a 10-hour flight from Beijing, I asked a flight attendant where I could find the Hotel Desk. She advised me to look for a Starbucks sign, and I would find the hotel next to it. I followed directions towards the transit hall, and after a security check, I finally reached the international terminal and started wandering around, searching for the hotel. After some time I managed to find a Starbucks, but there was no Hotel Desk there. I asked around if anyone knew of the hotel, but no one spoke any English.
Finally, I discovered an information counter. The agent there explained to me that I needed to exit the terminal, pass the border control, and I would see another Starbucks, and the hotel would be nearby… I had to go back through the security control, against the flow of passengers, and follow the directions to the exit.
At the Hotel Reception
When I exited the arrival hall, I still could not spot the hotel, so I had to ask. Now, here are the directions for you: on entering the arrival hall, you need to turn right and head almost to the end. You will then see the Starbucks and finally, the Hotel Desk next to it!
There were a couple of people in front of me when I got there. When I approached a man at the reception desk, he took my boarding pass and asked me to wait at the Starbucks until a further announcement. I ordered a flat white and patiently waited in the coffeehouse. After some 20 minutes, the man summoned about eight people from the Starbucks and led us to a Turkish Airways shuttle bus.
At the hotel
After about 15 minutes we reached Retaj Royale Istanbul. It had taken about two hours after my flight to get there. The receptionist at the hotel asked everyone to sit down and wait until he called us. The check-in was smooth and quick. We were informed that we could go for breakfast until 10 a.m. as it was included. I was not hungry after the breakfast on the plane and wanted to get to bed as soon as possible. There were two complimentary bottles of water in the room.
Rooms in the Hotel
The room was spacious and clean. It was so relaxing to get into the shower. The room had all the basic amenities, except a tooth brush, but you can request one. The room had free Wi-Fi. I had a few hours of sound sleep. I knew that the shuttle would be back to take us to the airport three hours before the flight. If I wanted to get there earlier or later, I could take a taxi.
I had a nice rest, took the shuttle to the airport and managed to have my lunch in the Turkish Airlines lounge.
So, if you have more than a 10-hour stopover in Istanbul, you can have a good rest in the hotel for free – courtesy of Turkish Airlines. If you fly from Europe and you are not tired, you can get a complimentary sightseeing trip to the city. Not a bad treat at all!