Our flights from Osh to Belgrade, Serbia included a 10 hour layover in Istanbul. I wasn’t sure if we wanted to deal with getting a visa and planning a trip into the city but then I found out about Turkish Airlines free tours of Istanbul (or a free hotel) if you have a layover of 8 hours or more – awesome! They take you around the city, feed you and Ataturk airport is terrible anyways so it’s best to minimize your time there (scroll down for some notes on how to do the tour.) We saw the Blue Mosque (underwhelming to me), Hagia Sophia (which I thought was awesoe) and a few other small sites. Here’s some photos from our brief trip:
The free tour times are listed on Turkish Airlines tour site: http://www.istanbulinhours.com/. The site says you need to arrive 30 minutes before the tour starts but that doesn’t seem to be the case, they were taking on people 10 minutes before our tour starts. There is no need to pre-register for the tour, just make sure you have your e-visa ready (most visitors can now apply for the visa online,) bring a printed copy of the visa with you. Go through passport control and walk to the end of the hall to the right. The hotel desk near the Starbucks at the end is where you can register.