If you’re visiting Istanbul or Turkey during COVID-19, you’ll need to know all the current coronavirus measures, travel restrictions, advisories, and statistics. Safe tourism practices and a COVID Hotline are already in place, along with numerous daily flights from Turkish Airlines.
The Istanbul New Airport (IST) is handling most of the international flight traffic, while Sabiha Gocken has low-budget, Pegasus Airlines, and Andolujet flights from many European destinations.
Masks are required in all public places including on public transportation, inbound and outbound flights. Country-specific travel advisories should also be checked before booking, as well as, departure.
Through early March, Turkey is averaging 9,000 — 10,000 new coronavirus cases per day and is hovering near 100,000 active cases. Unfortunately, there are no breakdowns for tourist cities like Istanbul, and with travelers driving the local economy, the authenticity of the numbers has been called into question.
You can find the latest viral data and patient statistics on Worldometers. They compile information released from the Turkish Ministry of Health and their Coronavirus Table, but presents it in an easy-to-read format.
Out of the 375+ daily scheduled flights into New Istanbul Airport in early March, roughly 25% are being canceled. This tends to happen when they are combining multiple departures from the same location, with delayed passengers being placed on the next flight out.
Being the hub of Turkish Airlines, you’ll find them having the most flights out of Istanbul’s new airport. You can view the up-to-date arrival times for IST airport, as well as, departure times and COVID-19 measures on the airport website.
Germany, France, and Russia are leading the pack in available options into Istanbul’s New Airport with daily flights from Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Dusseldorf, along with Paris and Moscow too.
Elsewhere in Europe, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, and Zurich have good options, while Chicago, New York, Miami, Washington, Boston, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have daily flights from the US. If departing from Canada, you have options from either Toronto or Montreal.
With IST being the hub for Turkish Airlines, they dominate the available international and domestic flight options. It’s best to read up on their latest guidelines for safe travel before booking, but do note that they offer flexible travel options, and zero change fees on bookings.
Their updated March flight plan shows they’re still flying to 223 destinations, and recent passenger announcements show additional rights for COVID travelers.
Sabiha Gocken Airport
The SAW AIrport COVID-19 page has all their latest measures and procedures. Currently, there are numerous domestic flights, as well as European flights coming in and out of Sabiha Gocken (SAW) Airport on Turkish Airlines, Pegasus, and Anadolujet. Qatar Airways also flies in and out of Doha via Sabiha Gocken.
Pegasus Airlines or FlyPGS has many Western Europe destinations covered, with Germany having daily flights from Frankfurt, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Stuttgart, and Cologne. Switzerland also has good coverage from either Zurich, Basel, or Geneva. Elsewhere there are options from London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Vienna.
In Eastern Europe, there are daily flights from Moscow, Grozny, Tbilisi, Kharkiv, and Bishkek. From Southern Europe, you can fly from Pristina and Tirane, while Stockholm, seems to be the only available destination out of Northern Europe.
From the Middle East, there are daily flights from Dubai, Tehran, Beirut, Baghdad, and Erbil, as well as, Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. Be sure also check out their coronavirus measures, as well as their where can I fly page if wanting to connect elsewhere from Turkey.
Another option is Anadolujet, which offers numerous daily flights from Western Europe, and especially out of Germany where you fly via Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Dusseldorf, Cologne, or Stuttgart. Other options include Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Vienna, as well as, Dubai, Tehran, and Erbil in the Middle East. Be sure to read their coronavirus measures, as well as their travel services page before booking.
Masks in Flight
Masks are required on all flights into Turkey but do note that only surgical masks and (FFP) face masks without valves are allowed. Masks with one-way valves or vents are NOT allowed.
When wearing a mask, it must fully cover your mouth and nose during the entire flight. If you’re wearing a single-use mask, do note that it has to be changed every 4 hours. If you plan on using one, be sure to pack several in your carry-on to last a full day at the very least.
Used masks must be placed into the personal waste bag provided for each passenger, and you should NOT touch the front surface of the mask with your hands during disposal.
The IATA Travel Center has a COVID-19 Travel Regulations Map which as of February 25th, mentions Brazil, Denmark, South Africa, and the United Kingdom as countries that have suspended flights to Turkey.
The Foreign Office has the latest UK COVID-19 Travel Advice which currently states it’s illegal to travel abroad for holidays or leisure purposes, due to the countrywide lockdown.
The U.S. Embassy in Turkey also has up-to-date COVID-19 travel information, while the U.S. Department of State has regulations in place for COVID-19 testing requirements upon USA Re-Entry. The at the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website, you’ll find more info on the proper forms of negative test results proof.
If you are already in Turkey, and in need of COVID-19 assistance, just CALL 184 from any landline or Turkey SIM card phone. The hotline is a direct connection to the Turkish Ministry of Health, which provides medical assistance in Turkish, English, and Arabic.
One thing that stands out in Turkey’s fight against the COVID-19 is that the tourist dollar speaks volumes. Several times already the Turkish government has demonstrated that they will allow tourists more freedoms than their citizens. While this a little shocking, the countermeasures have helped boost tourism, and many foreigners are taking advantage of it.
The systematic cleansing of public transit vehicles was probably the first action Turkey took that gained notoriety worldwide. The official Tourism Promotion and Development Agency then starting documenting certifications of tourism facilities to ensure safety standards are being met.
Here you can find the accredited venues that passed certification as well as view their safe tourism criteria: