During my recent visit to Istanbul, Turkey I was offered with Istanbul Welcome Card inclusive of museum fast track entries, guided tours, and public transport cards. So, presenting you my candid reviews of the Istanbul Welcome Card – Is it really worth buying? As Istanbul is a very huge city you have many things to do with many options for public transport too. So read this article to know about the benefits of buying an Istanbul Welcome Card and plan your Istanbul trip with lots of fun.
Note: I was gifted with an Istanbul Welcome Premium card by Istanbul Welcome Card to feel Istanbul, but views and opinions are my own, not influenced by anyone.
Istanbul Tour Video Guide
Is Buying an Istanbul Welcome Card really worth it? – Read my review of the Istanbul Welcome Card
I have done a full cost analysis of traveling without a welcome card and with a welcome card. Read full cost analysis which shows savings with all benefits of the card.
Types of Istanbul Welcome Card – Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Which Istanbul Welcome Card suits you the best? – How to select your card type?
All three cards are valid for 7 days upon your arrival date and so it depends on the type of itinerary or how many days you are staying in Istanbul.
|Key Features of 3 types of Card||Istanbul Welcome Classic Card||Istanbul Welcome Premium Card||Istanbul Welcome Deluxe Card|
|INCLUDES||Bosphorus Cruise||Hagia Sophia Museum Fast Track Entry and Guided Tour||Fast Track Entry to 12 Museums (Including Basilica Cistern)|
|City Map, Things to do list and Useful Suggestions||Topkapi Palace Fast Track Entry and Guided Tour||3 Tours by Historian Guide|
|5 Rides with Public Transport||Bosphorus Cruise||Bosphorus Cruise|
|10 Rides with Public Transport||20 Rides with Public Transport|
|Free Delivery to Hotel||City Map, Things to do list and Useful Suggestions||City Map, Things to do list and Useful Suggestions|
|Free Delivery to Hotel||Free Delivery to Hotel|
|Price / Cost||19 Euros||49 Euros||79 Euros|
|Validity||7 Days||7 Days||7 Days|
I would suggest
- Classic Card – For short layovers like people who are spending only 1 day or 24 hours in this city.
- Premium Card – Ideal for 3 to 4 days stay in Istanbul
- Deluxe Card – Ideal for more than 4 days’ stay. If you are spending 5 to 7 days here.
I had spent 4 days in Istanbul and so I selected Premium Card for my travel.
Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
How to book Istanbul Welcome Card?
- Open their official website – Istanbul Welcome Card and select your card type as per your travel style.
- Then you select the number of cards, date of arrival to Istanbul, and hotel name where you want your cards to be delivered.
- After filling in all this information, make a payment through a credit card or Paypal.
- Now upon your arrival, you will get a red-colored envelope with all tickets, public transport cards, maps, and other information at your hotel reception. An envelope is marked with your name. If you have ordered more than one Istanbul welcome card then you will get different envelopes for each person.
- Now from this date of arrival, all tickets and cards are valid up to 7 days. You can flexibly choose your tours without any prior bookings.
- If you don’t want your card delivered to your hotel, then you have to self-pick the card from Istanbul International Airport(new one), Sahiba Gokcen Airport, Eminous, or Sultanahmet Square.
How to use Istanbul Welcome Card?
After opening the red envelope you will find all the tickets and public transport cards inside with maps and things to do information. Based on your research plan a rough itinerary.
- As the main feature of this card is no prior booking or reservation at a tourist spot is required, you can directly walk into the tourist attractions and locate the red-colored Istanbul Welcome Card booth.
- These all meeting points are specified on the attractions tickets and so it would not be difficult to spot these booths. Here at the booth people with red T-shirts and red caps will be standing and you have to meet them and show them your tickets and card.
- From that location, you will be escorted by an experienced historian guide for 35 to 50 minutes with a brief description of the place. As this card is skipping a line ticket, so you will be passing through fast track entry to all places.
- All attractions are located at close public transport stations, so it would be easier to reach them and also you can use your Public transport card – IstanbulKart for each ride.
HAGIA SOPHIA FAST-TRACK ENTRY
- Download the free App by Istanbul Welcome Card either from your hotel or from free Wi-Fi at the booth on the spot.
- From the meeting point, you will be accompanied by Istanbul Welcome Card’s historian guide for fast-track entry. After the entry, a guide will stop you at a perfect location for 35 to 40 minutes for a brief introduction to Hagia Sophia which is a 1500-year-old attraction. Then your guide will take you inside while explaining the interiors of the museum and other useful details of this place.
- After this guided tour, you are left at this place and you can spend as much time as you can.
- You can choose guided tours with many flexible options like 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 and 16:00.
TOPKAPI PALACE FAST TRACK ENTRY
- Starts at the meeting point and after scanning of tickets and cards, you are accompanied by a historian guide for fast-track entry.
- All these meeting points are red-colored booths with people wearing red-colored T-shirts and caps.
- The guide will take you inside the palace and give all descriptions for about 40 to 50 minutes.
- After this brief description, you are left to your own and you can enjoy the palace at your own pace and timings.
- You can choose guided tours daily except Tuesday with many options like 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 14:30, 15:30, and 16:30.
- Bosphorus Cruise runs every day and every hour, so you can catch any day you want and with your timing preferences.
- These cruises can be caught at Eminonu Ferry station or Ferry station adjoining Kadikoy Bus station.
- At the ferry station, again you have located a red-colored Istanbul Welcome Card to show your tickets.
- Here the person behind the booth will help you to locate your ferry and guide you to take the right ferry.
- These ferries are double-decked, so take the upper deck for the best views. The lower deck is covered, so it is good during rain or very cold day.
- The cruise is for 90 minutes which covers all major attractions view.
- Take Sunset- cruise to enjoy both times of the day.
- During the cruise, you are served one complimentary Turkish tea or Turkish coffee.
All these attractions are located in close proximity to public transport and so you have to use your IstanbulKart (public transport card) many times.
Cost analysis of Istanbul Welcome card Versus Tickets at Counter
|ATTRACTIONS||COST OF TICKETS AT COUNTER||ISTANBUL WELCOME CARD COST|
|HAGIA SOPHIA||18 EUROS|
|TOPKAPI PALACE||18 EUROS|
|BOSPHORUS CRUISE||18 EUROS|
|10 RIDES x PUBLIC TRANSPORT||0.4 X 10 = 4.0 EUROS|
|PUBLIC TRANSPORT CARD||1 EURO|
|TOTAL||59 EUROS||49 EUROS|
Total Savings = 10 Euros. If traveling with a family of 4 then total savings per family = 40 Euros.
ADVANTAGES / KEY FEATURES OF ISTANBUL WELCOME CARD – My Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
- Card delivered to your hotel room.
- Fast Track Entry – No waiting or standing in long queues at ticket counters of major attractions. Normally during peak season, the waiting period is of 2 hours on ticket counters.
- Guided tour by English-speaking historian guides.
- Flexibility usage of tickets and pass due to many timing options and validity of up to 7 days.
- No prior booking is required.
- 20% Discount on other services offered by Istanbul Welcome Card.
- Full city map, Things to do Guide, and Free Audio tour app with free Wi-Fi at the spot.
- Preloaded Public Transport Card (IstanbulKart) which is valid on Metro, Public bus, Tram, and Public
- If your IstanbulKart is finished off then you can again top up with the required balance.
- Good for family or group travelers as they save a lot if we calculate the total value.
4 DAYS ISTANBUL ITINERARY – Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
DAY 1 in Istanbul
- Wake up late due to midnight arrival at the hotel. I received my Istanbul Welcome Card package from the hotel reception.
- Headed to Hagia Sophia (Public Transport – 1st ride)
- Used Hagia Sophia Fast Track Entry Ticket issued by Istanbul Welcome Card.
- Done Blue Mosque Tour (Free Entry).
- Done city tour with Tram and return back to Taksim square (Use of Public Transport-2nd ride)
- Stroll across Istiklal Street and Taksim Square and then back to the hotel on foot.
DAY 2 in Istanbul
- Using Public transport(3rd ride) heading to Topkapi Palace. Used fast track entry issued by Istanbul Welcome Card. Then visit Basilica Cistern just walking distance from it on the other side of the road.
- Done Sultanahmet Square tour and nearby historic town tour on foot.
- Vegetarian Turkish Lunch at authentic Turkish Restaurant in Sultanahmet at Almedar Restaurant near Gulhane Tram station.
- Shopping in a historic town.
- Return to Galata Tower for an evening view by Public Transport(4th ride).
- Stroll across rainbow steps near Galata Tower, Istiklal street, and then back to the hotel on foot. Dinner at Istiklal street.
DAY 3 in Istanbul
- Early Morning visit to Galata tower top(Extra Ticket) for a view of the whole city. Done by walking from Taksim Square.
- Trip to Balat for Colorful houses and quirky cafes by Public Transport-Bus (5th ride).
- Back to Sultanahmet(6th ride) for Lunch at the same Turkish restaurant and historic town feel.
- Evening Sunset Bosphorus Cruise – Used Fast track entry ticket issued by Istanbul Welcome Card – 90 minutes cruise.
- Using public transport(7th ride), caught the evening show of the Whirling Dervish Ceremony at Hodja Pasha Cultural Center(Extra Ticket).
- After the show, we had dinner with the view of Istanbul at the quirky café of Glamour Lounge.
- Back to the hotel by Public transport(8th ride).
DAY 4 in Istanbul
- Walk along Istiklal Street and Galata Tower neighborhood from the hotel.
- Take a tram(9th ride) to reach Grand Bazaar for shopping.
- After Grand Bazaar, had vegetarian Turkish lunch at a local Turkish restaurant at Sultanahmet.
- Back to Istiklal street by public transport. (10th ride).
- Took Red colored vintage tram at Istiklal street which is included in Public transport. ( Here I paid extra as my card was having balance for 10 rides).
BOOK YOUR HOTEL IN ISTANBUL
Now you can see how I have used my Istanbul Welcome Card on Public transport and at attractions. My itinerary was not a very rushed one and I planned some of my personal time to walk along the historic old town and check some authentic corners of the city.
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So, till then KEEP TRAVELING……………… KEEP EXPLORING……………………………………………………
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