Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?

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Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Istanbul Skyline

During my recent visit to Istanbul, Turkey I was offered with Istanbul Welcome Card with inclusive of museum fast track entries, guided tours, and public transport cards.  So, presenting you my candid reviews of 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 benefits of buying Istanbul Welcome Card and plan your Istanbul trip with lots of fun.

Note: I was gifted with Istanbul Welcome Premium card  by Istanbul Welcome Card to feel Istanbul, but views and opinions are my own, not influenced by anyone.

Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Istanbul in Golden Hour

Is Buying an Istanbul Welcome Card really worth it? – Read my review of Istanbul Welcome Card

I have done a full cost analysis of traveling without welcome card and with a welcome card. Read full cost analysis which shows savings with all benefits of the card.

Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Istanbul Kart

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?
Istanbul Welcome Card

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 all this information, make a payment through 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 card from Istanbul International Airport(new one), Sahiba Gokcen Airport, Eminous or Sultanahmet Square.

Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?

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 some rough itinerary.

Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?

  • As the main feature of this card is no prior booking or reservation at tourist spot is required, you can directly walk-in to 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 a red T-shirt and red cap will be standing and you have to meet them and show 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

Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?

  • Download 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, guide will stop you at perfect location for 35 to 40 minutes for a brief introduction of Hagia Sophia which is 1500 years old attraction. Then your guide will take you inside while explaining 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.
Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Hagia Sophia

TOPKAPI PALACE FAST TRACK ENTRY

Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?

  • 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

Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Bosphorus Cruise during Golden Hour
  • Bosphorus Cruise runs every day and every hour, and 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.
  • On 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 best views. The lower deck is covered, so it is good during rain or very cold day.
  • Cruise is for 90 minutes which covers all major attractions view.
  • Take Sunset- cruise to enjoy both times of the day.
  • Within the cruise, you are served with one complimentary Turkish tea or Turkish coffee.
Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Cruising with Turkish Tea

All these attractions are located in close proximity to public transport and so you have to use your IstanbulKart (public transport card) many times.

Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?

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 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 up to 7 days.
  • No prior booking 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.
Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Istanbul Skyline (Galata Tower view)

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.
Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Tram at Istiklal Street

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 at a historic town.
  • Return to Galata Tower for evening view by Public Transport(4th ride).
  • Stroll across rainbow steps near Galata Tower, Istiklal street and then back to hotel on foot. Dinner at Istiklal street.

Turkey Itinerary

DAY 3 in Istanbul

  • Early Morning visit to Galata tower top(Extra Ticket) for view of 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 Whirling Dervish Ceremony at Hodja Pasha Cultural Center(Extra Ticket).
  • After the show, we had dinner with view of Istanbul at quirky café of Glamour Lounge.
  • Back to the hotel by Public transport(8th ride).
Review of Istanbul Welcome Card – Is It Really Worth Buying?
Colorful houses of Balat

DAY 4 in Istanbul 

  • Walk along Istiklal Street and Galata Tower neighborhood from the hotel.
  • Take tram(9th ride) to reach Grand Bazaar for shopping.
  • After Grand Bazaar, had vegetarian Turkish lunch at 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).
Istanbul on Foot
Istanbul on Foot

BOOK YOUR HOTEL IN ISTANBUL



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Now you can see how I have used my Istanbul Welcome Card on Public transport and on attractions. My itinerary was not very rushed one and I planned some of my personal time to walk along the historic old town and checking some authentic corners of the city.

Loved it ….. So Pin It… 

So, till then KEEP TRAVELING……………… KEEP EXPLORING…………………………………………………… 

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95 Comments

  1. I’m already convinced the moment you say Hagia Sophia Fast track entry! Haha… I’d definitely go for a Istanbul Welcome card when I plan my trip. Good to know there are options to either deliver at your hotel and pick up at airport, coz its suitable even if I choose to stay in an Airbnb.
    Good to know that you managed to explore for 4 days and still had only 11 rides.
    Enjoying a sunset cruise with some authentic Turkish coffee? Ok, That’s very tempting. Lemme go now to check the flight prices.

    1. Thanks Bhushavali for reading through, but they deliver the card to AirBnB stays too. Also Istanbul is great to explore by walking too and so you would enjoy walking too in the city. We had an average of 12 km of walk everyday here.

  2. I am always on the fence about buying a city card when we travel. We have gotten good value in some cities. But in others we did not want to see enough of the sites on the card to make it worth while. Interesting to know that there are 3 different kinds of cards for Istanbul. And were valuable for different duration of stays. I love the idea that you can have the card sent to your hotel. We wasted half a day running around London once to pick up our London Card. And I like that the Istanbul card includes public transit. Definitely something we would look into if we get to Istanbul.

    1. I too agree Linda that some city cards dont have much attractions choice and some have good choice. I too loved that they deliver the cards to our hotel room or else being a stranger in a new city, it is difficult to locate a place to collect cards.

  3. This is one thing I usually look for when I research trips to major cities across the globe and then work out the costs to see if it is value for money. I haven’t done Istanbul yet but its great to know they have a good range of attractions to offer and other deals. So if I was to buy this tomorrow, if I was visiting the city, then it would be a YES. Especially when going as a family.

  4. If you plan to do everything then it totally sounds worth it, not just for the savings, but for the fast track entry and the guides! Normally that would cost more than a regular ticket, so it sounds like you found a real winner! 😀

  5. Wow, I really wish I’d had this when we visited Istanbul! We did all of those things and more in our 7 days there – and paid full price for each, of course. Just having fast track entry to Hagia Sofia would be sooo worth it! Seems like a really great deal to me.

  6. I am fully convinced to buy the Istanbul Welcome card. Fast entry really help save so much time. I see that the card also helps to save lot of money. Haven’t done this beautiful city yet, the detailed itinerary is really helpful..

  7. We purchased the Deluxe card when we were in Istanbul and we saved a lot with it. We were there for a week and took full advantage of it. The fast entry was of great help.

  8. Whilst it doesn’t sound like a huge saving I do think it would be worth it not to be mucking around buying all the different tickets for various things. I really wish we had got these for our family visit to Istanbul a few years ago!

    1. Yes sometimes buying tickets and standing in queue takes long time which is also worth saving time in buying this card apart from financial point of view.

  9. My one and only trip to Istanbul was for work, but fortunately we had to stay over the weekend and had Saturday and Sunday to actually leave the office and explore the city. The Welcome Card includes all of the top-rated attractions, that’s for sure. I’d definitely consider it for when I get to visit next!

  10. I have never buy any city passes whenever we travel because I have always been not sure if it is really a great value and not every attractions included are places we would want to visit. Istanbul welcome card sounds like a good option though since there are 3 different and you can choose which one is the best based on your trip. If i get the chance to visit Istanbul, I might consider buying this welcome card. Thank you for this very detailed guide

  11. It’s great that there are different options for different durations of stay. I am sometimes mindful of the weather with these types of passes and buy just before we head off. Thanks for the ideas.

    1. Yes Annette we need sometimes flexible options and with this it is great that it is valid upto 7 days from the 1st day we use this. Also it has public transport options so we can roam in the city with it too.

  12. What an adventure the City Pass provided you! I love the idea of getting into lines first and enjoying the attraction…instead of the line! Thank you for your detailed post and itinerary. I am not familiar with the area, but with this guide I will be able to plan a trip to suite my needs while being budget conscious.

    1. You will find many things easier in a new city with this pass. To purchase ticket in an unknown place with people not knowing English much is really a bigh task and with this pre booked city pass, you will eliminate all these things and can roam freely in the city like locals.

  13. I am planning a visit to Turkey next year and I am convinced to use the Istanbul Welcome Card for the city now. The pass will surely help in exploring the city much easily. Good to know how you utilized the pass and I am sure I will be doing the same.

  14. This definitely seems like a good deal to have. The instant access and the benefits it gives makes the whole trip so much more easier and economical. I loved your analysis of it – giving me all the points that work in my favor and caveats to those that don’t . Well done!

  15. I have visited istanbul as a part of free tour given by Turkish airlines for my long layover . But had i not gone through that i would have definitely opted for Welcome Card even for one day as i know the huge queue or the rush which takes place infront of each monument . I had missed visiting Galata towers and Top Kapi palace because it was closed. Definitely will visit next time in details.

  16. I love welcome cards that include public transportation. They make traveling so much easier! Even better that this card also has an app and fast track entry. Do you know if it covers transportation from the airport to the city center?

    1. Yes it covers transportation from airport to city center or wherever the metro goes. Even while returning to airport you can use this transport card in metro. There are many points through where you can catch metro to International airport.

  17. We will spend a week in Istanbul next year so your article is timely. After weighing up all the options we would consider the Deluxe Card. It has all the offers we need to enjoy our time in Istanbul. We last visited in 2013 but never had these cards available then. You certainly save time and money.

  18. It sounds to me like the card is super handy and worth it. I love how easy and automated everything is. I reckon you’d save lots of precious travel time with these cards. You had me at ‘skip the queue!’

  19. This was so interesting to read since we are planning to visit Istanbul next year. I have been to Turkey twice but never to Istanbul. This card seems like a worth of considering. First of all, there is so many places where you benefit from it. Deluxe card particularly.

  20. Thank you for sharing this. Happy to know that it’s worth getting one. We might go to Istanbul next year so, we will definitely consider this. I love that it gets delivered to you plus the convenience of not waiting in long queues and of course, the additional discounts.

  21. I spent a week in Istanbul and didn’t think of buying the Welcome Card. I regretted it when I saw all the long lines for the Topkapi and Hagia Sophia… I did most of the things on the card so it would have been really useful. I’ll be sure to use it next time!

  22. We live part of the year in Turkey so often end up with a flight that goes through Istanbul, and I never miss a chance to stay a night or two. It’s a fabulous city. I’ve never bought one of these cards before, so thanks for doing the analysis on which one would be better for a short stay.

  23. I would definitely take advantage of the Istanbul Welcome Card when visiting Istanbul. It seems like a very economical and convenient option. In addition to the transportation options and museum passes, I would enjoy finishing what might be a bustling city itinerary by relaxing on the water with a Turkish Tea and a sunset cruise. That alone makes it worthwhile!

  24. I practically find this post and your analysis very useful. I racked my brains on my recent trip to Russia over these city cards/passes. Ultimately did not opt for them as it did not fit in my itinerary. I am glad to know that there are three different passes of Istanbul cards. Shall surely come back to this post when planning a trip to Istanbul.Thanks for breaking it down (pros and cons) so well!

  25. I have never been to Istanbul but after reading about the card I will be sure to buy one if I ever get there. I think city cards are such a great way of getting around and saving individual attraction costs.

  26. Very helpful information on the Istanbul Tourist Card. I’ve used City Cards elsewhere and picking the right one is always importnat, but takes time to figure out. Thanks for doing the work for me.

  27. Thanks for this detailed cost-benefit analysis. This will be very helpful while planning Istanbul trip. I think an added advantage of using city travel cards besides saving time and money is that they include so many places which we would have otherwise missed in a new city. They act as a great guidebook.

  28. Istanbul has never been one of my top places to visit, but I would like to see Hague Sophia. It’s a good thing the pass covers it!!

  29. Thanks for all the great information about the Istanbul Welcome card. From your research it sounds like this is a good investment for visitors.

  30. Like Linda, I’m usually on the fence about city cards when I travel. I’ve only ever used one once and I didn’t really think it was worth it because they limited it so that you had to pick between major attractions sometimes. Seems like the Istanbul Welcome Card is a great buy though! I think it’s awesome that the card can be delivered to your hotel room and love that it includes public transportation as well. The Premium fast track entry is definitely great for saving time. I mean, gosh… I can’t imagine having to wait in line for two hours! Will for sure be getting one when I visit Instanbul!

  31. I usually get a city card when I visit somewhere because it’s good value especially if you use transport a lot. Good to know that it can be delivered to the hotel!

  32. It is always difficult to figure out if these cards are worth it when travelling to a new city. Thank you for the detailed explanation of the benifits. It looks like a great place to visit, and having the fast track entry is a big bonus!

  33. I love city cards that allow you to visit several place for one price. They are always a good deal. So thanks for introducing me to Istanbul Kart because I’ll use it when I visit!

  34. We have used welcome cards in other parts of our travels and we have loved them! So, it doesn’t surprise me that you loved using yours in Istanbul. I love the street where the colorful umbrellas are. It looks like it would be a great trip for our family to take maybe one day.

  35. When the attractions covered by the card align with your itinerary, cards like the Istanbul Welcome Card can really save travelers a lot of money. My one trip to Istanbul was a business trip, and I only had the weekend to scurry around town and see the sights. I’d so love to go back, and the Topkapi Palace would be at the top of my list as it was the one thing I didn’t get to do that weekend!

  36. I purchased a card similar to this called the CityPass while I was in Chicago. It was SO worth the price to have fast-tracked into popular attractions/locations. Thank you for including the breakdown of your days and which attractions/locations you visited. This is so helpful when planning.

    1. Yes, sometimes it is worth in saving some money and lots of time as standing in queues for tickets is also very time consuming in new places.

  37. Hi Yukti, I love you detailed account of the card and the three levels. I’ve always questioned the value of them because they tend to skip the top attractions and on short trips we may not even get to the niche attractions. Although I have purchased transit cards in London and Paris.
    This card seems super useful and valuable. I would have totally bought it if I knew about it.

  38. It’s always a complicated question on whether a city card is helpful. It sounds like the welcome card for Istanbul definitely was great for your trip! Sometimes skipping a line or, as you said, not having to make reservations and walking right in somewhere, is well worth the price of the card.

    1. Yes, sometimes saving time is valuable like saving money and therefore if you have rushed itinerary then skipping the queue is very important.

  39. I am hoping to get to Istanbul later this year and this review was super helpful! It sounds like having the fast entry and the transport card included make it worth getting the IstanbulKart alone! And I love how you showed how you used the card to your advantage in your itinerary. Definitely bookmarking for future use!

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