On our recent 7 day trip to Istanbul (our first ever), we did something unusual. We purchased a City Pass popularly known as “Istanbul Welcome Card” here in Turkey. The pass allows tourists to see / do more and pay less. Most importantly, in this bustling city of tourists, it saves you time by allowing you to skip the long ticket lines, you will most likely find at all attractions here (even during weekdays).
The “Welcome Card” has to be pre-purchased from the website. You can use your credit / debit card to purchase the pass, however, the actual pass will be delivered to your hotel / accommodation a day before your arrival. Unfortunately, as of today, there is no e-pass or app version of the pass you can use. Post purchase, despite our anxiety, rest assured, the card was delivered to our hotel a day before our arrival.
The pass comes in a nice red envelope (per person) and contains 2 physical cards i.e. a red one for public transport and a green one for museums. Besides this you get a voucher for a Bosphorus boat tour, a city map and a separate voucher for a guided tour of Basilica Cistern (separate because its not covered by your green card i.e. the Museum pass). ore.
“You can choose from 3 categories i.e. Classic, Premium and Deluxe, each valid for 7 days, starting from the time you first use it. For our trip we choose the Deluxe option"
The Deluxe card has the following key benefits:
Access to 12 Museums / Attractions with an option of having the Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace as a guided tour (if you prefer), otherwise you can visit any day / time on your own. This is covered under the green Museum Card.
Access to Basilica Cistern. This is covered by a separate voucher and can only be accessed by a guided tour which happens every day at 11:30am. This is the only attraction you cannot access on your own and will need a guide to escort you in (details will be on your voucher).
20 Rides on all of Istanbul’s vast public transport. You can access trams, buses, metros, trains, funiculars and ferries for 7 days and a maximum of 20 times in total. This is covered under the red Transport Card that you will find in your envelope. If you are anything like us and end up using your 20 rides much earlier, you can still top up your transport card at any tram / metro station using the automatic ticket machines.
A free 90-minute Bosphorus river cruise which you can take any time during your stay in Istanbul. The cruise runs every hour with the last one starting at 6pm. You don’t need to pre-book in advance. Just show up with your voucher at the departure deck (specified on your voucher) and they will let you on board.
A handy city map with all the major tourist attractions highlighted for your ease of getting around.
With your green Museum Pass, you can visit the following 12 museums (once) without queuing up:
- Hagia Sophia (option for a guided tour)
- Topkapi Palace (option for a guided tour)
- Chora Museum
- Galata Mevlevi House (not to be confused with Galata Tower)
- Great Palace Mosaics Museum
- Hagia Irene
- Istanbul Archaeological Museums
- Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum
- Rumeli Fortress
- Science and Technology in Islam
The total price for the “Istanbul Welcome Card - Deluxe Edition” was USD 110/-. Individually, each of the 12 attractions, Bosphorus cruise and 20 public transport rides would have cost us USD 135/-.
Even though you only end up saving USD 25/-, the value of not queuing up, saving time and being able to do much more in a day, makes this a worthy spend for all Istanbul visitors.