Why You May Need a Visa for a Layover in Turkey and How to Get One—FAST

Why You May Need a Visa for a Layover in Turkey and How to Get One—FAST


Do You Need a Visa for a Layover in Turkey? Strange at it may seem, the chances are you probably do. Even if you are not planning to leave the airport. Fortunately, getting a Turkish visa is fast and easy to do. You can complete the whole process online. I know that from experience because I recently had to buy one for a layover in Istanbul.

I’ve decided to write this blog post to help people who are trying to find out if they need to buy a visa for a layover in Turkey. Why? That’s simple. A few weeks ago I was in the same boat and found a lot of very conflicting information. In fact, even when I contacted a representative of Turkish Airlines, the information she gave me was wrong. I bought a visa anyway, just to cover my ass, and it turned out to be the right thing to do so I’m very glad I did.

My Conundrum

At the time I was renting a tiny house in Bucharest, Romania and wanted to travel to Odessa Ukraine. All of the cheapest flights involved a layover at Istanbul International Airport. I’m travelling on a British passport and I already knew I’d need a visa to visit Turkey. However, I did not know if I would need a visa for a layover in Turkey. I would not be leaving the airport so common sense was telling no, but my two flights were more expensive than I normally pay and I did not want to land in Turkey and find I may have problems completing my trip.

If Google has sent you to this page, the chances are you are in a similar situation, but in my case, Google was not a lot of help.

Google Did Not Have the Answer

Like most people in the world these days, when I need to know something, more often than not, the Google Search Engine is my first port of call. The problem is, although Google is good, in this case, the information available was not. The sites Google sent me to left me feeling every bit as confused.

In answer to the question “Is transit visa required for Istanbul?” One site said: “If you will not leave the transit lounge at the airport you are not required to have a transit visa.”

Another site had this to say: “If the traveller intends to pass through immigration or stay in Turkey overnight for a connection, an electronic visa, called an e-Visa, is required.”

Would I be leaving the transit lounge? I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t have any plans to pass through immigration or leave the airport.

On another site, someone had posted the question “Do I need a Visa for a Layover in Turkey if I’m only going to be there 12 hours?”

There were two answers:

One guy said: “You do not need a transit Visa for a layover in Turkey. You only need a Turkish visa if you want to go outside the airport.”

A second stated: “You don’t need a transit visa for Turkey if you are not going out of the airport during your layover in Istanbul.”

I decided to phone the Turkish Airlines help desk at Istanbul. I was flying with them from Bucharest to Istanbul. It seemed to me they would be experts on whether or not people need a Visa for a Layover in Turkey.  I couldn’t get through, so I rang thei Turkish Airlines helpline at Gatwick airport instead. The girl I spoke to said I would not need a visa because I was only passing through, but she sounded a tad unsure about it. That’s when I decided to buy a visa and have done with it.

How to Apply for a Turkish e-Visa

By this point, I’d already learned it was possible to apply for a Turkish Visa online and I’d read the process was quite simple and fast. This turned out to be true.

If you want to apply a Turkish e-Visa online you can do so by visiting THIS SITE.

It appears to be run by the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The site has several language options, including English, and the cost of the Turkish e-Visa is around $20 (€17.40). I have no idea why the fee is in US dollars, that’s just the way it is. However, there are several payment options available. Visa and Mastercard are probably the easiest ones but there are another nine options to choose from and, if your bank is in the Netherlands, you can even pay using iDeal.

In my case, I doubt the process of buying the visa took more than five to ten minutes. It was just a case of finding my passport and entering some information from it into an online form.

When the process is complete you can download your e-Visa from the site. The site also emails you a copy of the e-Visa. It’s a PDF document and it’s good for 180 days and covers you for a 90-day stay in Turkey.

For example, my visa runs from October 6th, 2018 to April 3rd, 2019 so I’m covered for any 90 days during that period.

There’s no need to print the e-Visa, though you can if you want to. In my case, I didn’t have access to a printer so I downloaded the PDF document to my phone and showed it to the security personnel at Istanbul airport when they asked for my visa.

How My Checked Luggage Made Me Need a Turkish Visa

I bought a Turkish e-Visa to cover my ass and prevent any problems when I arrived at Istanbul Airport. It turned out I did need it, so it was money well spent. However, if you only have cabin baggage and will only be using one terminal you can spare yourself the expense because you won’t need a visa.

When I got off the plane at Istanbul, there was a bus waiting to take the passengers to the terminal. After the short bus ride, I followed the signs to the baggage collection point. I’d arrived at Terminal 1 and I would be leaving from Terminal 1 in 7 hours time. If I’d only had cabin baggage, everything would have been fine. Unfortunately, I had to pass through customs to pick up my backpack. The customs officer asked to see my passport and I showed it to him. Then he asked to see my visa, so I pulled it up on my phone and handed it to him. That was good enough. He stamped my passport and let me through.

Several hours later, I had to pass through customs again and my passport got a second stamp so, technically speaking, I’ve now only got 89 days left on my Turkish visa.

The Bottom Line

Turkish e-Visas are quick and easy to arrange and you can complete the entire process online. Even if you are only passing through Turkey on your way to another destination you will probably need one. The only exception is if you are only travelling with hand luggage and will be arriving and departing from the same terminal.

If you travel to Turkey without a visa, I think it’s possible to buy one when you arrive, but it costs more money and may be time-consuming. So, unless you are going to be at the airport for a while, arranging the visa may cause you to miss your next flight.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on Turkish visas, but this blog post is based on personal experience, rather than personal opinion or research. I’m hoping it presents things more clearly than the articles and forum posts I encountered when I tried to find out if I needed a visa for a layover in Turkey. If this is so, I’ve achieved what I set out to do. If not, nobody can say I didn’t try.

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