In the absence of actual travel, I make do with imaginary itineraries and verging-on-crazy drooling over travel photos. For the most part, I’ve kept my endless bucket lists and travel research to myself for fear of boring people into a slow and painful death. But I figured it was about time I tested the waters and started sharing, in the hopes that it may help someone who’s planning to take a legit trip.
In case you’re new to the blog, you can check out all my other travel-related posts here. For now, lettuce talk business (attempting to train my brain to eat healthier by randomly inserting vegetables into sentences).
If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve probably come across the free transit visa option that Turkish Airlines is offering to peeps from Pakistan. Also totally cool if you know nothing about it and the rock is your permanent home. That’s why I’m here. When I first came across the news, I had a bunch of questions. So I’m gonna go ahead and assume that you had the same/similar ones and address them one by one.
What’s the Free Transit Visa?
Pakistanis travelling with Turkish Airlines to the Schengen countries, USA, United Kingdom, Ireland or Saudi Arabia (for Umrah) are eligible to apply for a free stopover visa to Turkey. This is a 7 day, single-entry visa. If your stopover is more than 20 hours, Turkish Airlines will also give you one night’s accommodation in a four-star hotel (for Economy Class) and two nights’ accommodation in a five-star hotel (for Business Class). I thought that sounded super awesome so I was determined to collect all the information and store it away for a later date when it could be of some use to me (a girl can dream).
Here’s a photo of a night cruise on the Bosphorus for some incentive:
Is the Visa Actually Free?
Unfortunately, not really. While The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has waived the visa fee, there are only two ways to apply for a Turkish visa from Pakistan:
1. Apply for an e-visa – This will cost you $60 and you require a valid visa OR valid residence permit from one of the Schengen Countries, USA, UK or Ireland in order to apply.
2. Apply through a Gerry’s dropbox – You will have to pay a processing fee of PKR 2,500 plus submit all the documents required for a normal tourist visa. Also, the processing time can be up to 5 weeks during peak season so you’ll have to plan your trip well in advance.
Another photo in case you’re still trying to decide if you want to go:
Other Important Things You Need to Know
- Turkish Airlines only offers a free hotel stay for stopovers that are more than 20 hours. So, make sure you pick a flight with a longer stopover when you’re booking.
- The transport cost and any other costs to and from the airport are at your own expense. Make sure you’re cool with that before you opt for this.
- To get a free hotel voucher, you need to email firstname.lastname@example.org with your ticket number.
- In case your stopover is more than 6 hours but less than 20 hours, there’s another option you can pick – a free sightseeing tour of Istanbul. They have different tour options starting from 2.5 hours to 9 hours. Also, I think some meals are included.
- You can sign up for one of the tours at the hotel reservation desk in the International Arrivals Terminal at Istanbul Atatürk Airport. Also, you can check out the different options available here (scroll all the way to the bottom).
Now that I have accomplished my mission of putting all this information out into the world, I can sleep in peace (my sheep will be slightly disappointed).
Let me know if you do end up using either of these options (not for any other reason except that I’d like to live vicariously through you).
Until next time.