Istanbul on Points

Jess

Visiting the beautiful city of Istanbul doesn’t have to break the bank. Istanbul, a city that straddles two continents, was even more magnificent than I imagined it would be. The people, the history, the food—I can’t wait to return! Here’s how I turned what would have been a $5,000 trip to Istanbul into one that cost less than $500…

 

Getting to Istanbul

I flew non-stop from Houston to Istanbul in Turkish Airlines business class for just 45K Turkish miles + $215 in taxes and fees. Talk about a steal! This wasn’t my first time flying Turkish Airlines, and being able to fly business class to Europe for just 45K miles each way is quite the steal.

I met a couple of girlfriends in Istanbul — one flew non-stop from Seattle to Istanbul and one from Chicago to Istanbul. Both were also able to score the 45K-mile Turkish Airlines business class seats.

The service and the food on the flight were both outstanding. Turkish Airlines consistently has some of the best food in the sky, and I look forward to flying Turkish again in the future.

My dinner in the sky was delicious!

Capital One and Citi both transfer 1:1 to Turkish Airlines, so these are the cards I recommend to beef up your Turkish Airlines balance:

 

 

Lodging

What’s better than three nights in Istanbul? Three nights at a luxury hotel in Istanbul that cost $0!

We chose the Park Hyatt Istanbul for our stay, and I am so glad we did. We arranged transportation from the airport directly through the Park Hyatt. When we were a few minutes away, the driver called the hotel to let them know we’d be arriving shortly, and when we pulled in they were waiting outside for us with a bouquet of flowers!

That was a first for me, and I learned over those three days that hospitality in Istanbul is like none other.

The Park Hyatt Istanbul is a category 5, so award nights will cost 20K Hyatt points/night (standard pricing). That’s a great deal for a Park Hyatt! There were four adults total, so I had to book two rooms, but you can book one standard room for up to two adults and one child.

For our three-night stay, each room ended up being 60K points + $0 total. I booked both rooms so that we would all get the Globalist benefits, then my friends transferred Hyatt points to me via the Hyatt Points Combining Form.

 

Our room at the Park Hyatt was gorgeous! We loved all the treats they left us.

 

We were upgraded to a deluxe room thanks to my Globalist status, and it was amazing! It had a king bed, large seating area, and a large bathroom that even included a steam room!

The Park Hyatt Istanbul is located in the “Beverly Hills” of Istanbul. The main sights aren’t walkable, but we were able to arrange taxis to the city center via the hotel Concierge.

There’s a new coffee shop on-site at the Park Hyatt called Kapicciiiinoo. At check-in we were offered two coupons for free drinks there, and immediately went to redeem them to help fight off the jet lag. The shop was beyond cute, and the coffee was strong (and delicious).

 

The cutest coffee shop connected to the Park Hyatt.

 

The main restaurant, Turquaz, was closed for remodeling during our stay. Breakfast was instead served on the second floor at Nusr-Et restaurant. Each morning there was an amazing buffet breakfast spread with pastries, made to order eggs/omelets, Turkish foods (our favorite were the gözleme), fresh fruits, and more. There are a la carte options to choose from as well.

 

The Park Hyatt breakfast was so good!

 

We didn’t get to enjoy it this trip, but the Park Hyatt also has a beautiful outdoor pool on the second level next to Nusr-Et.

 

My 10-year-old would have loved this pool!

 

Want to beef up your Hyatt points balance to stay at hotels and resorts for free? These are some of the cards we recommend:

 

Things to Do

We only had three nights in Istanbul, so we really tried to make the most of our time there.

Turkish Hamam

When we initially booked the trip, I knew I wanted to try a traditional Turkish Hamam. A few weeks before our trip we made reservations at Kılıç Ali Paşa Hamam. It was incredible!

Reservations for women are available in the morning while there is time for men in the late afternoon/evening. Bikini bottoms are required, but tops are optional (I would say a majority of the women were topless). They provide a locker and key, and a wrap to wear into the hamam.

Upon entering they remove the wrap, pour warm water over your head and body, then have you lie down on a warm slab of marble for about 15-20 minutes. Afterwards they escort you to a station where they scrub your entire body, cover you in bubbles and massage them in, rinse it all off with warm water, then shampoo and condition your hair. It was beyond amazing and my favorite thing we did in Istanbul.

 

Phones were not allowed in the hamam, but this is what it looked like.

 

The total cost was around $65. They do accept credit cards but request that any gratuities be left in cash (they provide an envelope for gratuity at checkout).

Walking Tour

We also did a walking tour of the Old City and enjoyed it so much. We booked it through AirBnB experiences, and our guide Sela was great. He was incredibly knowledgeable and easy to talk to. We really enjoyed our time with him.

Keep in mind that if you’re planning to visit any mosques, women will need to wear a head scarf and either pants or a full-length dress/skirt. Men must wear pants.

 

 

Sela took us to Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar. Along the way we stopped to enjoy cafes, street foods, and even some incredible views from a secret rooftop.

 

Jess or James Bond? 🤔

 

I 100% recommend the AirBNB experience with Sela. For a private tour for the four of us, the price was around $200 ($50/person) which was very reasonable.

Bosphorus Sunset Cruise

We also did a Bosphorus Sunset cruise that we really enjoyed. We booked it through Viator, and it was not a private cruise (there were probably 30-40 people on the yacht). It was amazing to see both the European and the Asian side of Istanbul. If we had more time I would have loved to actually explore the Asian side.

The tour company provided non-alcoholic drinks and snacks, and there were alcoholic beverages on board for purchase. If I could only choose one or two experiences, I would choose the hamam and the walking tour over this one, but it was still a really great way to see Istanbul.

 

Sunset sailing 😍

Like the walking tour, the sunset cruise was around $200 for the four of us ($50/person).

Bottom Line

I was blown away by Istanbul. It’s incredibly family friendly, and I can’t wait to return with my family. There is so much to do and see, and the money you save on flights on hotels means more money to spend on experiences and making memories! Have you visited Istanbul?

 

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  1. Ana says:

    Where else did you go as part of this trip ?! Looked amazing!

  2. Shazia Ijaz says:

    Can you please share any other Airbnb experiences you tried? We never tried any so curious what to look for.

  3. Carlotta Luster says:

    What would you suggest for a family of 4 (2 adults, 8&9 boys) for park Hyatt? Is there an option to get a rollaway bed? Thanks for sharing this trip! It’s on my 2025 summer vacation goal!

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