The word is out: the best place on earth for a traveler to get a PCR test is at the new Istanbul airport – but also at Sabiha Gökçen and various other airports around Turkey. For just $33 (250 TKL) anyone flying out of Istanbul (or Turkey at all) can pick up a test in a few hours (just three hours in our case!!) Even if you aren’t in Istanbul and just flew in from Lilongwe or Seoul, you can even enter Turkey without a test and pick yours up before continuing on to your final destination. In this world of plagues and devastation and carnage, the IST covid-19 test is just about the best we can hope for. That’s why we wrote this guide to Istanbul Airport Covid-19 PCR Test to make sure you know to get your cavities swabbed qiuckly, and get on to more fun things.
The Specs – How to get the test
Here’s the basic info you need to prepare for your Istanbul Airport Covid-19 PCR Test:
250 Turkish lira, which is currently $33.
Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Officially, 4-8 hours. In our experience on an afternoon, it took less than three hours (two hours and 40 minutes).
When to do it:
You can come to the airport a day early to take care of the test, if you’d like. If you show an outgoing ticket, security will let you in to the terminal. If you’ve just flown in, once you exit customs simply turn right and walk to the end of the arrivals area.
Where to do it
In the arrivals area. If you’re coming from the city, go through security in departures, then head downstairs for your test.
The Steps for an Istanbul Airport Covid-19 PCR Test
The procedure for getting your Istanbul Airport Covid-19 PCR Test is incredibly easy and well-organized.
Head to the arrivals area. If coming from the city, you should first have a security check on the departures level. If coming in from a flight, domestic or international, simply proceed to the testing center at the far end of the terminal (your right, on exiting baggage claim.)
There are machines dispensing numbers at the entrance to the testing area. Take one. However, if there isn’t a rush, they won’t actually be using this system – if the area is empty, just head to a registration counter.
At the registration counter, give the attendant your passport. They will quickly process it, print out some barcodes, and then ask you to pay 250 tkl, cash or credit. This only takes a few moments. There are actually two companies providing this service. They’re both the same, but once you pick one, you’ll have to return to it for your printout (though they both have access to the same system.)
Take your barcodes to the testing area. To get there, return to the entrance to the testing area, where you will see a sign directing you.
Wait your turn in line to approach a testing cubicle. At the cubicle, a nurse will take your barcode and then quickly swab you. Quite to our surprise, the swab first went in the mouth, and then each of the nostrils. not three swab sticks, just one. Very thorough. Very unpleasant. And a little odd to think that the world has come to such a state that you’ve just paid someone to collect spittle from your throat and shove it up into your nasal cavity.
Wait. To get your results, you will have to check the results website located at www.enabiz.gov.tr/PcrTestSonuc. If you check before the results are ready, the website will tell you, possibly in Turkish, that there is no record available. This may seem alarming, but that just means it isn’t ready yet. There’s a chance you can just go and check in now, but its not for sure. See below.
Collect your results. If you just need an electronic copy, the above website is fine. If you need or want a paper copy to remember the experience by, you can return to the testing site and head to the results desk to collect it. If there is a long wait, you’ll need to take a number.
Head back upstairs via escalator or elevator, check in, and, if you’ve got access, hit up that lounge!
Timing your Test
Ideally, you’d probably want to do this a day early, but with the airport so far from town, that’s 300 lira for a taxi round trip and a good 2 hours out of your day. The other option is for you to get it done the day of your flight. This means planning to arrive well in advance, and bring a book or a game or a Rubic’s cube with you. The maximum wait time is probably about eight hours. While tests are being issued in as little as three, if you are worried about your plans being ruined, you’ll want to go early. We arrived seven hours before our flight and had no issues, but we can’t promise that God will smile on you.
If you have a morning flight, another option is to come in the evening, get a test, and then check into the landside Yotel for the night. At 90 or so euro for a single, its not exactly cheap, but if you subtract what you’d have spent on a taxi and a hotel room in town , its not devastating.
If you need a test for your final destination, you may not be able to check in for your flight before you get the results. The first time we tried, we were required to wait. The second time, they just ushered us through without even asking if we had gotten our results. If you fail once, its worth trying again with another security agent.
If they refuse to let you check in, though, you’re stuck in the arrivals terminal. There’s not a lot to do in the arrival terminal. There’s a magical world of shopping and eating and lounging beyond security, but there isn’t much to keep you happy while you wait. The only food options are Burger King and Simit Saray for bread-based Turkish food. There is a hair salon, though, so you could kill an hour getting your hair cut or blowdried or something. There’s also a pharmacy to browse.
You could also spend your time on the internet reading memes, posting conspiracy theories, and finally finding out that old trick doctors dont want you to know about. But, beware, the airport only gives you one hour of free internet. To get it, you’ll need a functioning phone (we never got our SMS code) or you can swipe your passport as a kiosk located near the medical check point. But you only get an hour free, so use it wisely!
Another option is to take a taxi or bus back to town if you don’t have much luggage (remember, no test, no check in.) The testing center is just beside the left-luggage station, so you could feasibly just pay to leave your bags there while you go have one last chai by the Bosporus. There are also bus stops only 20-30 minutes from the airport. Consider taking the Taksim bus and getting off at 4. Levant, a bustling area just off the main highway.
A final option is to check into the Yotel that is located right next to the testing center. A basic room there is 91 euro or so per night at the moment.
Beyond Security – Istanbul Airport Covid-19 PCR Test
Once you’ve gottten checked in and cleared immigration and security, you’re in for a world of fun. There’s a ton of shopping and food inside the airport, and you’ll be glad to see it after five ours of hanging out in a sterile arrivals area. Best of all, this airport has some of the best lounges on earth, the Turkish Lounge and the IGA Lounge. Make sure you budget a little extra time to enjoy them!