This spring I decided to give the Istanbul E-pass a try. I’ll review what’s included, what’s not included (yet), how to get the pass, how to use it, and of course whether it’s worth the investment.
What is the Istanbul E-pass?
As the name suggests, it’s an electronic pass in the form of a QR code on the Istanbul E-pass app. It provides access to over 45 attractions and services.
What is all included in the Istanbul E-pass?
I think it’s fair to categorize the contents as follows:
- skip the ticket line entrance to Istanbul attractions
- English-spoken guided tours to a selection of Istanbul sightseeing spots
- ferry rides and Bosphorus cruises (with dinner)
- discounted day trips from Istanbul to various cities
It goes without saying that entrance to the main attractions such Topkapi Palace and Harem (audio guide), Dolmabahçe Palace (guided), Hagia Sophia (guided), Blue Mosque (guided), Basilica and/or Serefiye Cistern (guided), Galata Tower, and Whirling Dervishes is included. Don’t forget often overlooked gems such as the Archaeology Museum and the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts.
But there’s more, much more. There are the various Bosphorus cruises (regular, hop-on hop off, and one with dinner and entertainment), ferry rides to the Princes’ Islands, as well as place of interest for all ages, such as the aquariums, Madame Tussauds, and the rather impressive observation deck.
For a full and up-to-date list, please check the attractions overview on the Istanbul E-pass website.
How to Get the Istanbul E-pass?
The process is very easy. You go the Istanbul E-pass website, select Prices & Durations from the top menu, and select the pass of your choice based on the duration (2, 3, 5 or 7 days).
You enter the amount of adults and children under 13 (they have a discount) and click on checkout. On the next page you must provide your details and billing address.
Make sure to provide a working mobile phone number, I’ll explain why a bit later. After that you continue to payment and you’ll receive a confirmation email with your E-pass ID. Definitely keep this for further reference. In that mail you’ll also find a link to the pass management panel.
Remember the importance of a correct mobile number? Moments later, you’ll receive a WhatsApp message from the Istanbul E-pass customer support. They immediately share a few messages containing very helpful information on how to make the most out of your digital Istanbul pass (see screenshots below). Feel free to ask them any questions you may have, even if your trip hasn’t started yet.
How to Use the Istanbul E-pass?
Make sure to download the Istanbul E-pass app, preferably before your trip. The app is very intuitive to use and a great help while preparing for your city trip.
Upon opening the Istanbul E-pass app for the first time, you’re asked to fill in your E-pass ID. Once approved, you’ll be taken to your E-pass main screen with on top the QR code, followed by two buttons:
- View All Attractions
- Reservation Required Attractions
That’s right, for some activities, such as airport transfers, day trips and the dinner cruise, you need to make reservations ahead of time.
And the first button of course provides a nice overview of all the attractions and services included in the Istanbul E-pass.
Per activity, you have again two small buttons: one provides information on how to enter the activity as well as the departure time in case of a guided tour, and the other opens Google maps to show you directions to the entrance or meeting point. Very practical, I must say. Both for preparing your trip, and while spending time in Istanbul.
Last but not least, there is the QR code. That’s you golden ticket so to speak, it’s what you have to show to enter the attractions. In some rare cases you need to show it at the sales booth in exchange for a regular ticket, but most of the times you can just skip the ticket sales line. In other words, the Istanbul E-pass is super easy to use and can save you quite a bit of time.
Is the Istanbul E-pass worth it?
Let’s approach this mathematically. Let’s take their sample 3-day itinerary. Also, for an honest comparison, keep in mind that activities such as Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Dolmabahçe Palace and the cistern are guided tours.
The prices they mention if you were to buy a similar service elsewhere or at the sales booths, are correct. I checked them all. So, if you actually do all these activities (some with guides) in three days, you will indeed save about 50%.
Is this doable, sure. If you want to make the most out of your short stay in Istanbul, I even recommend it. You can also exchange a few activities based on your preference. I for instances opted to visit the Observation Deck instead of the Museum of Illusions, and I still made a decent profit.
Also notice that I haven’t mentioned the free Havaist shuttle service or discounted private airport transfer yet. I tried out the latter and it’s very straightforward. When you leave the airport building, you find the person with the sign CEO34, who takes you to the vehicle. I enjoyed a very comfortable and relaxed drive into the city center.
And the best news was that you can even use that outside the validity dates of your Istanbul E-pass.
Meet the Istanbul E-pass Customer Service
As I mentioned before, shortly after buying your Istanbul E-pass, you’ll get a WhatsApp message from their customer service. Sure, in the beginning they send a few obligatory, very helpful but albeit pretty impersonal messages.
But make no mistake, even two weeks before my actual arrival in Istanbul, I asked them for some extra info. And every time, I got a very detailed and informative answer. While in Istanbul, the exact same story. Every time I had a question, needed to ask ask if the guide could wait an extra minute because I was running late, make reservations … their response was lightning quick, to the point, and super polite. Even after midnight, believe me, I tried by accident. I can imagine that, certainly for first-time visitors, having an almost personal help desk in your pocket, is a great bonus.
It’s all about maths, skip the line, and ease of mind really. If you’re the type of traveler that wants to cover as much of Istanbul’s attractions as possible during your stay, who doesn’t want to waste time in ticket sales lines, loves to have a guide explaining the ins and outs of some of the Istanbul’s top attractions, than you should buy the Istanbul E-pass. The discounted transfers and day trips, as well as the magnificent customer service just sweeten this deal even more.
If on the other hand, you prefer to wake up late, enjoy an elaborated breakfast, plan to do two activities a day and spend the rest of your time browsing the streets, do some shopping and sit on a terrace watch Istanbul pass by, then this is not for you.
Either way, I wish you a nice time in Istanbul.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission to keep the site ad-free. I only recommend products and companies I use or have used.