Increasingly, many countries are now requiring people to provide a negative PCR test before they’re able to gain entry. We believe this will become the norm for anyone wanting to travel in the short to mid-term future.
Over the coming months, it should hopefully start to become easier to get tested at most airports around the world, but for the time being, Turkey is miles ahead of everyone else. Tests are available at reasonable prices at almost all airports and with fairly quick turnaround times.
This is particularly helpful for people taking our tours, as Turkish Airlines cover the majority of our destinations, meaning transiting Istanbul is already required.
We have therefore put together a guide to the process of obtaining the test in Istanbul.
Upon exiting your flight, you will need to clear immigration and customs. As soon as you pass into the arrivals area, turn right and walk to the end of the concourse. You will see signs pointing towards “COVID-19 TEST CENTER”.
Just before you enter the testing area, there are machines at the entrance where you need to take a ticket from. If it’s busy, you may need to wait until your number is called, but generally you can just choose a counter and queue up.
There are three test providers with their own booths; Biotest, Safak and TRG. Each booth has two windows; test registration and test result. It doesn’t matter which test provider you choose, but make sure you queue for the ‘test registration’ window.
Once you reach the window, you will need to show your passport and pay a 250 Lira fee. It can be paid in cash (Turkish Lira only) or by credit card. Once your payment is processed, they will provide you with a small sheet of barcode stickers.
Next proceed to the testing area, forward from the registration desks. The Safak testing teams are based on the left, TRG in the middle and Biotest on the right. If you are unsure, there are many helpers around – show them your barcodes and they will direct you to the correct queue.
Once you are at the front of the queue, wait until you are called forward and then enter the testing booth. You will need to hand your passport and barcodes to the tester. You will be given back two of the barcodes, keep these safe. You will then get tested by a quick 20 second throat and nose swab. Once the sample is secured, you are free to leave.
You can check if your results are ready by going to https://enabiz.gov.tr/PcrTestSonuc/Index and entering your barcode number and the last four digits of your passport number. Alternatively, you can check at the computer terminal which issued you with a ticket at the start of the process. When your results are ready you can go back to the same place you paid for the test and queue at the results window. They will give you a signed and stamped certificate with your results.
How long does it take to get my results?
The official line is ‘5 hours’. However, it appears most people are getting them back quicker than this. When we had the test (21st October), the results were ready in 2.5 hours.
What should I do while I wait for my results?
There are two options. First is to wait in the airport. There is a food area two levels up. The second option is to build an Istanbul stopover into your trip. This way, you can take the test, go to your hotel and then pick up the results the next day when you’re heading back for your flight.
We would strongly recommend this option rather than trying to get them the same day that you are flying. Although, we and many others have had our test results back quickly, this cannot be guaranteed. It will all depend on how many people are taking the test on a particular day. Numbers are likely to continue to increase over the coming weeks and months.
How long is the process of clearing immigration and taking the test?
When we took the test on the 21st October, it took us 45 minutes to get from the aircraft to arrivals. And then another 15 minutes to queue, register and pay and then take the test.
Will the results be emailed to me?
You need to logon to https://enabiz.gov.tr/PcrTestSonuc/Index where you can check your results and download a pdf certificate. Some countries will accept your own printout of this pdf but to be safe, it’s better to collect the certified version from the testing area. Some people have reported to us that the computer system is not always working and test results are not always accessible so again, it’s better to not rely on this, and pick up the physical copy.
Do I need to show any other documentation other than my passport when registering for the test?
We have heard some reports of people being asked to show proof of flight booking out of Turkey within 48 hours; however we were not required to show anything.
Do I need to wear a mask?
Masks must be worn at all times in the airport other than when eating or drinking in a cafe. You take if off temporarily when they take your test swabs.
Do I need a visa for Turkey?
Many nationalities (Brits included) no longer require a visa for Turkey. Those who do need one can obtain an e-visa from here: https://www.evisa.gov.tr/en/
Will the process change?
Possibly; the price has increased from 150 lira in summer to 250 lira at the time of writing. Hopefully the only other changes that will arise are that the results will start to become quicker with the new rapid testing kits become more widely available.
Can I take my test in IST airport and get my results certificate in SAW airport?
At the time of writing (26/10/20) this is not possible. Results certificates can only be obtained at the airport you took the test in.
What happens if I test positive?
If you test positive then you will be referred to a private government hospital where you will be quarantined for 2 weeks at a cost of 250 Lira ($30) per day.