I have finally made it to Tashkent in Uzbekistan and I’m absolutely exhausted, but I have seen and done loads since leaving London.
My flight from London to Istanbul was pretty uneventful. I didn’t get much sleep, and Turkish Airlines have very little leg room, but they have a good entertainment system which kept me entertained. I picked the flights I did, with a long layover in Istanbul, as this made me eligible for a free Turkish Airlines city tour. It meant having to pay for a Turkish Visa but meant I would see a lot more than if I stayed in the airport. I arrived in Istanbul in the early hours so after putting my name down on the list for the free city tour I had a drink in the 24-hour Starbucks before napping on the sofas for a couple of hours.
If you have a long layover there are two city tours you can take, either from 9-3 or 9-6, which include food and all entrance fees to the sights that you see. I didn’t have enough time for the long tour due to the time of my connecting flight but both tours still show you the best of Istanbul.
Overall I found the trip to be a good introduction to the sights of Istanbul. After breakfast, which was included, we were taken on a walking tour of the centre and shown sights such as the Blue Mosque, Topkapki Palace, some obelisks and a number of other sights. We were given some time to explore the Topkapki Palace, which was good to walk around and gave us some good views of the Bosphorus, but unfortunately the queue was too long to be able to enter the Blue Mosque. The tour was given by a professional guide, in English, and we were given headsets to be able to hear everything that was being said without standing right next to her.
The final activity of the tour was the free lunch that was included in the tour, and we were then ushered back onto the coach for the journey back to the airport. During the tour I had been speaking to somebody from South Africa who was flying to Tashkent on the same flight as me so we grabbed some food and drinks together at the airport to pass the time while waiting for our boarding time.
The flight to Tashkent wasn’t as good as the flight to Istanbul. There was even less leg room, my seat was broken and due to delays we arrived 45 minutes after our scheduled arrival time. Normally in most airports this wouldn’t have been an issue but it was already after 2am, and the arrival process was so chaotic that I didn’t get out of the airport until 3am.
After surviving the gauntlet of taxi drivers touting for business I made my way to the hotel to check in. It’s approaching 4am now and the sun is starting to come up so I’ll be heading to bed so I have enough sleep before the group welcome meeting at 10am.