How to fly from Uganda to London – fly via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines!
Flying with a national carrier gives you an insight into a new culture.
On my Turkish Airlines flight to London via Istanbul, staff passed down the aisles sharing a huge tray of fresh Turkish Delight. Later we were served small packets of Turkish-grown hazelnuts, figs, walnuts and cherry juice; the Turkish wine and Pilsner lager (Turkish of course!) went down well too. And dinner was still to come …
On our flight from Entebbe to Istanbul, everyone had their own individual entertainment systems and access to the latest films. The sound was good, the touchscreen worked easily and I had plenty of legroom. The seats were very comfy and the planes very clean. Turkish Airlines got me in the holiday mood that’s for sure!
The advantage of being a single traveller is sometimes you’re seated in the area next to the emergency doors, the idea being if you’re not responsible for anyone else, you’re easier to call on in an emergency. You have the option of refusing, but I didn’t mind at all; here I had plenty of extra legroom (and the Muzungu saved herself the unwanted embarrassment of my previous flight!)
I love aeroplane food
I can’t help but get excited when I see the little assembly of food containers on a tray. I guess it takes me back to happy family holidays as a child.
The arrival of dinner was announced with a colourful printed menu listing the starters, choice of main course, desserts and drinks. Vegetarian options are always available (confirm this when you book). None of the food products contain pork.
We were trusted with metal cutlery! (And the food tasted better for it).
There seemed to be a wait between the menus and the food arriving. I realised later it was because bread rolls were being freshly cooked – even at 30,000 feet! The food was excellent, incredibly fresh and very tasty, Turkish Mediterranean flavours like spicy tomato, fresh (not tinned) olives and eggplant; chicken or minced meat were the other options
The Muzungu was met at Istanbul by Hello Tourism
Oh what a treat. Rather than lugging my heavy bags by myself, I was greeted by a very courteous driver at the airport. Within minutes I was whisked away in a very clean SUV, lined with obligatory Turkish carpet. We zoomed into Istanbul city centre. Arriving early Sunday morning meant there was no traffic.
I can see the sea!
“I’m almost in Europe!” I told myself. I never thought I would miss Europe but, despite lack of sleep, my growing excitement told me I had.
After dumping my bags at Olimpiyat Hotel, in the heart of the old city, it was time to explore.
3 – 4000 cruiseships pass through Istanbul every year. These ships are immense, the size of a small town.
TURKEY TRAVEL TIPS
- Keep a print-out of a currency ‘cheat sheet’ in your pocket: it avoids some of the newly-arrived traveler’s confusion between currencies (Ugandan shillings / Euros / Turkish lira). Cheatsheets are so handy, particularly when you first arrive in a new country
- Buy local: Turkish coffee is 5 Turkish lira, whereas imported cappuccino, for example, is 6.5 lira.
- Women travellers: put a headscarf in your bag. You might want to think about covering up your shoulders too, especially if you are entering a mosque while sightseeing.
- Turkish Airways online check-in: I did struggle a bit with the online check-in system. Much of it is in Turkish. If you get stuck, contact your local booking office.
- How to purchase your Turkish Airlines ticket: Flights to Uganda from London can be bought online. In Kampala, flights from Entebbe to Istanbul, and flights from Entebbe to London – or anywhere else in the world – can be bought at Turkish Airlines office in Nakasero.
- Bag wrap: I always use this when I have to change planes. Get your hold baggage wrapped in cellophane when you first check in your baggage; it cost me £9 GBP per item at Heathrow (don’t remember the price at Entebbe) and always gives me peace of mind when my bags are in transit.
- Do you have problems sleeping on a flight? Here are some travel tips on how to sleep on a plane.
- Transfer without boarding pass: look out for this sign when you are transiting with Turkish Airlines through Istanbul. Go to the information desk and they’ll guide you.
- At Gate 205, Istanbul airport, there is an excellent little coffee shop. Turkish coffee is by far the cheapest option. Cappuccinos et cetera are very expensive although excellent. You can even have beer and a huge freshly baked simits (sesame seed covered bread ring) or snack. Surely this is how all airport lounges should be?
- Don’t get off in the wrong country!
I flew back to Uganda from Istanbul on an overnight flight. I’d been dozing when the pilot announced we were going to land. I grabbed my things from the overhead lockers.
The bags were heavy and the man next to me got out of his seat to help me. I struggled down the plane aisle, thanked the staff, exited the plane and – just as I was about to walk down the steps onto the tarmac – looked up to see a huge sign saying Welcome to Kigali International airport.
I turned around.
I walked ‘the walk of shame’ back to my seat with 100 people looking at me, suppressing smiles.
The sign at Istanbul airport had clearly mentioned two destinations – but I had been half asleep…
DISCLOSURE: This blog is based on my personal experience. I traveled to Istanbul courtesy of Turkish Airlines. The Istanbul city tour was provided courtesy of Hello Tourism tour agency. For more information about sponsorship and advertising on Diary of a Muzungu, read the Terms and Conditions.