International flights are just expensive, there is no getting round it, but especially so from South Africa. It really helps if you have parents who are willing to pay for you flight, but it’s probably not as satisfying as having paid for your flight yourself. Either way, at least $1000 will get you: a flight across the world, a chiropractic nightmare, some kind of stewed aubergine dish, and an electrical fire disguised as a blanket. Actually not the blanket, you don’t get to keep the blanket.
If you’re on a budget you’re definitely looking for the cheapest flight option which usually comes at the expense of a comfortable travelling experience. I had the choice between a direct flight on South African airways and, for about $500 less, a flight on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul – a 30 hour trip including 7 hours in the Istanbul airport. Which is where I am at this very moment. I chose Turkish because I believe quite strongly that only with age and wisdom does one earn the right to take the expensive, comfortable option. If you are unemployed, broke and have the vigor of youth, you must rough it.
Turkish Airlines has developed an excellent service: they offer reasonably prices flights to all over the world and all the in-flight movies your heart could ever desire. The Ataturk Airport has become a central travel hub for international travel – it is currently the 15th busiest terminal in the world for international traffic. I was ready to write a glowing review of my experience with the airline until I arrived at the Istanbul Airport. Navigating the transit area of the airport is no simple feat and because no one who works there has any idea what is going on, I’m going to put it down in writing, WITH DIAGRAMS, for anyone who wants a less painful experience than I had:
Correct Procedure at Ataturk Airport for Passengers in Transit:
(A) Exit Airplane
(B) If flying to The Americas or Israel, go to the additional security Check to be interrogated and have your passport stamped. Note: Look carefully as there is only one tiny sign indicating that you should go here.
(C) Join the chaotic mass of people waiting to go through security. One man will check the passports of every one of the thousands of passengers waiting here. Note: look carefully for the tiny sign indicating the Transit line. Go through transit security.
(D) Take the escalator to Freedom (or your connecting flight, which you may have missed by now)
My Procedure at Ataturk Airport in Transit:
(A) Exit Airplane
(C) Join the chaotic mass of people waiting to go through security. Be told to go back to additional security for passengers travelling to the USA.
(B) Go to the additional security check to be interrogated and have passport stamped.
(C) Join the massive line disguised as a mob of people waiting to go through security. Be told there are too many people and to go stand ‘over there’ (points vaguely in another direction)
(E) Join line for passport control. Realise this line is not for transit passengers.
(H) Ask Information Desk. Get sent to stand at (C)
(C) Still too many people. Get sent to another security check point 1km away
(F) Join the chaotic mass of people waiting to go through security. Wait for additional airport staff to arrive to help deal with the backlog. Go through security.
(G) Exit to freedom via escalator an hour and half later.
Transit Area in Istanbul Airport, with labels
- Every individual red dot represents one human
- Green represents things which are supposed to be helpful but are not
- Grey labels indicate permanent features of the airport
- Blue labels indicate my own scientific assessment
- This diagram is not drawn to scale
- I spent a good amount of time deciding how to spell ‘airplane’. I still have no idea.
- I was quite pleased with how my x-ray machines turned out. Aren’t they fancy?