Traveling to Turkey? What are you most excited to see? The underground cities and cave carved churches at Cappadocia? The intricate and immense ceilings of the Blue Mosque? The once grandesque Temple of Apollo? The library or the Church of the Virgin Mary at Ephesus, reached by a two-thousand year old stone street? Hittite relics at the Museum of Anatolian Civilization? Lycian ruins at Olympos where beach-goers in bikinis mingle with relics of lost cities?
With hundreds of historical sites to see museum entrance costs can certainly add up, and the summer lines at Hagia Sophia can deter even the most intrepid of travelers.
But, no worries! In 2008 the Turkish government launched the Müzekart For 40 lira anyone with Turkish citizenship or a Turkish residence permit can have unlimited free access to museums and archaeological sites run by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism over a period of one year. This is a great deal for students, retirees with residence permits, and other expats. Unfortunately, if you are not a Turkish citizen, or do not have a valid residence permit, you are not eligible to purchase the card.
However, if you are planning to visit the sites in Istanbul or Cappadocia, the government offers two regional museum passes.
In Istanbul you can purchase a Museum Pass Istanbul for 85 lira (3 days) or 115 lira (5 days). The card is good for entrance to: Hagia Sophia Museum, Topkapı Palace Museum and Harem Apartments, İstanbul Archaeological Museums, İstanbul Mosaic Museum, Museum of Turkish and İslamic Arts, Museum for the History of Science and Technology in Islam, Chora Museum, Galata Mevlevi House Museum, Yıldız Palace, Rumeli Hisar Museum, and the Fethiye Museum. You can also use it to get discounts at a number of shops and entertainmnet venues. The pass can be purchased at any of the sites, or at certain hotels (listed on the website). The pass provides only single entrance (meaning you’ll have to pay full admission price if you make a second trip to the same museum), and slower sight-savoring travelers may find that it doesn’t pay for itself. If you don’t plan on seeing all the Istanbul sites, then the card’s main advantage is that it saves you from the lines, which can be quite long in peak season.
There is also a 45 lira Museum Pass Cappadocia. This pass is valid for three days (72 hours from the time of first use) and covers seven spots in the Cappadocia region: Ihlara Valley, Derinkuyu Underground City, Goreme Open Air Museum, Goreme Karanlık Church, Kaymaklı Underground City, Özkonak Underground City, Nevşehir Museum, Cavusin Archaeological Site, Hacibektas Museum, and Zelve-Pasabaglari.
All passes (and individual tickets) are available for purchase on this government site. Just make sure to print out your tickets for individual sites before heading to the museum!
Individual tickets cost from 5 lira (Olympos, Temple of Apollo) to 30 lira (Ephesus). You can view a list of all museums here.
Other time-saving tips: Go early! Especially along the coast passengers from docking cruise ships create heavy museum traffic between 10 am and 3 pm. Hit the museums when they open to avoid lines, or after 3pm to have a quieter and less crowded experience.