The airport was backpacker friendly, transit passengers on budget (no plan to enter the executive lounge or sleep in transit hotel) could unpack sleeping bag and lay down anywhere. Some of them were sleeping on the floor, under blankets and pillows from their previous Saudia flight. Some corners had electric power socket to charge electronic device (but I had no adapter for my chargers). WiFi was available, free of charge, but signal was not good.

Alif and I slept in pray room for 3 hours until 2:50 AM, the space was crowded with other women and child transit passengers who were also waiting for our next flight. It was so hard to continue to sleep because biologically already 6:50 AM for us, normally it’s time to go to school/work.

We met Iha and her son, Isom. They were Indonesian who traveled back to Egypt (Iha and her husband studied in Cairo). I got her contact, she kindly offered to host us whenever we travel to Egypt someday. She shared a tip to travel cheap to Egypt by Saudia: Purchase the tickets in hajj pilgrimage period, cheap fare due to empty flight after drop passengers mostly one way from other countries to Saudi Arabia.

I claimed our first vouchers, the ones that marked as “dinner”, got a package of white rice with chicken chunks with spicy bread, fresh apple, soft drink at 3:00 AM. Surprisingly, after disappointing meal at Saudia, the food from Traveller’s Corner (La Cuisine) was hot and tasty.

Three hours before ETD 10:40 AM, Alif and I exchanged our last two meal vouchers (marked with “Breakfast”) to get two sandwiches and choice of drinks (soft drink or tea). Alif took chicken sandwich, I took cheese sandwich, with Pepsi and hot milk tea. It was also satisfying like dinner. Price to purchase the sandwiches without meal voucher were SAR 13. Seems like not overpriced like restaurant at some other international airports.

The airport was small, we were at South Terminal which was a hub for Saudia then majority of their flight departed/arrived from this terminal. Interestingly, there was no dress code at that main gate to The Holy Land of Makkah Al Mukarramah. All of Middle Eastern female traveler wore black long abaya with various head cover (from simple scarf until eyes-only chadar). Some female foreigners wore long black hijab (although without head cover), others wore usual outfit but kept it modest without showing legs, some South Asians wore their short sleeved kameez. For Muslim who traveled to Jeddah for hajj/umrah pilgrimage, 30 minutes before arrival then pilot would announce “miqat area” meant they had to start wearing “ihram” all-white dress.

Isom and her mom said goodbye to depart to Cairo at 8:55 AM (their flight ETD was 9:40 AM). Alif and I stayed one hour longer before finally got onto plane at 10:00 AM.


Our flight departed as scheduled, 10:40 AM. When arrived at Ataturk International Airport, 1:30 AM (Istanbul local time was one hour ahead Jeddah), I went directly to passport control instead of queuing for visa-on-arrival process because I had e-visa. Highly recommended to grab some free maps near the beginning of queue line.

I withdrawn some cash in 100 TL bank notes from an ATM. To buy IstanbulKart, I needed smaller cash (10 TL), then security guards were kind enough to give a change (no customer service counter near Metro entrance gate unlike in Singapore, Hong Kong etc). They said that I only needed one for both of us, no need to buy another for Alif.

From Ataturk International Airport to Sultanahmet was 45 minutes trip by Metro to Zeytinburnu then continued with Tram T1. Total cost should be 4 TL if buy tokens @2 TL, but only 2 x 1.95 TL by IstanbulKart. Taking taxi would cost 40 TL, 25-40 minutes trip depends in traffic.

After few minutes walk from Sultanahmet tram stop, Alif and I arrived at Ahmet’s house. I got his place from Airbnb website, a chance to live with local people to really feel the city.

I planned to go out for dinner and Turkish bath at Fatih area on that first night, but both of us were exhausted after 29 hours trip since we departed from Thamrin City at 12:00 PM until arrived at Sultanahmet (4:00 PM Istanbul time = 9:00 PM Jakarta time) plus jetlag which was very tiresome. Therefore, we went to bed after hot shower and got fresh clean clothes.


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