Travel

Istanbul to Cancun: what it’s like to fly long-haul during a pandemic

Luxury travel connoisseur Lucas Raven provides a firsthand account of his recent flight to Mexico with Turkish Airlines.

With Turkey on lockdown, luxury travellers and nomads have been looking to move on to other destinations. Not exactly a new route, but Turkish Airlines has a direct long-haul flight from Istanbul, Turkey, to Cancun, Mexico. This flight is the perfect solution for individuals looking to get across the world quickly with no quarantine requirements. Both destinations have been very popular for those travelling during these unprecedented times due to their relaxed entry requirements.

Tulum

After eight months of being suspended, the direct flight from Istanbul to Cancun has resumed and takes a mind-boggling 18.5 hours. Sure, the flight has a 90-minute stopover in Mexico City, but passengers do not switch planes. Hence it’s called a ‘direct’ flight rather than ‘non-stop’. Any other route to Mexico via Turkey will take over 28 hours with two or more stops.

For those wondering what it’s like to travel during a pandemic, the truth is, I’ve never felt safer. From the moment I walked into the airport, the sheer amount of times sanitisers were handed to me could probably jumpstart a boutique clinic. With my negative PCR result in hand, I checked in smoothly at Dubai International Airport. The counters were noticeably quiet. You could hear a pin drop, but from the moment I passed through immigration, that silence disappeared. Let’s not forget, Dubai is a global hub of transiting passengers and the traffic appeared normal.

Istanbul to Cancun

Inflight, the Turkish Airlines crew handed us safety packets bursting with fresh masks, more sanitiser and anti-bacterial wipes. My co-passengers were just as cautious as I was, with travellers currently appearing to be careful, cleaner, and more respectful than pre-pandemic. Now there’s a silver lining!

I arrived at Istanbul airport with carry-on bags under my eyes. They seriously should change the name from ‘red eye’ to ‘eye bags’ flight.

One thing I love about Istanbul airport is that it’s just larger than life. The travellers’ traffic didn’t change. In fact, it was busier than most airports I’ve seen. Everyone was wearing a mask. Some however, go the extra mile and wrap their arms and legs with clingfilm.

Istanbul to Cancun

Just before walking into the lounge, I saw an entire family wearing raincoats and face shields. Nope, they didn’t come from a hurricane. I know because I asked them. Meanwhile, while fresh food was sizzling on the grill at the Turkish Air Business Class lounge, I decided to walk around and check what else was cooking. To my surprise, I spotted four chefs making Turkish pidé from scratch. It was pretty impressive. One was chopping, the other was rolling the dough, while two of them were sliding the pizza-like pastry into the hot oven. This is a lounge? I thought to myself. If there was ever a time to feel comfortable and extravagant while travelling, this was it. Without a doubt, the best airport lounge I’ve ever been in my life. With ground staff and flight crew all in full safety mode, you can’t help but feel safe.

According to the Turkish Airlines website, the flight runs every Sunday at 9:35pm and arrives in Cancun the next day at 8:25am. Keep in mind that Istanbul is eight hours ahead of Cancun. Prices start at USD $1083 for economy seats and around $4000 to $6000 for business class.

Istanbul to Cancun

Cancun has been one of the top destinations in the world during the pandemic and has already recovered over 60% of its tourism. That said, Tulum, just a little more than an hour drive from Cancun, has been dubbed as the new refuge for socialites, creatives, and those who are happy to mix wellness and R&R altogether. The flour-white sands, unlike those of its American-fast-food-covered neighbour, Cancun, are not always busy. And there are few better backdrops than the endless Caribbean turquoise of the ocean or the Mayan ruins in the ancient city. A rustic-glam hideaway, this pristine town of upscale boutique resorts straddles the beaches and lush jungles in its own self-contained oasis. It’s intimate and has tons of Mayan heart and soul.

Are you convinced yet? We’re getting there. Tulum is full of stylishly converted beach houses set among palm trees on the beach. This romantic strip of paradise offers comfy stays adorned with wicker animals, friendly locals, hanging white hammocks and a laidback barefoot vibe. Excellent Mexican restaurants with some of the best chefs in Mexico, a ton of açaí corners, detox juice bars, and endless spa menus aid the relaxation.

Most of all, and you can quote me on this, Tulum was like coming home.

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Lucas Raven - Contributor
Luxury travel connoisseur, hat lover, and men’s fashion aficionado. International travel contributor to several media titles in The Gulf and the United States.

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