GENERAL TRAVEL HELP


Istanbul has a rapidly developing public transport infrastructure. See schematic map (external link) for an overview of various rail systems.

There’s an official iPhone and an Android App to help you with your transport needs.

The official route planner for city buses can be accessed here. See below for commonly needed routes.


If you intend to stay more than a few days sightseeing in Istanbul, and you would like to get around cheaply using public transport, then buying an “Istanbul Kart” may be a good i
dea. This is an eletronic travel card (very much like the Oyster Card in London) which can be loaded money via various automated loaders and service counters around the city. See below for further details.


Taxis are cheap and numerous, and provide a good means of transport. Although majority of taxi drivers are honest folk, be wary of various tricks and scams you may face espically once you are identified as a tourist. See our taxi how-to for guidance on this, also see taxi calculator (external link) for an estimate fare calculation.

Google provides accurate maps of Istanbul, complete with road information and routing here (external link).

The municipality of Istanbul provides an interactive map of high-resolution satellite images with road information, routing functions and a rich variety of information (such as locations of pharmacies and other institutions) here (external link).

Istanbul Kart

You can obtain one from a counter or a machine at a main station. You will need to pay a deposit to get a card. Here are locations you can obtain a card: 

And in these locations you can put money on your card:

See the pricing page here (external link).

Rail and underground

See the schematic map (external link) for an overview of the various rail systems and the metrobus. The rail system provides access to most historical sights in Istanbul as well as the Atatürk Airport. Sabiha Gökçen Airport is not served at the moment by rail services, but coach and bus services exist.

Metrobus schedule / time table


Metrobus (external link) is good for quickly crossing between European and Asian sides. The line starts at Söğütlüçeşme (external link) on the Asian side, and crosses the bridge to the European side. See this link for a map of its stops.  It’s typically very full and may be hard to get on it especially with luggage. This is true even in the late hours of the night.

The metrobus lines are below (as seen here (external link)). Click on the bus numbers to get the time table per bus line. On these links- “Kalkis saati” : departure time, “Is gunleri” : work days, “Cumartesi” : Saturday, “Pazar” : Sunday. You can also check the official iPhone/Android apps for this data.

34 AVCILAR – ZİNCİRLİKUYU
34A SÖĞÜTLÜÇEŞME – CEVİZLİBAĞ
34B  BEYLİKDÜZÜ – AVCILAR
34C BEYLİKDÜZÜ – CEVİZLİBAĞ
34G BEYLİKDÜZÜ – SÖĞÜTLÜÇEŞME
34T AVCILAR – CEVİZLİBAĞ
34Z ZİNCİRLİKUYU – SÖĞÜTLÜÇEŞME
34U UZUNÇAYIR-ZİNCİRLİKUYU

All these lines comprise the metrobus system of buses in Istanbul. Most of these operate from 05:30 AM till next day 01:00 AM. Between 01:00 AM-05:30 AM, line 34G operates as a night-bus(click 34G above to get its timetable). The night operation differs in that you need to validate your ticket inside the bus (since there’s no station staff) instead of at the station gates.

Below is a visual representation of the various metrobus lines and their integration to the metro/rail network:

"Istanbul Metrobüs Lines" by Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) - self made. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Istanbul_Metrob%C3%BCs_Lines.png#mediaviewer/File:Istanbul_Metrob%C3%BCs_Lines.png

“Istanbul Metrobüs Lines” by Maximilian Dörrbecker

 

Waterways

A traditional passenger ferry. Courtesy of and (c) by T. Bock
There are two types of ferries in Istanbul. The city run ferries (external link), and IDO run (private)seabuses (fast ferries) (external link).

City ferries tend to be more picturesque but slower. Fast ferries typically go longer distances and are faster.

TRAVEL UPDATES


It may be vital to check for traffic information in commute time in Istanbul, typically between 08:00-10:00 AM in the morning and 17:00-20:00 PM in the evening. Municipality of Istanbul helpfully provides live congestion feeds and cameras of Istanbul main roads and highways on this page (external link). Click “Yoğunluk Haritası” on the left-hand side navigation bar to access the map. On this application, roads are colour mapped from green (no traffic/high speed) to red (congestion), and it is possible to click on any road to get the average cruise speed on a road. There are also live camera feeds integrated to the application from numerous cameras spread around the city.


In case of snowfall or any other natural incidents you may want to check for flight cancellations and other travel updates. The Turkish airport authority provides a page with live airport status updates (external link). You may also want to check your air line web page for this information. Istanbul municipality has a website (external link) with occasional travel articles and announcements.

COMMONLY NEEDED ROUTES


Firstly, your hotel may have arranged transport for you. But be warned, these transports may charge you money for their services and travel quite a bit around the city before dropping you off to your destination.

Consider using the city buses (external link) if you are on a very tight budget.

Here are some common routes explained:

Getting from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to Taksim


A straightforward and rather convenient option is the coach service. These are air-conditioned coaches and drop you off very close to Taksim square. A common confusion with these buses is the practice of allowing passengers to wait in a parked coach until the arrival of the active/next coach. This is done in winter/summer to keep passengers warm/cool. As of writing the fee was 10 TL.

An alternative is taking the metro. You can change from M2 to T1 in Aksaray or Zeytinburnu. Changing at Aksaray is likely to be better because it is a later stop (you get to keep your seat), and it has fewer stops even though it travels more distance.

Getting from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to Sultanahmet


The simplest option is to take the M1 metro train from the airport, change at Zeytinburnu to T1 towards Kabatas and get off at Sultanahmet. (See the schematic map (external link))

This is about a 20 km drive and a taxi should charge you around 40 TL for this (as of writing).

As an alternative you can take the coach (external link) to Taksim, and hail a taxi there to Sultanahmet which would be about 1/4 taxi fare (but additional coach fare instead). Be mindful of hailing a taxi at Taksim though, especially at night, as there won’t be any taxi hubs there. (See our taxi how-to.)

Getting from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to Kadıköy or Bostancı (and back)


One way is to take the M1 to Atakoy and change to the Metrobus until its terminus at Söğütlüçeşme – or switch between 34 and 34Z at Zincirlikuyu. From there you can either hail a taxi or walk depending on your actual destination. The Metrobus can be very full during commute times, but again especially during commute times it’s one of the quickest ways to cross from Europe to Asia or back.

An alternative is to take the M1 to Aksaray, change to T1 to Sirkeci, and switch to Marmaray to Ayrilik Cesmesi, finally taking the M4 to Kadikoy.

One other alternative is to take a coach (external link) to the Yenikapi port (you may have to ask the driver to get off there) and take the seabuses (fast ferries) (external link) from Yenikapi to Kadikoy.

You can also take a taxi to the Bakirkoy port as it’s a relatively short drive and should cost you about 20 TL, and take the same sea buses from there instead.

Late night (early morning), there won’t be a ferry running. But the metrobus runs for a larger period (see above for details). You can take a taxi to a metrobus stop such as Atakoy.

When going back the ferries in Kadikoy start in here (external link).

Getting from Sabiha Gökçen Airport to Kadıköy


Most convenient if a bit expensive, take the coach (external link) (faster, air conditioned) between Sabiha Gökçen Airport and Kadıköy.

Alternatively, take the bus E-10 (external link) from the airport direct to Kadıköy. Cheapest option, however it travels quite a bit through the outskirts and slums of Istanbul before taking the highway. It takes around 90 mins.

Getting from Sabiha Gökçen Airport to Taksim


Take the coach (external link) to Taksim directly.

Getting from Istanbul Atatürk Airport to Sabiha Gökçen Airport (or the otherway around)


You can do this using coaches via Taksim (see above), or via Kadikoy using a coach and a fast ferry (or a metrobus) (see above).


Getting from Sabiha Gökçen Airport to Sultanahmet


Either; go to Kadıköy (see above for how), from the corresponding pier (external link) take the Kadıköy-Eminönü passenger ferry (external link) to Eminonu. This is a picturesque boat ride across the Bosphorus towards the old city. After a short walk (external link) to Sirkeci tram station, take the T1 tram line (external link) to Sultanahmet. Or take the M4 to Ayrilik Cesmesi from Kadikoy, and board the Marmaray to Sirkeci. Then take the T1 to Sultanahmet.

Or; go to Taksim (see above for how), and go on to Sultanahmet from Taksim (see below for how).

Getting from Sultanahmet to Taksim (or back)

Take the funicular from Taksim Square (external link) to Kabatas, and take T1 line (external link) eastbound until Sultanahmet stop. There is a short walk from end of funicular to Kabatas tram stop (external link) which you should be able find following arrows or other people.

Alternatively, take the historical funicular tünel (external link) from Beyoglu (at end of Istiklal Avenue away from Taksim square (external link)) to Karakoy, and take T1 eastbound until Sultanahmet.

You can hail a taxi in either location as it is a relatively short distance, but beware of the quality of hailed taxis in these locations especially late at night (see our taxi how-to for more advice on taxis).

EXTERNAL RESOURCES

Turkey Travel Planner (external link): Has many dedicated articles on various transport issues.
Wiki Travel (external link): Has detailed information on Istanbul transport.
Istanbul Trails (external link): Many articles on transport, especially see this taxi guide.

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