Public Transportation – From Airport and more for Istanbul

It’s almost always a matter for tourists to go from the airport to the city centre/their hotel. I’ve had some problems in the past. So, using my previous experiences, I’ll try to give some tips to the first timers in Istanbul.

First of all, you’ll have to decide about your budget for your travel to your hotel/city centre. I’ll first write information about the Havabus. Via Havabus, one can travel either to Taksim or to Yenikapı Seabus Terminal.

  1. Taksim: It costs 12TL per person and runs from each end at every half an hour time. It’s a direct run and there is no stop in between.
  2. Yenikapı IDO: It costs 6TL and the schedule is quite less than normal. The buses start according to the seabus timing. So, plus or minus 15 minutes should be taken into consideration. From the last stops, you’ll have to know how and where to go.

Second way is using taxis. Here is short step by step instructions, assuming you don’t have internet on your mobile. If you have, it’ll be a bit easier, since the app will have current traffic information and you may prefer a longer but faster route)

  1. Before you come, install offline İstanbul map from Google Maps. You can use it to show you the route from the airport to your hotel. Get a screenshot.
  2. Once you’re in Istanbul, open the offline maps and write the address of your hotel and let it show you the route. It works offline too.
  3. Follow the signs and find a taxi. Tell the driver to get you to the hotel using the map on your phone. If he does not accept, do not take it and warn him that you’ll call 153 (Beyaz Masa-White Table) hotline of the Istanbul Municipality. They get a minimum of 150TL fine if they don’t do what the customers want. (I’ve done this several times. It really scares them more than cops)
  4. Once you get in the taxi, follow the map on your mobile and warn the driver if he goes off the route.
    1. If he insists on following the path he wants, do not engage or further discuss.
    2. Once you’re at the hotel, tell the hotel staff to call the police.
  5. If he follows the route you show him, there is no worry and pay as the taximetre shows.

So, about public transportation:

  • If you intend to stay in Istanbul for more than two days, I’d definitely recommend you to buy Istanbul Card. You can find it in the airport, right before the counters at the entrance of metro station.
  • If you intend to stay in Istanbul for one day or few hours, you may still buy it, since only using it 4 times, you’ll be kind of reimbursed. And you can keep it as a souvenir from Istanbul and you can use it once you come back (I’m kind of sure you’ll.)

Istanbul card is sold at 6TL and you can find it throughout the city. You’ll charge it with money at automated machines or at some kiosks, on which it clearly shows the Istanbul Card logo and states that they can charge it. There is no commission anywhere. So, if you pay 20TL, they’ll install 20TL in it. İstanbul Card is also referred as akbil (akıllı bilet-smart ticket). So, if you hear or see it, be rest assured that they are one and same.

Since it’s quite common, I’ll start with going to Sultanahmet, the centre of the Old Istanbul. It is travelled via metro (M1a Line, starts from the airport) until Zeytinburnu station. And then you’ll have to change to the tram line and head to Kabatas or Eminonu direction. Stations are next to each other. You cannot simply miss it. Hop off at Sultanahmet station and you’ll be at your hotel in less than 10min walk time. Google Maps also shows bus and tram stations. So, you can check the location of your hotel and see the closest bus or tram station to it.

For all other places in Istanbul, it’s a bit more complicated. There is M1a metro line, starting right from the airport and running until Yenikapı, which can be said one of the centres of the city. Since Istanbul is a gigantic city, there is no one place to be called city centre. Yenikapı, or the previous station, Aksaray, is right in the centre of the old Istanbul. It takes about 40-45 minutes to get to the last station and from there you can either go to the Asian side or take another metro/tram/bus to get you your final destination.

Istanbul has an extensive public transportation system and, I believe, has the most different types of means of public transporation including metro (fast and slow), tram, funicular, bus, ferry, seabus, dolmuş (yellow and regular type), taxi, Uber. I’d recommend you to install Mobiett app to your smart phone. It requires an active internet connection and I’m sure you’ll be able to find it across Istanbul. Most are with passwords and they’d share it with you if you sit and drink even only tea 🙂 You can use this app to show you possible transportation alternatives using mainly buses from one location to another. If you want to mix them, you’ll have to use Google Maps’ system.

Below, you can find the latest fare list from the Istanbul Municipality page.

All the images are from respective, and websites.


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