/ The Istanbul Guide
Istanbul — By inka on May 5, 2010 at 11:30 am
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Public Transportation in Istanbul

When ever I arrive at a new destination, I find it very useful to know in advance how best to get around. Nothing is more annoying than to waste huge amounts of money on a taxi only to discover that you could have reached your destination by hopping on the appropriate  bus or train and getting off 2 stops later at a fraction of the price.

Luckily, Istanbul has an excellent transport system.  It’s easy to use and well explained by plans that are exhibited at every major stop. Here is what you can use:

  • Metro
  • City buses
  • Tram
  • Funicular
  • Ferries
  • Taxis

Istanbul has two Metro lines, modern light trains which run part above and part below ground. M1 will be the one most used by visitors as it connects Atatürk International airport with Aksaray Square, passing by the main bus station for long distance buses. Alight at Zeytinburnu, connect to the T1 (#38) tram in the direction of Kabatas and about 30 minutes later you are in Sultanahmed, Istanbul’s center of major landmarks like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, Grand Bazaar etc.

M2 runs from Taksim Square north to the commercial district.

City buses are a bit more complicated to negotiate as the plans are not so clear. For tourists there is really not much need to use them as Metro and tram will take you nearly everywhere.

Tram:  T1 is the magic line which runs from Zeytinburnu to Kabatas, right through Sultanahmed and over the Galata bridge. From Kabatas you can connect with the funicular which has only two stops and ends at Taksim Square. T1 is a modern, blue and white street car which runs frequently, during rush hour nearly every 2 minutes or so.

For a touch of nostalgia you can use Istanbul’s oldest streetcar running from Galatasaray to Taksim tunnel.

A touch of nostalgia. Istanbul's oldest streetcar.

Kabatas is also the stop where you can catch many ferries, particularly the boat to the Princes’ Islands. Look for the IDO building and buy your ticket.

Eminönü and Besiktas are other districts where you can board ferries or just enjoy a tour along the Bosporus.

Taxis are bright yellow. Just make sure to only board one which has a running meter. Don’t be persuaded to agree to a ‘special price’. Like me you can end up paying twice as much or more than the usual fare would have been.

How and where to pay

All public transports operate with tokens. The average fee is TYL 2 (just over $1). You have to buy the tokens in advance in kiosks marked ‘jetons’. The more you buy, the cheaper they become. There are also jeton machines.

If you stay in Istanbul for any length of time you may try to get an AKBIL. It’s a stored value electronic button transfer pass in the form of a little pendant which you just swipe at the turnstile. You load money onto it at kiosks which indicate AKBIL.

This system is being phased out and replaced by Istanbulcard.

Ferries are operated by IDO or the private TurYol companies. You buy the tickets at the counter of the respective buildings.

Related places:
  1. A
    Atatrk International Airport, Bakirky, Yesilky
    View Details and Book
  2. B
    Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Camii)
    View Details and Book
  3. C
    Borusan Kultur Sanat Merkezi Taksim, Beyoglu, 34433 Tomtom
    View Details and Book

    1 Comment

  • Katrina Verweel says:

    You never truly experience a big city until you have used their public transit system!

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