Use Public Transportation in Istanbul to Reach Most Places of Interest
Public transportation in Istanbul has improved for the better over the past few years. A lot of people still take taxis to commute between the various points of interest, but it’s often not the best choice. In this article I’ll point out the benefits of using public transportation, when (not) to use it, and how to pay for it. You will be amazed.Popular tramway in Sultanahmet. – Alexxx Malev
Public Transportation as the Smart Alternative
It’s an understatement to say that Istanbul traffic is a problem. Roads are always heavily used, and gridlocks are common from 07:00 till 10:30 in the morning, and again starting 16:00 until late in the evening. This makes public transportation a nice alternative.
When to Use Public Transportation or Take a Taxi?
- physical condition — By default, using public transportation requires you to walk a bit more. Some run underground, so be prepared to take stairs although most such stops have moving staircases. Decide according to your physical condition.
- fares — The fare to take public transportation is about 2,60 TL per person per ride with an Istanbul Kart. So, let’s take the following example. The cab fare to get from Sultanahmet to Taksim is 15 TL, regardless of the amount of people in the cab and without getting stuck in traffic. From Sultanahmet to Taksim by public transportation requires you to first take the tramway, followed by a funicular. The trip for one person costs about 5 TL thanks to the transfer discount. So, the latter is a great idea when traveling alone, as a couple or even as a party of three. Yes, even three people during rush hour because you’ll win time and money since the taxi meter also adds small amounts when standing still in traffic.
- time of the day — Most lines operate between 06:00 and 24:00 (see details below), so outside of these hours you must rely on a taxi which is safer at that time of day anyway.
Is Public Transportation in Istanbul Safe?
Yes. Metro, tram, and funicular lines in the city center are well maintained and constantly supervised by security personnel. The only thing you should watch out for is pickpockets.
Is It Comfortable?
Yes, except buses. Metro, tram, funicular and train vehicles are relatively new and air conditioned. Turks tend to leave their seat for pregnant women and senior citizens. There are also designated areas for prams and people using a wheelchair. Istanbul is making efforts to improve accessibility to platforms and vehicles for handicapped people. Major stops are equipped with elevators, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Avoid rush hour to skip very crowded vehicles.
How to Pay for Public Transportation?
There are basically two ways to pay for the fare: either you get a token (jeton) from the sales booth or vending machines (jetonmatik), or you use the Istanbul Card (Istanbul Kart) — an electronic boarding pass. If you use a token you’ll pay 5 TL per ride, with an Istanbul Card you only pay 2,60 TL per ride, and get discounts for every transfer you make. So I strongly suggest you to get an Istanbul Kart. Children until the age of six travel free of charge.
Istanbul Transportation Map With Places of Interest
This Istanbul transportation map is geared toward tourists. To avoid confusion, it doesn’t show every single line available in Istanbul. No, instead it only shows the most the important metro, tram, and funicular lines from a tourist’s point of view.
And to make finding your way in Istanbul even easier, I put the most common places of interest on the transportation map as well. This way you know exactly what line(s) to take to reach a certain sightseeing spot or venue.Smaller version of my Istanbul Transit Map With Places of Interest
Main Istanbul Metro, Tram and Funicular Lines for Tourists
Here’s a list of essential Istanbul metro, tram and funicular lines. For every line I highlight important places of interest it passes and the respective stop you have to get off to reach those. You’ll also find the operating times and frequency. This is also by no means an overview of every public transportation line Istanbul has to offer, but merely the most interesting ones for tourists (see map).Nostalgic tram in Istanbul. – © Photo by FaceMePLS
M1a – Atatürk International Airport – Yenikap? Metro Line
This line you’ll probably take only twice: once when you arrive, and again when you leave. This metro leaves the airport, passes the Zeytinburnu interchange station and the grand bus station of Istanbul, and has Yenikap?, a connection hub closer to the city center, as its final destination. Of the 18 stops, these are the important ones to keep in mind:
- Atatürk Havaliman? — Atatürk International Airport
- Zeytinburnu — connection with the T1 tram line. Use this interchange station if Fatih, Sultanahmet, Sirkeci, Eminönü, Karaköy or Tophane is your destination.
- Otogar — the grand Istanbul bus station, from here busses leave for many destinations inside and outside Turkey
- Kocatepe — Forum Istanbul Shopping center
- Aksaray — interchange station to the T1 tram line. Important: this requires you to walk a bit and take a road underpass consisting of steep stairs only. I do not recommend this interchange station.
- Yenikap? — connection to the M2 metro line. Use this interchange station if your destination is Taksim, Galata, Cihangir, Ni?anta??, ?i?li or Mecediyeköy.
First train: 06:00
Last train: 00:00
Frequency: every three minutes during rush hour
Duration: 35 min. from the airport to Yenikap?
M2 – Yenikap? -Hac?osman Metro Line
This line, the first real metro Istanbul had, consists of 16 stops over a 24 kilometer stretch. The metro, daily taken by about 320.000 people, is very safe and clean. The most important stops for tourists are:
- Yenikap? — connection with the M1a metro line. Use this interchange station to reach the Atatürk International Airport.
- Vezneciler — interchange station to the T1 tram line.
- ?i?hane — Istiklal Caddesi (end), Galata (Tower), interchange station to Tünel (T2)
- Taksim — Taksim, Istiklal Caddesi (start), Cihangir, Galata, connection to Kabata? via funicular (F1) and Eminönü/Sultanahmet via tramway (T1)
- Osmanbey — a small walk to Ni?anta??, a fashionable shopping area with lots of nice cafésand restaurants, City’s shopping center
- Gayrettepe — Zorlu Shopping Mall
- Levent — shopping centers such as Metrocity, Kanyon, and interchange station to M6 metro line.
- ?TÜ Ayaza?a — ?stinye Park shopping center (additional walk or short taxi ride required)
First train: 06:15
Last train: 00:00
Frequency: every four minutes during rush hour