Best Ways to Get Around in Istanbul

Istanbul Travel Guides / October 19, 2016
Best Ways to Get Around in Istanbul Image credit: scaliger/123rf

Every day, more than 5 million people use public transportation in Istanbul. That’s more than the population of any European capital, except London.

So you can imagine how difficult it is to squeeze all those 5 million people (both travelers and residents) into different modes of transportation… every day!

And there are lots of different modes of transportation in Istanbul, which can be very confusing for a person who hasn’t been to this city before.

So let’s figure out which modes of transportation are cheaper, easier and faster to use to get around in Istanbul.

See also: Best Ways to Get from Istanbul Ataturk Airport to City

BEFORE YOU GET STARTED IN ISTANBUL

If you’re planning to stay in Istanbul for more than just a couple of days, it’ll be more convenient for you to buy an Istanbulkart, which allows you to pay for virtually all public transportation in the city.

Istanbulkart costs only 6 TL (€1.8 / $2.0) and is sold at IETT counters, at the airport, and even at the newspaper stands and kiosks.

In order to load money to Istanbulkart, you can use service at either IETT counters or private vendors. Look for signs ‘Istanbulkart (or Akbil) Dolum Noktası’.

You can load money with the help of attendants by giving them your card and money. Or do it yourself by using Automatic Vending Machines (OSM).

1. Istanbul Metro

Istanbul Metro Image credit: See Telecom

The metro system in Istanbul consists of three lines:

M1, Airport—Yenikapi (red) is the most valuable line for travelers as it runs through many of the most look-worthy areas of the European side of Istanbul, including the main business hubs. You can also get on the tram from this metro line.

M2, Yenikapı—Hacıosman (green) is the metro line that will get you to Taksim Square, as well as the northern commercial and financial districts. From this line you can jump into the ferries and Marmaray (get off Yenikapı).

M4, Kadıköy—Kartal (pink) is the metro line that connects the Asian side to inner parts of the Anatolian side. You can easily get back to the European side using the metrobus (on Uzunçayır station).

Service hours: 06:00 – 00:00 daily

Service schedule: Intervals are 3 minutes during rush hours and 6-9 minutes during off-rush hours.

Fare: Price is fixed at 4 TL ($1.3) if you pay by cash, and at 2.3 TL ($0.77) if you pay via Istanbulkart

2. Istanbul Tram

Istanbul Tram Image credit: Michel Huhardeaux/Flickr

Istanbul has three tram lines. Among them, the T1 and T4 are the complete opposite of one another.

The T1 Kabataş-Bağcılar tram line runs through the New City and can get you to the Atatürk airport, Sultanahmet Square and even to Taksim Square through a station near the area.

The T4 Mescid-i Selam-Topkapı tram line runs through all the major tourist attractions in the Old City and gives you the opportunity to see the famous Chora Museum (alight at Edirnekapi station).

You can also get nostalgic and get the feel of the old times by riding on one of Istanbul’s Nostalgic Tramways, which consists of the T2 line (on the European side) and the T3 line (on the Asian side).

The Nostalgic Trams’ frequency is every 15 to 20 minutes.

Taking a tram in Istanbul is a great way to see the city’s top attractions while not having to worry about the taximeter.

Service hours: 06:00 – 00:00 daily

Service schedule: Intervals are 2-3 minutes during rush hours for T1 Line; 5 minutes during rush hours for T4 Line; and 7-15 minutes during off-rush hours for both lines.

3. Istanbul Taxis

Istanbul Taxis Image credit: scottgunn/Flickr

Taxi, which is often called Istanbul’s most problematic mode of transport, is a relatively cheap and yet not very effective way to get around in the city.

It’s because Istanbul’s traffic is always busy, especially during rush hours. And many Istanbul’s taxi drivers want to trick you out of your money.

However, there are ways that can help protect your pocket:
1. Ask the taxi driver how much he charges per 1 km.
2. Make sure the taxi driver starts the taximeter.
3. When you reach the destination, before giving your money to the taxi driver, check the amount written on the taximeter.

There are taxis driving around Istanbul 24/7, and to call a taxi all you need is to make a universally-accepted gesture, wave your hand!

Service hours: 24 hours

Fares: Opening fee is 3.45 TL ($1.14), and then 2.1 TL ($0.7) per every km.

Note: You can stop the taxi any time you want, but every minute of waiting (starting with the third minute after the vehicle stops) you’ll be charged 0.3 TL ($0.1) per minute.

4. Istanbul Metrobus

Istanbul Metrobus Image credit: Maurits90/Wikimedia

Metrobus has 8 lines and was opened in Istanbul to make metro and tram less crowded during rush hours. However, it’s still a challenge to squeeze yourself into metro, tram or metrobus during rush hours.

Metrobus has two crucial lines:

34Z line (Zincirlikuyu – Söğütlüçeşme), which can get you from the European side of the city to the Asian side and back;

34 line (Avcılar – Zincirlikuyu), which will connect you to metro’s (M1) line, as well as the two major tram lines, T1 and T4.

Service hours: 24 hours

Service schedule: Every 30 – 60 seconds from 06:00 to 01:00, and every 2 – 8 minutes from 01:00 to 06:00

Fare: Price is fixed at 4 TL ($1.33) if you pay in cash; and ranges from 1.6 TL ($0.53) to 2.95 TL ($0.98) if you pay via Istanbulkart.

5. Dolmus

Dolmus Image credit: Pınar Çevikayak Yelmi

Although not as popular as taxis and public buses, Dolmus (shared taxi) still survives as a low price mode of transportation to get around in Istanbul.

Dolmus taxis have pre-determined routes, but operate without set stops, so you can get out where you want. This mode is not so convenient if you’re traveling with luggage.

Shared taxis in Istanbul leave only when 8 passengers have boarded. But that’s the greatest part about Dolmus, because each passenger only pays one eight of the fee a typical Istanbul taxi would charge you for the same route.

There are routes from and to Taksim in pretty much any major area in Istanbul, including Besiktas, Bakirkoy, Yeşilköy, Kadikoy and Uskudar. There are also routes that connect the European to Asian sides from Taksim.

Service hours: 24 hours

Service schedule: Every 10 to 15 minutes

Fares: 3 to 5 TL ($1 to $1.7)

6. Istanbul Ferryboats

Istanbul Ferryboats Image credit: bass_nroll/Flickr

Ferryboats in Istanbul can save you from traffic jams if you want to get from the European side of the city to the Asian side and back.

In order to change continents, look for the following five routes: Beşiktaş-Kadıköy, Beşiktaş-Üsküdar, Eminönü-Kadıköy, Karaköy-Kadıköy and Eminönü-Üsküdar.

On weekends, ferryboats are very crowded after noon, which is why it’s recommended to make ferry trips before noon.

Service hours: 06:30-23:00 (varies depending on the route)

Service schedule: Every 15 to 30 minutes

Fares: Price is fixed at 4 TL ($1.3) if you pay in cash; and at 1.40 TL ($0.5) if you pay via Istanbulkart.

Notes
– There are three Bosphorus tours available: Full Bosphorus Cruise (20 TL = $6.67), Short Circle Cruise (10 TL = $3.33) and Moonlight Tour (only in summer season, 15 TL = $5)
– You can find big Şehir Hatları ferryboats as well as smaller ferries from such companies as TurYol and Dentur Avrasya.

7. Istanbul Marmaray

Istanbul Marmaray Image credit: shankar s./Flickr

Marmaray, which was opened just three years ago, is Istanbul’s rail transportation that connects the European and Asian sides of the city through a rail tunnel under the Bosphorus strait.

Service hours: 06:00 – 00:00 daily

Service schedule: Intervals are 4 minutes during rush hours (morning 08:00 – 09:30, afternoon 17:00 – 20:00) and 8-10 minutes during off-rush hours.

Fares: Price is fixed at 4 TL ($1.3) if you pay in cash; and at 2.3 TL ($0.77) if you pay via Istanbulkart.

8. Füniküler

Füniküler

Although it may seem that füniküler is a useless mode of transportation given its rather short-distance route, but actually it has two very crucial routes.

The Taksim-Kabataş (F1) route allows you to easily get to Taksim from the tram without having to climb the slopes. You can also take the tram from there to go to the Old City.

The Karaköy-Tünel (T) route allows you to see the historical Tünel station and takes you to Galata Bridge and other neighborhoods. From Tünel, you can take a Nostaljik tram to go to Taksim Square.

Service hours: 06:15 – 00:00 daily

Service schedule: Every 3 minutes

Fares: Price is fixed at 4 TL ($1.3) if you pay in cash; and at 2.3 TL ($0.77) if you pay via Istanbulkart.

9. Istanbul Cable Car

Istanbul Cable Car Image credit: Dan/Flickr

Istanbul’s cable car is a two-station gondola-type line of aerial tramways that allows you to enjoy beautiful views while drinking a cup of coffee… or snapping pictures for your Instagram account.

There are two such cable cars in Istanbul, but the Eyüp-Pierre Loti route is the most famous as it gives you a stunning view on the Golden Horn.

Service hours: 08:00 – 23:00 (summer) and 08:00 – 22:00 (winter)

Service schedule: Every 5 minutes during rush hours

Fares: Price is fixed at 4 TL ($1.3 ) if you pay in cash; and at 2.3 TL ($0.77) if you pay via Istanbulkart.