ISTANBUL - GETTING AROUND
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality stretches from west to east for about 40 miles, or roughly 20 miles on the European side and 20 miles on the Asian side. With that said, much of the sites are located in the three miles south and east of the Istanbul First Beltway (O-1 motorway), in an area called the Historic Peninsula which sits to the south of the Golden Horn and to the north of the Sea of Marmara.
We recommend walking when possible and using public transportation (of which there are many forms) to get around Istanbul. Out of the places you should explore while on foot, Kennedy Avenue is highly recommended. Start at the Yenikapi Ferry Terminal and make your way east and north, passing close to the grounds of the Hagia Sophia, Hagia Irene, and Topkapi Palace before reaching the area close to the Turkish Spice Bazaar and Galata Bridge. The path from Yenikapi to Galata Bridge is approximately three miles in length.By the Istanbul Metro
The Istanbul Metro (www.metro.istanbul/en) was inaugurated in 1989. As of its 30th anniversary year, the Metro has seven lines:
-Line M1A: Yenikapi-Atatürk Airport (line runs parallel to the M1B until it diverts at the same stop as Istanbul intercity coach bus station, marked on the map as Otogar)
-Line M1B: Yenikapi-Kirazli
-Line M2: Yenikapi-Haciosman (easiest access to Taksim Square)
-Line M3: Kirazli-Olimpiyat (Atatürk Olympic Stadium)/Basaksehir
-Line M4: Kadikoy-Tavsantepe (line runs on Asian side of Istanbul only)
-Line M5: Uskudar-Cekmekoy (line runs on Asian side of Istanbul only)
-Line M6: Levent-Bogazici Universitesi (Bosphorus University)
Most lines run every five to ten minutes during peak times. They typically begin at 6 a.m. and run their last route either at midnight or just before midnight (typically 11:50 p.m.). Fares start at ₺2.60 one-way on the Istanbulkart. If you are staying in Turkey for a long period of time, it may be more advantageous for you to purchase the 200-use social "blue" (mavi in Turkish) Istanbulkart for ₺125. You can buy the card online at bireysel.istanbulkart.istanbul/en. For more information on the Istanbulkart, see the last section on this page.
The Istanbul Metro is undergoing a massive infrastructure expansion: at the end of 2018, there were 105 miles of track, which is forecast to expand to 387 miles by the end of 2023. For more information on the Metro, be sure to visit their website (presented in Turkish and English).
By the Istanbul Tram
The Istanbul Tram (www.metro.istanbul/SeferDurumlari/SeferDetaylari#tramvay-hatlari, website in Turkish and English) originally operated in Istanbul from 1860 until 1966, with electric lines operating from 1912. The Tram returned in 1990 with a `heritage line` which runs through Taksim Square to Tünel Station on Istiklal Avenue. This line is called the T2. The T1 tram line (Kabatas-Bagcilar) was the first full-scale line to open to commuters and tourists alike, in 1992. The other lines open are the heritage tram T3 (Kadikoy-Moda), running from Kadikoy station north and west to Mihrimah Sultan Mosque in Uskudar; and the regular modern electrified T4 (Topkapi-Mescid-i Selam). Tourists will most likely be using the T2 and T3 heritage trams. Fares for the Tram are the same as for the Metro, and both systems (in addition to many others) can be traversed by using the Istanbulkart.
By the funicular and Tünel
The Istanbul Metro operates two (füniküler) lines. The first, called F1, links Taksim Square with Kabatas station, 0.4 miles and 2 1/2 minutes away. It runs every 10 minutes during non-peak times and every 3 minutes during peak times, beginning at 6 a.m. and ending just before midnight. There is also an older line, the Tünel (F2), which has operated since 1875, linking Beyoglu station on Tünel Square with Karakoy Station on Tersane Avenue, 0.3 miles away. The Tünel is the second-oldest underground rail line in the world; only the London Underground is older. It is also operated by the Istanbul Metro. The same fares outlined previously apply to these lines as well.
By Marmaray commuter rail
The Marmaray commuter rail service was inaugurated on October 29, 2013, replacing the former Istanbul and Haydarpasa suburban rail systems serving the European and Asian sides of the city, respectively. An underground line, which firmly connects Halkali on the European side and Gebze on the Asian side, opened to travelers on March 12, 2019. The completed line runs for 47 miles from west to east. Marmaray is administered by TCDD Tasimacilik, an offshoot company of Turkish State Railways. The following station stops may be of use to travelers:
-Kucukcekmece Station, two stations east of Halkali Station, which provides connections to the Metrobus system.
-Akvaryum Station, four stations east of Halkali Station, where the Istanbul Aquarium is.
-Yenikapi Station, on the corner of Mustafa Kemal Pasha Avenue and Kennedy Avenue, providing links to the Istanbul Metro and the ferry terminal.
-Sirkeci Station, just after Yenikapi, which is connected to the T1 tram line.
-Uskudar Station, the first station on the Asian side after crossing the Strait of Bosphorus, connected to the Istanbul Metro.
-Ayrilik Cesmesi Station, just after Uskudar, also connected to the Istanbul Metro.
-Sogutlucesme Station, just after Ayrilik Cesmesi, also connected to the Istanbul Metro.
-Pendik Station, 15 stops after Sogutlucesme, where the current high-speed service from Ankara to Istanbul terminates.
IETT (The Istanbul Electric Tram and Tünel Company) operates bus service in Istanbul. Hundreds of bus lines traverse the province, in addition to nine Metrobus lines, which operate in their own bus lanes (many segments run on the D-100 motorway) and are considered `express`. For more information on the bus lines in the IETT system, including maps, visit www.iett.istanbul/en/main/hatlar. For more information on Metrobus, visit metrobus.iett.istanbul/en.
Licensed taxis run on meters in Istanbul and are colored yellow. IF YOUR DRIVER WILL NOT TURN ON THE METER, GET OUT AND FIND A DRIVER WHO WILL USE IT. Likewise, do not take a cab that is any color than `taxi yellow` -- similar to the taxi color you would see in the U.S.
The vast majority of complaints from travelers involve unscrupulous taxi drivers. Cabs of any other color are not licensed and its drivers may attempt to take advantage of you as a tourist; only take yellow cabs. It is actually the law to use the meter inside a taxi, so demand that it be used at all times. Only consider going off-meter for long trips, and even then you can most likely take a taxi closer to your destination after having used other public transport like the Marmaray line.
Taxis may be convenient, but they are not always cheap. The base fare starts at ₺4.50; expect the meter to go up by at least ₺6 per mile. Expect to pay ₺90 for a one-way trip from Atatürk Airport to Topkapi Palace, and at least ₺100 to Taksim Square. You will pay at least 50-100% more traveling from the new Istanbul Airport, as the distance is greater. Depending on traffic, you can get to Topkapi or Taksim from the airports in as quickly as 40 minutes or as slowly as 75-90 minutes. If you are concerned about trusting taxi drivers, you may want to consider purchasing airport transfers to get to and from the airport; those can be reserved with TripMasters during the booking process.
Until 1973, if you wanted to cross to the Asian side of Istanbul from the European side, and vice versa, you had to travel by ferry. Ferries are still a popular way to travel, with 37 quays in operation across the city. IDO (Istanbul Deniz Otobüsleri, www.ido.com.tr, website in Turkish and English), operates commuter ferries between both sides of the city. The terminals on the European side are Bakirkoy, Yenikapi, Sirkeci, and Besiktas, and the terminals on the Asian side are Harem, Kadikoy, Bostanci, Maltepe, and Pendik. These stations tend to be linked to, or adjacent to, other public transport options like the Istanbul Metro, the Istanbul Tram, and the Marmaray commuter rail line. These ferries run year-round, with higher frequency in the summertime. There are also ferry options which take travelers to Bandirma and Bursa on the southern shore of the Sea of Marmara. Fares start at ₺19 for economy, ₺65 for business class, and ₺450 for first class. To buy tickets and view up-to-date timetables, visit the IDO website. (Timetables in Turkish and English.)
By cable car
There are two cable car (teleferik) lines operated by Istanbul Metro, TF1 (Macka-Taskisla) and TF2 (Eyup-Pierre Loti). The first line connects Macka with Taksim Square, and the second connects Eyup with the Pierre Loti Cafe. TF1 begins its daily trips six days a week at 7:30 a.m., and on Sundays at 8 a.m., running until 9 p.m. (7 p.m. on Sundays). TF2 runs from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. (10 p.m. during the winter season). Fares are ₺2.30 each way and can be purchased, like other Istanbul mass transit options, with credit loaded onto the Istanbulkart.
We do not recommend driving in Istanbul, as there are a lot of variables which can cause travelers stress. These include, but are not limited to, the driving habits of the locals, random police checks, and the high possibility of car accidents (caused by other drivers or yourself). There are so many options for public transport anyway; driving yourself is simply not necessary.
Information on Istanbulkart
Istanbulkart (Istanbul Card) is the card used to pay for public transport fares in Istanbul. The Istanbulkart costs ₺6 and can be bought from seventeen different tram stops (including Eminonu, Taksim, Topkapi and Uskudar stops); Bostanci, Kadikoy, Kartal, and Unalan metro stations; as well as Pendik train station. You can also buy your card online at www.istanbulkart.istanbul (website in Turkish and English). You can fill your card with cash credit online (bireysel.istanbulkart.istanbul/en), via the Istanbulkart mobile app, or at a yellow machine called Biletmatik. The Biletmatik machines have instructions written on them, in both Turkish and English. Fares for all services cost between ₺2.30 and ₺2.60 per ride. You can ride on the Metro, Tram, the Marmaray commuter line, IETT buses, the Metrobus, the funicular, the gondola, and the Tünel using the Istanbulkart.