If you want to get to know a city and really feel like a local getting to grips with public transport is a must. It lets you see the city for what it truly is, warts and all. Whether you’re driving or taking public transport, a map will always come in handy.
Within Istanbul, there are 7 Metro lines. The most cost-effective way to use them is to buy an Istanbulkart. These are available from all metro and tram stations and most bus stops. Once you buy a card, you’ll need to use the prepay machines for Istanbul Metro to charge your card.
The Istanbulkart machines take TL but only accept notes, not coins. This means they frequently run out of change so you can easily be short-changed. If you only have large bills, it’s best to top-up at convenient store locations displaying the Istanbulkart logo.
Be sure to download the Istanbul metro map to your phone, so you always know where you are, and how best to make transfers even if you have no service underground.
There are four metro lines on the European side of Istanbul, but the M2 is the main one that tourists use.
This route goes from Yenikapi to Ataturk Airport. It’s the line to use for the Istanbul Fair Centre.
This route runs between Yenikapi and Kirazli.
This route starts at Yenikapi and runs through to Haciosman, passing through Taksim. Use the M2 line to get to Golden Horn and reach Istanbul’s shores as it opens out to the Black Sea.
Is the Levent – Bogazici University – Hisarustu metro line. Use this line to get to Etiler.
This is the Kirazli – Olimpiyat – Basaksehir Metro Line. It connects with the M1B line at Kirazli.
Runs from Kadikoy to Tavsantepe. You can transfer to Pendik station to reach Sabiha Gokcen Airport.
This line links Uskudar and Cekmekoy and is the first driverless rapid transit line in Turkey.
Currently, there are no high-speed trains that go all the way into Istanbul, but they do stop in Halkali, which is just 25 km outside of the city center.
In Halkali you must connect to the Marmaray, a commuter rail line that connects the Asian and European parts of Istanbul. The journey from Halkali to Istanbul is roughly 50 minutes with trains running every 15 minutes.
This is the intercontinental line connecting Europe and Asia. It runs for 76.6 km from one side of Istanbul, under the Bosphorus to the other, known as the Mamaray. You can travel from Halkali to Gebze, and the journey will take approximately 115 minutes.
Like the metro, the trams are split across both the Europe and Asia portions of Istanbul and it’s best to pay the fare with an Istanbulkart.
All the main areas of old Istanbul are accessible by tram (T), and the one that goes up hill-side tunnel is called a funicular (F).
On the Kabatas – Bagcilar Istanbul tram line you can see the city while you travel through Karakoy, Eminonu, Sirkeci, Gulhane, Sultanahmet and Beyazit.
If you are traveling from Taksim you can connect with the Tramline at Kabatas by using the Taksim – Kabatas funicular line.
The Topkapi – Mescid-i Selam tram line connects Topkapi station with the T1 Bagcilar-Kabatas Tram Line and Metrobus (BRT) line.
This is just one tram line on the Asian side which is the T3 that connects Kadikoy and Moda.
The Kadikoy – Moda line is also known as the Heritage tram line. It’s a unidirectional circular route between Kadikoy and Moda and uses traditional tram cars. You can connect with the M4 metro line at Iskele Camii Station and IDO Sea operations at Kadikoy O.
As well as the tram and metro, you can also use your Istanbulkart on the city’s bus lines. You can access the majority of the city by bus. This makes them a popular choice for local commuters, so try to avoid traveling at peak times. The buses are at their most crowded between 08:00 – 09:30 and 17:00-18:30. To plan your route use the TT website.
The HavaIST Bus will get you to and from the city and Istanbul New Airport in comfort for under 5 €. These official shuttle buses are stylishly modern, and have fast WiFi onboard with 5-10 Mbps connections. There are 9 different routes in total, but only 5 of them are tourist routes.
The HVIST-14 goes via Taksim and Besiktas, while the HVIST-9 will take you across the Marmara Sea to Kadikoy. For those wanted to go to Sultanahmet, the HVIST-12 to Beyazit will get you within a short 1.5 km taxi ride. If you have a connecting train or flight, the HVIST-10 runs via Sabiha Gocken Airport and Pendik Train Station, while the HVIST-6 will take you to Halkali Train Station.
Tickets cost 23-37 TL (2,5-4,5 €) and can either be purchased via the machines on Platform 15 or reserved online for a cost of 5 €. Adults and children pay the same fare, and all children must sit in their own seats.
There are two options when it comes to catching a cab in Istanbul. Either download one of the Istanbul taxi apps or get a taxi from a taxi stand. You can try hailing a cab, but most won’t stop, and you are encouraged to go to a taxi stand.
Taxis are often more convenient than public transport but can be slower and are always more expensive. It’s important to note that the taxi shift change over time is 14:30 – 15:00. It’s practically impossible to get a taxi at this hour. Like most cities, taxi drivers will often take a longer route to get a higher fare.
We recommend you check your sat-nav in advance and ask for the specific route you want the driver to take. If a road is closed, ask them to take the next parallel street. If you don’t have access to a sat-nav, then an old fashioned map will do the job too.
Be sure you’re also up-to-date on the latest taxi scams in Istanbul, and how to get around them, so you’ll never be fooled into paying a higher fare.
You can’t come to Istanbul and not catch the ferry over the Bosphorus. It’s by far the best way to get from the European to the Asian side. It’s safe, enjoyable, and best of all, it’s stress-free! You can catch a City Line Ferry or use one of the many private operators. There are multiple departure points on both sides of the city. Most operators accept Istanbulkart.
Experiencing Istanbul like a local is great, but as a tourist, you also have the luxury of avoiding peak hour traffic as long as you plan your journeys well. Of course, you also have the option to hire a car and drive around the city.
Istanbul is a busy city with heavy traffic, so driving isn’t always a pleasant experience. At peak hours there is often gridlock around the road heading to the bridges. If you need to change continents during peak hour traffic, it is much faster to use the Mamaray or City Line ferries.
If you want to travel to some of the tourist sites outside of the city then hiring a car is your best option. There are plenty of international car hire companies in Istanbul as well as local operators. No matter who you use, always confirm the price in advance. The easiest way to collect a car is on arrival at the New Istanbul Airport. If you book in advance online, then the vehicle will be ready for your arrival.
Parking is usually not an issue in Istanbul, but prices can vary significantly. There are plenty of car parks, including the Ispark service.
Shopping centers or Ispark car parks are generally the safest and most economical option. Some shopping malls still offer free car parking, but others do charge. Fees are usually listed at the shopping center entrance.