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The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

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The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

On Istanbul Forum, we receive many questions related to public transportation. I have decided to put them in one post as to provide a handy guide with our future visitors.

Istanbul has an excellent transportation system utilizing almost all the known forms of public transit. Within the city limits one can ride on buses, metrobuses, subway trains, suburban trains, trams, funiculars, cablecars, ferries, fast ferries, seabuses and seataxis. So there are numerous modes of public transit in the city. Good thing is that most of them are linked to one another. And another good thing is that you can pay and use almost all of them by one single payment system called ISTANBULKART which is a contactless electronic card similar to the ones used in London (Oyster) and Paris (Navigo).

The Istanbulkart is sold at ticket booths near major transportation hubs like Eminönü, Taksim and Beşiktaş. Also it’s widely available at the nespaper stands and kiosks near major transit stops such as Eminönü, Sultanahmet, Sirkeci, Taksim, etc.

You pay a deposit of 10 lira (which is refundable when you’ll return the card) for the card itself, then you can load as much credit as you’d like on it using the self-service kiosks named as (ISTANBULKART DOLUM NOKTASI, meaning Istanbulkart refill point)

You can use your Istanbulkart for more than one person. It provides discounts for both each independent ride and every connecting rides within two hours.

To use your Istanbulkart, you will need to place the card on the electronic readers placed on top of the turnstiles. You will hear a bip sound which says that you are okay to pass. You can monitor the remaining credit from the digital screens on the turnstiles after each use.

If you will be in the city less than 4 days, maybe you will not bother having an IstanbulKart. In that case your only option is to buy “jeton” (token) or “elektronik bilet” (electronic ticket) from the vending machines clearly marked as JETONMATIK and BILETMATIK. Those machines are easy to use and accept both banknotes and coins and dinpense as many units as you’d like. Alternatively, you can find electronic tickets at the newspaper stands, kiosks and ticket booths near stations, piers and stops.

Istanbulkart is not sold at Ataturk Airport so you’ll have to use JETONMATIK to get your token for metro.

METRO and TRAMS:

Metro stations are marked with letter M in blue and red colors.

Currently there is extensive work going on to extend the coverage of metro including the world’s first intercontinnetal tube project Marmaray (which will connect Europe and Asia through a tube beneath the Bosphorus Strait. Here is the map of metro in Istanbul:

urbanrail.net/as/tr/istanbul/istanbul-map.htm

FUNICULARS:

They are basically metro trains that go only one stop connecting one sea-level point to a higher point on a hill. There are two funiculars in Istanbul. One is called as TÜNEL (F-2) which is one of the oldest subways of the world dated back to the Ottoman Empire. Tünel climbs the hill from Karaköy to Beyoğlu (Istiklal Street). There there is a connection possible with the nostalgic tram (T-5) that goes all way till the famous Taksim Square. The other funicular (F-1) is a modern one and climbs the hill from Kabataş to Taksim (it has seemless connection with the T-1 tram line and M-2 metro line.

CABLECAR.

There are two cablecars in Istanbul one of which is not operational at the moment. The other one connects Eyup and Pierre Loti where one can enjoy the fabulous views of the Golden Horn.

FERRIES:

Istanbul is a city of the seas. Ferries are inseperable part of the urban life. They are clean, comfortable and inexpensive way of crossing to the other side of the city. Here is ferry timetables:

http://www.sehirhatlari.com.tr/en/

IDO FAST FERRIES and SEABUSES:

It’s also a good way to go in and around Istanbul with IDO ferries. IstanbulKart is accepted for the innercity routes. For more information have a look:

http://www.ido.com.tr/

You’ll need Google Translator for English since their English pages are not available at the moment.

BUSES:

Istanbul buses come with different colors. Don’t be confused about it. They can be in green (means they are environment friendly), purple, yellow (means they are furnished specially for the disabled people), turquoise (meaning they are run by private companies). All them will accept your IstanbulKart and/or electronic tickets. For more info on the routes and lines:

http://www.iett.gov.tr/en/

MINIBUSES:

They are vans (or minubuses) operated as shared taxis. They have routes as well and stops for sure. However it is very common that you can hail one of them as you do for a taxi. They will not accpet any payment other than cash.

SEATAXI:

It’s also very convenient to go one shore to the other just using these motorboats which provide a fast, customized and private journey around the clock. For more information:

http://www.deniztaksi.com/

HAVATAŞ SHUTTLES:

There is no cheaper way to go from either of Istanbul’s airports to the city center. Their stops are conveniently located in front of the arrivals exit of the both airports. For their routes and fares, have a look:

http://www.havatas.com/en/

enjoy the city

Borus

538 replies to this topic
Istanbul
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81. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

dannine, for two days only, you can buy tokens. You will be using the tram and maybe metro also and you can buy tokens at the stations from the vending machines.

enigma...

canada
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82. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

Enigma,

thank you for your reply.Tokens it is.

Also I know that there are no night ferries run by the city at this time of year, but do you think it would be ok to take a privately run short (1or2hour) night ferry up the bosporus or should we take a city run roundtrip ferry late in the afternoon of our first day?? Any thoughts?

Dannine

Houston, Texas
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83. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

Hello:

Borus, thank you first of all for the fairly comprehensive guide to transport in Istanbul.

We plan to visit in early January for a period of 4 days, and will certainly lean on your post to help with our transportation needs!

Another (un?)related question, how easy is it to find wi-fi hotspots in and around the city? Alternatively, is it easy/cheap to buy and use a SIM-card with 3G data (for a phone) for a short period of time?

Being the scatterbrains that we tend to be, we will probably need to stop periodically to look up maps and/or schedules for various things while out and about.

Cheers!

Istanbul
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84. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

Dannine m, there are some evening ferries. For example you can take the commuter ferry at 18.10 from Eminonu to Sariyer by municipal ferries. You can return from Sariyer to Kabatas by bus No. 25E. Alternatively you can take the 1.5 hour round trip Turyol ferry or the full Bosphorus cruise by municipal ferries. Here are the municipal ferry schedules. "sehirhatlari.com.tr/Uploads/…20Timetable.pdf".

good luck,

enigma...

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85. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

Hi AGKQ45,

Wifi is available all over the city. Most hotels provide their guests with unlimited wifi also, cafes and restaurants offer free wifi to its customers.

You can choose to buy a 3G service package from one of the GSM operators however, you'll need to get your handset registered in order to use it with a local simcard. This procedure may take up to a week and your phone will be useless during that period of time.

Hope this helps,

Borus

86. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

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Fethiye, Turkey
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87. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

Hi there Borus and enigma. Your expertise is much appreciated.

If I purchase 1 Istanbulkart for the four persons in our group and use it 4 times for a journey will I get the discounted price for all 4 persons or just the first person?

Also could you clarify what is meant by a connecting journey to benefit from a further reduction in price. Would that apply to a tram and Metro journey to Ataturk airport, for example?

Many thanks in anticipation.

Istanbul, Turkey
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88. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

Hi Paul,

Istanbulkart provides two types of discounts. First is the initial discount and four of you can benefit from that. The other is the "connection" discount which applies when one uses istanbulkart on different modes of transit more than once within two hours. Only one of you can benefit from that.

Hope this helps,

Have a wonderful time.

Borus

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89. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

Paul, Istanbulkart is not made to give wholesale discounts for groups of people, because in that case only few cards maybe sold. It can be used by more than one person but the discounts only accrue to the first user for transfers within two hours after initial use. For four people you need to load lot of credit on the cards, so I suggest that you buy at least 2 cards for the group. Here is more detail on the Istanbulkart: "…iett.gov.tr/Eng/NonPersonalizedCards.aspx…".

To give you an example, 4 people travelling with one card used 4 times/person and all transfers are made within 2 hours of initial use (returning with the same transport is not considered a transfer), the first person is charged 1.95 + 1.25 + 1.00 + 0.75 TL = 4.95 TL. The other 3 persons using the same card are charged 1.95 TL X 4 trips = 7.80 TL/person. Therefore just for this trip, you need to load around 30 TL on the card. If you do not use Istanbulkart, you would be paying 12 TL/person for the 4 tokens.

Connecting journey is simply a transfer to any other transport. For example bus to bus, or to ferry or to metro, or to local train, etc. The card is good practically on all modes of transport.

good luck,

enigma...

Fethiye, Turkey
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90. Re: The Guide to Istanbul's Public Transportation System

Thank you so much for the quick replies Borus and enigma. I'm sure that you must sometimes tire of answering the same questions over and over.

It makes sense to purchase 2 cards when you work it out like that enigma. We shall be there for 4 days.

Again thanks for sharing.

Paul

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