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How to get around Istanbul

Once you have figured out the Istanbul transport system, there is nothing you can be scared of. As for us, we are not afraid of anything anymore: we have studied dozens of blogs about Istanbul and know everything about all means of transport in the city. Let’s go!

If you don’t know how to get to Istanbul, just book a Kiwitaxi transfer now and enjoy your trip!

City transport


Buses in Istanbul run from 06:30 to 23:30. There are plenty of bus lines running in the city.

Antoine and Can, the authors of the tooistanbul blog, tell about the number of bus routes in Istanbul:

There are 400 bus lines in Istanbul, the majority work until midnight every night. With the exception of Sultanahmet (accessible by tram) buses go all over the city. Destinations and major stops are marked on yellow signs on the sides of buses.

BorusTheTaurus, a TripAdvisor forums user, explains what different colors of buses mean:

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).

Buses in Istanbul
Photo by tooistanbul

You can plan your route on the official IETT public transport website.

The major drawback of buses is that they are often stuck in traffic jams.

BeataBeata Plan My Travels

tells that traffic jams in Istanbul also happen late in the evening:

The word “traffic jam” in Istanbul has a completely new meaning. Here, you can get stuck in the traffic jam for long hours. You never know when it will start or how long it will take. I often look out the hotel’s windows late in the evening and I can see that traffic jams there are also after 10pm.

From above, it looks like this:

traffic jams in Istanbul
Photo by drivespark


In order to help city residents get from the European side to the Asian side and vice versa during rush hours faster, the authorities created metrobuses. These high-speed buses run in their own lane every 30 seconds (during rush hours, even more frequently). They all run in the same lane but have different final stops. In a chart, it looks like this:

Metrobus in Istanbul
Photo by metroeasy

Near metrobus stations, one can change to other means of public transport.

The only drawback of this means of transport is that it gets extremely overcrowded during rush hours.

Othman Nahhas, the writer for the yabangee blog, recommends preparing to get off well in advance:

When you want to get off Metrobüs, make sure that you’re as close to the doors as possible. The density of people might block your exit so you want to start moving towards the door a station or two in advance using expressions such as “Afedersiniz” or “Pardon” as you gently push people around.

Istanbul metrobuses are definitely not meant for introverts:

Metrobuses in Istanbul
Photo by istanbullies


Dolmuses run outside tourist areas. Probably, you will not face them at all. However, we will tell you about them — just in case. These small shared taxis are faster and cheaper than buses. They stop at request in any place. In order to catch a dolmus, it is enough to just wave your hand.

Dolmuses in Istanbul
Photo by istanbulgoingviral


This is another option to avoid traffic jams. Trams in Istanbul run from 06:00 to 00:00, every 2–5 minutes. Of four lines, Т1 is the most popular. It will take you to the major city sights: the Grand Bazaar (Kapalıçarşı), Topkapi Park, Eminönü Pier, Sultanahmet district, Taksim Square, and others.

In order to enter a tram station, you will have to pass through turnstiles:

Trams in Istanbul
Photo by yelp

Below, in the Metro section, you will find the route map. Tram lines are marked as Т1, Т2, Т3, and Т4.

Istanbul metro

The metro is open from 06:00 to 00:00. It consists of 6 lines.

The most important metro lines for tourists are M1 and M2 on the European side and M4 and M5 on the Asian side.

Istanbul metro
Photo by istanbulclues

Note that there is no metro connection to New Istanbul Airport now. Simri and Leonora, the authors of the travslblog, tell when it will be available:

The M11 Metroline will probably be ready to be used around 2020. The M11 is assumed to run from the airport to the M2 metro line and will form a connection at Levent / Gayrettepe station. From Gayrettepe you can easily get to the tourist heart of Istanbul with the M2 metro line.

Istanbul metro
Photo by istanbulclues

The metro rush hours are from 07:00 to 09:00 and from 17:00 to 19:00.


The Marmaray is the tunnel under the Bosphorus.

Here is how it looks on the map:

Photo by istanbullite

Tom Brosnahan, the author of the turkeytravelplanner, describes the Marmaray route:

Marmaray joins the stations at Halkalı, Kazlıçeşme, Yenikapı and Sirkeci in Europe with the stations at Üsküdar, Ayrılık Çeşmesi and other stations in Asia all the way to Gebze, making it possible to cross from Old Istanbul in Europe to the Asian shore of the Bosphorus in a matter of minutes. The underground stations at Kazlıçeşme, Yenikapı, Sirkeci, Üsküdar, and Ayrılık Çeşmesi make it easy for Marmaray passengers to connect to Istanbul’s metro, city bus, tram and ferryboat networks.

Yenikapi station is especially convenient: from here, you can get to Aksaray (a popular tourist district) in 5 minutes. Also, here, you can find a seaport and a stop for buses which run to the majority of European districts in the city.

Feride Yalav-Heckeroth, the writer for the theculturetrip blog, gives some advice for those who are going to get on the Marmaray at Sirkeci station:

If you do plan on taking the Marmaray, make sure to check out the old Sirkeci train station for a taste of the past before you get on board this brand new mode of transportation.

Photo by blog.istanbulforsale

Electric trains under the Bosphorus run from 00:00 to 23:45.

Water transport

That’s another story. A ticket costs as much as a bus ride, but there are no traffic jams and the air is extremely fresh. Water transport services are not available at night. Travel cards can be bought at the pier or on the carrier’s website in advance.

Types of sea transport in Istanbul:

  • ferries (feribot). They can be usual and high-speed. They run between Istanbul piers or go to other cities.

Water transport in Istanbul

  • vapur. These low-speed boats run only between city piers.

vapur in istanbul

  • sea buses (deniz otobüs). Modern high-speed boats will take you to the nearest pier or another city.
sea buses in Istanbul
Photo by tripadvisor

Routes, prices, and timetables of ferries and sea buses can be found on the IDO carrier website, and vapur — on the Sehir Hatlari company website.

On the map, water routes look like a web:

Water transport in Istanbul
Photo by turkeytravelplanner

Robyn, the author of the eatingasia.typepad blog, explains how to find the right ferry terminal:

The ferry lines you’re most likely to use -— Karakoy to Kadikoy, Eminonu to Kadikoy and Uskudar, Kadikoy to Besiktas and Uskudar to Besiktas, Kabatas to Kadikoy, Besiktas and Princes’ Islands. Note that in most cases ferry terminals are named for their DESTINATION. So, for instance, at Eminonu there are Uskudar and Kadikoy ferry terminals.

Also, Robyn believes that everyone should experience a ferry ride when in Istanbul:

In Istanbul riding the ferry is like taking a mini vacation within your vacation. They’re cool in the sticky heat of the summer if you can snag a seat outside. They’re warm and cozy in the winter. They offer the best views, anywhere. Ride all the ferries and you’ll see all of Istanbul’s skylines from every possible angle.

Water transport. Istanbul
Photo by irmanaanworld

Inside a ferry

Note that ferries can be different in terms of comfort: some of them offer comfortable soft seats, while others — only hard plastic ones.We are almost finishing telling about the main public transport in Istanbul. There is only one important thing left.

If you are traveling with changes

In this case, many bloggers recommend buying a local SIM card and downloading a transport app on your device so that you do not get confused and lost.

Ana, the author of the azulmistico blog, recommends the following app:

Make sure you download Citymapper. It will tell you what line to take and where to get on/off, the arrival and travel times, etc. It even works for ferries too!”.

City transport travel cards

There are two options:

  • tokens. They are valid everywhere, except for dolmuses. A single-use token costs 4 Lira. You can buy one at all major metro stations, tram and metrobus stops, and piers using such machines:

 City transport travel cards in Istanbul

 City transport travel cards in IstanbulAttention! These machines do not like crumpled banknotes and 20-Lira notes!

  • ‘Istanbulkart’. We will tell you about it in detail so that you do not have any questions when traveling. This card is valid for all means of transport, except for dolmuses. A travel card itself costs 7 Lira.

The card regular fare is 2.60 Lira for a ride. If you are traveling with changes, you will get a discount for every next ride: the first transfer will cost you 1.85 Lira, the second one — 1.40 Lira, and the third one — 0.90 Lira.

Serhat Engul, the author of the istanbulclues blog warns:

Discount is applied if the card is used multiple times within 2 hours window.

Photo by istanbulclues

Also, Serhat explains how this card can be used by several people at once:

  • If there are others who accompany you, you don’t have to buy two separate cards. As long as you have enough credits in your card, there is no limit to how many people can use it.

Emre, the author of the turkeytraveljournal blog, explains where you can buy the Istanbulkart at Sabiha Gokcen Airport:

Istanbul kart is sold in the small kiosk across the street from the exit of the arrival terminal. You can also buy it from IETT’s Supervision booth at the public bus station after you go out of the terminal if you will choose the public bus option to reach your destination.

Simri and Leonora, the authors of the travsl blog, tell where to get this card at New Istanbul Airport:

You can get your IstanbulKart directly at the airport, near the bus station. At the HAVAIST ticket sales point you can buy and top up an IstanbulKart. But you can also do this at one of the yellow “biletmatik” machines.

Jess and Hai, the authors of the notesofnomads blog, tell where you can top your Istanbulkart up:

  1. You’ll find top-up machines at popular stops and transport hubs.
  2. Small shops and kiosks in town.

Boat786, a TripAdvisor forums user, warns:

You can only top it up with cash — no credit cards.

Also, note that machines do not give change.

Remember! Such machines do not sell cards — they can only top them up:

Photo by hiddenistanbul

Private transport

Taxi and transfer

There is no dispatch taxi service in Istanbul. You can ask hotel or shop staff to call a taxi for you. It is also easy to hail a cab on the street. Official taxis are yellow.

taxi service in Istanbul
Photo by johnnyafrica
JB and RenéeJB and Renée Will Fly for Food

warn that taxi drivers do not know all hotels in the city:

If you’ll be taking a taxi, then it’s best that you have a printout or screenshot of your hotel’s complete address and telephone number to show the driver. We stayed one night at an airport near Atatürk and the taxi driver didn’t know where our hotel was even with a printed location map. Luckily, he was able to find it with GPS.

Kiki, the author of the theblondeabroad blog, give tips on how to avoid being overcharged:

Always examine the meter and don’t agree to pay any fixed fees. Choosing an older taxi driver is usually a safer bet, as they tend to be less likely to try and defraud passengers.

If these travelers had booked a transfer in Istanbul, they would not have faced all these problems.

Besides solo travelers, transfers are comfortable for those who:

  • are traveling with lots of baggage and active children;
  • are arriving or departing at night;
  • cannot haggle with taxi drivers or do not like doing that;
  • are impressed by our article and do not want to deal with Istanbul public transport.

Car rental

If you do not want to depend on a taxi or transfer, rent a car.

Parking lots

Parking lots in Istanbul
Photo by urbanfinland

You have three options:

  1. You can park on the roadside, in cul-de-sacs and near buildings where there are no prohibition signs. Finding free space is almost an impossible task.
  2. You can find a public parking lot in the city center. Payments are taken by staff wearing special uniform. The price is from 5 Lira per hour.
  3. Also, you can choose one of private parking lots. Look for a sign ‘Otopark’.
Mark and PaulMark and Paul Anywhere We Roam

share their experience parking at the otopark:

In many Oto Parks, you need to leave the keys with the attendant as they pack the cars in like sardines. We had no issues doing this and our car was always there when we got back! Oto Parks costs around 5 – 10 Turkish Lira for a couple of hours.

An example of a multi-story parking lot in Istanbul:

a multi-story parking lot in Istanbul
Photo by en.rayhaber

Car rental with driver

This option is good for those:

  • who hate public transport;
  • are even scared of thinking about driving in Istanbul but have big plans to explore the city.

In this case, one can rent a car with driver and not think about the road.

Special means of transport


There are two funiculars in Istanbul.

Kabatas–Taksim funicular is underground and looks more like metro.

Kabatas–Taksim funicular
Photo by mikestravelguide

Besides, it looks like a portal between Europe and Asia😲. A funicular ride from the Asian side to the European side takes only 5 minutes!

The lower station Kabatas is located near the exits from the port of the same name. Also, there is the Т1 tram final stop there.

At the upper station Taksim, you can change to the metro line М1. Also, there are lots of buses and dolmuses which you can take to continue your trip.

You can pay for a ride using a token or your Istanbulkart.

The Tünel.

This train also runs under the ground. It consists of two carriages and connects the Galata hill and Beyoglu district (to be more exact, the very end of Istiklal pedestrian street).

The Tünel.
Photo by yogawinetravel

The entrance to the tünel on Istiklal Avenue is located in an ordinary building:

The Tünel.
Photo by turkeytourorganizer

A tünel ride costs as much as a Kabatas–Taksim funicular ride.

Nostalgic tramway

This option is great for romantics and history lovers. Beata, the author of the planmytravels blog, tells about two nostalgic tram lines in the city:

There are two historic tram lines in the city. One of them is on the European side (Taksim-Tünel) — T2 line. The second one is on the Anatolian side (Kadıköy-Moda) — T3 line.

Also, she describes a tram ride along famous Istiklal Avenue in the Taksim district:

A trip by tram along Istiklal Caddesi takes only a short time. It may be from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the traffic. There are only 5 stops on the route, but the tram moves very slowly.

This is theory. In practice, it looks like this:

Nostalgic tramway in Istanbul
Photo by planmytravels

Teleferik cable car

  • Teleferik TF1 Maçka-Taşkışla. It runs above Maçka Park. A ride takes two minutes. You can use a token or your Istanbulkart to pay for it.

Teleferik TF1 Maçka-Taşkışla Teleferik TF1 Maçka-Taşkışla

  • Teleferik TF2 Eyüp-Piyer Loti. Two cabins in both directions, a 3-minute ride, running from 08:00 to 23:00.

The cable car was opened in 2016. The authorities built it in order to make it more convenient for tourists to reach the observation deck and the popular Pierre Loti cafe on the hill of the same name. The lower station is located on the Golden Horn waterfront.

Teleferik TF2 Eyüp-Piyer Loti.
Photo by istanbulupscale

Istanbul transport hubs

There are two major railway stations in the city:

  • Sirkeci railway station on the European side of Istanbul. It serves suburban trains and trains from neighboring European cities.
  • Haydarpasa railway station on the coast of the Bosphorus in the Asian district of Kadikoy. From here, you can go to other Turkish cities, Syria, and Iran.

The main bus station in Istanbul has three names: Bayrampaşa, Büyük otogar, and Esenler. It is located on the European side of the city. From here, buses run not only to Turkish cities but also to European capitals.

In Istanbul, there are two airports:

  • For information about how to get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to the capital, read this article.
  • A new Istanbul airport (İstanbul Yeni Havalimanı) was opened in April 2019. It is going to be the largest air hub in the world. Now, you can reach the new air hub by bus. In 2020, there will be metro and high-speed trains running to/from it.

To conclude

Now, you know about the three main things that can help you get around Istanbul without hassle: an Istanbulkart, a local SIM card, and a transport app on your phone. If you want as much comfort as possible, book a transfer or rent a car with a driver.

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