How to Use Public Transport in Istanbul
Istanbul is a very large city filled with amazing historical sights which make it a breath-taking site for tourism. Despite stretching over 5,000 km2, the city is still faced with serious traffic congestions (in fact it is one of the most congested cities in the world) due to the enormous number of tourists it draws on a daily basis and as a result of that, getting around Istanbul as a tourist may become quite an issue of concern. However, there has been a major project to take public transport in Istanbul to the next level and this has provided a good number of ways with which one can easily access every beautiful part of the city.
When you go on Istanbul tours, you’ll get to see a great deal of public transport systems including trams, tunnels, buses, railways and so many others, and it is good you know how to use these public transports so that you know which one to take that will get you to a particular destination. In addition to this, it is advised you use public transport — most especially the tram — when seeing the Old City. This is because it gets you around the city with ease and offers you cost savings since you’d have so many places to visit.
As you may very well know, Turkey has a European as well as an Asian side, connected by the Bosphorus strait in Istanbul. Both parts are now easily accessed with the use of public transport in the form of ferries and sea-buses. Ferries are the best means for plying the Bosphorus. When it comes to visiting the busier districts and shopping centres of Nisantasi, Etilier and Levent, your best option is the metro line running from Taksim square. Traffic jams are very frequent especially on the bridges. Some of the connecting roads, like the Sultanahmet Square, are often closed for vehicles, and only tour buses and trams are allowed free access. So do not bother hiring a private car when you come on an Istanbul tour.
So are you visiting Istanbul for the first time? Are you planning on having a tour to the old city of Istanbul? Then, there are so many sights that await you and places to explore, so follow this guide on how to use public transport in Istanbul.
For you to be able to use any kind of public transport in Istanbul, you must first obtain a magnetic card known as IstanbulKart (Instanbul Card). You can always get this in any of the kiosks close to the metro stations, bus, tram and train stations. It cost only 7TL. Getting a map of the city is also worth considering as it gives you an idea of every possible route to your destination. This you can get from the Istanbul Municipality Information Office at Eminonu.
Pubilc Transport Options in Istanbul
Bus and Metrobus
Everywhere you go, buses remain one of the cheapest and most popular means of transport but the downside is they usually get pretty congested and you’d have so many of them you don’t even know which you should jump into. However, apart from Sultanahmet, buses ply every part of the city and you’d see their major stops and destinations written in yellow on the body of the bus.
In Istanbul, there is an express bus called the metrobus which passes through dedicated paths, and this line serves a plethora of Istanbul residents as well as tourists on a daily basis. It is so much faster than your typical bus and offers quick mobility within the Asian and European sides of Istanbul since it does not pass through the congested roads. Nevertheless, most tourists do not like it since it travels along the outskirts of the city, and so do not provide good views.
Metro and Tram
The advantage of the metro and tram system is they offer great accessibility to almost all the most prominent spots in Istanbul, both on the European and the Asian side.
The metro opens from 6:15am to 12 midnight, and plies Aksaray – Atatürk Airport to Kirazli (M1 line), Haciosman to Yenikapi (M2 line) and Kirazli to Olimpiyat, Basaksehir (M3 line) on the European side. It also moves from Kadikoy to Tavsantepe (M4 line) and Uskudar to Yamanevler (M5 line) on the Asian Side.
On the other hand, trams also offer you a very fast and easy way to access the most attractive parts of Istanbul. There are two lines servicing Istanbul, one on the Asian side and the other on the European side. The T1 line travels between Bagcilar and Kabatas, (through Eminonu and Sultanahmet), while the T4 goes from Topkapi to Mescid-i Selam. T2 goes through Istiklal Street to ply Taksim and Tunel, and the T3 line services Kadikoy and Moda by passing through Bahariye Street on the Asian side of Istanbul.
The Funical Lines
The funical has two lines, the Karaköy-Tünel (T) and the Taksim-Kabataş (F1)
- Karaköy-Tünel (T)
This line works from 7am to 9pm. It gives you easy and quick access to Istiklal Street without having to climb the terrible slopes to arrive at Galata. From there you can get to Tünel from which you can then take a tram to Taksim Square.
- Taksim-Kabataş (F1)
This gives you access from Taksim Square to Kabatas from which you can take a tram to the old town, or take a boat to the Princes Island. This is very important if you’re going for an Istanbul Old City walking tour. You can also get to Old Town by taking the M2 metro directly to the Golden Horn.
Under the Bosphorus, there is a 76 kilometer tunnel that connects the European and Asian sides of Istanbul and enables you to go straight to Asia from Yenikapi or Sirkeci. The train passes quickly through this underground tunnel in only a matter of minutes. It makes two stops at Usküdar and Ayrilik Cesmesi. If this doesn’t work for you, you can simply take the M4 straight to Kadikoy.
Boats and Ferries
Since the Istanbul bridges over the Bosphorus often get pretty congested, boats and ferries have been introduced to give an easy passage from the European side to the Asian side across the Bosphorus. There are 10 jetties around the Bosphorus but the main ones on the European side are in Besiktas, Kabatas and Eminonu, while on the Asian side you have Kadikoy and Uskudar jetties.
Ferries are the cheapest and best way to move from Asia and Europe and back again, and you would certainly enjoy a good Bosphorus cruise using the ferries
Taxis are very common in Istanbul and you’ll find them in almost every street. They are painted yellow and have taxi signs on top. Istanbul’s taxis are quite cheap although using this public transport in Istanbul will also face traffic problems. Taxi fares in Istanbul as at 2019 was 5TL as an opening fee and 3.1TL per kilometer.
Istanbul Old City Walking Tour
Is your purpose for coming to Istanbul to see the beautiful Old City? Then why not make a schedule with us for an Istanbul Old City walking tour. We are one of the best tour-guides in Istanbul, offering you free walking tours to the grandest tourist attractions in the Old City; the Sultanahmet, where Turkey’s Ottoman and Byzantine empires were once sited; the UNESCO-Listed Hagia Sophia, the magnificent Blue Mosque and the well-known Hippodrome. Contact us today for your Istanbul tours.