Istanbul city guide. Public transportation in Istanbul.
There are many ways to get around in Istanbul. We have made a brief list of them all below. All of these vary in price but all have tokens or ticket fare that have to be paid. If you are living in Istanbul, it is wise to purchase an IstanbulKart (Istanbul Card) so you can use it on all public transport.
Istanbul Card (IstanbulKart) & Akbil
The Istanbul card is a electronic card that can be topped up with Turkish Lira. You can buy a Istanbulkart at major bus stops for around 8TL, and fill it to however much you wish. You can continue to top up the card at all bus and metro stops, ports and Tünel. You can also use Akbil on all forms of transport also. How to get Istanbul Card
A gadget used throughout Istanbul to pay for all kinds of transportation such as bus, ferry, sea bus, metro, train, tram and boat. In 1995 a pilot project was run on double-decker buses, and in time the akbil replaced paper tickets on public transport throughout Istanbul.
The Dolmuş is a transport service that can only be found in Turkey. It is a collective minibus which follows a certain route. Every person boarding a dolmuş pays according to the distance they wish to travel, this is normally somewhere between 1-3TL. When wanting to leave the Dolmuş the passenger only needs to say ‘Inecek Var’ which means ‘someone to get off here’ and the Dolmuş will stop. Payment is made to the driver and is a very practial means of transport around Istanbul.
Dolmuş system is a Turkish invention starting in the 1930’s in Istanbul and subsequently spread all over the country. First dolmuşes were made of different brands of cars until the Marshall plan aid after the World War II. Big American cars such as Desoto, Playmouth, Dodge, Chevrolet and Buick sent to Turkey in accordance with the aid. These cars were also used dolmuş but the cars were small for public transportation. Thus they were cut and made longer for 8 people. These cars were in service until the 90’s but then they were replaced with modern vans that are used today.
Minibus used as a shuttle that runs between certain routes. Just like dolmuş, minibüs also collects passengers on the street or at the stop. Passengers pay the fare when getting on the minibüs in İstanbul whereas they pay before they get off in some cities in Turkey. Concerning the dense population of Istanbul minibüs may sound like a useful mean of transportation. However, it is not a modern way to carry passengers in practice.
Public Buses (Otobüs)
Around Istanbul there are two different types of bus. The first bus is run by the municipality called the Belediye Otobüsü. On this type of bus you can use your Akbil, special discount cards or tickets that you can buy from any major bus stop. The second buses are privately owned, Halk Otobüsü, once again allowing you to use your Akbil and special discount cards as well as money, but tickets purchased from a bus station are not valid but cost the same price. Green coloured double deckers for longer distances require you to either pay cash for travel or the use an Akbil.
These are fast and efficient long hybrid buses that travel on separated lanes from the other traffic between Avcılar and Kadıköy. The line runs between 6am and Midnight.
Metro (Metro, Hafif Metro)
There are three metro lines running through Istanbul. These are Kabataş to Eminöü and to Zeytinburnu via Aksaray, the second is from Aksaray to Atatürk International Airport Via Yenibosna, passing through Otogar and the third is the ‘main’ metro line running through central Istanbul connecting Şişhane to Hacıosman. Akbils and IstanbulKart work on the metro.
The Tünel coach is the easiest way to travel between Karaköy and Beyoğlu. Tünel tokens can be brought from any Tünel entrance. An Akbil is also accepted on the Tünel. Tünel is open everyday from 7am until 10.45pm but on Sundays from 7.30am until 10.45pm.
Tünel the first metro built in Istanbul in the 19th century. Tünel was built between Galata (Karaköy) and Beyoğlu (İstiklal Caddesi) in 1871-1874 during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz. It is 573 metre long and takes 90 seconds to get to the other end.
Did you know that
- Istanbul metro is the 2nd oldest metro in the world after the London metro that was opened in 1863?
- 4.5-5 million Istanbulians use Tünel every year?
Istiklal street, between Taksim Square and Tünel, is closed to traffic. The only way to get from one end to the other without walking is by old tram. You get a ticket before you board the tram. You can use your IstanbulCard, however there is a very small difference between the time it takes to walk the street and taking the tram.
History of Trams in Istanbul
- 1869 Konstantin Krepano Efendi founded “Dersaadet Tramvay Şirketi” (Dersaadet Tram Company) and built railways on the streets.
- 1871 First tramcars that were pulled by horses started running between Azapkapı-Galata, Aksaray-Yedikule, Aksaray-Topkapı ve Eminönü-Aksaray on the European side. Following years tramcars started in Salonica, Damascus, Baghdad, İzmir and Konya.
- 1912 Balkan War started and the army bought the horses. Istanbul was left without tramcars for more than a year.
- 1914 Electrically operated tramcars put into service.
- 1939 The company was bought by the state.
- 1961 Tramcars stopped on the European side.
- 1966 Tramcars stopped on the Asian side.
- 1990 A nostalgic tramcar were put in service between Tünel and Taksim.
- 1992 Tramline started to run between Sirkeci, Aksaray and Topkapı.
- 1994 Tramline started to run between Topkapı and Zeytinburnu.
- 1996 Tramline started to run between Zeytinburnu and Kabataş.
The füniküler links other transport such as Zeytinburnu – Kabataş tram and the Kabataş ferry docks to Taksim as well as to the Taksim – Hacıosman metro. You can take sea buses and ferries from Kabataş to Kadıköy, Üsküdar and the Princes’ Islands. You can also take buses from Kabataş to Mecidiyeköy and the Bosphrorus. The tram here can take you from Kabataş to Eminönü and Aksaray. You can use your Akbil, special discount cards or purchase tokens for these services.
The ferries in Istanbul proivde travel routes from one side of the Bosphorus to the other or places on the same side of the Bosphorus. The prices for the ferries vary dependent on what service you are using as well as to where you are traveling. History of Istanbul ferries.
Seabus (Deniz Otobüsü)
Seabus service in İstanbul started with two seabuses in 1987 in addition to ferries. Today there are 25 seabuses running in and outside of Istanbul.
Seabus Termianls on the European side: Yenikapı, Bakırköy, Avcılar, Büyükçekmece, Kabataş, İstinye, Sarıyer, Eminönü – Boğaz İskelesi
Seabus Termianls on the European side: Kadıköy, Bostancı, Maltepe, Pendik, Kartal, Beykoz, Burgazada, Kınalıada, Heybeliada, Büyükada
The motorboats are small to medium boats that work very much like the Dolmuş’. They travel short distances such as Kadıköy-Eminönü-Kadıköy, Beşiktas-Üsküdar-Beşiktaş, Karaköy-Üsküdar-Karaköy. Payment is made to the captains assistant after you board.
Car Ferry (Araba Vapuru)
A ferry with ramps which can be lowered and lifted at both ends to carry vehicles. There are 18 different types of ferries running between Sirkeci on the European side and Harem on the the Asian side.
Car ferries travel between Sirkeci – Harem, everyday of the week. Tickets are purchased before boarding, there are also car ferries that leave Istanbul and travel to other city ports.
Did you know that the first Araba vapuru in the world was put into service in 1871 by Hüseyin Haki Efendi, the manager of the ferry company, Şirket-i Hayriye?
Sea Taxi (Deniz Taksi)
This is probably the fastest way to travel in Istanbul. It operates 24 hours a day, there are 27 points along the Bosphorus as well as the Princes Islands. They have a capacity of 10 people and the fares are paid either in cash or credit card, the daytime and nightime rates vary.
The railway tube project that connects Europe and Asia under the Bosphorus between Üsküdar on the Asian side and Yenikapı on the European side. www.marmaray.org
Suburban Trains (Banliyö Treni)
You can take suburban trains from Sirkeci on the European side and from Haydarpaşa on the Asian side. They can be alternative when traffic is an issue, however when they travel long distances they can be extremely crowded, dirty and not very preferable. Tickets can be brought at the station also an Akbil can be used on these trains.
Traveling by Air
Domestic air transport is provided by many domestic airlines however Turkish Airlines (Türk Havayolları, THY) is the most popular. Turkish Airlines are also providing international flights as well and fly to many destinations all over the world. The other private companies such as Atlas Jet, Pegasus, Fly Air, Inter Airlines and Onur Air, also fly to and from Istanbul but also internationally.
Traveling by Coach
In Turkey a bus is still the main form of transportation, every place in Turkey can be reached by a bus. Tickets for all most all buses can be brought from the bus station. There are many bus companies, all buses of the serious companies are comfortable and air-condition so it is worth paying that little bit extra to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. The terminals for the buses are located at Esenler on the European side and Harem on the Asian side, you will be able to use public transport to reach them. The well know bus companies have several branches in the city which use mini buses to carry passengers to these terminals.
Traveling by Rail
Due to construction of the high-speed trains there are no trains running between Istanbul Haydarpaşa and Adapazarı as of February 1st 2012, this is planned to end in late 2014.
Changes to the schedule are as follows: All trains from Istanbul to the east (Erzurum-Kars, Diyarbakir, Tatvan, Teheran) will now depart from Anakara. There are no night trains traveling between Istanbul and Anakara. The Meram express between Istanbul and Konya is suspended. Icanadolu Mavi Tren traveling from Istanbul to Konya then on to Adana now departs from Arifiye (Adapazarı) rather than Istanbul. The Turkish State Railways connect most of the major cities, the trains have couchettes, sleeping cars, restaurants and lounge cars offering first and second class service.
Traveling by Water
As Turkey is surrounded by three different seas, it makes it easy to travel around the country via boat. There is a regular IDO ferryboat between Istanbul and Yalova, and Istanbul to Bandırma. Denizline operates the former Turkish Maritime Lines between Istanbul and Izmir, these ships depart the city (Istanbul or Izmir) at 17:30 every two days and arrives at the other city at about 08.30 the next morning. There are various passenger and car ferries that sail between Çesme, the port west of Izmir and Brindisi and Ancona in Italy. There are also frequent ferries running between Turkey and the Aegean Islands in the Summer.
Traveling by Car
In Turkey people drive on the right hand side of the road, the speed limit is a maximum of 50km/hr (30mph) in the center of the city, outside the city the it is 90km/hr (55mph) and then 120km/hr (74mph) on the highways. Seat belts are compulsory to wear, pedestrians in Turkey tend to use the highways around the major cities as zebra crossings. If for any reason you end up in an accident while driving in Turkey NEVER move your car, even if its a minor crash or you are blocking the road for others. Wait till the police arrive and log the necessary reports.