Travelers can find variety of great options to get around the city. The Bosphorus divides the city into two parts and that makes the ferries and sea-buses become a practical means of daily transportation in Istanbul. The three busiest areas for tourists, that include Sultanahmet, Galata and Taksim, are easy to get around on foot.
To travel from the European side to the Asian side, the best way of transportation is the ferries. For travelling to the shopping and business districts of Nisantasi, Etilier and Levent, the best way is via the metro line that runs from Taksim Square.
And the whole public transportation system can easily be accessed with a single transportation card, which is Istanbulkart.
Note that traffic in Istanbul is a major problem and often experiences gridlock particularly on the bridges. Also note that the Sultanahmet Square and most of the connecting roads are closed for vehicle traffic except tram and tour busses. Getting to Sultanahmet by your private car is not recommended. You’ll need to leave your car far away.
Istanbul’s Public Transport Options
Istanbul offers a huge network of public transportation that include; buses and railways such as metro, tram systems and Marmaray.
Bus & Metrobus
Buses are definitely the cheapest and the most economic means of transport, though they are usually overcrowded and it’s not easy to find out which one you should catch.
There is also a private lined express bus service which is called Metrobus. It serves for hundred thousands of locals daily, and provides a fast transportation in between the two ends of Asian side and the European side. Visit www.iett.istanbul for more official information.
Metro & Tram
The metro and the tram system of Istanbul have a wide network and provide easy access to many of the major points both in the European and Asian sides.
The metro system of Istanbul operates from Aksaray – Atatürk Airport to Kirazli (M1 line), Haciosman to Yenikapi (M2 line) and Kirazli to Olimpiyat, Basaksehir (M3 line) on the European side. And operates from Kadikoy to Tavsantepe (M4 line) and Uskudar to Yamanevler (M5 line) on the Asian Side.
Trams are also a fast and easy way to travel around the most popular districts in Istanbul. The trams operate from Bagcilar to Kabatas (T1 line) (goes trough Eminonu and Sultanahmet), Topkapi to Mescid-i Selam (T4 line), as well as two nostalgic trams run between Taksim to Tunel (T2 line) through Istiklal Street on the European side and Kadikoy to Moda (T3 line) through Bahariye Street on the Asian Side.
There are also two funicular lines connecting Kabatas to Taksim (F1 line) and Karakoy to Tunel (F2 line) (end of the Istiklal Street). The Karakoy-Tunel funicular system is one of the oldest ones in the world, dating back to 19th century.
Check the Istanbul Railway Network Map for all lines. Also visit www.metro.istanbul for more official information.
Marmaray & Gebze-Halkali Train System
Marmaray is a train system connects the Europeand and Asian side under the sea. The Marmaray is a 76 kilometers tube tunnel that provides passengers to pass under the Marmara inner sea with train in only a couple of minutes. The fast way to travel between Kazlicesme stop through Sirkeci and Yenikapi in European side and Ayrilik Cesmesi through Uskudar stop in Asian side. Visit www.marmaray.gov.tr for more official information
The Gebze-Halkali Suburban Train System (fully operational from March 2019) also use the Marmaray network which is also a fast way to travel between Asian side to European side, as well as from Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) to the Istanbul city center.
Ferries & Sea-Bus
Ferries (Sehir Hatlari) are the most easiest, cheapest and the most pleasant way to travel up, down and across the Bosphorus. With the ferries you are able to travel from Europe to Asia and back. There are ten main ferry docks that include; Karakoy, Kabatas, Besiktas and five in Eminonu on the European side; Uskudar and Kadikoy on the Asian side. Ferries operate every 15-20 minutes from 07am. until 11pm.
Short Bosphorus Cruise by Ferries – Starts from the Eminonu Pier at 14.30 and goes for Uskudarand Ortakoy Piers in order. And goes back from Ortakoy and Uskudar Piers to Eminonu Pier at 16.30. Duration is about 2 hours. The price per person is 12 TRY, 6 TRY for children under 12. Short Bosphorus Cruise is made only in Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays between 01.10.2018 – 31.03.2019; every day between 01.04.2019 – 02.06.2019.
Full Bosphorus Cruise by Ferries – Starts from the Eminonu Pier at 10.35 and goes for Besiktas, Uskudar, Kanlica, Sariyer, Rumelikavagi and Anadolu Kavagi Piers in order. Ferry arrive to Anadolu Kavagi about 12.25 and gives a break here till 15.00. And goes back from Anadolu Kavagi Pier following the piers of Rumelikavagi, Sariyer, Kanlica, Uskudar and Besiktas Piers in order and the cruise ends in Eminonu Pier at 16.40. Duration is about 6 hours. The price for a round trip is 25 TRY.
You may find all Istanbul Public Ferry Lines Routes, Timetables and Prices from en.sehirhatlari.istanbul/en
There are also sea-bus routes runs from Istanbul to main areas within the city limits and the cities around the Marmara Sea. The two inner city sea-bus lines include Bostanci-Besiktas and Bostanci-Kadikoy-Yenikapi-Bakirkoy lines. The four inter city sea-bus lines include Kadikoy-Yenikapi-Armutlu-Bursa, Bostanci-Yenikapi-Cinarcik-Esenkoy, Bostanci-Yenikapi-Marmara Avsa Island and Kadikoy-Yenikapi-Bursa lines.
Check www.ido.com.tr for more official information.
Yellow Shared Taxi (Dolmus)
The Dolmus (yellow shared taxi) is a public taxi runs on a fixed, short, circular route. It is an easy and practical way of transportation through the city.
Many locals use Dolmus and there is fixed fare, payment is in cash upon boarding (a little more than the bus). Below are some of the main Dolmus circular lines in Istanbul.
- From Kadikoy to Taksim, Nisantasi, Sisli, Uskudar and Bostanci.
- From Bostanci to Taksim, Sisli and Pendik.
- From Uskudar to Kadikoy, Acibadem and Beykoz.
- From Besiktas to Taksim and Harbiye.
- From Taksim to Besiktas, Aksaray and Bakirkoy.
The taxis in Istanbul are yellow and have taxi signs on the roof. It’s easy to find a yellow taxi almost anywhere in the streets. Taxis are cheap compared to European levels. As of 2019, taxi fares in Istanbul is; taximeter opening fee is 5 TL and 3,1 TL per kilometer. There is no day and night difference. You can calculate the approximate taxi fare for your journey with this formula.
Read more on our Istanbul Taxi Guide (2019 Fares, Tips) page for Istanbul taxis.
How to Get to the City Center from each Istanbul Airport?
Istanbul has two major airports: New Istanbul Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW). There are many options to travel in between Istanbul Airports and city center, such as municipal public buses and shuttles specifically routed, taxis or private shuttles. There are no direct metro lines for the Istanbul Airports.
New Istanbul Airport (IST) is situated on the north eastern part of Istanbul, on the Arnavutkoy district, close to the Black Sea coast. Average distance from the New Istanbul Airport to major Istanbul city center districts is about 45 km. Read more about all the transportation options for the New Istanbul Airport from our Travelling to and from New Istanbul Airport (Insider Tips, Buses, Shuttles, Taxis) page.
Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) is located the on east of the central Istanbul, on the Asian side, about 30 km. from Kadikoy, 44 km. from Taksim and 48 km. from Sultanahmet. Read more about all the transportation options for the Sabiha Gokcen Airport from our Travelling to and from Sabiha Gokcen Airport (Insider Tips, Buses, Shuttles, Taxis) page.
As the public transportation in Istanbul is excellent, we don’t recommend car rentals if you have a short stay in Istanbul. It is also easy to walk around the most popular places and sights. Also parking is a big problem at the busy regions and most sights. See our car hire in Istanbul page fro more details.