The means of public transportation are innumerable in Istanbul. At the beginning it can seem a little confusing but after you read this page you will find getting around in the city is easy and simple.
Best way to get around in Istanbul is by taxi. The rates are cheap compared to most European countries.
But of course keep in mind that rush hours can be crucial. Using the metro and tramways will be a lot quicker during those hours.
If you happen to cross the Bosphorus and go to the Asian Side, the logical way is to go with a ferry.
Within individual neighborhoods the best way is to walk. Strolls through small side streets will take you to Istanbul's hidden sounds and smells.
Here is the most convenient way of paying the fare in public transportation vehicles:
Akbil is a refillable digital ticket that can be refilled when needed. If you are planning to use public transportation during your visit, it is wise to use “Akbil” to save some money and time.
Buses, tramway, tunnel, metro, funicular, car ferry, ferry boat, motor boats, sea-buses, cable-car and intercity trains.
You can buy and refill from booths displaying the “Akbil” logo in Taksim Square, Eminönü, Beşiktaş, Aksaray and more places for an initial deposit of 6 TL. Keep your receipt so that you can get your deposit back before you leave.
- Daily (7.50 TL/ $6.55/ £2.85)
- Weekly (40 TL/ $35/ £15)
- 15 days (60 TL/$52/£23)
- Monthly (100 TL/ $87/ £40)
Istanbul's extensive public transportation system relies on buses, metro, trams and ferries.
You can find all info about stops and timetables at:
You can find the transportation map at:
Buses and trams are actually great for sightseeing. Public transportation works well, it is cheap and easy to navigate.
But beware of the rush-hour, public transportation can be very crowded during those hours.
Taxi and “dolmuş” offer reasonable prices too.
And keep in mind that, it is not very common to hitch-hike.
Not sure how to get where you're going?
Here you can find all the routes and the transport options on the official site of the Municipality of Istanbul, public transportation part:
You can find the most suitable option by plugging in your starting point to find out which public transport options stop there.
The bus system (IETT) in Istanbul is extremely efficient and run by the city municipality. You can go anywhere in the city using the bus system with fairly cheap fares.
But of course every good thing has its down side; Buses can be over-crowded depending on the hour and the route. (Bus in Turkish: otobüs)
Always check with the driver before getting on to make sure the bus is going in your direction. And once you are on the right bus you can ask locals when to get off. They would be more then happy to help you.
The major bus stands are at Taksim Square, Beşiktaş, Aksaray, Rüstempaşa (Eminönü), Kadıköy and Üsküdar. The buses run between 06:30 and midnight.
You must have a ticket (TL 1.30) or an Akbil before boarding.
You can buy tickets from the small white booths near major stops and bus, tram and metro stations or from nearby magazine stands.
Private buses called “Halk Otobüsü” run the same routes; these accept cash (you can pay the conductor in the bus) and Akbil.
A one-way ride on the bus without a transfer, costs 1.30 TL ($1.15/ 50p). Each time you transfer lines or modes of transport, you have to pay again.
“Dolmus;” (Read as: Doll-moosh) is a yellow minivan that operates like group taxis with set routes.
Depending on their route, “dolmus”es run from early morning to late evening daily, including Sundays.
A “dolmuş” will leave its terminal (marked with a blue "D") when it fills up (the word “dolmus” means ”full”). Then it picks up and drops off passengers along the route.
The main “dolmuş” stands are located in Taksim, Sirkeci, and Aksaray and connect to points all over the city.
Dolmuşes are often more direct than city buses, gives you extra time to explore. So if there is a dolmuş available, take it, instead of the bus or tram. And being cheaper than taxis, they leave more money in your pocket.
Look for a “dolmuş” with the name of your destination displayed in the window. When boarding, tell the driver your destination and ask how much it costs (Turkish: “Ne kadar?”, Read as: “Nay Cudd-are”).
The cost for shorter distances would be around 2 - 3 TL ($2.60/£1.15). You just pay the driver, there are no tickets.
“Minibus” is a version of Dolmus. Only the vehicle is different, these are minibuses. They operate on same basics.
The major minibus lines are between Beşiktaş - Sariyer and Maslak - Yeniköy.
There are 2 metro lines. Tickets cost 1.30 TL and Akbil can be used.
It connects from Airport to tram to Sultanahmet, Sirkeci and Kabatas.
The stops are Osmanbey (entrance of Nisantasi, the chic shopping neighbourhood), Sisli, Gayrettepe, Levent, Levent 4th, Maslak, Ayazaga.
The full trip takes 25 minutes. Services run every five minutes from;
- 06:15 to 00:30 Monday to Thursday,
- 06:15 to 01:00 on Friday and Saturday,
- 06:30 to 00:20 on Sunday.
There are 4 tram lines:
The most useful one for tourists starts in Zeytinburnu which rides through many major attractions in the Old City like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sofia, the Topkapi Palace, the Grand Bazaar, Spice Market (Egyptian Bazaar) and goes to;
- Beyazıt, (Grand Bazaar),
- Then across the Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn to Karaköy to connect with the Tünel (subway) to Beyoglu, Istiklal Street,
- Then Kabatas, near Dolmabahce Palace and IstanbulModern Museum. (to connect with the funicular to Taksim Square).
And it can be used to reach the Atatürk Airport with a transfer to Metro in Zeytinburnu.
This tram runs every five minutes from 06:00 to midnight. The fare is 1.30 TL and ticket or Akbil can be used.
An antique tram runs along Istiklal Caddesi between Tünel Square and Taksim Square in Beyoglu.
The trolley runs daily between 07:00 – 23:00 and makes three intermediary stops at “Hüseyin Aga Camii”, at “Galatasaray High School/Flower-Fish Market”, and at “Odakule”.
This can be a good sightseeing option if you plan to see the Asian Side. This tram runs, between Kadiköy Square and the residential neighbourhood of Moda.
There are two funiculars (underground system) in the city.
The first is an historic funicular called the “Tünel” carries passengers between Karaköy, from the base of the Galata Bridge, to Tünel Square, the southwest end of Istiklal Street.
It is like travelling in time since it is the 3rd oldest subway in the whole world.
Tünel runs Monday through Saturday from 07:00 – 21:00 and Sunday from 07:30 – 21:00.
The second funicular is called “Füniküler”. It carries passengers from Kabataş (at the end of the tram line from Zeytinburnu, through the Old City and over the Galata Bridge) to Taksim Square in Taksim, the Northwest end of İstiklal Street.
It connects to the metro in Taksim and takes you to the new modern city and the new shopping malls in Northern part of the city.
Both of these trips are short ones and cost 1.30 TL. Akbil can be used in both of them.
There are two cable-cars (Turkish: teleferik) in the city.
The trains take off nearly every half-hour. But they are old and dirty. I don’t recommend travelling with them at all. They have a cheap fare TL 1.30 - 1.50. Akbil can be used.
There are two suburban train lines (Turkish: banliyö) in Istanbul;
It goes along the Sea of Marmara shore from Sirkeci Railway Station, around Seraglio Point to Cankurtaran, Kumkapı, Yenikapı, Bakırköy and a number of stations before it gets to Yeşilköy, which is very close to the airport by a taxi.
Istanbul City Ferry Lines, (Turkish: Sehir Hatlari Vapurlari) runs commuter ferry service between Europe and Asia and to the nearby Prince's Islands.
Taking a ferry is the most enjoyable way to get around Istanbul. These vessels are really efficient for crossing between the Asian and European shores and they provide stunning views.
A ferry ride makes you forget that you are on a public transportation vessel. You can feel the breeze, you can watch stunning vistas along the way, you can have a tea or coffee, you can walk through different saloons.
Even if you don't have time for a Bosphorus Cruise, I stronly advise you to take a ferry ride.
Some of the more useful shuttles for a traveler depart from Sirkeci (Eminönü) to Kabatas, Beşiktaş, Üsküdar, Kadıköy, Haydarpasa, Bostancı, Bosphorus and Prince's Islands.
The ferries operate on two annual timetables: winter (mid-September to mid-June) and summer (mid-June to mid-September). Online timetable is available at www.ido.com.tr or you can pick up a printed timetable from all ferry terminals.
Tickets (jetons) are cheap (usually 1.30 TL) and it’s possible to use Akbil on all routes.
Tel: 0212 444 44 36, national toll-free line
You will use two of the ferry lines mostly:
You can take a ferry departing from Eminönü (10:35 daily; and 13:35 summers only) for a do-it-yourself Bosphorus cruise. The cruise takes 2 hours crisscrossing up the Bosphorus Strait and stops at Anadolu Kavağı.
This is the best public transportation route in Istanbul. You will see fishing villages, forests on hills, two suspension bridges and more along the way.
The ferry makes stops at all of the main docks on the villages such as Emirgan, Bebek, Kanlica, and Çengelköy, on both the European and Asian sides.
A one-way ticket on the ferry costs TL 7 ($6.10/£2.70); a round-trip costs TL 13 ($11/£4.75).
The cheapest and easiest way to pay is to use your “Akbil”.
Check the timetable at www.ido.com.tr to be safe, as the schedule can change depending on seasons. Hours are usually posted on the ticket window of the port.
For more on Bosphorus ferry and Bosporus Cruise, click here.
Fourteen ferries run to the islands everyday from 06:30 to midnight, departing from Kabataş’ ‘Adalar İskelesi’ dock.
The best departure times for day-trippers are 09:30, 10:00 and 11:30. On summer weekends, be at the dock half an hour before departure time unless you want to stand the whole cruise.
On this sea trip, you will be rewarded with fine views of Topkapı Palace, Aya Sofya and the Blue Mosque on the right, Üsküdar neighborhood and Haydarpaşa Train Station on the left.
After 20 minutes the ferry makes a quick stop at Kadıköy on the Asian side. Then it sails to the first island, Kınalıada, (30 minutes). The second island on the way is Burgazada (15 minutes). The third island is Heybeliada (15 minutes). And Büyükada is the final destination point (10 minutes).
Ferries return to Istanbul every 1.5 hours or so. The last ferry of the day leaves Büyükada at 22:00 and Heybeliada at 22:15.
These are the “dolmuş” of the Bosphorus. They are smaller versions of the ferries. They take of every 15 minutes even if they are full or not.
There are two routes of motorboats;
This motorboat line will be useful if you are planning to discover the Asian Side, mostly Üsküdar neighborhood and close neighborhoods like Kuzguncuk, Çengelköy…
The car ferry runs between Harem on the Asian Side and Sirkeci on European Side. Pedestrians can use it too.
There are seabus (deniz otobüsü) services that run between Asian Side and European Side. But they are of less interest to the traveler than the ferries.
You can’t sit outside in a seabus and feel the breeze of the Bosphorus like you do in a ferry. And their routes and timetables are set mostly to suit the locals who are traveling in rush hours.
The most useful sea-bus routes for a traveler are Bostancı–Kadıköy–Kabataş and Kabataş–Prince’s Islands, if you have time for the Asian Side and the islands.
These are the main public transportation systems in Istanbul.
There are other options to get around the city, other than the public transportation options.
Istanbul is a city of yellow taxis, they are everywhere, finding a taxi in Istanbul is an easy task…
Usually it is the best way to enjoy the city, depending on the time of the day. No waiting in the line, no standing in a bus or a wagon, no crowd and you can get off anywhere you want!
I know, this is not a "public transportation" option but I advise you to take a taxi whenever possible.
Taxis are fairly cheap and cost about 5 TL for a 15-20 minute walk. If you are not on a very tight budget, you can choose taxi over public transportation.
But of course like any other metropolis there are some points to be considered.
There is more info about “Using a taxi” in Istanbul on my Taxi Tips page..
The fast and the most painful way to go crazy in Istanbul, is to drive. Traffic is getting much denser everyday and the drivers are getting angrier at the same pace.
Let’s say you insisted on driving and got on the road. When you finally get where you wanted to go, there is the second biggest issue waiting for you: Where are you going to park?
The parking lot problem is going bigger and bigger everyday, again at the same pace with the increasing number of cars.
If all of these are not enough for you and you are going to disregard advice from a local who is driving in Istanbul for over 10 years, here's some basic info:
The major car-rental companies in Istanbul are;
- Avis, www.avis.com
- Sixt, www.e-sixt.com
- Hertz, www.hertz.com
- National, www.nationalcar.com
- Budget, www.budget.com
- Alamo, www.alamo.com
All have desks at Atatürk International Airport and at some major locations in town.
Hertz and Decar (www.decar.com.tr) have desks at Sabiha Gökcen Airport, International Terminal, Avis has a desk in the Domestic Terminal.
These are all options you have for public transportation in Istanbul.. I hope you can easily manage to find out which public transportation options serve well to you.
You might have to mix some of the public transportation choices to reach your destination. And it is fun to do that because you get the "real-feel" of Istanbul that way.
Always take the shortest route possible, this saves you time for exploring Istanbul at your own pace...