Istanbul Travel Guide & Information



Transportation By Air

Ataturk International Airport is the main airport of Istanbul located on the European part of the city which is about 20-25 km from city centre. There are direct flights to every European capital, and many to Asia, USA and the Middle East as well as domestic flight to the major cities of Turkey. There is a metro connection to Aksaray (not too far from Sultanahmet) from the airport. See below for more detailed information from Istanbul airports to the city.

Bosphorus, separating Asia and Europe

The domestic terminal has flights to every domestic airport in the country, with several a day to major cities like Antalya, Ankara and Izmir. Most international flights to other cities stops at Ataturk International Airport, although there are also direct flights to few other cities such as Antalya, Izmir and Bodrum which are rare and available only during peak summer season.  

Sabiha Gokcen
International Airport, opened in 2001. This airport, with a capacity of 3 million international passengers per year, is on the Asian side of Istanbul, 42 km away from Taksim Square in the city center. Usually cheap charter flight companies flies to Sabiha Gokcen Airport, but remember the transportation to the city center (Taksim or Sultanahmet) is fairly costly and take long time)


Most major European airports are 2-4 hours away from Istanbul by air, and from the east coast of North America it is about a 10-hour journey.  Istanbul is readily accessible from all parts of the world, and served by more than 50 airlines. Turkish Airlines (THY) is the national carrier. Turkish Airlines (THY) offers direct flights from 77 cities around the world.
Web Site:

Cargo Flights
Turkish Airlines Cargo Service (TK) offers a variety of services designed to meet shipping needs and transport requirements.
The maximum dimensions for packages on passenger aircraft are 80 x 120 x 130 cm.

Useful contacts for air travel:

Ataturk Airport: (+90 212) 465 30 00 See Website  Check Current Flight Arrivals & Delays
Sabiha Gokcen Airport +90 216 585 50 00 See Website  Current Flight Arrivals and Delays
Turkish Airlines (THY) Reservation:  (+90 212) 444 0 849 THY Website
Havatas Airport Shuttle Service:  See their website

Flight Distances
The list of distances from major cities to Istanbul (air miles)

















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Cape Town



Public Transportation

Public buses are operated by IETT company, a corporation owned by Istanbul Municipality. There are public buses to almost every corner of the city. There are also "private public buses" (Ozel Halk Otobusu) which are also operated under the control of IETT. Although they are owned privately, the pricing and ticket system is the same. In 2009 an express public bus system was launched between major locations, known as Metrobus. As the name suggests, these are big buses running on a lane assigned only for them on the main roads. Thus they move faster, independent form city traffic. Metrobus lines combine outer residential districts of the city and are not very useful for tourist transportation.

Please check the IETT website for public bus schedules within Istanbul

Alternative public transportation systems are tramcar, metro and subway lines operated by Istanbul Ulasim. The most useful public railway lines are Ataturk Airport-Aksaray metro line and Zeytinburnu-Kabatas tramcar line. Scheduled total duration of journey between Ataturk Airport and Aksaray is 32 minutes. There is also a real subway metro, running between Taksim and Maslak districts (near Sariyer) which is short and combines some residential and business districts to Taksim. Big shopping malls are located near the 2nd, 3rd subway stations, if you start from Taksim.

If you will stay in the city more than one week and your intention is to use public system very often, it is highly recommended to buy AKBIL electronic tickets, which can be purchased and refilled at kiosks available in central bus/metro stations.  AKBIL tickets work for all public systems, including public buses, ferryboats, metro and trams.  Otherwise, public transportation tickets and tokens can be obtained from ticket automats or from kiosks near major stations.  You can also buy Istanbul Card which can be filled up to 10 tickets otherwise tickets purchased one by one will cost twice than using AKBIL or Istanbul Card. (Public transportation with AKBIL for one way costs around 1,2 US $ or 0.8 Euros in Istanbul. After first use of AKBIL, you get approximately %50 discount for 5 different "combining lines" you take within 2 hours. Ticket costs will be deduced from the amount of money you deposited to your AKBIL.



Airport-City Transportation

Unfortunately the Ataturk Airport "metro" line ends in Aksaray and does not connect all the way to Sultanahmet and Taksim. From Aksaray terminal, you can go to Sultanahmet with tramcar by walking to Yusufpasa tram station. You can also get on to tramcar from Zeytinburnu which is an interchange station between metro and tramway systems. The scheduled journey time between Zeytinburnu - Kabatas  is about 50 minutes. Kabatas is connected to Taksim Subway by a funicular. Although it is just a minute lasting journey, you need to pay for this additionally.

From Aksaray you will need to take a bus to Taksim, if you are arriving from Ataturk Airport. The most comfortable and comparatively economic way of getting to Taksim from Ataturk Airport are using privately operated Havatas airport shuttles. Havatas shuttles to Taksim are also available from Sabiha Gokcen Airport on the Asian side of Istanbul, which is the most recommended transportation option if you plane is landing there. Any of these Havatas shuttles do not go to Sultanahmet, but the ones coming from Ataturk Airport pass through Aksaray.

Most gay-friendly hotels listed on our website provide free airport transfer as a promotion. The travel agencies and most other hotels also offer private transportation. You can contact gay&lesbian owned Pride Travel Agency for their private airport transportation options. They offer discounted rates if you book your hotel from the agency.


Sea Transportation
The company owned by Istanbul municipality (IDO) which was controlling all maritime lines within city has been divided in 2 companies in 2010 for a privatization program. Now,  Urban Maritime Transportation company (Sehir Hatlari) operates conventional ferryboat lines and IDO operates fast ferryboats and Sea Buses (Deniz Otobusu). Fast and conventional ferryboats run between various coastal districts of Istanbul. Kadikoy-Haydarpasa-Karakoy; Eminonu-Uskudar; Eminonu-Kadikoy; Besiktas-Kadikoy; Besiktas-Uskudar; Kabatas-Prince’s Islands; Kabatas-Kadikoy; Kabatas-Bostanci (sea bus); Yenikapi-Yalova (fast ferry), Yenikapi-Bursa (fast ferry); Yenikapi-Kadikoy-Bostanci (sea bus); Uskudar-Eminonu-Eyup (Golden Horn) are popular ferryboat/sea-bus lines.

Kabatas ferry pier (vapur iskelesi) can be reached by funicular from Taksim, and by tramcar from Sultanahmet. Eminonu/Sirkeci ferry piers are located some 10-15 minutes walking distance from Sultanahmet square, can also be reached by the tramcar. Yenikapi sea bus pier is located on the coastal part of Aksaray district, some 5 minutes walking distance to Aksaray's town square.

Most enjoyable ferryboat journey would be taking the morning Bosphorus cruise (Bogaz turu) of with public ferryboats from Eminonu to Sariyer. Bogaz turu takes a little over an hour and stops in Besiktas (not far from Taksim, if you want to get on the ferry here) and several other small towns and villages along the Bosphorus.

Istanbul Maritime Lines run both the urban and national transport. Intercity boats operate from Istanbul to the following Black Sea towns: Zonguldak, Sinop, Samsun, Giresun, Trabzon, Rize, as well as Izmir and Bursa. Marmara Lines run to Marmara Island, Bandirma and Mudanya located on the shores of Marmara Sea. Istanbul's International port is located centrally not far from Taksim and Sultanahmet, in Salipazari/Karakoy district. Huge ships of international cruise liners dock here. Foreigners who arrive in Turkey by cruise liners and sleep on the ship are allowed to enter Turkey without a visa, with the permission given by the local custom authorities as soon as you set foot ashore.

Useful links:
Istanbul Maritime Lines (IDO) for Sea Bus and Fast Ferries
Conventional Ferryboat Lines - Istanbul Sehir hatlari
Turkish Maritime Lines


Railway & Suburb Train
Trains are not as popular as intercity coaches for long distance transportation, with a much smaller network. There are rail connections from Istanbul to Ankara, Izmir and Eastern Anatolian cities. Trains are old-fashioned and most of the services are much slower than buses, although between the three main cities there are Mavi Tren and Ekspres trains which are faster and more comfortable. A much faster train system (Hizli Tren) has been partially completed between Istanbul and Ankara.

Reservations are essential for intercity journeys, and there are several classes of seats and sleepers. International services from Sirkeci (on the European side) and Haydarpasa (Asian side) stations include Vienna, Munich, Budapest, Salonica, (via Eskisehir, Konya, and Gaziantep), Aleppo, (via Tatvan and Van), Tehran, Moscow and Bucharest. Trains heading west leave from Sirkeci, and east from Haydarpasa Train Station (tren istasyonu).

Suburb train (Banliyo treni) runs between Sirkeci and Halkali on the European side, and Haydarpasa and Gebze train terminals on the Asian side of Istanbul. Urban train system is old and it is not a popular choice among public transportation options within the city for major districts. Both lines run along the Marmara coast on the European and Asian legs of Istanbul. Sirkeci train terminal  is some 10-15 minutes walking distance to Sultanahmet square. Haydarpasa terminal is near Kadikoy city center. Most (but not all) Karakoy-Kadikoy ferryboats stops at the ferry pier by Haydarpasa train terminal.

The name of the stations for Istanbul suburb train in order are as below:

Sirkeci-Halkali (Scheduled time of total journey is 53 minutes)
Sirkeci, Cankurtaran, Kumkapi (fish restaurants), Yenikapi (ferryboat), K.Mustafapasa, Yedikule, Kazlicesme, Zeytinburnu, Yenimahalle, Bakırköy, Yesilyurt, Yeşilköy, Florya, Menekse, Kucukcekmece, Soguksu, Kanarya and Halkali).

Haydarpasa-Gebze (Scheduled time of total journey is 64 minutes.)
Haydarpasa, Sogutlucesme, Kiziltoprak, Feneryolu, Goztepe, Erenkoy, Suadiye, Bostanci, Kucukyali, Idealtepe, Sureyya Plaji, Maltepe, Cevizli, Atalar, Kartal, Yunus, pendik, Kaynarca, Tersane, Guzelyali, Aydintepe, Icme, Tuzla, Cayirova, Fatih, Osmangazi, Gebze.

Sirkeci Information Tel: (0212) 527 0050/51. Reservations Tel: (0212) 520 6575
Haydarpasa İnformation Tel: (0216) 336 0475/2063. Reservations Tel: (0216) 336 4470, 337 8724.

Turkish State Railways Website




Tourist Information Offices

Regional Directorate,  Mesrutiyet Cad., No : 57/5,Tepebasi - Beyoglu
Tel : (212) 243 37 31 - 243 29 28 - 249 23 24,Fax : (212) 252 43 46 - 251 86 32
Hilton Hotel's entrance, Taksim/Elmadag. Tel : (212) 233 05 92, Fax : (212) 245 68 76(Info.)
Karakoy Yolcu Salonu (Karakoy ferryboat port), Karakoy, Tel : (212) 249 57 76
Sultanahmet Meydani (Square) Tel : (212) 518 87 54, Fax : (212) 518 18 02
Sirkeci Train Station-Sirkeci Tel : (212) 511 58 11
Ataturk Airport, Yesilkoy Tel : (212) 573 41 36, Fax : (212) 663 07 93
Beyazit Square (Near Grand Bazaar) Beyazit Tel : (212) 522 49 02


Important Phones

Governorship : (+90-212) 514 17 50
Municipality : (+90-212) 512 55 00
Hospital : (+90-212) 588 48 00
Police : (+90-212) 635 00 00
Gendarme : (+90-212) 779 30 18
Provincial Directorate : (+90-212) 243 34 72
Harbour : (+90-212) 245 53 66 - 249 71 78 - 249 18 96


Other Practical Information

Local time:  GMT+3 hours (April-September) GMT+2 hours (October-March)

Time Differences:
Argentina -5, France -1, Netherlands -1, Australia +8, Germany -1, Saudi Arabia+1, Austria -1, Greece 0, Sweden -1, Egypt 0, Italy -1, Switzerland -1, England -2, Japan +7, Spain -1, USA -7 (EST) -10 (WEST)
* These time differences are for the period October-March; however, they may show variances according to each country's own time-saving adjustments.

Petrol: Super (peremium) - Unleaded (at some places). Normal (regular) - Diesel.

Electricity: 220 volts AC/50 Hz. all over Turkey. (Industrial:380 V) Plug: European round/ 2-prong plug.

Water: Although tap water is safe to drink since it is chlorinated, it is recommended to get advice from the concerned authorities of the places resided.

Weights and Measures:
1 inch = 2.54 centimeters , 1 centimeter = 0.3937 inches
1 yard = 0,9144 meters, 1 meter = 1.0936 yards
1 mile = 1,6093 kilometers, 1 kilometer = 0.6214 miles
1 pound = 0,4536 kilograms, 1 kilogram = 2.2046 pounds

1 acres = 0,4047 Hectares, 1 hectare = 2.471 acres

1 UK gallon = 4.546 litres, 1 litre = 0.2199 UK gallons
1 US gallon = 3.7831 litres, 1 litre = 0.2643 US gallons

Newspapers and Magazines:
Foreign newspapers and magazines are available in big cities and tourist areas. Also there is a Turkish daily newspaper, Daily News, published in English.

At various establishments like hotels, restaurants, Turkish baths, barbers and hairdressers, tipping at a rate of 5%-15% of the total is common. Taxi and "dolmus" drivers on the other hand, do not expect tips or even rounded fares.

Visiting a mosque:
Before entering a mosque, Muslims wash themselves and remove their shoes. Foreign visitors should also remove their shoes and show the respect they would any other house of worship and avoid visiting the mosque durin prayer time(5 times a day). Women should cover their heads and ams, and not wear miniskirts. Men should not wear shorts. (In certain famous mosques, overalls are provided for those not suitably dressed.)



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