Istanbul travel and public transportation guide

Istanbul Transportation by Plane Airport

Istanbul travel guide, tourist info, visa procedure, airports, exchange rates, public transportation by bus, plane, train, railway, tramcar, metro, sea, ferryboats

Air Transportation in Istanbul

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. 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.

Istanbul Airport (New Airport) was partially opened in late 2018. It will be the major international airport of the city after completion and Ataturk Airport flights will be shifted to this one.  When all flights have moved from Ataturk Airport, the new Istanbul Airport will take the IATA code IST, which was being used by Ataturk Airport. Havabus is the airport bus provider offering shuttle services with departures linked to the flights. Although the capacity of the new Istanbul Airport is one of the biggest in the world, unfortunately it is much farther then Ataturk, being located roughly 40 km away from city center. Also, there is no subway connection to the new airport, unlike Ataturk. So it will take at least another half an hour to reach to new airport compared to Ataturk.

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.

See below for public transportation option from Istanbul's airports to city center.

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.

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: Phone: +90 212) 465 30 00 - Web:
Sabiha Gokcen Airport - Phone: +90 216 588 88 88 Web:
Havabus Airport Shuttle:

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

















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New York






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Rio de laneiro






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Cape Town


Public Transportation in Istanbul

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.

Alternative public transportation systems are tramcar, metro and subway lines operated by Istanbul Ulasim. The most useful rail transportation options are  M1 Ataturk Airport- Yenikapi; M2 Yenikapi - Haciosman (via Taksim) metro lines and and T1 Zeytinburnu - Kabatas (via Sultanahmet) tramcar line.

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 Istanbul Kart (Card), which can be purchased and refilled at kiosks available in central bus and metro stations. Istanbul cart can be used for all public transportation systems, including IETT buses, ferryboats, subway, light metro and trams. Otherwise, public transportation tickets and tokens can be obtained from ticket automats or from kiosks near major stations. Public transportation with IstanbulKart for one way costs roughly around 1 US $ or 0.7 Euros in Istanbul (based on volatile exchange rates). After first use of Istanbul card, you get approximately %30-40 discount for maximum 5 different "combining lines" you take within 2 hours. Ticket costs will be deduced from the amount of money you deposited to your card.

Airport - City Transport in Istanbul

There is M1 Metro Line from Ataturk Airport up to Yenikapi; not too far from Sultanahmet district which is the center of historical city. From Yenikapi Metro Terminal you can continue to Taksim district with M2 Metro Line. Scheduled total duration of journeys are around 40 minutes between Ataturk Airport - Yenikapi; and 15 minutes between Yenikapi -Taksim.

If you want to go to Sultanahmet, you need to get off at M1 Aksaray Metro Station , and walk to T1 Yusufpasa trams station. Less advisably, you can also switch to tramcar from Zeytinburnu which is also an interchange station between metro and tram lines. T1 tramcar line passes from Sultanahmet and goes up to Kabatas. The scheduled journey time between Zeytinburnu - Kabatas is about 50-60 minutes which is the terminal station of T1 tramway. Kabatas is also connected to Taksim Subway by a funicular. Although it is just a minute lasting journey, you need to pay for the funicular additionally.

The most comfortable and comparatively economic way of getting to Taksim from Ataturk Airport are using privately operated Havabus airport shuttle buses. Havabus shuttles to Taksim are also available from Sabiha Gokcen Airport on the Asian side of Istanbul, which is the most recommended transportation option if your plane is landing there. Havabus shuttles do not go into Sultanahmet district, but the ones coming from Ataturk Airport pass through Aksaray, from where you can get there by T1 tramcar or with a short taxi ride.

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

Sea Transport in Istanbul

Attention: Kabatas ferryboat pier was closed due to extensive renovation in August 2016 and will not be serving until mid 2018 expectedly. The ferry lines from Kabatas were shifted to ferry piers in Besiktas and Eminonu. Click here for relevant news article.

The company owned by Istanbul municipality 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 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 / Pierre Loti) are the most popular sea transportation routes.

Kabatas ferry pier (vapur iskelesi) can be reached by funicular from Taksim square, and by T1 tramcar from old city, 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 10 minutes walking distance to Aksaray tram station at town square.

Most enjoyable ferryboat journey would be taking the morning Bosphorus cruise (Bogaz turu) of Sehir Hatlari from Eminonu to Sariyer. Bogaz turu takes a little over an hour and it stops at several other small towns and fishing villages along the Bosphorus. You can also book guided half day morning / afternoon Bosphorus tours including transfer from your hotel. 

Istanbul's International cruise port is located centrally not very far from Taksim and Sultanahmet, in Salipazari, Karakoy district. Huge ships of international cruise liners dock here. Western tourists 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.

Attention: Kabatas ferryboat pier was closed due to extensive renovation in August 2016 and will not be serving until mid 2018 expectedly. The ferry lines from Kabatas were shifted to ferry piers in Besiktas and Eminonu. Click here for relevant news article.

Railway & Suburb Train

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.  However, most of the suburban train line was closed for rehabilitation works on 1 March 2013.

Trains are not as popular as intercity coaches for long distance transportation, with a much smaller and less frequent network. There are rail connections from Istanbul to Ankara, Izmir and some 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.  High Speed Railways in Turkey began service in 2009. Turkish state railways company, TCDD  has branded its high-speed service as Yüksek Hızlı Tren or briefly YHT. High speed trains currently operates on two lines: the Ankara - Eskişehir portion of the Istanbul - Ankara high-speed railway and the Ankara - Konya high-speed railway, which opened in August, 2011. Reservations are essential for intercity journeys, and there are several classes of seats and sleepers.


Other Practical Travel Information for Istanbul:

Turkish Lira - Live Exchange Rates

Please remember that the exchange rates on this table are average rates. The exchange offices and banks applies higher rates when you sell a foreign currency, lower rates when you buy it. You can also exchange popular international currencies - mainly Euro and US Dollars - in other places such as big markets, dress shops, restaurants, hotels, night clubs etc if you buy something from them. Tourist hotels would exchange money without buying anything. But note that they will charge extra commissions in these places; roughly around 5- 10 %. For this reason it is wise to change your money during office hours in day time at the banks or private money exchange offices, since there are many of them in central districts. Changing money at private exchange offices are much faster because they only deal with money-exchange, while you will need to wait in line for a while at the banks. Also avoid exchanging a lot of money at the airports, where the rates are also not very favorable. Do not trust taxi drivers with money exchange. If you need a taxi ride to get away from the airport, either bargain them for a fixed price in Euros / US Dollars, or buy a small amount of Turkish Lira at the airport, sufficient to reach your hotel or city center.

Tourism Police
Address: Alemdar Mh Yerebatan Caddesi No: 6, Sultanahmet. (across from the main entrance of Basilica Cistern)
Phone: +90 212 527 4503

Tourist Information Offices
Taksim : + 90 (0212) 233 05 92
Sultanahmet : +90 (0212) 518 18 02 / (0212) 518 74 54
Sirkeci:  + 90 (0212) 511 58 88
Karakoy: +90 (0212) 249 57 76
Ataturk Airport: + 90 (0212) 465 31 51 / (0212) 465 35 47
Sabiha Gökçen Airport: +90 (0216) 588 87 94

Important Phones
Governorship : (+90-212) 514 17 50
Municipality : (+90-212) 512 55 00
Hospital : (+90-212) 588 48 00 / 113 / Ambulance: 112
Police : (+90-212) 635 00 00  / 155

Turkish Visa
Tourist visa procedure for Turkey considerably differ depending of the nationality of visitors, but it is easy in most cases. Since 2013 Electronic Visa application system was launched which can be obtained online.

Newspapers and Magazines:
Foreign newspapers and magazines are available in big cities and tourist areas. Also there is also Hurriyet's Daily News published in English which covers international and local news .

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 arms, and not wear miniskirts. Men should not wear shorts. (In certain famous mosques, overalls are provided for those not suitably dressed.)

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.
Attention:  In 2016 Turkey adopted daylight saving time for winter period also which was being adjusted only in summer. The time zone will be constantly GMT + 3 thereafter, which means the time difference indicated will be one hour more during winter compared to most of above figures.

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

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

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


Turkish Visa Procedure

The Electronic Visa (e-Visa) Application System was launched on 17 April 2013 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey. This system allows visitors traveling to Turkey to easily obtain their e-Visas online in approximately three minutes. It is possible to obtain e-Visa 7/24 at everywhere with internet connection. The applicants can obtain their visa after they fill in the necessary information concerning their identity, passport and travel dates and pay visa fee online.
For detailed information please click here

See also:

Major Districts in Istanbul Historical Landmarks Culture and Art Guide A Brief History of Istanbul



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