How to use Istanbul’s Metro

How to use Istanbul's metro system

Only opened in 2000, the Istanbul metro system makes getting around so much easier for tourists and locals alike. The metro trains are air-conditioned and, compared to many other cities, extremely spacious and clean.

Six metro lines are now operating, many providing easy connections to tram and funicular lines. There are two main lines on the European side. The M1 line (the red line on all metro maps) has two branches on its western side: The M1A line starts at the (now closed to passengers) Ataturk airport, while the M1B line begins at Kirazli, with both ending at Yenikapi.

Both the M1 branches also connect to Istanbul’s main bus terminal (Otogar station).

Also serving the European side, the M2 line (the green line on the maps) runs from Yenikapi to Haciosman. The M2 line (Yenikapi Metro Stop) carries passengers from the historical Fatih area (featuring The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Basilica Cistern, Suleymaniye Mosque, The Spice Bazaar, Valens Aquaduct and other points of interest) to the leafy villages of the Sariyer district on the Bosporus coast. The M2 – and the recently opened, three-stop M6 line that connects at the Levent station – provide excellent connectivity to many of Istanbul’s top shopping malls (Metrocity, Kanyon, Ozdilek Park, Sapphire-4th tallest building in Turkey), as well as to the city’s financial district.

On the Asian side, the two main lines are the M4 from Kadıköy to Tavşantepe, and the M6 from Üsküdar to Çekmeköy.

Unfortunately, no metro lines presently serve Istanbul’s brand-new international airport. The M11 metro line that will serve the new airport is scheduled to be opened by the end of 2019, but if recent history is any guide, could well be subject to delays. When opened, the M11 line will connect to the M2 line.

How Do You Buy A Ticket?

There are various ways to get metro ticket. Electronic card point of sales, Biletmatik or Jetonmatik token machines allow you to buy metro tickets. They are located at metro stations (at the street-level outside the metro station or mostly underground metro stations) major bus stops, tram stations and also ferry docks or you can buy the ticket at snack/newspaper kiosks. You can buy your ticket or reload your credit onto your Istanbulkart with coin, Turkish lira notes or credit card. The machines’ intructions are English, German and Turkish.  

Is There A Transport Pass?

If you are planning to stay more than 2-3 days and need to use public transportation multiple times during a day, Istanbul Card (Istanbul Kart), prepaid and rechargeable, will come in handy. There are also different types of tickets to use the metro: electronic fare cards (one-time use or reusable tickets which can be swiped twice, three-times,.., up to 10 times), token (jeton) or Besi bir yerde kart which allows you to trip 5 times and saves you from buying 5 tokens at a time.

Insider tip 1: If your children younger than 6 years old and do not occupy a seat, they can travel without a ticket. 
Insider tip 2: If it is written ‘arızalıdır’ or ‘hizmet dışıdır’ on the machine, it means ‘it is out of order’, so do not use this machine to get your ticket.