Essential advice for the world’s most interesting city

How to use Istanbul’s public transportation

How to use Istanbul's public transportation

There are an amazing number of public transport options in Istanbul: an underground metro, ferries galore, trams, a funicular railway, even an aerial lift/cable car. Getting around Istanbul by tram, metro, ferry, bus, mini-bus, or shared taxi is safe, cheap, efficient, and reliable. This article tells you exactly how to get around Istanbul quickly and inexpensively.

The city’s public transportation network has improved and expanded in leaps and bounds in the past few years. The list of transport choices really is very long indeed and are becoming more thoroughly interconnected at an amazing pace. What’s more, getting around by public transportation brings you closer to the friendly locals, and can be a lot of fun!

Istanbul public transport is usually quicker than a taxi

Istanbul traffic jams can be the stuff of nightmares! Who would want to waste precious vacation time, stuck on the streets in gridlocked, choking traffic, for what seemed like an eternity?

And while it would be more than a little misleading to claim that the city’s notorious traffic jams have somehow magically evaporated … at least for visitors, they present so much less of a problem than in years past, due to Istanbul’s greatly upgraded public transit system.

What are the main types of public transportation available in Istanbul?

Tram/streetcar:

There are two, ultra-modern, slick and air-conditioned tram lines that serve many of the main tourist areas: the T1 line from Kabataş to Sultanahmet and the T4 line between Topkapı and Mescid-i selam. Read more…

The Metro

Istanbul’s six nearly-brand-new Istanbul metro lines make getting around the city incredibly easy for tourists and locals alike. The metro trains are air-conditioned and, compared to many other cities, extremely spacious and clean. Read more…

Ferries (Vapur)

Istanbul’s waterways are crossed by many different ferries which not only provide convenient travel, but also spectactular, unmissable views. Read more…

Funicular railways (Füniküler)

Istanbul’s two funicular railways bring you far above the madding crowd to give access, views, and an escape from a short steep walk. Read more…

Gondolas / cable cars / aerial tramways (Telerefik)

High above Istanbul are two aerial lines that afford stunning views over the city. Read more… 

Istanbul’s (many) other Public Transportation Options

There are also many, many other options for getting about Istanbul – from the 400 (!) regular bus lines (Otobüs), to taxis and shared taxis. Of course, visitors then run the risk of getting snared in what can often be hellish gridlock.

Shared taxis

Not to be confused with private taxis, Istanbul’s shared “Taksi Dolmuş” are minibuses with specific routes that only leave when they are full (typically with eight passengers), but are excellent value. Pricing depends on distances travelled, but are generally around 4-5 TL. 

On the European side, the most useful routes for tourists are between Taksim and popular destinations like Beşiktaş, Bakırköy, Topkapı, Tesvikiye (Nisantasi), Kadıköy and Yeşilköy

There are also shared taxi lines connecting the European and Asian halves from Besiktas and Taksim.

You can either go to a dolmuş for a certain route, or flag them down on the street. However, it’s often difficult to get a shared taxi to stop on the busier routes, since they’re more than likely to already be full.

Before you get into the minibus, make sure you’re about to hop on the correct one. Their point of origin and final destination are displayed on the front window, usually on the passenger’s side. Once you’re sure it’s going in the right direction, just hop in and take a seat.

Minibus

Dolmuş minibüs can be found all over Istanbul, and normally only set off when all the seats (usually around 15) are taken, general every five to ten minutes.

When you want to get off, simply shout ‘inecek var’ (pronounced “een-eh ZHECK-var”), since there are no official stops.

You should bear in mind that, while shared taxis operate 24/7, minibus service ends around 11-12 pm. Although still great value, shared taxis are more expensive than the minibus. Prices depend on distance, of course, but shared taxi trips average around 5-6 TL, while a minibus will generally cost you around 3-4 TL.

Metrobus

The Metrobus is a rapid bus system in Istanbul which runs on dedicated lanes on the road. Service runs from Beylikduzu Sondurak on the European side, over the Bosphorous Bridge to Sogutlucesme on the Asian side, providing a stunning panoramic view of the city for only 4 TL.

Useful public transportation links

Ferries: http://www.sehirhatlari.com.tr/

IETT (Istanbul Public Transportation Authority): https://www.iett.istanbul/en

Metro Istanbul: https://www.metro.istanbul/