A Complete Guide to Public Transport in Istanbul
Planning a trip to Istanbul and don’t know how to get around the city? You’re in the right place! And fortunately, getting around Istanbul is easy enough.
In this article, you can find everything about public transport network in Istanbul and alternative and fun ways to travel around the city.
Getting around Istanbul is Easy
How to Get to the City?
If you travel to Istanbul by plane, you might wonder how to get to the city from the airport. Thankfully, Istanbul has a convenient and extensive public transportation system that offers easy access to the city’s different parts.
Havaist buses are the most popular means of Istanbul public transportation for visitors (‘hava’ means air in Turkish, so the name seems like a reference to Airport-Istanbul). Havaist offers around 20 routes between the airport and multiple destinations in Istanbul.
You can purchase Havaist tickets in the ticket office near the bus stops. Also, you can use your credit card or İstanbulkart for the ride.
Since Havaist bus prices constantly change, you should visit their official webpage to see how much it costs to get to your destination and which line you should take.
You can find yellow taxis at the airport. Although taxis are more pricey than public transportation, they offer faster and more convenient transportation.
Istanbul’s metro network connects airports to the city’s prominent areas. In order to reach your destination, you can take the M4 line from Sabiha Gökçen Airport and the M11 line from Istanbul Airport. These high speed rail links will whisk you downtown as fast or faster than any other options.
See the Rapid Transit System Maps below.
Contact your hotel prior to arrival to learn whether they have private airport transfers. Some hotels may provide free airport transfers.
We also recommend Get Transfer as a trusted affiliate partner, if you prefer to book your own arrangements in advance.
What Ticket Types Are Available?
In Istanbul, there are four different ticket types you can use:
- Electronic Ticket: This type of ticket provides limited access to public transportation. It has five different types: Single ticket, Two-pass ticket, Three-pass ticket, Five-pass ticket, and Ten-pass ticket. You can find the official price list here.
- İstanbulkart (also known as Akbil): İstanbulkart, also known as Akbil, is another electronic ticket to use public transportation. You place your card near İstanbulkart readers so it can deduct the ticket price. Unlike electronic tickets, you can load as many credits as you want onto İstanbulkart. You can see fares for İstanbulkart here.
- Mavi Kart (Blue Card): Blue Card is the monthly version of İstanbulkart. Once you purchase a Blue Card, you can use it for the whole month without reloading. Check the IETT’s fare list for Blue Card prices.
- Istanbul Welcome Card: You should consider Istanbul Welcome Cards for an unforgettable Istanbul experience. The card provides you with a myriad of benefits, such as a loaded İstanbulkart, special discounts, and saving you entry fees. Visit the Istanbul Welcome Card website for more information.
Besides these tickets, you can pay cash when taking a regular yellow taxi or minibuses – dolmuş.
[metro – text = The map of Istanbul metro lines in operation. Click here to see a bigger version of the map.]
Istanbul Metro is the city’s fastest and most convenient public transportation. The railway network connects various parts of Istanbul on both the European and Asian sides.
Among nine different metro lines, M1 is the most prominent for visitors as it connects the Old Town region to the airport, passing through the city’s historic sites.
Line M1A Yenikapı-Atatürk Airport
The first rail system of Metro Istanbul, M1A, constitutes the first part of the M1 operation. It connects the Old Town (Suriçi) region to the airport. Passing through Bayrampaşa to reach the bus terminal (Otogar), the route takes you by some of Istanbul’s most prominent spots.
Line M1B Yenikapı-Kirazlı
M1B is a rail system operation that uses the same route between Yenikapı and Otogar stations as M1A. After Otogar station, M1B passes through Esenler and Bağcılar Meydan to get to Kirazlı. M1B ends in integration with M3.
Line M2 Yenikapı-Seyrantepe-Hacıosman
Starting at Hacıosman, the M2 metro line travels along the southern part of Istanbul’s historic peninsula. The line passes through Maslak and Levent, two prominent financial districts, and heads to Taksim Square. The route ends at Yenikapı station, where you can take M1A or M1B to discover Istanbul’s historic sites.
Line M3 Kirazlı-Kayaşehir Merkez
The M3 metro line travels further into Istanbul’s European Side (Avrupa Yakası). The line starts at Kirazlı-Bağcılar and heads to İSTOÇ, a significant business park. The route goes through the Başakşehir region and ends at Kayaşehir. The line’s Bakırköy-İDO extension is currently under construction and planned to commence operations by February 2024.
Line M4 Kadıköy-Sahiba Gökçen Airport
Starting at Kadıköy and heading to Acıbadem region, the M4 metro line is the first rapid transit line on Istanbul’s Asian Side (Anadolu Yakası). It is currently the longest metro line in Istanbul, with a 33.5-kilometer (20-mile) line length and 23 stations. The route passes through Maltepe and Pendik before ending at Sabiha Gökçen Airport.
Line M5 Üsküdar-Çekmeköy
The second metro line on the Asian Side and the first driverless metro system in Turkey, the M5 line starts at Üsküdar, passes through Ümraniye, and reaches its destination, Çekmeköy. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality plans to extend the metro line all the way to Sabiha Gökçen Airport in the future.
Line M6 Levent-Boğaziçi University/Hisarüstü
The M6 line is the shortest metro line in Istanbul and was built to allow access to Boğaziçi University and Hisarüstü. The line has four stations: Levet, Nispetiye, Etiler, and Boğaziçi Üniversitesi/Hisarüstü. Despite its shorter route, around 20,000 passengers use the M6 line daily. The journey takes 7 minutes, and only one train runs one way.
Line M7 Yıldız-Mahmutbey
The M7 line starts at Yıldız station in Beşiktaş and heads to Mecidiyeköy. The route goes through Kağıthane and Gaziosmanpaşa districts to end at Mahmutbey. M7 is the first fully automatic driverless metro line in Istanbul’s European Side and boasts one of the most extensive routes. Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality plans to extend the line to Esenyurt between 2025 and 2030.
Line M8 Bostancı-Dudullu-Parseller
The M8 line starts at Parseller in the heart of the Asian Side and heads to Bostancı in the south. At Bostancı station, passengers can change for Marmaray, high-speed trains or ferries. M8 connects to the M4 line at Kozyatağı and the M5 line at Dudullu.
Line M9 Bahariye-Olimpiyat
The M9 metro line is a rail system between Bahariye and Olimpiyat stations. Starting from Küçükçekmece district, the route terminates at Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Başakşehir. M9, at the moment, has only five running stations: Bahariye, Masko, İkitelli Sanayi, Ziya Gökalp Mahallesi, and Olimpiyat. Nevertheless, nine new stations are under construction and will extend the route to Ataköy by March 2024.
[tramvay – text = The map of Istanbul tram lines in operation. Click here to see a bigger version of the map.]
Tramvay is the oldest means of public transportation in Istanbul. Five Istanbul tram lines boast a 44-kilometer (27-mile) route and a daily ridership of over 400,000 people. Except for the T3 heritage tram, all tram lines in Istanbul operate on the European Side.
Line T1 Kabataş-Bağcılar
The T1 tram line, opened in 1992, is Istanbul’s oldest modern tram system. The line runs through the city’s most popular tourist attractions, such as Karaköy (Galata Tower), Eminönü (Spice Bazaar), Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque), Çemberlitaş (Burnt Column), and Beyazıt Kapalıçarşı (Grand Bazaar).
T1 is the longest among Istanbul tram lines, with a journey duration of 65 minutes. The route ends at Bağcılar, where passengers can take the M1 line.
Nostalgia Trams (T2 & T3)
Istanbul’s oldest electric tram line started to operate in 1914 and reached its greatest extent in 1956. Around 1966, the tram line ended its operations to open the way for faster transportation around the city.
For over 20 years, no tram operated in Istanbul. However, this absence only increased the traffic jams and pollution.
In 1990, the T2 Taksim-Tünel line reopened as a solution, followed by the modern tram lines. Today, the route is one of Istanbul’s two operating nostalgia tram lines.
Following the T2 line, in 2003, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality opened the T3 Kadıköy-Moda line. T3 uses the historic tram route 20 on the city’s Asian Side.
T4 Topkapı-Mescid-i Selam
T4 is the second longest tram line in Istanbul. The route follows a north-south route and boasts 22 stations. Starting at Topkapı in Zeytinburnu, T4 goes through Eyüp, Bayrampaşa, Gaziosmanpaşa, and terminates at Sultangazi. The line offers a 45-minute journey one way.
T5 Eminönü-Alibeyköy Coach Station
The T5 line follows the Golden Horn coastline in the historic peninsula. Its route features several of Istanbul’s most prominent landmarks and attractions. The line is shorter than the T1 and T4 lines, with a 10-kilometer (6-mile) length and 14 stations. The journey on the T5 line takes around 35 minutes one way.
Istanbul funicular lines connect the city’s most prominent districts to facilitate transportation between busy urban areas. Currently, all funiculars in Istanbul operate on the European Side.
The F1 funicular line, launched in 2006, is the oldest modern funicular system in Istanbul and the second oldest funicular line after F2.
The line completes its route between Kabataş and Taksim stations after a 2.5-minute journey. F1 connects with the M2 metro line at Taksim station and T1 at Kabataş Station.
F2 (Karaköy-Beyoğlu Tarihi Tünel Füniküler Hattı, or simply Tünel)
F2 is a historic funicular line in Istanbul. Opened in 1875, it was the oldest fully underground urban railway in continental Europe and the second oldest in the world. The system underwent two comprehensive renovations to modernize, one in 1970 and one in 2007.
Tünel completes its 573-meter (0.3-mile) route between Karaköy and Beyoğlu in 2.5 minutes. It connects to the M2 metro line at Beyoğlu station and the T1 tram at Karaköy.
F3 funicular line runs between Seyrantepe and Vadistanbul Mall. At Seyrantepe station, it connects with the M2 metro line. Like other Istanbul funiculars, F3 offers a 2.5-minute journey and around 100 trips.
The line facilitates access to Boğaziçi University from the Aşiyan district. It is currently the longest funicular line in Istanbul, with an 800-meter (0.5-mile) route. At Rumeli-Hisarüstü station, the line connects with M6.
Cable Car Lines
There are two operating cable car lines in Istanbul:
- TF1 (Maçka-Taşkışla)
- TF2 (Eyüp-Piyer Loti)
Both lines are on the European Side and have four stations in total. TF1 operates in the Şişli district and connects the Maçka neighborhood with Taşkışla.
TF2, on the other hand, facilitates access within the Eyüpsultan neighborhood.
You can see the location of both on the map below (courtesy of Maps Istanbul). Neither of them connect directly to the rest of the Istanbul Rapid Transit Network.
Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality plans to extend the cable car system by adding two new lines by 2029.
Istanbul has an extensive bus network that provides access to every corner of the city. There are 11.795 Istanbul bus stops as of January 2024, including 44 Metrobus stops. The 3.060-car fleet of IETT (Istanbul Electric Tram and Tünel Company) runs through these stops daily.
You can use IETT’s website to search for specific bus lines, their departure times, and routes. Also, if you don’t know how to get to a particular location, you can use the website to search for bus stops and lines near that location.
Metrobus is a bus rapid transit route with 44 stations. There are currently five Metrobus lines in Istanbul:
- 34 Avcılar – Zincirlikuyu
- 34A Söğütlüçeşme – Cevizlibağ
- 34AS Avcılar-Söğütlüçeşme
- 34BZ Beylikdüzü-Zincirlikuyu
- 34C Beylikdüzü – Cevizlibağ
- 34G Beylikdüzü – Söğütlüçeşme
- 34U Uzunçayır-Zincirlikuyu
- 34Z Zincirlikuyu – Söğütlüçeşme
The term Metrobus – or Metrobüs in Turkish – was coined by IETT and is a portmanteau of metro and bus.
Since Metrobus mostly follows a dedicated bus lane along its route, it stands out as a faster alternative to regular buses. The line starts from the Avcılar district on the European Side and follows a 52-kilometer (32-mile) route to reach Söğütlüçeşme on the Asian Side.
Minibuses operate as a shared taxi service, with cheaper prices than regular taxis. They usually have fixed routes and offer an even more extensive network than public buses.
Istanbul has six major piers:
- Eminönü (European Side)
- Beşiktaş (European Side)
- Kabataş (European Side)
- Karaköy (European Side)
- Kadıköy (Asian Side)
- Üsküdar (Asian Side)
Since the bridges over the Bosphorus are always busy, the ferry is the fastest way to travel between European and Asian sides. Plus, the sea ride provides an unforgettable experience with majestic city views.
Inner-city public ferry lines in Istanbul run every 15 to 20 minutes from 07.00 to 23.00. Some lines also offer night rides from 00:30 to 05:30.
You can use İstanbulkart or purchase tickets at the ferry dock for the ride. For more information regarding the departure times, prices, and routes, visit İstanbul Şehir Hatları.
Besides the public ferry lines, the private company Dentur Avrasya Group offers speed boat trips between ports. They operate daily and more often than public ferries. You can visit their website for active lines and schedules.
Getting Around Istanbul is Easy
Traffic in Istanbul and Ankara, I can tell you, can be pretty atrocious so it is worth taking the time to get acclimated and learn the local tram, rail and ferry routes – plus who doesn’t love a funicular or a cable car ride? That’s as much entertainment as it is transportation.
See our article on the best Instagram photo locations in Istanbul and start planning your routes!
How do I pay for public transportation in Istanbul?
You can use İstanbulkart or buy electronic cards for public transportation. Taxis and minibuses usually accept cash, whereas you can pay with your credit card in some taxis.
How much is the İstanbulkart card in 2024?
As of January 2024, İstanbulkart full-fare is 15 TRY, and Mavi Kart full-fare is 1,177 TRY.
Electronic ticket prices are:
- Single ticket – 20 TRY
- Two-pass ticket – 38 TRY
- Three-pass ticket – 60 TRY
- Five-pass ticket – 90 TRY
- Ten-pass ticket – 170 TRY
However, since fares constantly change, visit IETT’s website to see the current pricing.
What is the cheapest way to get around Istanbul?
Public transportation, especially the metro, is the cheapest way to travel around Istanbul. You can also use minibuses, which usually have similar pricing to public transportation.
Are taxis cheap in Istanbul?
Compared to other means of transportation, taxis are generally an expensive option. The taxi fare per kilometer is usually equivalent to the bus fare.
Can I use Uber in Istanbul?
While Uber is available in Istanbul, it uses regular yellow taxis. However, it is still more convenient and affordable. You can also use iTaksi or BiTaxi apps for a ride.
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