Istanbul Transportation Guide & Best Local Tips

Table of Contents

Important Facts About Transportation in Istanbul

Here are what you should know about transportation in Istanbul for your trip:

  • You will need an Akbil (Istanbul transportation card) or Istanbul Welcome Card to use public transportation.
  • Airports are far away from the center of the city.
  • Using public transportation is practical if it is around the metro and ferry.
  • Buses can be late and stuffy.
  • Not all taxi drivers are trustworthy so use the BiTaksi or Uber application.
  • 8-9 AM and 5-6 PM are rush hours.
  • Turkey uses right-hand traffic.

Istanbul Airports

istanbul airport

Istanbul has two international airports:

  • Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW)
  • Istanbul Airport (IST)

Normally, Istanbul has another airport called Atatürk Airport but because it was capacity and the area around it was not eligible for expansion. So, it was closed as soon as the new airport was ready.

Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW)

Sabiha Gokcen Airport is one of the international airports in Istanbul. Opened in 2002, the airport is named after Atatürk’s adoptive daughter, Sabiha Gökçen, who is the first female combat pilot in the world. Acting as a hub between Europe and Asia, Sabiha Gokcen reports 200 thousand aircraft movements and 15 million passengers in 2022.

Although Sabiha Gokcen is not that close to the popular districts, compared to Istanbul Airport it is so much closer to the city center. Moreover, there’s M4 metro line whose last station is Sabiha Gokcen Airport. You can think that metro lines are improved just for for a better experience in Istanbul transportation.

Istanbul Airport (IST)

Istanbul Airport is a new airport built in 2009 in place of the closed airport, Atatürk Airport. Because Sabiha Gökçen was at its capacity and the area around Atatürk Airport wouldn’t meet the required space expansion, the only choice was building a new airport outside the city with no area limitations.

Istanbul Airport covers 76.5 million square meters of area. As it is another international airport that works with 114 countries, Istanbul Airport has become one of the most popular hubs for the airways. It was chosen as the 7th busiest airport in the world by serving 64 million passengers in 2022. 

How to Leave or Go to Istanbul Airports?

So, how to get from Istanbul airport to the city center or go to one of these airports? Here are the options:

  • Use the metro: With few transits, you can go to both the city center and airports. Use M11 for Istanbul Airport, M4 metro for Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Metro is the fastest way to travel in Istanbul.
  • Go with shuttle buses (Havabuses): These buses go back and forth between Taksim/Kadıköy – Sabiha Gökçen Airport. It roughly takes 1.5 hours to get to the destination. One Havabus ticket costs 102.50 TL (3.81 USD). Getting a ticket is mandatory for kids above the age of 5.
  • Public buses: Numerous buses go to both airports in Istanbul.
  • Private transfer services: If you have bought a tour package or something similar, just enjoy your VIP transfer.
  • Taxi or Uber: If you have lots of luggage it can be bothering to carry all the stuff.

Public Buses for Istanbul Airport Transportation

To go to Sabiha Gökçen Airport you can take these buses:

Asian side

  • E10: Departs from Kadiköy
  • E11: Departs from Kadıköy (Express)
  • SG1: Departs from Kadıköy (Express)
  • 16S: Departs from Üsküdar Harem

European side

  • E3: Departs from 4. Levent Metro (Express)
  • 122H: Departs from 4. Levent Metro
  • SG2: Departs from Taksim (Express)

To go to Istanbul Airport you can take these buses:

European side

  • H-1: Departs from Mahmutbey Metro (Express)
  • H-2: Departs from Mecidiyeköy Metrobus (Express)

Normally, there are more buses overall but we prepared this list considering your possible locations. You can check bus stops, routes, and schedules from the official Istanbul Electric Tram and Tunnel Enterprises (IETT) website.

Istanbul Public Transportation Options

Here are all the public Istanbul transportation vehicles you can use during your trip:

  • Buses
  • Minibusses
  • Metro
  • Metrobus
  • Ferries
  • Scooters or Bikes
  • Trams
  • Funicular
  • Taxi/Uber
  • Dolmuş
  • Cable car

Transportation in Istanbul is easy as long as you are not caught in rush hour traffic. Most locals prefer to use the metro, Marmaray, Metrobus, trams and ferries. Other transportation vehicles such as minibusses, dolmuş, and taxis are seen as secondary transports by most of the locals.

Public Buses

istanbul bus istanbul buses

The network of public buses in Istanbul is wide. These buses are everywhere. There are more than 13,000 bus stops and around 6,000 buses running in the city. Even so, buses are not the ideal transportation if you are in Istanbul, especially during the rush hour. The congestion is real and you can get stuck. Or, you may wait for a long time for a specific bus.

Buses charge 15 TL for one ride, regardless of the number of passed stops. You don’t need to think about the price while using the Istanbul Welcome Card.


istanbul minibus

Minibusses in Istanbul are like low-capacity and cash-only buses. However, they don’t have an official website to check their route or schedules, you just learn it yourself like every local. But visitors don’t need to know which minibus goes to where particularly. They will spend most of their time in popular areas where they can easily access the metro.

Minibus prices vary depending on the neighborhood and how far will you go.


istanbul metro map

Currently, the Istanbul metro system has 11 metro lines and new lines are under construction. If possible, most locals prefer using the metro to go places because it is fast and practical. In addition to the metro lines, there’s “Marmaray” which is the underground line to cross between Asian and European sides. In contrast to the metro, Marmaray charges you more and you get a refund according to how many stops you have traveled.

Generally, it takes 2-3 minutes between each station and a new ride comes every 5-10 minutes. Some lines stop working after 12 PM while some continue giving a ride every 15-30 minutes. Marmaray works until 2 AM. 

Metros in Istanbul charges 15 TL per ride, and Marmaray costs 25 TL but you can get a refund from the machines at the stations. However, if you are using the Istanbul Welcome Card, you don’t need to use refund machines. Also, if you are using an anonymous IstanbulCard, you can’t get a refund.


istanbul metrobus

Metrobus is one of the fastest ways to go from one point to another in Istanbul. As can be understood from its name, it’s a type of bus that has more passenger capacity compared to normal public buses, has its own special road like a metro, and special stations.

Because Metrobus connects both sides of Istanbul from Söğütlüçeşme Kadıköy and Beylikdüzü, they are the number 1 transportation for workers. Especially during commute times of the day (6-8 AM and 6-7 PM), you may not be able to hop on the first one that arrives at the station. Nevertheless, a new one will arrive one after another frequently.

Metrobus working hours: 24/7

Departures will be every 30 minutes between 01.00 – 5.30 AM. You can also get a refund depending on the number of stations you have passed. If you are using an anonymous IstanbulCard or a welcome card, you can’t get a refund.


istanbul ferry istanbul bosphorus istanbul bosphorus tour

Ferries are the best way to change the sides in Istanbul. You feel the breeze, smell the sea, and watch the seagulls while someone throws simit at them. Istanbul ferry services are located at Üsküdar and Kadiköy on the Asian side, Eminönü, Karaköy, Kabataş, and Beşiktaş on the European side.

There are three different ferry providers: PublicIDO, and Turyol. The departures of the public ferries start at 7 AM and end at 11 PM. Other providers may offer rides for late times. Every 10-15 minutes, there will be a ferry to the other side.

Ferries charge 15 TL to cross the Bosphorus for anonymous IstanbulCards.

Scooters or Bikes

There are countless scooters or electric bikes spread over the streets of Istanbul. These vehicles can be rented via their provider’s application. They can be handy in situations where you need to go somewhere far on foot but too close for a taxi. However, try to ride these scooters as short as possible because they can be costly.


istanbul tram

There are five tram lines in Istanbul:

Kabataş – Bağcılar tram line (T1)

You can go to Galata Tower, Spice Bazaar, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, Topkapı, and Yavuz Selim Mosque.

Working hours: 6 AM – Midnight

The nostalgic Taksim tram line (T2)

Passes the iconic Istiklal avenue

Working hours: Mon-Sat 7 AM – 9:45 PM / Sun 7:30 AM – 10:45 PM

The nostalgic Kadıköy – Moda tram line (T3)

Discover the inner areas of Kadıköy.

Working hours: 7 AM – Midnight

Topkapı – Mescid-i Selam Tram Line (T4)

Discover the inner areas of Istanbul.

Working hours: 6 AM – Midnight


Eminonu – Alibeykoy Coach Station Tram Line (T5)

Enjoy the watery scene while traveling to Eyüp.

Working hours: 6 AM – Midnight

A ride in Istanbul trams costs 15 TL for people without a pass.


Taksim – Kabataş Funicular Line (F1)

At the end of Istiklal Avenue, you can take this funicular line to go to Beşiktaş.

Working hours: 6.15 AM – Midnight

Aşiyan – Boğaziçi University Funicular Line (F4)

You can access the M6 metro line with this funicular line.

Working hours: 6.15 AM – Midnight

Taxi & Uber

Taking a taxi in Istanbul can be bothersome for tourists in Istanbul. In popular areas, some of the drivers can be sneaky about the price and ask for more. Also, there are taxis without an official license, the pirate taxis, you have to beware of them as well. Make sure that the driver starts the taximeter and doesn’t give you a random price he made up. You can use an app called “BiTaksi” to find yourself a reliable taxi in Istanbul.

Uber, on the other hand, can be safer than taxis when it comes to price. 

Dolmuş (Shared Taxi)

istanbul dolmus

Dolmuş are the yellow vans you see around. They have a specific route just like minibusses but don’t have any official schedules you can check. Dolmuş means “full” in English but the vehicle can depart if there aren’t enough people. 

Dolmuş routes in Istanbul:

  • Beşiktaş – Taksim
  • Kadıköy – Çiçekçi – Üsküdar
  • Kadıköy – Taksim
  • Taksim – Topkapı – Cevizlibağ
  • Taksim – Aksaray – Kocamustafapaşa
  • Nişantaşı – Eminönü

Cable Car

istanbul cable car

Maçka – Taşkışla Aerial Cable Car Line (TF1)

The cable car passes over the Democracy Park and Beyoglu Marriage Office, providing an amazing view for the passengers.

Working hours: 8 AM – 7 PM

Eyüp – Pierre Loti Aerial Cable Car Line (TF2)

You can go up to Pierre Loti Hill to dine and enjoy the view.

Working hours: 8 AM – 11 PM

Car Renting in Istanbul for Tourists

Car renting may not be the ideal option for tourists who come to Istanbul for the first time:

  • Renting a car is not cost-efficient for traveling compared to public transportation
  • Finding a parking spot can be hard in Istanbul
  • Parking lots can be expensive
  • Aggressive drivers can be bothersome
  • Istanbul’s road network is complex

Overall, you can see that transportation in Istanbul can be confusing. But once you grab the basics and learn how the system works, you will understand why most people favor some options to the others. Have a safe trip!

Private Transportation Options in Istanbul

If you don’t want to deal with public transportation in Istanbul at all, you have lots of choices in terms of private transportation. One of the best and most affordable options in Istanbul is Vipser

Vipser offers convenient and quality VIP transfers in Istanbul solely focusing on serving the most comfortable rides. They can take you anywhere; from the airport to the city center or from one specific point to another. Check their official website to see how they work!