Istanbulkart RFID Transit Pass

Istanbulkart is an RFID “electronic wallet” card to be used in Istanbul, Turkey. (Similar RFID cards are used in many other cities: Oyster Card in London, Navigo in ParisCharlie Card in Boston, etc.)

The first and obvious use of the Istanbulkart is as a transit pass:you place the card on the turnstile sensor (say, at a Metro or ferryboat turnstile, or when boarding a city bus) and the amount of your fare is deducted from the card.

There are several types of cards. The Anonim Kart is the best for short-term visitors: you just put money on it and use it. Other cards are those for Turkish students, monthly commuters, retired and handicapped, etc., but the Anonim Kart is the one for you.

You can use one Istanbulkart to pay for several passengers. Place the card on the sensor, allow a passenger to go through the turnstile, place the card on the sensor again, second passenger goes through, etc. If you transfer to another vehicle in the transport system, thefare for the first passenger using the card is discounted, but fares for any additional passengers using the card are full-fare; so if you plan to do a lot of traveling on public transport, you may want an Istanbulkart for each passenger.

The Istanbulkart, which has superceded the older Akbil transit pass, benefits from discounted fares. More…

Istanbulkart Vending Machine, Istanbul, Turkey
“Electronic Card
Point of Sale”

Istanbulkarts are sold by Istanbulkart vending machines and supposedly by Biletmatik machines, but the latter sometimes will not sell you an Istanbulkart.

You put a TL10 note into the machine to buy the card, which costs TL6 and comes with TL4 in fare credit on it. If you want more fare credit, you can insert more bills to load more credit. I’d suggest at least TL10 in credit (three+ fares) for a single traveler, or TL20 for a couple. Here are the fares.

You can buy an Istanbulkart at some newsstands for TL7 or 8, with no fare credit on it. Some hotels may sell Istanbulkarts to their guests at various prices, as a convenience.

You may also be able to buy an Istanbulkart at commercial kiosks (little stands that sell newspapers, snacks, cigarettes, chewing gum, etc.) near major transit stops such as EminönüSultanahmet,Beyazıt/Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar)Taksim Square, etc. (The easiest place to find one is probably Eminönü.) Look for the word Istanbulkart or Akbil or phrase Dolum Noktası (Refill Point) on kiosks—they’ll probably have Istanbulkarts to sell and load.

Istanbulkarts are also on sale at the Atatürk Airport (IST) Metro stationMore…

How to Refill Istanbulkart

Biletmatik Metro ticket machine, Istanbul, Turkey

It’s quite simple to put more money on your card when you understand the process. There’s a display screen and recorded voice prompts with English-language option, but you can ignore them. (Imagine: a learning curve you don’t have to climb!)

Just follow these simple directions:

1. Find a biletmatik refill machine like this one—>.

2. Place your card FLAT on the sensor pad labeled ISTANBULKART.

Istanbulkart Refill Machine Money Slot, Istanbul, Turkey
Slide your money into the Kağıt Para slot…

3. Wait 5 to 10 seconds for the sensor to identify it. (The display screen will change and the recorded voice will say something.)

4. Slide a TL5, 10 or 20 note into the Kağıt Para Girişi/Banknotes money slot.

5. Wait 10 seconds for the money to be loaded. (The display will change and the voice will say something different.)

6. Pick up your card and walk away.

The Future of Istanbulkart

The Istanbulkart project envisions that eventually the Istanbulkart will be used to pay for parking fees, taxi fares, admission to museums, cinemas, theaters and other cultural venues, and even for personal identification. You may find other ways to use it for small payments.

—by Tom Brosnahan


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