Istanbul is a large, congested, bustling city. You'll enjoy your visit much more if you know how to get around before you arrive. Click here for my map of Istanbul Transport & Transfers.
Airport to City
Bus Station to City
Sea Bus Ferries
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Istanbul has three airports at the moment, soon to be reduced to two.and a new giant one building. Until the end of 2018, Istanbul's (and Turkey's) major airport is Atatürk International Airport (IST) near Yeşilyurt 23 km (14 miles) west of the city center, reachable by Metro (map).
Atatürk and Sabiha Gökçen airports are 60 km (37 miles) distant, or about 70 km (44 miles) by the highway. The new Istanbul Airport is 83 km (52 miles) northwest of Sabiha Gökçen Airport, a drive of more than an hour in light traffic.
Traditional white Şehir Hatları ferryboats, and smaller ferries by TurYol, Dentur Avrasya, and other companies, serve shorter water routes and are the most enjoyable way to get around Istanbul(map). More...
Istanbul has three intercity bus terminals:
—The major Istanbul International Bus Terminal (Büyük Otogar) at Esenler on the western side of the Bosphorus (reachable by Metro: map), serving the entire country as well as Greece, Bulgaria, the Balkans, Europe, and some Middle East destinations.
Marmaray is Istanbul's regional commuter rail line connecting Europe and Asia through a rail tunnel beneath the Bosphorus. Inaugurated on Republic Day (29 October) 2013, the 90th anniversary of the proclamation of the Turkish Republic, the system currently has five stations open in the heart of the city, with the farther stations to east and west to be opened in the future. More...
—M1, Airport—Aksaray: The most useful for foreign visitors is the light-rail line connecting Atatürk Airport and Aksaray Square via Istanbul's mammoth Büyük Otogar (main intercity bus terminal), at which you can board a bus to any part of Turkey or to virtually any country within 1000 miles (1600 km) of Istanbul. Change from the Metro to the tram at Zeytinburnu to reach Old Istanbul and Sultanahmet Square. More...
—M2, Yenikapı—Hacıosman: A standard-gauge Metro line goes north from Yenikapı near the fast ferry terminal, past Aksaray, over the Golden Horn to Şişhane (Tünel Square) and Taksim Square, then to the northern commercial and financial districts and nearly to Tarabya on the Bosphorus. More...
—M4, Kadıköy—Kartal: Speed from the ferry docks in Kadıköy, on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, to Kartal, 25 km (16 miles) to the southeast along the Sea of Marmara shore, then take a bus to Sabiha Gökçen Airport or the Pendik YHT high-speed train station.
Passenger catamarans zoom around the city at rush hour, and out to the Princes Islands several times daily. There are even Sea of Marmara routes to Yalova and Bandırma on the sea's southern shore. More...
Foreign cruise ships and international ferries dock at the Yolcu Salonu in Karaköy at the northern end of the Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn, right in the center of the city, and at Salıpazar(Galataport) just to the northeast. More...
Thousands of yellow taxis powered by clean-burning liquified natural gas, throng Istanbul's streets. You'll find them useful and not overly expensive, though the incidence of unpleasantness can be high. More...
Istanbul has two historic train stations, neither of which is in current use for intercity or international trains: Istanbul (Sirkeci) Garı on the Golden Horn, and Haydarpaşa Garı on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus.
HistoricHaydarpaşa Station is currently out of service. YHT high-speed trains now terminate at the Pendik YHT Gar, 12 km (7.5 miles) southwest of Sabiha Gökçen Airport and 30 km (19 miles) southeast of Haydarpaşa Station. More...
You'll find two of Istanbul's tram lines useful, even though they're as different as can be. Although the nostalgic 19th-century İstiklal Caddesi (Nostaljik) tram in Beyoğlu is more fun, the Kabataş-Bağcılar tram is the more useful and can help you travel between the heart of the tourist district at Sultanahmet Square and the Otogar (bus terminal) and/or Atatürk Airport. More...
The old-fashioned jeton (token) is the most common—and expensive—way to pay a fare in Istanbul. It's much cheaper to use electronic tickets and transit passes for Metro, tram, bus, ferry, train, Tünel, Füniküler and more. More...
Tünel is Istanbul's historic (1875) two-station underground train, second oldest in the world, connecting Karaköy (Galata) on the Golden Horn with Tünel Square at the southwestern end of İstiklal Caddesi. It's convenient and fun. More...
The best way to get around Old Istanbul's compact medieval core is on foot. Traffic is sometimes so heavy, and traffic patterns so circuitous, that you can often walk somewhere faster than riding. More...
—by Tom Brosnahan
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