Istanbulkart RFID Transit Pass
Istanbulkart is an RFID "electronic wallet" card to be used in Istanbul, Turkey for all types of public transportation.
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.
Which Card Should I Get?
There are several types of cards. The Anonim Kart (anonymous card) 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.
Once you purchase your card you will be able to use it for multiple people. So instead of buying various cards, you can easily buy one card, and refill it every time you need.
Where Can I Buy an IstanbulKart?
- Istanbulkarts are sold by Istanbulkart vending machines which you can find at many metro, bus, marmaray and tram stops. The vending machines are bright yellow colored, which makes it hard to miss them. It’s also possible to purchase one at both international airports.
- If there is no vending machine nearby where you can buy an Istanbulkart, you can often purchase them in commercial kiosks (stands that sell newspapers, snacks, cigarettes, chewing gum, etc.) along the roads, which are called BÜFE in Turkey. They are especially prevalent near major transit stops such as Eminönü, Sultanahmet, Beyazıt/Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar), Taksim Square, etc. Usually, you can see a label reading “Istanbulkart Alış-Satış”, meaning it’s a sales point for the Istanbulkart.
- There are also some hotels that sell these cards to their guests at various prices, which will make it much easier for you the moment you arrive in Istanbul.
Once at a kiosk, to buy a card, push on the button reading Istanbulkart Satın Al / Purchase Istanbulkart on the vending machine. Once you put money into the machine to purchase the card, anything more than the cost of the card will go on as fare credit. If you want more fare credit, you can insert more bills to load more credit. Here are the fares. After completing this step, your card will be available for collection from the receptacle at the bottom of the machine.
Ticket or Istanbulkart?
A lot of people are confused about whether to buy a transportation ticket or an Istanbulkart. In every vending machine, you can buy both of them. But which one is more affordable and beneficial for short-term visitors. Hands down, it is the Istanbulkart. Even if you only plan to stay in Istanbul for one or two days, we still would recommend buying an Istanbulkart, which you can refill and reuse whenever you need.
However, if you are willing to purchase a single use from the vending machine, you have to select the option reading Bilet Satış, translated as Ticket Sale, and put in the necessary amount of money. This way you will get a paper ticket which will be valid for a single use.
How Does it Work?
Your Istanbulkart can be used in any public transportation; Bus, Metro, Tram, Metrobus, Marmaray. While taking the Bus, Metro, Ferry or Tram, you pay a fixed amount every time you make use of it. However, if you transfer to another vehicle in the transport system, the fare is discounted.
The system for the Metrobus and Marmaray works a bit differently. You pay for the number of stops you go. The amount of money that initially drops from your card is the price of a total ride, from the first to the last stop. If you disembark earlier, you only pay for the number of stops you traveled. So you mustn’t forget to take your refund from the machines standing at the exit of each Marmaray and Metrobus station.
How to Refill Your Istanbulkart
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 the English-language option, but if you start with the Turkish option first, it’s still easy to figure out.
Just follow these simple directions:
- Find an Istanbulkart refill machine (usually located near a tram, metro, or bus stop).
- Place your card flat on the sensor pad.
- Wait for 5 to 10 seconds for the sensor to identify it. (The display screen will change and the recorded voice will say something.)
- Slide your TL notes into the Kağıt Para Girişi / Bank notes money slot.
- Wait 10 seconds for the money to be loaded. (The display will change and there will be an automated notice.)
- Pick up your card and you are ready to go.
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.