Top 5 Tips for Istanbul Transportation

Last Updated on May 14, 2024

A city that gathers two continents together and stretches over 5,000 km ² definitely needs a well-organized public transportation system. Fortunately, there are hundreds of public transportation lines that help you get wherever you want to go. Since you don’t want to waste your vacation time on figuring out how the public transportation system works, we have put together the ultimate guide on using Istanbul transportation.

It is quite normal to feel lost among the numerous options to get from point A to point B, but using public transportation in Istanbul is highly recommended for several reasons. Firstly, public transportation will save you hours and help you avoid the craziness of traffic. Secondly, using public transportation will introduce you to the locals and their daily lifestyle. Turkish locals are very kind and a friendship can be formed within a 15 minute bus ride. Finally, the Istanbul public transportation system is very affordable and once you get the hang of it, you will be able to navigate the city like an expert.

1- Purchase and activate your public transportation card

Purchasing  a reusable transportation card will allow you to ride all types of transportation (Metrobus- Subways-Tramways- Marmaray- boats- buses- Telefereik)  and you can also use it to pay for taxis and public bathrooms as well. The card is called “İstanbulkart'' and you can buy it from the small booths or kiosks along the streets or from the yellow card charging machines in the transportation stations. Once you buy the card, you should load it with money to be used for each journey.

2- Try to avoid bus lines

A huge city like Istanbul has several rush hours. As a result, It is optimal to take subways, Metrobus, marmaray, and tramways because they have fixed schedules, special roads and you will not wait at any station for more than 5 minutes. In addition, they are less crowded than buses. However; some places cannot be reached without buses so try to get as close as possible using the fixed lines of transportation, and then take the bus for a short ride to avoid all the hustle. 

3- Download the necessary apps

There are several apps besides google maps that locals use to make things easier so let’s get into the list. Firstly, “Bitaksi and "iTaksi '' are the official applications to hire a taxi. Although you can stop a taxi car spontaneously on the streets, sometimes reserving one ahead of time is regarded as a better option especially in remote areas. In addition, “Uber” also works  in Turkey but it will connect you with a regular taxi car not a private car. Secondly, “Trafi” is a helpful app to be able to know the best way to reach a certain destination and it gives you multiple updated suggestions. Thirdly, the “Moovit” app will provide you with the nearby stations and the timetables for all the lines intersecting at these stations. It is very useful to plan any ride and always arrive at your desired time. Fourthly, “İstanbulkart” is an app allowing you to recharge your İstanbulkart online without going to the charging machines in the stations. Finally, you can rent a fast, fun, easy to use electric scooter through the ”Martı” app. Giving them a try is the quickest way to become a pro at using public transportation.

4- Use taxis wisely

Istanbul is a huge city and taking a taxi for the whole trip is not a recommended option because you will end up paying a lot of money and wasting time. Take taxis only for the short rides where no public transportation is available. It is also recommended to use the shared taxis called “Dolmuş” because they have fixed prices and cover all the areas in Istanbul. Finally, Do not forget to turn on your navigation system and follow any ride with your driver to avoid any misunderstandings. 

5- Learn the transportation language

While you don’t have to learn Turkish for your short visit to Istanbul, learning the most used sentences in transportation will save you in many situations. Here you can find a simple list of phrases that you might want to learn. Take it as an opportunity to discover a new language. 

To sum it up, using public transportation will help you discover the city from a closer, more in person perspective, in addition to all the benefits mentioned above. You can always ask for help from locals and security men standing at all the stations. Locals are very friendly and love to help, so don't be shy to ask!

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