ISTANBUL — Overview

Istanbul is an old city and is full of the remains of many ancient civilisations but along with the old is the new city that has lots of new bars, restaurants, luxurious hotels and fashionable shops. Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city.

Traveller's Tip

Foreigners arriving in Istanbul may need to purchase a tourist visa as it is a requirement for many nationalities. This must be done when you arrive before queuing for passport control. The windows for purchasing the visa are located immediately to the left of the main passport control booths. The fee varies depending on the visitor’s nationality. It can cost from around 15€ to 45€ and you can only pay in euro or dollars not Turkish lira and only in cash.

Getting There
The easiest way to arrive in Istanbul is by air and most planes arrive at Istanbul Atatürk Airport which is 20 km west of the city centre. From the airport you can get into the city centre by taxi which will cost around 25 to 35 TL depending on where you are heading for. There is also an express bus service called Havaş which departs half-hourly between 4 am and midnight and costs 10 TL to Taksim. The public bus (line number 96T) is run by IETT and costs 2.50 TL. It stops at Aksaray which is close to Sultanahmet and it will take around 20 to 40 minutes depending on traffic which at times can be very congested. There is also the metro which is called ‘Light Rail’ on signs in the airport. Follow the signs when you get outside the baggage claim area.
For more information about the Havaş Express Bus visit the website: http://www.havas.net/en/
For more information about the Public Bus visit the website: http://www.iett.gov.tr/en/

Traveller's Tip

Before entering the metro station you will need to buy a token (jeton) for 1.50 TL which you can get from the automatic dispenser (Jetonmatik) that accepts turkish notes and coins only. This will get you on the red line towards Aksaray. From this line if you are going towards Sultanahmet, you can transfer at Zeytinburnu and buy another jeton (1.50 lira). Note that the jeton token here is different than the first one. From Zeytinburnu, take the blue tram line T1, towards Kabataş which passes by: Sultanahmet, Eminönu and Tophane. The trip from the airport to Sultanahmet takes about 45 min.
For a map of the Istanbul Metro visit the website: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/tr/istanbul/istanbul.htm
  • The metro/tram combination is probably the most economical way to travel into the city from the airport.

    Istanbul has a second airport, Sabiha Göken International Airport which is located in the Anatolian side of the city. Charter flights as well as European low cost carriers operate from here most of the time. A Havaş bus connects this airport with Taksim Square in the city centre. It costs around 13 TL and takes about an hour, depending on traffic. There is also a Havaş service to Kozyataği, a transportation hub of the Asian Side, which costs 10 TL. The Havaş bus schedule is sometimes linked to the arrival/departure times of planes. A cheaper option is to take the public bus line number E10 which takes you to Kadiköy which is the main centre of the city in the Asian Side. It takes around 70 minutes and costs 3 TL and it operates 24 hours a day (once every hour between midnight and 6AM, more frequently for the rest of the day). There are also people offering shuttle buses costing around 10 € which is probably the cheapest option after the Havaş bus.

    Traveller's Tip

    If you are departing from the Sabiha Göken Airport it is best not to buy bottled water before boarding the plane because you will have the cap removed at the gate even though you can take the open bottle on board. There is also a luggage check at the main entrance but you can take drinks into the airport from here.

    It is also possible to arrive in Istanbul by ferry from other ports in Europe. There are several ferry companies that offer this service. Information about these can be found on the following websites:
    http://www.hellas-ferries.com/mesline/
    http://www.bodrumexpresslines.com
    http://www.ferries.gr/marmara-lines/default.htm

    It is also possible to arrive in Istanbul by train from parts of Eastern Europe and Greece but this is not the usual way to arrive because of the limited and unreliable train service.
    For more information about the trains visit the following website: http://www.tcdd.gov.tr

    Getting Around
    Istanbul’s public transit system consists of trams; the metro; buses; metrobuses; suburban trains; funiculars and ferries. You will need a token to travel which can be bought at various ticket kiosks at bus, railway and metro and tram stations. Ticket fares across buses, trams and metros are at a flat rate and aren’t dependent on distance travelled.
    For more information about the buses and funicular visit the following website: http://www.iett.gov.tr/en/index.php
    For a map of the metro and tram lines visit the following website: http://www.urbanrail.net/as/tr/istanbul/istanbul.htm
    For information about ferries visit the following website: http://www.ido.com.tr/en

    Traveller's Tip

    If you are going to be in Istanbul for more than 3 or 4 days and will be using a lot of public transport then it is a good idea to buy an Instanbulkart which is an electronic wallet card which can be used as a transit pass. You place the card near a fare point when you enter a bus, tram and so on and the amount of your fare is deducted from the card. You pay 10 TL for the card itself, then you can have any amount of credit loaded onto it.
    For information about the Instanbulkart such as how to buy one and where you can upload more credit to it visit the following website: http://skart.iett.gov.tr/Eng/Default.aspx
  • Just be careful when travelling on public transport as in busy times there can be pickpockets.

    Taxis are an easy and cheap way to get around Istanbul but traffic can be very heavy at times. Tipping is generally unnecessary. Just make sure that the driver starts the meter when you begin your journey and it is also best to ask how much the fare will be. If the driver refuses to start the meter then just use another taxi to avoid overpaying.
    A good website that will give you approximate distances and what a taxi should cost is http://taksiyle.com/en/40808.

    Traveller's Tip

    Don’t use a taxi near a bus station as they often overcharge. It is best to stop a passing taxi on the street or use a legitimate taxi stop. Make sure that you ride in a yellow-coloured taxi. Make sure that you hand the driver the correct note and that it is not ripped otherwise the driver may try and say that the note is no good or that you have given him the wrong money.
  • Traffic in the old city can be very bad so it might be better to use the metro to take you out of the old city and then catch a taxi from there to where you want to go.