Public Transport in Istanbul: metro, tramway and ferryboats 2023
Istanbul is a huge metropolis with heavy traffic and lots of people. Despite the active development of the road network, it is quite difficult to get rid of traffic congestion, which is why many local residents prefer public transport to cars.
Metro has 8 lines, buses go on more than 500 routes, there are 4 tram lines (2 high-speed and 2 regular). Plus, there are water transport, cableways and funiculars. As well as the Marmaray Tunnel running under the Bosphorus.
In our article we will talk about the most convenient means of transportation, how to pay for travel, about tokens and tickets, what is Istanbulcart and what kind of transport will get you from the airports.
Metro in Istanbul
The Istanbul subway, as elsewhere, is divided into lines, each of which is painted in a specific color on the maps. Names of the lines have their own colours: M1 (red), M2 (green), M3 (blue) and M4 (pink).
The first three lines lie in European Istanbul and communicate with each other, and the last line (pink) runs in Asian part of city and is connected to the rest of lines with the Marmaray Tunnel. It is worth telling about each direction of movement in more detail.
Istanbul Metro operates from 06:00 am to 00:00 am.
Red Line (M1) M1a (Ataturk Airport — Yenikapi)
The most popular stations of this line are:
- Yenikapi is a transfer station, near the ferry terminal.
- Aksaray. Within a 10-minute walk from this metro station are the sights of the Laleli District: Valens Aqueduct, Church of St. Polyeuctus and Sehzade Mosque.
- Kocatepe is located near the same-name park, as well as next the Forum Istanbul Mall (this is where you should come with children and visit the Legoland and Sea Life Aquarium).
- Otogar situated in the territory of Esenler Bus Station.
- Zeytinburnu. Getting off at this station, you can transfer to the T1 line tram and get to Sultanahmet.
Moving along this line, you can get not only to the Ataturk Military Airport (since April 2019, the airport has not been engaged in the transportation of passengers), but also to almost any urban area.
Green M2 Line (Yenikapi — Haciosman)
Metro stations on the M2 line, which you may find useful:
- Vezneciler. Exiting the subway at this station, you can catch the T1 line tram.
- Taksim is a one of the most popular stations, which is located on the same-name square. Leaving the subway, you can not only look at the square, but also take a walk along the famous Istiklal Street.
- Osmanbey situated in an area with many retail stores, and a 10-minute walk from the station is one of the most famous and expensive streets of Istanbul: Abdi Ipekci Street (with brand boutiques and restaurants).
- 4.Levent is located near the Sapphire Tower, an observation deck of which is worth visiting for lovers of breathtaking views. To get from Sultanahmet to this station, you can first take the T1 tram to the Laleli, and then by subway of M2 line.
Pink M4 Line (Kadikoy — Tavşantepe)
The main function of this route is to provide transport links between the Kadikoy District and other city parts of this area.
Where can you go? For example, if you get off at Unalan Station and walk 10 minutes, you can get to Akasya Mall.
M3, M5, M6, M7 and M9 Lines
These lines are more designed for local residents than for tourists. As a rule, they lead to the bedroom suburbs of the city.
The M3 line (Kirazli — Başakşehir Metrokent) is located in a remote area, it is a non-tourist route, there are no attractions or other interesting objects near it.
M5 line (Üskudar — Cekmekoy) leads from the Üsküdar Pier towards Umraniye District
M6 (Levent — Bosporus University — Hisarustu). This metro line makes it easy to connect between other transport lines.
M7 (Esenyurt Meydan — Medcidiyeköy). This line is connected to M3 and M2 lines, and also with tram lines N4 and T5.
M9 (Bahariye-Olimpiyat). Connected to M3 and M1 meto lines. Masko station is near big outlet Mall of Istanbul.
M11 Line (Gayrettepe — New Istanbul Airport)
At the moment, the metro line is opened for service and includes stations:
- Isiklar Otogar
- New Istanbul Airport-1 (Yeni Havalimani-1)
Marmaray Metro Line (Halkalı — Gebze)
The main feature of the Marmaray Tunnel is that it runs under water. Railway tracks are laid directly under the Bosphorus Strait and connect the two main parts of the city: European and Asian.
Most popular stations:
- Yenikapi is a transfer station from the M1 and M2 lines, located near the Yenikapi Ferry Terminal.
- Sirkeci is a metro station situated near the same-name railway station.
- Üskudar is a subway station located next to the Uskudar Pier. Here, a 10-minute drive away is the Salacak Pier, from which the yachts depart to the Maiden Tower.
- Pendik — From this station you can take E-9 bus and get to Sabiha Gokçen airport.
Tram Lines in Istanbul
As mentioned earlier, in the Turkish Metropolis there are 2 high-speed and 2 ordinary tram lines. They are also differentiated by color scheme (brown, light green, orange and blue). With the names of the trams, too, everything is extremely simple: T1, T2, T3 and T4. The most famous of them from a historical point of view is the T2 tram line, which has a bright red color and carries passengers along Istiklal Street.
T1 Line: Kabataş — Bağcilar passing through Sultanahmet
City guests prefer a tram that travels along the T1 high-speed route. This transport will take you to the Sultanahmet District, which has many major city attractions. The total length of the route is 19 km, and to study it all, from start to finish, you need more than an hour.
This is the tram line that you will use most often when traveling.
The most popular stops on this route are:
- Karaköy is located at the beginning of the Galata Bridge.
- Eminönu situated next to the same-name ferry terminal, from where you can get not only to the Asian side (Kadikoy), but also to the Princes’ Islands, as well as go on a Bosphorus Cruise.
- Sirkeci is located near the same-name railway station.
- Gulhane Stop situated nearby the Gülhane Park.
- Sultanahmet is the historical district (Hippodrome of Constantinople).
- Çemberlitas is located next to the historic hamam.
- Beyazıt is a stop near the Grand Bazaar.
- Laleli situated close to the same-name wholesale market and mosque.
- Aksaray is located nearby the Pertevniyal Valide Sultan Mosque.
Passengers are transported from 6:00 am to midnight.
The Famous Red Tram in Istanbul: T2 Route (Taksim — Tünnel)
This tram line goes through Istiklal: this is the central Istanbul street. You can recognize the T2 tram by its bright scarlet color. The route starts from Taksim Square and ends near the Tunnel. Red trams have long been considered one of the important city symbols, so tourists should definitely ride one of them.
Nostalgic Tram is not just a transport, but a real entertaining attraction, which the Istiklal district is famous for. The drivers of these trams can stop in the middle of the road to exchange a couple of phrases with each other. Children and adolescents often cling to the tram from the outside, to slowly ride on it.
This tram operates from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm.
T3 Tram Line (Kadıköy — Moda)
This ring route is located in the Kadikoy District (Asian part of the city). The tram is a great way to see the sights of the area, because its path passes through the popular Bahariye Street, past the Bull Statue. Externally, the T3 tram is similar to the red tram.
The route also works from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm.
T4 Tram Line (Mescidi Selam — Topkapı)
The last tram line of Istanbul is not so popular with tourists, but it is of great value for city residents who need to get from bedroom suburbs to the central part of the megalopolis or to metro. T4 line works the same as T1: from 6:00 am to midnight.
T5 Line (Cibali — Alibeyköy)
This new route was opened in 2021 and starts from station Cibali. It can get you to Fener and Balat districts, but it’s not connected to another tram lines. Also by this tram you can reach Eyüp Sultan Mosque and Pier Loti Hıll.
Funiculars in Istanbul
Tourists really like traveling by funicular, because they like to admire the city and its surroundings from above. There are 3 such lines in Istanbul: F1, F2, and F3.
F1 Line (Kabataş — Taksim)
This funicular route appeared in 2006. A line has been laid from the Kabatas tram stop to the subway station located on Taksim Square. This public transport is convenient in many cases. For example, if there is a need to change the route from M1 to T1 or vice versa. The line is located at an altitude of 60 meters, and its length is 600 meters. The entire route takes only 1 minute 50 seconds.
F2 Line (Karaköy — Beyoğlu)
This is the oldest funicular line of Istanbul. The date of its construction is 1875, so F2 is called one of the main historical attractions of the city. The route runs from the Karakoy to the Tunnel, which are located in the European part of Istanbul.
Initially, this funicular had only two wooden carts, which were driven by a steam engine. In the early 70s of the 20th century, it was completely rebuilt, and today more than 15,000 people choose the F2 as a convenient means of transportation.
F3 Line (Seyrantepe — Vadistanbul)
Third funicular is usually used by locals. Line runs from Turk Telekom Arena to the residential areas of Vadistanbul. Entire route takes only 3 minutes. Line is open from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Cableways in Istanbul
TF2 Line (Eyup — Pierre Loti)
One of the city attractions is the cable cars. There are 2 routes in Istanbul. TF2 line is the most popular among city guests, as it leads to the famous ancient Pierre Loti Cafe.
Tourists love this place, since beautiful landscapes open from its terrace. To get to the observation deck, you need to sit in a spacious transparent booth from which you can enjoy the amazing views of the city.
Construction of the cableway was completed in 2005. It is located at an altitude of 55 meters, and its length is 384 meters. Cable car is open from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm.
TF1 Line (Taskisla — Maçka)
This route is much older than the previous one, it was designed in 1993. Line extends from Taskisla Metro Station located in Beyoglu District to Makca Park. Its length is 347 meters, and the travel time takes only 3 minutes 30 seconds. Cable car is open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.
Water Transport in Istanbul
Water transport is of particular importance for Istanbul, therefore its network is quite developed. In the city there are several types of transport plying on various water routes:
- Ferry (Feribot). This is a huge, heavy-duty water craft, designed not only to transport people, but also vehicles (cars, buses, etc.). Routes pass between Istanbul berths and between some nearby cities.
- Vapur. Is a miniature motorboat specializing in passenger traffic. It can be found only within the boundaries of metropolis. On some of them you can sail to the nearby Princes` Islands.
- Sea bus (Deniz otobüsü). These are improved types of boats that are capable of gaining high speed. It is designed to transport people both inside Istanbul and beyond.
Despite the distinction between species, indigenous people in Istanbul call water vehicles one general term “Vapur”. The most popular piers are Iskele, Eminönu, Kadıköy, Üsküdar, Kabataş, Karaköy, Beşiktas, Bostanci.
Arriving in Istanbul, by all means organize yourself a sea walk. This is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of Istanbul’s surroundings. On the road, as a rule, there is the opportunity to have a tasty and inexpensive meal. You can enjoy freshly squeezed juices, crispy toasts or the famous Turkish tea.
There are special ferries that cruise along the Bosphorus. They all depart from the Eminönu Pier. You can buy a ticket for the trip right on the pier. The cruise is paid using a transport card or tokens. Everything happens automatically: the card is simply leaned against the turnstile, and when the funds are withdrawn from it, a ferry passage will open.
Ferry operates from 7:00 am to 10:00 pm. Interruptions in operation can occur during storms, strong winds or prolonged rainfall.
Buses in Istanbul
Buses are one of the most popular types of public transport in Istanbul. Their network is very developed, and it includes not only the traditional transport familiar to everyone, but also the so-called metrobus and dolmush.
In total, 2756 buses run in Istanbul. The number of stops exceeds 11790. Of course, the network is very confused, and listing all the routes does not make sense. Therefore, buses are not the most convenient form of transport for city guests who decide to arrange an independent trip.
Metrobus is the same bus, but with its own transport line. His popularity is due to the fact that he can avoid traffic congestion.
Dolmush is a minibus that runs mainly along small streets. Therefore, they are very convenient for local residents. Tourists are not advised to use them. Stops are carried out only on demand, so there is a chance to skip the required place.
Using buses is almost impossible without knowledge of the Turkish language. Therefore, if you arrived in Istanbul for the first time and don’t speak the native language of this city, it’s better to use other public transport. Resort to bus routes only as a last resort, when this cannot be avoided.
There are also specialized buses in the city: Big Bus Istanbul, designed for sightseeing routes.
Fare on Istanbul Public Transport in 2023
In Istanbul, there are several ways to pay for travel:
- Electronic tickets
- IstanbulCard (transportation pass)
All of them suggest a non-cash way of paying for travel in transport such as the metro, tram, bus, funicular and ferry (except for several routes).
- Cost of an electronic ticket for 1 trip (Tek geçişlik bilet) is 20 liras.
- Electronic ticket for 2 trips (İki geçişlik bilet) is 30 lire.
- Electronic ticket for 3 trips (Üç geçişlik bilet) is 50 liras.
- Cost of an electronic ticket for 5 trips (Beş geçişlik bilet) is 60 lire.
- Cost of an electronic ticket for 10 trips (On geçişlik bilet) is 110 liras.
To buy tokens and electronic tickets, there are devices for automatic sale: jetonmatik and biletmatik. Tickets for transport can also be purchased at newsstands, which are usually located next to tram and bus stops.
Cost of Istanbulkart is 50 lire.
Fare for Istanbulkart is 9,9 liras.
Fare by car/taxi over the Bosporus Bridge (15 Temmuz Şehitler Köprüsü) and Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge (Fatih Sultan Mehmet Köprüsü) is 8.75 lire. In the case of crossing bridges by taxi, this amount will be added to cost of the meter.
Fare by car/taxi through Eurasia Tunnel is 53 lire. This cost will also be included in the total fare.
IstanbulCard: Where to buy and how to use?
To travel around Istanbul freely by public transport, it is recommended to buy a specialized card (IstanbulCard). With it you can easily ride the subway, bus, tram and even ferry. But do not forget to replenish your card account in advance for a certain number of trips (for the first time 50 lire is enough).
Fare for IstanbulCard
This is a universal pass that every guest and city resident can buy and use. When paying for travel with a card, there is no need to present identification documents. The main thing is to constantly ensure that there are funds on card.
If you use the card within two hours after the first payment, then the tariffs are reduced.
- Fare for IstanbulKart is 9,9 liras
Buying and replenishing IstanbulCard through Biletmatik machines
In Biletmatik machines you can not only purchase a travel card, but also replenish your account. It is not difficult to find them: yellow-black machines are installed near many transport stops and subway stations.
Tourists need to know that Biletmatik only accept paper money. You can buy IstanbulKart immediately at the airport (machines are at the exit from the arrival terminal).
Biletmatik have an English-language interface, so it will be easy to figure it out. You can top up your IstanbulKart account immediately upon purchase. On the machine’s screen, select “buy a card”, then add the desired amount to the cash acceptor. The cost of the card (50 liras) will be immediately deducted, and the remaining finances will be credited to the account. For example, if you deposit 100 lire, then there will be 50lire on the card account.
How to use IstanbulCard?
Istanbul transportation pass is very convenient to use. Any public transport in Istanbul has turnstiles or special readers. It is enough to swipe a card over them, and the required amount will be debited automatically. Fare will instantly appear on the reader’s screen along with data on the remaining funds on the card. Before payment, screen will turn red, after payment, screen will turn green.
If for some reason you didn’t succeed in acquiring a transport card, then there is another payment option: tokens. You can also buy them in vending machine called Jetonmatik. Machines are also available at stops, at stations and at piers.
Cash payment methods are not common in Istanbul. This option is only suitable for those who prefer to travel by minibus or taxi. If you plan to use the services of taxi drivers or a Havatas bus, be sure to carry some cash. This transport accepts exclusively Turkish lire. You can exchange currency directly at the airport or use an ATM.
Taxi in Istanbul
Turkish metropolis is famous not only for its beauty, but also for huge traffic jams. Therefore, a taxi is not always the most comfortable means of transportation around the city. Long waiting times in traffic congestion can ruin your vacation. But if you still want to take a cab, you need to know some subtleties:
First you have to pay 9,8 liras to get in a taxi. Plus, pay 6,3 lire for each subsequent kilometer of the trip.
Cars of the official Istanbul taxi are painted yellow and have the corresponding Taksi inscription on them. Each car equipped with a taximeter (make sure that it is turned on). If the driver for some reason did not turn on taximeter, you have the right to demand a stop at any time (no matter how much time has passed since the start of the trip) and get out of the taxi.
You can catch a cab absolutely anywhere: for Istanbul this is the norm.
Cabdrivers accept payment only in cash (payment is strictly according to the meter).
There are no special nightly rates, that is, prices are the same for any time day or night.
Beware of dishonest drivers.
As a rule, cabdrivers do not know English, so it is better to write down the address of the destination on paper.
If bridges or tunnels come across on the way during the trip, then an additional fee is charged for crossing them.
In general, various misunderstandings between cabdrivers and tourists in Istanbul are not uncommon. Therefore, it is better to book a transfer (for example, through the popular Kiwitaxi). When ordering online, you can immediately find out the full cost of the trip.
If you have any questions — just write a comment and we will try to help you!