Istanbul Transport System
The transport system in Istanbul is truly a magnificent one, making use of almost every possible form of public transport system that is known to man. Within the confines of the city itself, people can avail a number of different transport options such as ferries, cable cars, funiculars, trams, suburban and subway trains, metrobuses and normal buses. The good thing about these transport modes is that while most of them are interconnected, you can use almost the entire range of transport services by a single system of payment known as Istanbulkart. This is a non-contact electronic card similar to what is used in the cities of Paris and London. Public transport in Istanbul has undergone large scale improvement over the last few years. While most tourists are still reliant on the use of taxis for commuting between the various tourist attractions in the city, more often than not it is expensive and not so viable. Here, we discuss the various modes of public transport in Istanbul while also providing you directions for reaching the various tourist destinations in next to no time with the help of these transport systems.
As a tourist to Istanbul, you will find two of its many tramlines to be extremely useful, although they are as different from one another as hare from a tortoise. The Istiklal Caddesi tram in Beyoglu, locally referred to as the Nostaljik tram, dates back to the nineteenth century and is certainly more fun. The Kabatas-Bagcilar tramline, however, is more useful. This tramway, which is air-conditioned and highly modernised, serves as a connection between Taksim and Beyoglu with the Sultanahmet. There are numerous stops along the line where you can disembark and make your way to one of the many tourist attractions of the city, a list of which is provided as under.
- Beyazit for travelling to the Suleymaniye Mosque and Grand Bazaar
- Sultanahmet is the closest stop for places such as the Basilica Cistern, Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace.
- Sirkeci which is also a train station
- Eminonu, from where you can access the ferry docks and Spice Bazaar
- Karakoy. It leads down to Tunel which one of the terminals for the Istiklal Caddesi tramway line
- Get down at Tophane and you will be close to the cruise ship docks, nargile or water pipe establishment, Istanbul Modern and the Istanbul Hotel
Funicular in Istanbul
These are essentially metro systems that connect a point at sea-level to another point at some higher level such as on a hill and do not travel for more than one stop. The city of Istanbul is home to two Funiculars. One is referred to as Tunel(F-2) which happens to be the oldest subway in the world dating back to the days of the Ottoman Empire. It climbs up the hill to Beyoglu from Karakoy and further connects with the Nostaljik tramway that travels all the way to the renowned Taksim Square. The other system, known as the F-1, is a more modern system climbing up the hill to Taksim from Kabatas and offers a seamless connection with the M-2 metro line and T-1 tramway system.
Cable Cars in Istanbul
There are two cable car channels that are a part of the public transport in Istanbul. However, one of them is undergoing restoration and modernisation work at present and is non-operational. The other cable car channel serves as a connection between the Eyup and Pierre Loti regions with the latter being a vantage point from where you can get awesome views of the Golden Horn.
Ferries and Sea Buses in Istanbul
Being a city of the seas, ferry service has come to be regarded as an integral part of the urban life in Istanbul. Clean and comfortable apart from being vastly inexpensive, there is no better mode of transport for those looking to get over to the other side of the city. IDO ferries are another great means for going around the city. Your IstanbulKart card, however, will be accepted by this transport mode only for the routes that run through the innercity.
Buses in Istanbul
Don’t let the different colors on the Istanbul buses get you confused. All of them have a different meaning but it is not of much significance to you as a traveller. The green buses are environment-friendly vehicles while the turquoise ones indicate that they are run by private operators. Yellow and purple one on the other hand signify that they are specially furnished to cater to the needs of disabled people.
While there are three different metro routes in operation in the city, tourists will find two of them to be particularly useful- the M1 that runs from Aksaray to the Airport and the M2 running between Haciosman and Yenikapi, covering numerous tourist attractions. This line, stretching over seventeen kilometers with twelve stops, was the first real Metro unit in the city. Although used by nearly three hundred thousand commuters daily, it is extremely clean and safe to use. Some of the stops that tourists will find extremely useful are as follows:
- Taksim: This place in itself is a tourist spot and is close to other attractions such as the Witt Istanbul Hotel, Galata and Cihangir. Taksim is connected via the F1 funicular to Kabatas and T1 tramway system to the Sultanahmet region of the city
- Osmanbey: Get down here and you will be only a few minutes’ walk away from Nistantasi which is a fashionable shopping district that houses several nice restaurants and cafes.
- Levent: This is the closest metro station to the shopping centers of Akmerkez, Kanyon and Metrocity. However, you will be required to either take a short taxi ride or walk some distance in order to get to your destination.
- ITU Ayazaga: The closest station to the shopping center at Istinye Park. Once again, you will be required to either walk or avail a short taxi ride to reach the place.
Read our guide to Istanbul Metro
How to Get Around in Istanbul
As soon as you set down your foot on its soil, you will be required to make use of one of the many modes of public transport in Istanbul. Even after you have made your way to the comforts of your hotel room and are readying yourself to go out for some sightseeing, you will find yourself looking for the ideal mode of transport to take you across the city from one tourist attraction to another. While there is no better alternative to walking, it is not possible to cover the entire city on foot. Making use of public transport is thus imperative. We hope that this travel guide on the various systems of public transport in Istanbul will be useful the next time you plan to visit this magnificent city.
Istanbul Rapid Transit Network Map by