Getting around Istanbul

When in Istanbul, there are several ways to move around and explore the city, unless you are the kind of visitor who prefers to drive; in Istanbul, public transport is plentiful, there is Metro, tram, dolmuş, sea bus, ferry to name a few.

Istanbul’s public transport in its own way also helps with the tourist experience, how else are you going to meet colourful Turkish people and see all the local spots not recounted in tourist guides.axi.

The good news is public transport in Istanbul is cheap and improving all the time, the entire transport infrastructure has had a makeover. Extensions to metro and tram lines, new bypasses and underpasses, new sea bus routes and funiculars are all available.

Buses

Most city buses (belediye otobüsü) are operated by the municipality, but there are also private versions (halk otobüsü). Municipal buses are red and white or green; all have IETT written on the front. Private ones are pale blue and green.

Bus tickets

Buy tickets (bilet) for municipal buses before boarding (they won’t take money on the bus). On private buses, pay a conductor seated in the doorway (they won’t take municipal tickets). Both IETT and private buses charge the same fare (YTL1.30).

Dolmuş & minibuses

A dolmuş (which means ‘full’) is basically a shared taxi that sets off once every seat is taken. Dolmuş run fixed routes (starting points and final destinations are displayed in the front window) but with no set stops. Passengers flag the driver down to get on (if there’s room) and holler out to be let off (Inecek var!). Dolmuş run later than buses, often as late as 2am.

Minibuses are more crowded than dolmuş and are less frequent. Minibus fares are lower Pay and get on/off as you would a dolmuş.

Metro & trams

The new metro and tram systems provide a comfortable and efficient alternative to clogged roads and crowded buses. The metro runs from Taksim north to 4th Levent, stopping at Osmanbey, Şişli, Gayrettepe and Levent. Another option is the ‘light metro’, which connects Aksaray (west of the Grand Bazaar) to the Esenler bus terminal and on to the airport.

The city’s only modern tram runs from Zeytinburnu via Aksaray to Sultanahmet and terminates at Eminönü by the Galata Bridge. This is a useful service for visitors, linking the Grand Bazaar, Haghia Sophia, Sultanahmet Mosque, Topkapı Palace, the Egyptian Bazaar and the Golden Horn.

Tünel & tram

A 125-year-old funicular, known as the tünel, ascends from Karaköy to Tünel Square at the southern end of Istiklal Caddesi. It’s a very short run, but saves a tiring climb up (or down) the sheer slope. The service runs 7am-10pm Mon-Sat and 7.30am-10pm Sun and costs around YTL0.90.

Ferries & sea buses

Boats and ships of all sizes shuttle between the European and Asian shores operating to summer (mid June-mid Sept) and winter timetables. Timetables are available from all ferry terminals; departure times are also posted online.

Bikes

Terrible traffic, steep hills, slippery cobbles and countless potholes make Istanbul very challenging for cyclists. However, the wide road alongside the Bosphorus north of Ortaköy is great for biking and has lovely views and a sea breeze. A hired bike is ideal for getting around the Princes’ Islands where cars are banned.

Taxis

You won’t have a problem finding a taxi, day or night in Istanbul; licensed taxis are bright yellow with a roof-mounted taksi sign. They’re all metered and relatively cheap by European standards.

During the day, the meter displays the word gündüz (day rate); the clock should start with YTL1.50. From midnight to 6am the gece (night) rate kicks in, adding 50 per cent to the fare

Walking

The main tourist hubs of Sultanahmet, the Bazaar Quarter and Beyoğlu are all perfect for exploring on foot. There are very few main roads, while the narrow, sloping back-streets are better suited to pedestrians than cars.

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