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Getting Around

The Basics

Key Phrases

Dentur Avrasya Private ferry company

Dolmuş Shared minibus

Funıküler Funicular

İskele Ferry dock

İstanbul Şehir Hatları The city's main ferry service; government-run

İstanbulkart Rechargeable travel card

Jeton Transport token

Mavi Marmara Private ferry line to/from the Princes' Islands, operated by Dentur Avraysa

Otobüs Bus

Otogar Bus station

Teleferic Cable car

Tramvay Tramway

Tünel Literally, 'tunnel'; name for funicular between Karaköy and Tünel Meydanı (Tünel Sq)

Turyol Private ferry company

Key Routes

F1 Funicular between Kabataş and Taksim Sq.

M1 Metro line between Atatürk International Airport and Yenikapı.

M2 Metro line linking Yenikapı with Hacıosman. Stops at Vezneciler (near the Grand Bazaar), on the Golden Horn (Haliç) bridge and at Şişhane and Taksim Sq in Beyoğlu.

Marmaray Metro line linking Kazlıçeşme on the European shore with Ayrılık Çeşme on the Asian shore via Yenikapı, Sirkeci and Üsküdar.

T1 Tram line between Bağcılar/Cevizlibağ and Kabataş via Zeytinburnu (for airport and otogar metro connections), Sultanahmet and Karaköy.

Tünel Funicular between Karaköy and Tünel Meydanı.

Top Tips

  • Purchase an İstanbulkart to save nearly 50% on the standard ticket price every time you take a ferry, tram, metro, funicular or bus ride, and even more on connecting journeys.
  • If travelling from the Grand Bazaar or Süleymaniye Mosque to Beyoğlu, consider taking the metro from Vezneciler rather than the slower tram service.
  • To pick up a handy public transport map of the city or to request transport information, go to the extremely helpful İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyesi (İstanbul Municipality) Information Office between the Harem and Kadıköy iskeles at Eminönü.

When to Travel

  • İstanbul is a busy city and even though public transport services are frequent, they are often crowded. Try to avoid rush hours (8am to 10am and 4pm to 6pm) if possible.
  • If you need to get to Taksim Meydanı (Taksim Sq) from the Asian or Bosphorus suburbs after services have finished for the night, you should be able to take a dolmuş.
  • All Bosphorus and Princes' Islands ferry services are jam-packed on weekends; consider exploring on a weekday if possible.

Etiquette

  • Have your İstanbulkart or jeton ready before you go through the ticket turnstile – locals are well practised at moving through ticket barriers without breaking pace.
  • If you want to stay stationary on an escalator, stand on the right-hand side; you'll need to walk if you are on the left.
  • Turks are usually very polite and will give their seats to older passengers, disabled people, pregnant women or parents carrying babies or toddlers if there are no spare seats available. You should do the same.
  • Queuing to board public transport is honoured in principle rather than in reality. Be proactive but not pushy.

Dolmuş

A dolmuş is a shared minibus. It waits at a specified departure point until it has a full complement of passengers (in Turkish, dolmuş means full) then follows a fixed route to its destination. Destinations are displayed in the window of the dolmuş. Passengers flag down the driver to get on and indicate to the driver when they want to get off, usually by saying 'inecek var!' (someone wants to get out!). Fares vary (pay on board) but are usually the same as municipal buses. Dolmuşes are almost as comfortable as taxis, run later into the night in many instances, and often ply routes that buses and other forms of transport don't service. Most travellers are unlikely to take a dolmuş during their visit to the city. The only routes they are likely to find useful are Kadıköy–Taksim, Kadıköy–Üsküdar, Beşiktaş–Harbiye and along the Bosphorus shores.

Tickets & Passes

  • Jetons (ticket tokens) can be purchased from ticket machines or offices at tram stops, iskelesi and funicular and metro stations, but it's much cheaper and easier to use an İstanbulkart.

  • You must have an İstanbulkart to use a bus.
  • Pay the driver when you take a dolmuş (shared minibus); fares vary according to destination and length of trip.
  • Ticket prices are usually the same on public and private ferry services; İstanbulkarts can be used on some private ferries, but not all.
  • İstanbulkarts cannot be used to pay for Bosphorus ferry tours.

İstanbulkarts

İstanbul's public-transport system is excellent, and one of its major strengths is the İstanbulkart, a rechargeable travel card similar to London's Oyster Card, Hong Kong's Octopus Card and Paris' Navigo.

İstanbulkarts are simple to operate. As you enter a bus or pass through the turnstile at a ferry dock or metro station, swipe your card for entry and the fare will automatically be deducted from your balance. The cards offer a considerable discount on fares (₺2.60, as opposed to the usual ₺5, with additional transfers within a two-hour journey window: ₺1.85 for the first transfer, ₺1.40 for the second and ₺0.90 for all subsequent transfers). They can also be used to pay for fares for more than one traveller (one swipe per person per ride).

The cards can be purchased from machines at metro and funicular stations for a nonrefundable charge of ₺10, which includes ₺4 in credit. If you buy yours from a street kiosk near a tram or bus stop (look for an 'Akbil', 'Dolum Noktası' or 'İstanbulkart' sign), you will pay ₺8 for one with a plastic cover, or ₺7 without. These won't include any credit.

Cards can be recharged with amounts between ₺5 and ₺150 at kiosks or at machines at ferry docks, metro and bus stations.

Funicular & Cable Car

There are two funiculars (funıküleri) and two cable cars (teleferic) in the city. All are short trips and İstanbulkarts can be used.

A funicular called the Tünel carries passengers between Karaköy, at the base of the Galata Bridge (Galata Köprüsü), to Tünel Meydanı, at one end of İstiklal Caddesi. The service operates every five minutes between 7am and 10.45pm and a jeton costs ₺4.

The second funicular carries passengers from Kabataş, at the end of the tramline, to Taksim Meydanı, where it connects to the metro. The service operates every five minutes from 6am to midnight and a jeton costs ₺5.

A cable car runs between the waterside at Eyüp and the Pierre Loti Café (8am to 10pm). Another travels between Maçka (near Taksim) and the İstanbul Technical University in Taşkışla (8am to 7pm). Jetons for each cost ₺5.

Public Transport Operators

İstanbul Elektrik Tramvay ve Tünel (İETT, İstanbul Electricity, Tramway and Tunnel General Management; www.iett.gov.tr) is responsible for running public buses, funiculars and historic trams in the city. Its website has useful timetable and route information in Turkish and English. Metro and tram services are run by İstanbul Ulaşım (www.istanbul-ulasim.com.tr), ferry services are run by İstanbul Şehir Hatları, Dentur Avrasya and Turyol, and seabus and fast-ferry services are operated by İstanbul Deniz Otobüsleri.