Transportation in Istanbul

April 1, 2018 11:07 pm27 commentsViews: 181

Istanbul has a thorough but complex public transit system. For a longer stay in Istanbul, it is advisable to purchase an Akbil, a debit card for most forms of public transportation within the city. The most convenient place to purchase your Akbil is at the booths in Eminonu or Taksim Square, near the bus hubs.

These bus stops at Taksim Square and in Eminonu are the major hubs in the city center. The bus system is the most wide-ranging form of public transportation in the city. City buses require an Akbil or ticket, often sold near the bus station, while private buses take cash.

The metro system that departs from Taksim Square is another option. The metro covers a limited part of the city, stopping in Osmanbey, Sisli, Gayrettepe, Levent and Levent 4. Another line departs from Aksaray and is most useful to get to international bus station (otogar) in Esenler.

A tram runs from Zeytinburnu through Aksaray, loops through the Old City, crosses the Golden Horn and continues north along the Bospherous until Kabatas. Eventually, the tram will continue north to Besiktas.

A funicular departs from Kabatas, making short work of the hike to Taksim Square. Another funicular, Tunel, traverses an even steeper route from Karakoy (the north side of the Galata Bridge) to the southern point of Istiklal Caddesi, in Beyoglu.

The Light Rail (LTR) is a cheap way to get from Ataturk International Airport to the city center and back and only requires one transfer at Aksaray.

The private Havas bus is also useful to and from the airport. Slightly more expensive than the LTR, the Havas bus is considerably more comfortable and runs direct to and from Taksim Square. The Havas bus is most convenient for travelers staying in Beyoglu, while those staying in Sultanahmet should take the LTR. For up-to-date information on schedules and prices for Airport transportation, look on the Ataturk Airport site.

The most pleasant branch of Istanbul’s public transit is the ferry system. Most travelers will depart from the docks at Eminonu, though Sirkeci, Karakoy, Besiktas and Kabatas may also be convenient stops. Ferry tokens can be purchased near the place of departure. Take a ferry across the Bospherous and explore the Asian side, travel north, or simply to enjoy a cheap boat ride on the Bospherous.

There are times when a taxi ride is necessary. Public transit gradually shuts down between 10pm and midnight and begins again from 6am to 7. Never risk walking home alone at night, especially if you are unfamiliar with the area. Cabs are plentiful in Istanbul but drivers can be nasty. Carry the address of your hotel to avoid “accidental” confusion about your destination. Also, be sure your driver gives you the correct rate. The meter should read GECE (nighttime), indicating a higher rate, between midnight and 6am GUNDUZ (daytime) the rest of the time.

With such a plethora of transportation, Istanbul lies waiting to be explored. However, do walk around the city as much as possible. Transit can get you to and from the tourist sites but nothing imparts a sense of the city so well as wandering through it on foot, experiencing the wonders of a fresh culture first-hand.

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