[Pictures will follow]
Public transportation in Istanbul is diverse, efficient, punctual, pretty cheap and diverse. Buses, dolmuş, ferries, metros, trams, trains and taxis are yours to travel within and beyond the city. If on foot can be categorized as a means of transportation, this may be your primary means: especially in Sultanahmet area where large concentrations of attractions are within walking distance.
I brief here three modes of transportation that I’ve tried while in Istanbul. I don’t recommend you to take a bus: it is not the quickest means of transportation (suffering from traffic jams, route is not as clear as train or ferry), and is not the most comfortable way of transportation (can be very crowded)and most buses don’t have (properly working) air-conditioning systems). However, if you want to experience riding bus in Istanbul, please browse IETT (http://www.iett.gov.tr/en/index.php).
Each time you use a tram, metro, bus, or boat on the public transport system, you will need to use a token. The price for one jeton to use in all railway systems, boat and bus is 1.5TL. Kids below 6 yrs are free. You can buy jeton from automatic machine/dispenser (Jetonmatik), from Jeton staffed booth (not at all stations), or from vendors (which display Jeton sign). One jeton is valid for one entry no matter how long you use railway system and not dependent on how far you go (flat rate).
Tram, train, funicular & metro
Istanbul has 2 metro lines, 5 tram lines and 2 funiculars. For general idea, please see this map of metro, tram, train in Istanbul. As a tourist you will most likely only need and use the M2, T1 and F1.
You will have to pass the turnstiles (by inserting Jeton) in order to reach the waiting platform to get on a metro, tram or funicular. Some platforms are loosely guarded and can be easily accessed by pedestrian without passing the turnstiles.
Metro Line: Taksim – 4.Levent
I used this metro from Taksim to go north to Kanyon shopping mall. As a tourist, you’ll probably use the metro for shopping purposes. Shopping centers along this line are among others Cevahir Mall Profilo shopping centers (Şişl Station) and Kanyon and Metrocity (Levent)
Tram Line: Zeytinburnu-Kabataş
This is the most frequently used line among all. It connects the historical peninsula with the modern Istanbul by crossing Golden Horn (Galata Bridge). The line is 14km long, has 24 stations and serves many popular tourist sites (e.g. in Sultanahmet) and ferries (e.g. Eminönü).
Some important stops are:
- Laleli Üniversitesi – Süleymaniye Mosque
- Beyazıt – Istanbul University, Beyazit Camii and Suleymaniye Mosque, Grand Bazaar
- Cemberlitaş – Grand Bazaar, Cemberlitas Hamam, Nuruosmaniye Camiee
- Sultanahmet – Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Aya Sofia, Basilica Cistern and Sultanahmet areas
- Gulhane – Gulhane Park, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul Archaelogical Museums
- Sirkeci – suburban trains, Hocapasha Center (Sufi Dance)
- Eminönü – Yeni Camii, Spice Bazaar, Rustem Pasha, Iskelesi to Uskudar, Kadikoy, Bosphorus Cruise and other destinations, Galata Bridge
- Karakoy – Galata Bridge, Galata Tower, Istiklal Caddesi (with connection via Tünel)
- Tophane – Istanbul Modern
- Kabataş – Taksim Square (with connection via Funicular), Iskelesi to Uskudar and Prince’s Island, Dolmabahce Palace (400m walk) .
This funicular, takes you up the steep hill from Kabataş to Taksim in only 150 seconds. If you alight from tram line at Kabatas, do not exit from the station. Look for Funicular sign and go to underground access to Funicular station. You can use the same token.
Suburban Train Line: Sirkeci – Halkali
I myself did not get on this train but my wife did to go to Olivium shopping mall (alight at Kazlicesme station). The train is quite old, has longer interval than tram and passing suburban areas that are crowded, and filthy, she said. You need to buy different Jeton than for tram line. If you hop on from Sirkeci station, make an effort to visit Sirkeci Train Museum on the left side of station.
My real life example
I wanted to go from Sultanahmet to Kanyon shopping mall or Taksim. I hopped on tram line Zeytinburnu-Kabatas heading to Kabatas from Gulhane station (where my hotel is nearby) or Sultanahmet (after visiting Aya Sofia). I got offt at Kabatas station then transfered to Funicular Kabatas-Taksim. I exited here to go to Taksim Square or Istiklal Caddesi or transferred to Metro. I hopped on metro line Taksim – 4.Levent (by following direction or footprint sign on the floor). I get off at Levent for Kanyon shopping mall.
During my 7-day stay in Istanbul, I used taxi only for four trips. Two were for Sirkeci – Miniaturk v.v and another two were Uskudar – Camlica Hill v.v. Three of them were with taxi meter and one with fixed rate. Taxis are plentiful in Istanbul. Unfortunately, few taxi drivers are con-artists. My one-way travel from Sultanahmet to Miniaturk costs me approximately 16 TL but 21 TL on the way back. From Uskudar to Camlica Hill is 15 TL (fixed rate bargain) and 14 TL on the way back. Tipping is generally unnecessary.
See Taxi tourist trap section on Istanbul – Preparation blog.
Official taxi is the “yellow-colored” one and has a sign on the roof with the word taksi on it.
Many Istanbul ferries travel between the European and Asian sides of the city. The strait crossing takes about 20 minutes and costs 1.50 TL (you need to buy different Jeton than what you use for train). The ferry itself is clean, and has a small cafeteria where you can buy cay or coffee or snacks.
To go for the destination of your choice you should take the ferry which departs from specific destination ferry dock (Iskelesi). So if you want to head for, say, Uskudar from Eminonu, you should take the ferry which departs from ‘Üsküdar Iskelesi’.
Check Istanbul liners (http://www.ido.com.tr) for routes.
I took Dolmus for travelling from Kadikoy to Uskudar. It costed 8 of us 30 TL for use of Dolmus only for us (called it chartered). I myself did not know the appropriate rate but thought that this could have been cheaper. Dolmuş (Turkish: “full”) is a shared taxi (Bahasa Indonesia: “angkot”), travelling on a fixed route. They can carry up to 8 passengers. Painted in yellow as taxis with a Dolmus sign on its top, Dolmus is easy to recognize. Like Angkot, Dolmus will only start moving after all eight places are filled.