Getting in Istanbul

Istanbul is very well connected to the rest of Turkey and Europe. You can easily reach Istanbul by plane, car, train, bus and even boat. Some means of transportation are better than others. It is best to avoid getting in Istanbul by car unless you are an experienced driver.

Istanbul has a busy airport called Istanbul Atatürk Airport. It is situated well outside the city. You can get in the city center by metro, bus or taxi. The metro and the bus are pretty cheap. It is generally safer to use the metro and further connect by tram to your destination, as the bus depends a lot on the heavy traffic in the city. The taxi is also cheap compared to other countries, it will cost you €15 – €20 to get to the city center.

There is a second airport in Istanbul, called Sabiha Gökçen International Airport. It is situated on the Asian side of the city and is used mainly by low-cost carriers. You can get from this airport to the city center only by bus or taxi.

Getting in Istanbul by car is not for the faint of heart. The city is very crowded during the day, so it takes hours to drive even on short distances. Turkish drive fast and quite aggressively, so you must be experienced in order to resist. A GPS is very useful if you don’t know the city, since not all the streets are clearly marked with their names. A good idea is to park your car at the hotel as soon as you arrive and to use public transportation while in Istanbul.

There are two bridges that connect the European and Asian parts of Istanbul. Both of them are free to pass from Asia to Europe, but there is a small fee to pass from Europe to Asia. The toll stations on these bridges do not accept cash. The only means of payment are the KGS and OGS. You can read more about KGS and OGS in our Driving in Turkey article. If you forgot to buy a KGS card, you can park your car on the right side of the road before entering the toll gates. There is usually a booth or a bank where you can buy KGS. Both of the bridges are crowded at rush hours, it is best to avoid these hours if possible.

Turkey doesn’t have an extensive rail network, but Istanbul is connected by train to Ankara and the rest of Europe. There are two main train station in Istanbul, Sirkeci and Haydarpasa. The two stations are connected by ferry services across Bosphorus Strait.

Buses are used extensively for medium and long trips within Turkey, so Istanbul has a large bus station called Esenler Otogar. From the main bus station you can get in the city center by underground, ground public transportation or taxi. Other important bus stations in Istanbul are Büyük and Harem.

Travelling by boat is very popular in Turkey. Istanbul has a huge port called Karakoy. There are a lot of boats and ferries going to summer destinations in Turkey and to other major ports in Europe. You can also take a boat to the Asian side of Istanbul or take a leisure trip by boat along the Bosphorus Strait.