Tips For Getting Around Istanbul:
Istanbul is a HUGE city of over 14 million people, so knowing some tips for getting around town are very important. Transportation to and from the airport is probably the most confusing but Istanbul is very manageable once you know the ins and outs.
Getting to Istanbul from Atatürk Airport:
The Main Airport in Istanbul one of Europe’s busiest and is located about 10 miles to the Southwest of town.
Taxi: Taxis can be a great way to get to town from the airport especially if you have 2-3 people to split the cost. To get to Old Town it’s only just over a 30 minutes for about 32TL or to New Town in 45 minutes for 40TL, all barring rushing hour traffic that is.
Metro/Tram: A lot of people get intimidated by the Metro but it is our favorite method even though you have to switch lines halfway through. From the Airport take the underground metro to the stop Zeytinburnu. At Zeytinburnu station, switch to the above ground tram toward the Kabataş stop. Kabataş stop is in New Town but the Tram does a loop through Old Town first so you can easily just get off at whatever stop is closest to where you are staying. You will have to buy a separate ticket for both the Metro and Tram which are only 1.5TL each. Carrying luggage with is easy as the lines are very modern, but you will have to bring your luggage up step to street level when you switch lines. The Metro runs daily from 6am to Midnight.
Shuttle Bus: Argh! The first time we went to Istanbul we fell for one of these services inside the airport and it was slow and expensive. Unless you have a shuttle from your actual hotel, don’t use a airport shuttle bus especially one from inside the airport. They can be pushy so just ignore them. The only official shuttle is Havataş, but it only goes to New Town and doesn’t stop in Old Town at all. When returning back to the airport ask if your hotel has their own shuttle service.
Getting from Sabiha Gökçen International Airport:
The secondary airport in Istanbul sits about 29 miles East of town on the the Asia side.
Taxi: Taxis are super expensive to Old Town Istanbul as it is just so far away.
Metro/Ferry: The best option seems to be using the metro transfer to the nearby Ferry station and them the public ferry to Emınönü ferry dock on the North side of Old Town near Galata Bridge. This method takes about 90 minutes and is the cheapest.
Getting Around Istanbul By Metro:
In the core of Istanbul the metro is a little more limited than most big cities, but still very useful. Most of the main neighborhoods are easy to walk around in which is good since traffic jams can make cabs very slow at times. Although there are no subway lines in the older parts of town getting between neighborhoods is greatly helped by a couple of main tram lines plus a couple funicular lifts. For the most part all of the Trams, lifts, ferries, and buses you need to know about a listed right on the interactive maps for each of our walking tours.