Exciting public transport in Istanbul – or how to spend 5 hours of flight layover

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Why is this so exciting?

The simple fact is that Istanbul’s Ataturk airport is probably the main gateway from Europe to Asia or Africa by the biggest aircraft company Turkish airlines. This means that every time when You would travel somewhere with Turkish airlines You have to fly first to Istanbul, and you probably will have a layover for 4 to 15 hours.

The city with its suburbs holds more than 20 million people and it’s massive, but don’t consider to stay in the airport if you have more than 5 hours until your next flight because of the public transport system of this city just rocks. 

First things first

When you land – start searching the sign M – metro station, which is beyond the airport arrivals and is easy to access from there. Then make sure that You have 10 Turkish lira banknote for every person and find a biletomatik machine. Use your English to buy Istanbulkart. Now you have a public transport card with 4 liras and you can easily access to any transport of the city. So take the metro and make sure that the train is going to Yenikapi or Aksaray as the end station.

To the city centre

After 30-40 minutes trip You need to get out at a station Aksaray and search for a tram no.1 (direction Kabatas). From here the real fun starts. You can get off either on Sultanahmet square (app.15 min) where you will see the famous historic monuments of the city – Blue mosque, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi palace. If you’re a foodie then get off in Eminonu station (20 min), refill your Istanbulkart with 10 liras and take ferry in the Kadikoy pier (20 min). If you like shopping then get off at Karakoy and take a Tunel – world’s oldest metro – to Istiklai street, the most crowded street that I’ve ever seen.

After seeing a bit of Istanbul, head back to the airport and catch your flight to wherever you are going!


It takes 1.5 hour at most to get anywhere in the city from Ataturk airport and the same to get back. So all other time is yours.

Extra tip:

If you decided to go to Kadikoy district then when you arrive by ferry check the ferry times to Yenikapi (metro) or Bakirkoy (bus or even taksi), this makes easier to go to airport from there.

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How much money do you need?

Istanbulkart costs 6 TL (everybody can use the same card)

One trip costs 1.2-2 TL per one ride,  which means that for a trip to Sultanahmet and back you need 7 TL

One person – 13 TL (4 euros)

Two persons – 20 TL (6 euros)

Which transport goes where?

Sultanahmet (Blue mosque, Hagia Sophia) – Tram 1, Sultanahmet station

Galata bridge – Tram 1 , Eminonu station

Kadikoy (Asian side) – ferry from Eminonu pier, Yenikapi pier, Karakoy pier

Taksim square – Metro 2 or tram 1 and funiculier 2

Grand Bazaar – Tram 1, Beyazit station

Considering to take the Bosphorus tour?

Just take a ferry from Eminonu to Bosphorus for public ticket price and you’ll see the same just cheaper.

Have you been in Istanbul recently? What’s your experience using public transport?


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