To understand the Istanbul Public Transport System, you need to understand how big Istanbul first. Istanbul’s population increased over 15 times in the last 6 decades, from 1950 to 2020. There were only 967.000 people living in Istanbul during the 1950s but today more than 15 million! Now imagine how can be the Istanbul Public Transport System can be complex. In this Istanbul Public Transport Guide for 2020, you will find every information about using public transport in Istanbul like an expert. I divided the post up to several headings to let you dive into directly to the topic you are interested in. Before we start let me tell you the dimension of Istanbul. 125 km from west to east and 40 km from north to south. Of course, not all area of the city is a settlement. More than half of Istanbul’s area covered by the forests.
Istanbul is the biggest city in Turkey and the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is also the biggest one in Turkey. Istanbul divided up to 39 districts based on administrative purposes but all the public transports handle by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and the companies belonging to it, like IETT, Metro Istanbul and etc. Based on the statistics published by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality %77.1 of the daily trips made by buses, %18.6 of made by railways systems %4.3 of made by the seaway.
Istanbul Public Transport: What to Do First?
The first thing you should do when you came to Istanbul is to buy the Istanbul Card. Istanbul Card is the pre-paid public transport card of Istanbul. If you want to travel by using public transport on the road, rail or sea you should buy it. It is valid on all transport except only the minibusses of Istanbul which is also known as dolmuş.
What are the Types of Istanbul Card?
There are different types of Istanbul Card;
- Istanbul Card (Can be used by anyone)
- Mavi (Blue) Card (Monthly subscription – Only for a Turkish Citizen)
- Discounted Istanbul Card (Only for Turkish Citizens)
- Free Istanbul Card (Only for Turkish Citizens)
As you can see the above there is only one type of Istanbul card which can be used by the tourist in Istanbul. You won’t need a discounted version Istanbul card because of the low value of the Turkish Lira to the other main currencies, it is already cheap for the tourist. You have another public transport payment options in Istanbul. If you want to have the limited type of card there is a card that we call it Limited Istanbul Card. This card allow you to take one, two, three or five trips only. It calls “geç” means pass.
How Much is the Istanbul Card Price?
You have to pay the 6 Turkish Lira to buy an Istanbul Card for the deposit. It is possible to take the deposit back when you are leaving from Istanbul but you have to give the card back to one of the Istanbul card offices around the city. By the way, you may want to keep the Istanbul card as a memory from your trip to Istanbul. If you are planning to buy the passcards their prices varies between 5 to 17 Turkish Lira and there is no deposit for them. I’m writing the prices of all type of cards below;
- Istanbul Card: 6 Turkish Lira
- Birgeç – ONEPass: 5 Turkish Lira
- İKİgeç – TWOpass: 8 Turkish Lira
- ÜÇgeç – THREEpass: 11 Turkish Lira
- BEŞgeç – FIVEpass: 17 Turkish Lira
After you buy the Istanbul Card you have put some money on it to use it on public transport. I will give detailed information about ticket prices in a minute because those prices vary depending on your trips distance, vehicle or time. Generally, first trips are 2.60 Turkish Lira and transfer prices vary depending on the number of the transfer. You can find the list below;
- First Trip: 2.60 Turkish Lira
- 1. Transfer: 1.85 Turkish Lira
- 2. Transfer: 1.40 Turkish Lira
- 3. Transfer: 0.90 Turkish Lira
- 4. Transfer: 0.90 Turkish Lira
- 5. Transfer: 0.90 Turkish Lira
Please don’t forget these are generalized ticket prices in Istanbul. If you are using Metrobus or ferries these prices can vary. I will give detailed information about them in the following topics.
How to Add Money to Istanbul Card?
If you buy passcards you cant add money to them. They are only for a limited number of trips. But if you have an Istanbul card it is possible to add money to it and use it anytime you want. As long as you have money on your Istanbul card you can use it anytime you want. There are no restrictions or anything else. You have different options to add money to your Istanbul card. The first options, there are more than 2000 buffet-style mini markets where you can use. You will see the logo of the Istanbul card on those places.
The second to add money to your Istanbul card is to use the “biletmatik” machines. These are automated machines to add money to your Istanbul card. They are at all the tram and metro stations and also at the major transfer hubs. Only cash money valid on them and also it is possible to check the Istanbul cards balance. There are different language options on these machines, just don’t forget to your language before starting the process.
Istanbul Card Apps
Your last option to add money to your Istanbul card is to use to mobile app or web site. If you want to use a mobile app you should first visit your market and download it. At first, you need to create your account through the app and then you can add money to your cards account. This process you should need an NFC supported mobile phone. This process is if you want to use the Istanbul card website. If your mobile phone have NFC options you can instantly add the money to your account but if you don’t have you just need to validate the money you add to the Istanbul card from biletmatik machines or validation scanner at stops. If you have any problem with this process please share your questions on the comment section.
How to Pay with Istanbul Card?
The Istanbul card is a contactless payment card. You just need to show to the scanner on the bus or the toll gates at the metro, tram and ferry stop. When you show it to the scanner it will drop the trip price and will show you the current on the screen. Now, you know every detail about the Istanbul card, how to buy it, how to add money on it and how to use it. Let’s continue to learn other details of the Istanbul public transport system. By the way, you can get a refund if you used one of the pay as you go lines. You will see the refund machine very exit of the stations.
Istanbul Public Transport Map
It is not possible to show all the lines in Istanbul on one map. Because in Istanbul, there are more than 800 bus lines with also metro, tram, ferry, funicular, telpher lines. Putting them on all one map just makes it confusing. So it is better to focus them one by one. We will start with the metro lines.
You can see the Istanbul metro network map on the image below. On that image, there are only the metro lines. There 7 different active metro lines are currently working in Istanbul. Unfortunately, none of the metro lines are operating at the airports in Istanbul. But they are very effective to go around in Istanbul. Metro lines in Istanbul are the main backbone of the Istanbul public transport that carries most of the passengers every day. Ticket fares are 2.60 Turkish Lira for full-fare, 1.25 Turkish Lira for a student card and 1.85 Turkish Lira for the social cards.
- M1A: Yenikapi – Ataturk Airport (Airport is closed in 2019)
- M1B: Yenikapı – Kirazlı
- Stops at the main coach station: Otogar
- M2: Yenikapi – Haciosman
- M3: Kirazli – Olimpiyat – Basaksehir
- M4: Kadikoy – Tavsantepe
- Will be extended to the Sabiha Gokcen Airport
- M5: Uskudar – Cekmekoy
- M6: Levent – Hisarustu
Marmaray Suburban Train Line
Marmaray Suburban train line is operating Gebze (Anatolian side) and Halkali station (Europen side). There are 43 stations on over one line with the undersea tunnel. Marmaray Suburban train line is becoming a very important part of Istanbul public transport after opening. This line intersects with the other metro lines at a different station and you can find the list below.
- M4 İçmeler station (Currently under construction)
- M10 Pendik station (Currently under construction)
- M8 Bostanci station (Currently under construction)
- M12 Goztepe station (Currently under construction)
- Sogutlucesme Metrobus station
- M4 Ayrilik Cesmesi station
- T1 Sirkeci station
- M1A, M1B, M2 Yenikapi station
- M3 Ozgurluk Meydani station (Currently under construction)
- M9 Atakoy station (Currently under construction)
- Kucukcekmece Metrobus station
As you can see the image from the above there two different intervals at the Marmaray Suburban train line. The first trains leave from Gebze and Halkali at 06.00 (15 minutes interval) and the last trains 22.00 from Gebze and 22.15 from Halkali. Sogutlucesme and Zeytinburnu ara the more populated areas than the Gebze and Halkali, so there are 8-minute intervals for this part of the line. First trains leave from Sogutlucesme 05.54 and Zeytinburnu 05.50, the last train from Sogutlucesme 23.54 and from Zeytinburnu 23.20. There is a pay as you go ticket fare system for the Marmaray Suburban train line. You can find the list below.
- 1-7 station: 2.60 Turkish Lira
- 8-14 station: 3.25 Turkish Lira
- 15-21 station: 3.80 Turkish Lira
- 22-28 station: 4.40 Turkish Lira
- 29-35 station: 5.20 Turkish Lira
- 36-43 station: 5.70 Turkish Lira
Marmaray suburban train line map (Source).
Istanbul Tram, Funicular, Cable Car and Tunel Lines
There are currently 3 active tram, 1 funicular and 2 cable car lines in Istanbul. If you came to Istanbul as a tourist you will use the T1 tram line mostly. Because T1 tram line goes through the historical places of Istanbul like Karakoy, Eminonu, Sirkeci, Sultanahmet, and Beyazit. But be aware this line will be overcrowded during summer and especially on weekends. You can use the Metro Istanbul website to get more information about the tram, funicular, and cable car lines.
- T1: Kabatas – Bagcilar
- T2: Taksim – Tunel (Nostalgic line)
- T3: Kadikoy – Moda
- T4: Topkapi – Mescid-i Selam
- F1: Taksim – Kabatas
- TF1: Macka – Taskisla
- TF2: Eyup – Piyerloti
- Tunel: Beygolu – Karakoy (2nd oldest metro in the world)
Istanbul Buses (IETT)
Buses have a very important and crucial role over Istanbul public transport. Because Istanbul’s population is close to 20 million and it not possible to construct metro and tram lines everywhere in the city. So if there is no metro or tram lines buses are the main actor of the Istanbul public transport. Buses are operating by the IETT company which was founded in 1869. It is not possible to write down the bus lines or the map of them because there almost 1000 bus lines operating in Istanbul. Most of the buses in Istanbul are new, suitable for handicapped people and environmentally friendly cars based on Europen Union regulations. You can download the Mobiett app from AppStore and Google Play Store.
Apart from all bus lines in Istanbul, there is a metro bus line which should be mentioned separately. Metrobus line is operating between Sogutlucesme and Beyikduzu. Metrobus lines have their own road separated from the current traffic. So, there won’t be any delays or problems during the trip. The only problem is about the Metrobus line is there are too many people using it. Especially during rush hours, it will be very hard to use the Metrobus line.
Ferry Lines (Sehir Hatlari)
If you want to experience the Bosphorus and also to get around Istanbul ferry lines are the right option. There are 4 main lines over the Bosphorus. You can find the list below. Each trip will take around 20 to 30 minutes if you use the main lines. You may all information about the Istanbul ferry line from the Sehir Hatlari company website. Every year the percentage of sea transport within Istanbul public transport is increasing.
- Emionu – Kadikoy
- Eminonu – Uskudar
- Karakoy – Kadikoy
- Besiktas – Kadikoy
Besides the main lines, there are different small lines over the golden Horne and parallel lines to the Bosphorus. Also, there is also one car ferry lines operating both sides of Istanbul. You can find the small lines list below.
- Halic lines
- Bostanci – Karakoy – Kabatas
- Bosphorus Tours (Long and Short)
- Kucuksu – Besiktas – Kabatas
- Cengelkoy – Istinye
- Kadikoy – Sariyer
- Anadolu Kavagi – Sariyer
- Uskudar – Ortakoy
- Rumeli Kavagi – Eminonu
- Kucuksu – Istinye
- Istinye – Cubuklu (Car ferry)
- Prince Island lines
Things to Pay Attention While Using Istanbul Public Transport
- Buy the Istanbul card as soon as you arrive at the Istanbul.
- Add at least 50 Turkish Lira to the card. Download mobile apps to add money from your mobile phone.
- Download the Metro Istanbul, Mobiett and Sehir Hatlari apps to get the latest information about the lines.
- Be careful of pickpocketing while you are using Metrobus line during the rush hours.
- Don’t forget to use the refund machine when you use pay as you go lines (Marmaray and Metrobus)
If you have any questions about Istanbul public transport system please share them in the comment section.