How to Use the Istanbul Metro - a complete guide
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city and with more than 14 million citizens and as the most popular tourist destination in the country, it makes sense that the city must have an efficient and smooth-running transport network. It delivers this and much more through its impressive connection of rail, metro, trams, buses and taxis.
Most people use buses, but the Istanbul Metro is cheap and has the added benefit of being a fast way to get around. Having been in operation since 1989, it is has grown to cover roughly 73 different stations connected by 59 miles of track that are used between the hours of 6 am and 12 midnight.
Used in conjunction with the tram system, any tourist or stranger to the city can easily navigate the system to reach a majority of destinations. This article covers everything you need to know how to use the Istanbul Metro system.
Buying Tickets and Peak Times of Travel
If the public transport system is going to be your primary method of getting around, the Istanbulkart is a sound investment. Selling for six Turkish lira, you load credit onto it (at least 4 lira is required) to use it on many different transport methods including buses. Buy them from an IETT counter, private vendors around the city or automatic vending machines. Alternatively, look for the electronic ticket (elektronik bilet) starting in price from four Turkish lira for a single pass, or the jetonmatik machines. All three methods can be used on the Istanbul Metro.
Naturally, like any other major city in the world, Istanbul has its peak times for travel. These are generally between the hours of 7 am to 9 am, and 5 pm to 7 pm as people make their way to and from work. Millions of passengers use the Istanbul Metro every day so avoid it during these times, if you don’t like crowds.
Istanbul Metro Maps and Timetables
The official website for the Istanbul Metro displays a timetable function and a route planner. However, the latter is only helpful if you know exactly which station you want to go to and how to spell it because choices do not automatically show up as they do on the timetable. Maps and schedules are also available at stations on information boards, and the cars give a running commentary as they make their way through the various stop points. Certain stations manned by staff also give out network maps that detail connections between the Istanbul Metro, Funicular and tramlines.
Istanbul Ataturk Airport to Sultanahmet and Taksim
To get from Ataturk airport to the Sultanahmet district, follow signs from the arrivals hall to the metro station. There is only one service out of the airport that is the M1a, and you will need to stay on until you reach Zeytinburu. From there catch the T1 Bagcilar to Kabatas tram. The 16th stop is the Sultanahmet Blue Mosque that is in the heart of the old city, and this is where you should get off.
Alternatively, to get to Taksim, stay on until the end of the line, passing the Karakoy, Galata tower station in the process. From here, catch the F1 funicular system. In this article, we talk about other transport options from Ataturk airport to Taksim, if you want to know what your alternatives are.
Using the Istanbul Metro on the Asian Side and Sabiha Gokcen airport
There are six metro lines in total, and five of them operate on the European side of Istanbul. In 2012, to much delight of local citizens, one route opened up on the Asian side. Initially running from Kadikoy to Kartal, the route is now extended to Tavsantepe. According to the official website for Sabiha Gokcen airport, work to extend the route to include them started in 2015 and should be complete by March 2018. In the meantime, this article about other airport transfer methods for Sabiha Gokcen has more options.
Can I Use the Istanbul Metro to Travel Between Sultanahmet and Taksim?
Out of all the places in Istanbul, the two most popular for tourists are Sultanahmet and Taksim. The first is a mass collection of historical sites while the second is mostly known for its nightlife and shopping but equally has some delightful landmarks to explore. Naturally, tourists want to get between the two, but the Istanbul metro system does not run between them.
Instead, use the T1 Tram line system. It has a stop in Sultanahmet and passengers can either get on and off at Karakoy and use the F2 funicular system to explore Beyoglu districts, therefore making their way up Istiklal avenue to eventually reach Taksim. Alternatively, stay on until Kabatas and swap to the F1 funicular system instead.
Is the Istanbul Metro Wheelchair Friendly?
Turkey was a late starter when it comes to wheelchair friendly accessibility for places and transport systems. Across the country, they are attempting to change this but in some cases, with disastrous results as often seen with the steep gradients of wheelchair ramps.
The company operating the metro and other transport systems for Istanbul are also promoting wheelchair friendly stations. While praise can be given for their efforts, many wheelchair users say that getting around Istanbul using public transport is frustrating and in many cases impossible. Taking into account, factors like station accessibility, crowds, underdeveloped areas, cobbled hills, and wheelchair friendly toilets, it is a lot easier and enjoyable to hire a wheelchair friendly taxi to get around.
More Travel Planning Resources for Istanbul
Istiklal Avenue: As Turkey’s busiest street, Istiklal Avenue is an ideal place to explore for first time and repeat visitors to Istanbul. This article talks about the history and major landmarks that everyone should see including churches, museums and where to eat.
Bosphorus Cruising: One of the most famous waterways in the world is the Bosphorus, and this article talks about taking a cruise to see its prominent shoreline landmarks.
Istanbul Museums: Including military, art, culture, food, and much more, the impressive collection of museums in Istanbul will delight all visitors and tourists.