You can travel from Istanbul's Atatürk
Airport to Sultanahmet,
the center of historic Istanbul (and
the best hotel area) completely by Metro & tram in
hour for TL8 or less.
Here's a map of Istanbul's public transport
I assume that if you need a Turkish visa, you have already purchased it online before leaving home. More...
You deplane into Atatürk Airport's International
Arrivals terminal, pass through Immigration
(passport control) and into the baggage claim and Customs area.
You will need Turkish liras (coins, TL5 and/or TL10 notes) to buy tokens or a fare card to pay your fare on the Metro and trams. Currency exchange offices and cash
machines (ATMs) are located in the baggage claim area, in the Arrivals hall outside the secure Customs area. Currency exchange rates at the airport exchange bureaus are usually not advantageous, so I'd recommend that you do not change large amounts of cash here.
There are also ATMs issuing notes/bills at the entrance to the Airport (Havalimanı) Metro station.
(If you buy something at the duty-free shops in the baggage claim area, or in the cafés and shops outside the secure Customs area, you can ask for TL1 coins and/or small TL notes as your change).
the secure Customs area, turn right
and walk to the end of the terminal
watching for signs to the Metro.
A guy may come up to you
as you walk and
try to get you to take a shuttle
van into the city. (It
happens to me every time.) I tell him İstemez! (eess-teh-MEHZ,
"It's not wanted"). The problem
with a shuttle van is that it circulates
through the city going to lots of hotels.
If yours is the last one, you ride
around a lot. There are other
dangers as well. More...
down the escalator or elevator/lift, and through the sliding
glass doors—meaning that you have left the secure terminal and would have to pass through a full security check to re-enter it.
Turn right and follow
the Metro signs
along the broad underground concourse
to the Havalimanı (Airport)
on the left at the end. This concourse
beneath the parking
garage connects the Domestic and International terminals as well.
Metro to the Old City
Three types of fare machines greet you at the entrance to the Havalimanı Metro station:
There is one machine to purchase an Istanbulkart. Hope that it's in working order! Insert a TL10 note to purchase one Istanbulkart RFID fare card. You will then need to go to the nearby Biletmatik machine to load some credit onto the card using TL notes of 5, 10 or 20 liras (no coins). More...
These fare-card machines vend paper electronic fare cards good for 1, 2, 3, 5 or 10 trips. Paper fare cards are more expensive, per trip, than using an Istanbulkart.
Biletmatik machines may also be used to load value onto Istanbulkart fare cards. More...
These machines vend plastic fare tokens (jeton). You'll
tokens (jeton) per person to travel from Atatürk
Airport to Sultanahmet, Eminönü or Kabataş,
three to reach Taksim
Square. (Here's more on travel
Airport to Taksim Square.)
The fare (price for each jeton)
is subject to change, but should be posted on the wall or marked on the Jetonmatik machine. You will probably need sufficient coins to purchase tokens.
Click here for more on fares & how to pay them...
Entering the Metro
Place your Istanbulkart near the sensor on the turnstile, or insert your bilet (ticket), or insert a jeton, pass through
the turnstile, descend the escalator
(or elevator/lift) and board any Metro train
for Aksaray (map) from either platform.
The Havalimanı (Airport)
station is the terminus of this Metro line,
so you can board any train—they
all go to Aksaray. You can't get the
Beware of pickpockets! I've
only had my pocket picked once in 40
years on any Istanbul public transport,
and I actually got my wallet back with
contents intact; but
I felt nothing when
he stole it. Read and believe: if
it is in your pocket and if your hand
is not on it, it can be stolen and
you will feel nothing. Take any valuables out of your pockets and put them under your clothes (a neck pouch or waist belt is best).
Because you are boarding the train at its point of origination, you have a good chance of finding a seat, which increases your comfort and reduces pickpockets' opportunities.
Change at Zeytinburnu
Get out at Zeytinburnu,
the 6th Metro stop.
jeton, or your new Istanbulkart or multi-ride ticket, to
enter the tram turnstiles.
Look for trams marked Eminönü or Kabataş (not Bağcılar).
(Eminönü and Kabataş
are stations on the same line: Eminönü is
part way along to the tram terminus
Board the tram to Eminönü and/or Kabataş.
If the tram is already crowded and
your luggage is bulky, you may want
to wait for the next tram so that you have a better chance of getting a seat. Having a seat is also
a good way to reduce the danger from
pickpockets who are most active on
the crowded trams between Aksaray and
Ride the tram eastbound to Sultanahmet,
the 16th stop (the recorded station-stop
announcement says sool-TAHN-ah-meht,
and also BLOO
mosk in English!) and get
out. You'll be on Divan
Yolu at the northeastern end of
the Hippodrome with
the huge Blue
Mosque clearly in view about 300 meters/yards to the south.
See TTP's Sultanahmet
Street Guide for street-by-street
Sirkeci & Golden Horn
If you're bound for Sirkeci
docks, or the terminus for European trains at Sirkeci,
stay on the tram to the Gülhane, Sirkeci or Eminönü stop.
If the particular tram you're on
is marked Kabataş, it
will continue beyond Eminönü,
cross the Galata
Bridge over the Golden
Horn to Karaköy (Galata),
and go as far as Kabataş,
where there is another ferry
dock and a funicular to Taksim
Square. (You'll need a third
token for the funicular.
If you're using an Istanbulkart you'll
pay only a reduced-price transfer
Buy two tokens (jeton) or a multi-fare ticket at
a machine, shop or kiosk near a tram stop,
or use your Istanbulkart.
in a Bağcılar tram
and ride it to
Zeytinburnu. (Note: trains marked Cevizlibağ do not go all the way to Zeytinburnu. Wait for a Bağcılar tram.)
Leave the tram at Zeytinburnu, follow the Metro signs into the adjoining Metro station,
climb the stairs and descend on the
other side of the tracks so as to be
on the outbound/westbound track. Board a train going to Havalimanı (airport).
Ride it to the last stop, and you'll
be directly beneath the airport
parking garage, on the concourse
Domestic and International
You will have to go through a security check to enter either terminal.
By Private Transfer
More expensive, but safer, faster and more
to the Metro-and-tram trip are to go
transfer (good value!),
have problems), or shuttle van (may take time making several hotel stops before heading for the airport). More...
—by Tom Brosnahan