Unless you have arranged for a (free) airport pick-up when you booked your hotel, you will need to find transportation from the airport to your hotel. There are several options, depending on the airport where you land (Atatürk International or Sabiha Gökçen) and the location of your hotel — Sultanahmet or Beyoğlu (Taksim/Cihangir). The following overview helps you make the correct choice based on your needs or preference.
- Get Turkish liras – If you don’t have Turkish liras on you, use one of the many ATMs in the airport to withdraw some cash money. None of the transportation options mentioned below will accept credit cards, foreign currencies or big Turkish lira notes.
- Hotel address – Make sure that you write down or print out the exact address of your hotel and the telephone number. Istanbul is a huge city with an uncountable amount of (small) hotels. Taxi drivers don’t know them all by heart. So, if he doesn’t, just hand him the piece of paper. After asking around at traffic lights or calling the hotel, he’ll get you there.
From the Atatürk International Airport
- Taxi – Taking a taxi to your hotel is the most common used and most convenient option. If you’re travelling with a party of three or more, it’s even as cheap or expensive as the shuttle services. Just walk out of the airport – disregard the hustlers inside the airport trying to give you a ride – and you’ll see the official taxis nicely lined up. In about half an hour (without traffic jams) he’ll take to Sultanahmet for about 32 TL, a ride to Taksim will set you back for 40 TL and a few minutes more.
- Shuttle Services – Havataş is municipality run reliable shuttle service. You can find them outside the airport terminal, at the second lane. Every half hour one of their buses heads for Taksim. The ride cost 10 TL per person (luggage included) and takes approximately 40 minutes depending on traffic. The only downside is that they don’t go to Sultanahmet, so you’ll end up taking a taxi from Taksim to Sultanahmet if your hotel is located there. Alternatively, you can get off at the Aksaray stop, and take a taxi from there. For more information, visit the Havataş website.
- Public Transportation – You can also use public transportation to reach your hotel. There is of course a reason I put this last in the list. Although a little bit cheaper, it is rather adventurous. For starters, you’ll have to change vehicles/lines (and take plenty of stairs) a few times, and the operating hours are only between 6 a.m. and midnight. So only read on if you are travelling light.
Still with me? Ok, here we go. Keep in mind that every transfer I mention requires you to buy a new token, on average 1,5 TL each and per person. First hop on the metro in the airport (underground) in the direction of Zeytinburnu. At that station, not necessary the final destination of the metro, you must get off and take the tramway to Kabataş. If your hotel is located in Sultanahmet, get off at the respective stop.
If you’re going to Taksim, stay put until the last station – Kabataş. From there, follow the funicular (Füniküler) signs and hop on. The next stop is Taksim.
From the Sabiha Gökçen Airport
- Taxi – unless money is not an object, stay clear from taking a taxi from the Sabiha Gökçen airport. A ride to Beyoğlu or Sultanahmet may easily take an hour. Accordingly, you’ll have to pay 65 TL or more.
- Shuttle Services – Havataş is by far your best option to reach the European side of Istanbul. Every 30 mintues one of their buses heads for Taksim. The ride only costs 12 TL per person (luggage included) and takes approximately 1,5 hours depending on traffic. Again, if your hotel is located in Sultanahmet, you’ll need to take a short taxi ride from Taksim. For more information, visit the Havataş website.
Alternatively, you could take the same Havataş airport shuttle service, but this time to Kadıköy. You’ll end up at the main Asian pier in 60 minutes at 8 TL per person, and from there you can take a ferry and even shorter taxi ride to the Sultanahmet area. Although very romantic, in my opinion and with all your luggage, the Havataş bus going to Taksim is your best bet (and value for the money).