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Use Public Transportation in Istanbul to Reach Most Places of Interest

Public transportation in Istanbul has improved for the better over the past few years. Most people still take taxis to commute between the various points of interest, but it’s often not the best choice.

In this article I’ll point out the benefits of using public transportation, what the common lines are for tourists, when they operate, and what sightseeing spots they service. You will be amazed.

Public Transportation as the Smart Alternative

It’s an understatement to say that Istanbul traffic is a problem. The latest renovation works of Taksim Square [1] make it even worse. Roads are always heavily used, and gridlocks are common from 07:00 till 10:00 in the morning, and again starting 16:00 until often late in the evening. This makes public transportation a nice alternative.

I will only focus on metro, tramway and funicular systems because buses will be stuck in traffic just like taxis. This is also by no means an overview of every public transportation line Istanbul has to offer, but merely the most interesting ones for tourists.

Please scroll to the bottom of this article for a large map with all the lines and the relevant sightseeing spots at the different stops.

When to Use Public Transportation or a Taxi?

How to Pay for Public Transportation?

There are basically two ways to pay for the fare: either you get a token (jeton) from the sales booth or vending machines (jetonmatik), or you use the Istanbul Card (Istanbul Kart) — an electronic boarding pass. If you use a token you’ll pay 3 TL per ride, with an Istanbul Card you only pay 1,95 TL per ride, and get discounts for every transfer you make. So I strongly suggest you to get an Istanbul Kart [3].

T1 – Kabataş-Bağcılar Tramway Line

T1 - Kabataş-Bağcılar Tramway Line in Istanbul, Turkey. [4]

T1 – Kabataş-Bağcılar.

This is probably the most important line. This air-conditioned tramway basically connects Sultanahmet with Beyoğlu and Taksim (by funicular). This line has many stops of interest to tourist:

First train: 06:00
Last train: 00:00
Frequency: every two minutes during rush hour

T – Karaköy-Tünel Funicular

T - Karaköy-Tünel Funicular in Istanbul, Turkey. [6]

T – Karaköy-Tünel.

This is actually the third oldest passenger underground railway system in the world. The look of the trains still reflects this. This funicular takes you in 90 seconds 573 meters uphill to Tünel, at the end of Istiklal Caddesi. From there you can easily reach Galata by walking downhill or have a stroll on Istiklal Caddesi. Alternatively, you could take the nostalgic tramway (NT) until Taksim Square.

First train: 07:00
Last train: 21:00
Frequency: every two minutes

F1 – Taksim-Kabataş Funicular

F1 - Taksim-Kabataş Funicular in Istanbul, Turkey. [7]

F1 – Taksim-Kabataş.

In June 2006 this long anticipated connection between Kabataş and Taksim was taken in use. This modern air conditioned funicular ride takes only 2,5 minutes. From Kabataş you can walk to Dolmahbaçe Palace, take the fast ferry boats to Kadıköy or the Princes’ Islands, and connect to the T1 tramway line to Eminönü, Sultanahmet, Grand Bazaar, etc.

First train: 06:15
Last train: 00:00
Frequency: every three minutes during rush hour

M2 – Şişhane-Hacıosman Metro Line

M2 - Şişhane-Hacıosman Metro Line in Istanbul, Turkey. [8]

M2 – Şişhane-Hacıosman.

This line, the first real metro Istanbul had, consists of 12 stops over a 17 kilometer stretch. The metro, daily taken by about 250.000 people, is very safe and clean. The most important stops for tourists are:

First train: 06:15
Last train: 00:00
Frequency: every four minutes during rush hour

Public Transportation Map for Tourists

Public transportation map for tourists in Istanbul, Turkey. [11]

Public transportation map for tourists in Istanbul, Turkey.

Photo Sources [1 [12]] [2 [13]]

[14] [15]