İstanbulkart is a contactless smart card for fare payment on public transport in Istanbul. The Istanbulkart is valid for boarding buses, funiculars, LRT, subway, commuter trains, ferryboats and trams operated by the Metropolitan Municipality and private companies. Cash payment on these transport systems is not possible. Reduced fees are applicable for up to five transfers within two hours to other vehicles on the transportation network.
Public transportation in Istanbul has improved for the better over the past few years. A lot of 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, when (not) to use it, and how to pay for it. You will be amazed.
Public Transportation as the Smart Alternative
It’s an understatement to say that Istanbul traffic is a problem. Roads are always heavily used, and gridlocks are common from 07:00 till 10:30 in the morning, and again starting 16:00 until late in the evening. This makes public transportation a nice alternative.
When to Use Public Transportation or Take a Taxi?
- physical condition — By default, using public transportation requires you to walk a bit more. Some run underground, so be prepared to take stairs although most such stops have moving staircases. Decide according to your physical condition.
- fares — The fare to take public transportation is about 2,60 TL per person per ride with an Istanbul Kart. So, let’s take the following example. The cab fare to get from Sultanahmet to Taksim is 15 TL, regardless of the amount of people in the cab and without getting stuck in traffic. From Sultanahmet to Taksim by public transportation requires you to first take the tramway, followed by a funicular. The trip for one person costs about 5 TL thanks to the transfer discount. So, the latter is a great idea when traveling alone, as a couple or even as a party of three. Yes, even three people during rush hour because you’ll win time and money since the taxi meter also adds small amounts when standing still in traffic.
- time of the day — Most lines operate between 06:00 and 24:00 (see details below), so outside of these hours you must rely on a taxi which is safer at that time of day anyway.
Is Public Transportation in Istanbul Safe?
Yes. Metro, tram, and funicular lines in the city center are well maintained and constantly supervised by security personnel. The only thing you should watch out for is pickpockets.