Getting Around Istanbul

Here's a list of helpfull links for transportation within Istanbul and to other places.

IDO- Istanbul Deniz Otob
This is the city ferry lines. They go up the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, and to ports on the sea of Marmara near Istanbul.

Maps of the Metro and Tramways

A private ferry service that goes to about the same places.

TCDD- Turkish State Railways
Goes around Turkiye and to some othere countries. Trains going into Asia from Istanbul are shut down til 2014 while they upgrade to a high speed train system.

THY- Turkish Airlines
Good food, good service, highly rated.

Turkey Travel Planner
Has more complete info

Our new Turku Guide Library has many maps and travel guides.

Click here for a map of the Grand Bazaar, with info about getting around.
We've put together a Google map for the "Shop til you drop tour."

As you are making plans to go and coming up with a budget for the trip, make sure you look deeper into the travel sites. If you pull up an internet ticket site and it says it can get you to Istanbul for 'X' amount, don't believe it right off. Go all the way to the checkout to get the REAL total. Even some sites that give you a total that "includes taxes and fees" will sometimes add hundreds onto your total at the checkout page. One site even told me during the process of making reservations that my ticket price had gone up while I was typing! I was so mad, I went to another site. They have all kinds of tricks to suck you in, so read everything carefully.
On our last trip, screwed us so bad there's no chance we'll be using them again. We spent endless hours on the phone trying to reason with support staff that barely spoke English. In the end, the problem was fixed, but the changes that they had to make caused us major headaches all the way to Istanbul and back.
I understand that the airlines are getting tired of these travel sites making all the profits, so they are starting to offer discounted fares themselves. I think we'll be checking that out next time.

We just took our first real trip outside Istanbul, to Ankara for 4 days. We really recommend a side trip to Ankara for a couple days if you have an interest in traditional music, culture, and arts. We actually saw little of the town because we were there on 'business', but what we did see was great. You can find info on getting there on . (We've used this site several times on this trip, very handy. Thank you Tom!) We took 2 days wandering around the area of the Ankara Kalesi (castle/fortress) We found such great shops and interesting people. Ankara is more laid back than Istanbul. At night, the place to be is Kizilay (red moon) where you can find great music and dancing traditional style.

We are loving the akbil thing! Akbil is a little metal button on a tab that fits well on a key chain. It's a pass that you can load up which gets you into all the public transport- bus, ferry, tram, tunel,  etc. You get a 10% discount over tokens as well as not having to spend the time in the ticket lines. You pay 6 lira for the thing, then load it up at machines or ticket windows. Keep your receipt when you buy it, because it's only a deposit, which you can get back when you leave Istanbul. We only have one and we scan it twice to get us both in. It will also get you some transfers free. Istanbulkart does the same thing; costs $7 for a card. It does not work outside of Istanbul. The tram system has improved and I do recommend it for getting from Pera to the Bazaar. Do watch your wallet, tho. We only had trouble with that once, but once was enough to make us more vigilant.

We've not been inclined to leave Istanbul and explore the rest of Turkiye yet, but it is well worth it to take the ferry up the Bosphorus to the Black Sea. You catch a ferry near the Galata Bridge on the Sultanamet side. (Emononu) Skip the guys outside the booths who are trying to sell you tickets and go to a ticket counter. The ferry goes up to Anadolu Kavagi at the Black Sea, stopping along the way on both the European and Asian sides. At that last stop is a picturesque little village. Have some lunch at a cafe on the water where you can sit and watch the men mending nets and catching your food. Then buy a bottle of water and climb the hill to see the ruins of the Genoese fortress. If you don't buy water at the bottom, your only option will be to buy warm beer from the enterprising 10 year olds at the top. The ride is beautiful and doesn't take very long. We made a day of it and got back well before dark. On the way you will pass other sites you will want to visit like Dolmabahce Palace and another huge fortress- Rumeli Hisari, from 1452a.d., on the European side. (pictured below)

Istanbul has renovated their airport since we last went there. It's really very nice now. You arrive in the old terminal, but the departure terminal is all new. (The old terminal is now the domestic flight terminal.) They have a huge gift shop with all the popular tourist items...tiles, drums, evil eye charms, and other fun stuff. It's a good place to unload the last of your lira as you leave. There's even a pretty good Turkish restaurant there. It's nothing fancy, but it's good. When you arrive in Istanbul, you must first go to the visa's $20 for Americans right now (as of this writing on June29 2008) cash. Then you go to get your passport stamped and collect your luggage. Most hotels will pick you up at the airport. Ask them. Be aware, though, that they usually don't really care to take you back again at the end of your stay. You'll have to book that with them and pay them. We really like Turkish Airlines.They no longer allow smoking in the back of the plane on Turk Hava Yollari (Turkish Airlines). Ask the stewardess for cherry (visne) juice. Yummy. We think their food is better than most airplane food. They don't charge you to borrow headphones, which you can use to listen to the movies(in Turkish or English) or the radio (rock, classical, jazz, Turkish, etc). The ride is about 10 hours from NYC; we suggest you take a large bottle of water with you, even though the stewardesses come around pretty often. Halfway through the flight, they turn the lights down and everyone tries to sleep. In the morning, open your don't want to miss the view of the Alps.
On our most recent trip, we flew KLM and, tho we didn't care for changing planes in Amsterdam, we did like the digital movie selection with screens on the back of each seat. That really made the time go faster. The Amsterdam airport was pretty cool, tho. They have a napping lounge; and as we sat eating Japanese noodles, a full Scottish bagpipe band came marching through. (not thru the napping lounge, the concourse)

In Istanbul, you really have to keep your eyes open. If you blink as you walk, you will miss something. Do watch the sidewalks, though, they can be rough. I've learned the hard way to glance down and scan the next several feet ahead as I went walking. And you will (you should, if you don't want to miss some amazing stuff) do alot of walking. We stayed twice at Hotel Antea on Pierre Loti Caddesi off Divan Yolu. Late during our second visit, I noticed a sign across the street from it that said "Theodosius Cistern"; just a little sign on the wall of a large, modern building. We walked across and peeked into the open door...a few steps leading down. We went down. There was a little office with some guards inside. They looked up, then ignored us. So, we walked through the next door. We were in a cistern just like Yerebatan Sarnici, only it didn't have boardwalks or a gift shop. We were delighted. No matter how plain or modern the neighborhood, there are amazing things everywhere in Istanbul. (Click here for a short video clip of a helicopter fly-over of Istanbul)

You can get around Istanbul pretty well without learning the Turkish language. But you'll get around alot better if you take a few minutes to learn their alphabet system. It's all phonetic and makes lots of sense. Often, you will look at a sign (or some such thing) and, if you know the Turkish alphabet, you will realize that some of the words that you see are either in English, or simply are words you know. For instance, a sign over a bar may offer caz. If you knew the alphabet, you'd know they played jazz music. There is only one "z" because every letter in a phonetic system is pronounced. So, "cazz" would be pronounced "jaz-z". Most of the letters are the same as we are accustomed to. The exceptions are as follows...
c = j
Ç ç = ch
Ş ş = sh
g is a hard g
ğ - elongates the preceeding vowel
v = sort of sounds as if you start out making a v, but end up making a w
İ i = ee
e = as in "ever"
a = as in "art"
I ı (undotted i) = i as in "sir"
Ü ü = as in "few"
Ö ö = as in "fur"
j = as z in "azure"
r- the 'r's in the Turkish Language are slightly rolled.

If you are interested in learning Turkish, go to our page on the language. You can also visit our new Turku Guide Library for resources. We have full courses and Phrase books.

What about handicapped access? Even in areas that are modern, there are stairs everywhere. In Istanbul, you have to do alot of walking and alot of stair climbing. If you can't do these things, you will be limited to looking out your tourbus window. You will want to go to alot of ancient sites where the builders never gave a thought to wheelchair access. This is one area that Turkish tourism needs to catch up on. We have seen public buses for the handicapped.

Maybe the subject of bathrooms needs it's own page. Maybe a map with pins. The color of the pin would indicate the quality of the toilet. Maybe when I've got alot more time on my hands.
Rule 1- keep change in your pocket at all times. Many w.c.'s charge (usually 50-75 kurus)
You will find a great variety of toilets in Istanbul. There are squatties and flushies. The flushies may have different flushing mechanisms. If there are 2 buttons, it's either a flush and a stop button, or a big flush and a little flush button. (2 tips for the ladies...1-keep a pack of tissue with you and 2- the trick with squatties is to only pull your pants down to your knees)
If there is an attendant, pay them on the way in. Wash your hands and they will give you a towel on the way out, sometimes followed by a splash of lemon water and another towel.
Every mosque has a public toilet.
Therea couple w.c. in the middle of the Grand Bazaar and a couple in some of the outer courtyards that are more pleasant.