If you are traveling to Istanbul and wondering how to get from Istanbul Airport to the city center quickly and easily, I have good news for you! I’ve gathered all the information you need so you can start your trip worry-free.

Istanbul is a city full of history, culture and beauty, but I was really surprised to learn that the new international airport (IGA – Havalimanı) was built so far outside the city.

The city is also really huge and most of the time there is a lot of traffic, so it easily takes an hour to cover the 40-50 km, and most of the time it takes much more.

The city is rich in sights, from the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and the Basilica Cistern (The Sunken Palace) to the Topkapi Palace and the famous Grand Bazaar. But Istanbul has much more to offer than just historical sites. The city is also known for its vibrant art scene, culinary delights, inviting shopping, and lively nightlife. If you’re traveling to Istanbul, be sure to spend some time exploring the city’s various neighborhoods.

We were there for a full week and could have easily stayed longer.

Visit the hip Galata district with its trendy bars and restaurants, or walk through the old Sultanahmet district with its narrow streets and historic buildings. No matter where you go, the city will enchant you with its beauty and charm.

The people of Istanbul are friendly and welcoming. They will welcome you immediately and help you find your way around the city. But to really experience the city, you need to get out and discover what it has to offer. We have some travel tips to help you do just that.

The only question is how to get to Istanbul city centre from the airport.

Here is our overview:

View onto the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Turkey.
View onto the Golden Horn in Istanbul, Turkey.

Istanbul Airport (IST) to the city center: What means of transportation are available to you?

When you arrive in Istanbul and want to get to the city center, you have several transportation options to choose from. Istanbul Airport (IST) is located about 40 kilometers from the city center, but there are many ways to get there.

The fastest and most convenient option is by taxi or private transfer (more on this in a moment).

There are also public transportation options such as the subway, buses or shuttles (see below).

If you prefer to drive, you can also rent a car. Have fun in Istanbul traffic. 😉

A list of pro and cons

  1. Taxi
    • Pros: Fast and convenient, can take you directly to your destination.
    • Cons: Expensive, can be difficult to find a taxi during peak times.
  2. Bus
    • Pros: Affordable and reliable, multiple lines to choose from.
    • Cons: Can be slow during traffic, not as convenient as a taxi.
  3. Metro
    • Pros: Fast and affordable, connects to the city center and other major destinations.
    • Cons: Can be crowded, not as convenient as a taxi or bus for getting to your final destination.
  4. Private transfer
    • Pros: Convenient and reliable, can be tailored to your specific needs.
    • Cons: Expensive, and can also get affected by traffic.
  5. Car rental
    • Pros: Freedom to explore the city at your own pace, can be cheaper than a private transfer for longer trips.
    • Cons: Can be difficult to navigate Istanbul traffic, can be expensive to park in the city center.

Each option has its advantages and disadvantages, so you should decide which one is best for you depending on your needs. No matter which option you choose, the drive from the airport to the city center will give you a first glimpse of the vibrant metropolis of Istanbul with its famous sights and unique atmosphere.

From Istanbul Airport to the city center: Here you can find your connection

Private airport transfer in Istanbul

When you arrive in Istanbul, of course you want to get to the city center as soon as possible and explore the city. One of the most convenient options is a cab or private transfer, as it is fast and direct.

We opted for the private transfer, and VIP style!

The whole thing is not more expensive than a cab, as it already includes all the tolls. So we had a very personal and special Istanbul transfer. The luxury van had all the amenities, like WiFi, super massage seats to lean way back. As extra fun, there is even a huge TV. So you can enjoy the ride, recover from the flight and arrive absolutely relaxed!

No one beats this price! The transfer is available here for $49 and incl. 5% discount.

The advantages of private transfer

  • Istanbul airport transfer in VIP van.
  • Service available 24/7.
  • Worry free travel, no hidden costs, no one beats the price for the service! No tolls and even parking fees are included, even if your flight might be delayed.
  • Use the WiFi in the van to get your Travel Dudes eSIM card.

This is how private Istanbul airport transfer works

  • Immediately after your booking you will receive the confirmation and the number of your driver.
  • The transfer desk is located in the arrival hall of Istanbul Airport.
  • Your personal driver will wait for you, help you with your luggage and take you to your apartment or hotel.
  • Even if your flight is delayed, your own private driver will be waiting for you, without any further costs.

Book the transfer here

Private VIP Istanbul Airport Transfer.
Private VIP Istanbul Airport Transfer.

And if you arrive at Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW), you can also book the private airport transfer here.

Istanbul Airport Shuttle

A cheaper and time saving option is the Istanbul Airport [IST] Express Shuttle.

The Express Shuttle is not only super cheap, but also takes you directly and without detours from Istanbul Airport [IST] to your accommodation. So you can start your adventure right away and don’t have to worry about public transportation or taxi fares.

Honestly, treat yourself to this luxury and start your Istanbul adventure relaxed and stress free! Enjoy the unbeatable advantage of being able to drive directly to your hotel in the Old City without any stops!

Top price: $25 (including 5% discount)

The advantages

  • Perfect for those staying in the old city of Sultanahmet.
  • Make the most of your valuable time and enjoy a relaxing ride.
  • Get a cheap shuttle with no hidden costs and save money compared to taxi as toll and parking fees are included.
  • Pay less than taxi prices and enjoy a safe transfer.
  • Departures every two hours.
  • Avoid the hassle of waiting in endless taxi queues.
  • Forget the hassle of transfers and enjoy a direct ride.
  • Save 20% when you book your return trip together. Click here to book your return trip.

This is how Istanbul Airport Express Shuttle works

  • Immediately after booking, you will receive a confirmation and your driver’s number.
  • Upon your arrival at Istanbul Airport, go to the meeting point in the transportation area.
  • Your driver assistant will be waiting for you to help you with your luggage and take you to the shuttle.
  • Please do not forget to mention your flight number and arrival time when booking.

Book the Airport Express Shuttle here

Airport Shuttle Istanbul
Airport Shuttle Istanbul

Metro

However, if you want to save money, use public transportation. There is a metro line that goes directly from the airport to the city center.

Since January 2023, the (M11) Istanbul Airport – Gayrettepe has been in operation and stops at a total of 7 stations, from Istanbul Airport to Kağıthane. Once the integration of the Gayrettepe and Mahmutbey metro lines is completed, Istanbul Airport will be easily accessible through the entire rail network.

Istanbul Airport Metro Stops

  • Cargo-Terminal
  • İstanbul Havalimanı
  • Ihsaniye
  • Göktürk
  • Kemerburgaz
  • Üniversite-Hasdal​​
  • Kağıthane (about 60 minutes ride)

From Kağıthane you have to get off and choose between other options and connections. The trip is really very cheap, but it is also more complicated. To get to our apartment, we would have had 22 more bus stops, plus a 10 minute walk, with luggage after a long day.

Metro Prices

  • 1-3 Stations: TRY 9.90 = $0.37
  • 4-5 Stations: TRY 11.29 = $0.42
  • 6-8 Stations: TRY 12.77 = $0.47

The maximum fare is charged the first time the ticket is used. If part of the route is not used, it will be refunded on departure.

  • Travel time: 27 minutes
  • Frequency: Every 20 minutes
  • Length of line: 34 km
  • Hours of operation
    İstanbul Havalimanı – Kağıthane: 06:00 – 00:00 hrs.
    Kağıthane – Istanbul Havalimanı: 06:00 – 00:40 a.m.

The metro is about a 6-10 minute walk from the airport terminal. Look for entrance/exit number 10.

Map with Metro connection from Istanbul Airport to Kagithane, Istanbul.
Map with Metro connection from Istanbul Airport to Kagithane, Istanbul.

HAVAIST-Shuttlebus

Another option is the Havabus shuttle bus, which has several stops in the city center.

HAVAIST is the official airport bus service between the new Istanbul Airport (IST) and around 50 destinations in the city.

HAVAIST airport shuttle buses offer passengers a safe, comfortable and high quality service with vehicles on Euro6 standard that can accommodate 46 passengers. The buses are equipped with the latest technology such as high quality TV screens, USB chargers and Wi-Fi service.

HAVAİST offers a total of 11 different routes between the airport and the city center

Route Code / Destination / Transfer / Fees

  • HVİST-5 / Esenler Bus Terminal / Yenikapı – Kirazlı Metro-Line / TRY 102 = $4
  • HVİST-6 / Halkalı – Başakşehir / Kirazlı Metro-Station / TRY 92 = $3.40
  • HVİST-7 / Silivri / TRY 160 = $6
  • HVİST-8 / Beylikdüzü / TRY 125 = $4.65
  • HVİST-9 / Avcılar – Bahçeşehir / TRY 100 = $3.70
  • HVİST-10 / Bakırköy / İDO Ferry Terminal / TRY 120 = $4.45
  • HVİST-12 / Beyazıt Square / Aksaray Metro / TRY 136 = $5
  • HVİST-13 / Airport Sabiha Gökçen / TRY 172 = $6.40
  • HVİST-14 / Ferry Terminal Kadıköy / TRY 149 = $5.50
  • HVİST-15 / Beşiktaş Ferry Terminal / TRY 114 = $4.25
  • HVİST-16 / Taksim / Taksim Metro und Public Transport / TRY 136 = $5

Wheelchair users traveling from the airport to the city center are advised to go to the HAVAİST counters in the transportation hall at least one hour in advance and indicate the route they want to take.

Rollstuhlfahrern, die vom Flughafen ins Stadtzentrum fahren, wird empfohlen, sich mindestens eine Stunde im Voraus an den HAVAİST-Schaltern in der Transporthalle zu melden und die gewünschte Route anzugeben.

İETT buses

The formerly red, now yellow buses go to all parts of the city, including the Upper Bosphorus and across the Bosphorus bridges. The main bus stops are in Eminönü, Taksim Square, Üsküdar and Kadıköy. With over 500 bus lines and some train lines, İETT is the largest public transportation company in Turkey.

İETT buses at the airport are wheelchair accessible.

There are 5 different routes between the airport and the city center

Route Code / Destination / Transfer / Fees

  • H-1 / Mahmutbey Metro / Mahmutbey Metro / 2 Tickets TRY 19,80 = $0.75
  • H-2 / Mecidiyeköy / Mecidiyeköy Metro – Metrobus Stations / 2 Tickets TRY 19,80 = $0.75
  • H-3 / Halkalı Marmaray / Kirazlı Metro Station / 2 Tickets TRY 19,80 = $0.75
  • H-5 / Yunus Emre Mah. – Arnavutköy / Mescid-i Selam Metro Station / 2 Tickets TRY 19,80 = $0.75
  • H-8 / Hacıosman Metro Station – Sarıyer / 2 Tickets TRY 19,80 = $0.75

Airport Taxis

At Istanbul Airport, a 24-hour taxi service is available, which is based on three different taxi categories:

  • the black “E” cabs
  • the blue “D” cabs and
  • the orange “C” cabs

Guests can order a taxi from the main stands in the Plaza area as well as from the vehicles in the Departures level (2nd floor), which belong to the Istanbul Airport Taxi Drivers Cooperative and adhere to the taxi meter rate set by UKOME.

In order to meet the demand for vehicles with more storage space, larger passenger capacity (8+1) and other similar features, UKOME has introduced different tariffs for turquoise and black upper segment taxis in order to improve service quality and promote zero-emission vehicles.

According to the tariff administered by UKOME, the fares for turquoise cabs are only 15% higher than the fares for orange cabs, while the fares for luxury black cabs are a remarkable 70% higher than the fares for orange cabs.

Route / Orange Taxi Fares / Blue Taxi Fares / Black Luxustaxi Fares

Aksaray / TRY 440 = $16 / TRY 505 = $19 / TRY 745 = $28

Bakırköy / TRY 480 = $18 / TRY 555 = $21 / TRY 850 = $31

Beşiktaş / TRY 440 = $18 / TRY 505 = $19 / TRY 745 = $28

Beylikdüzü / TRY 610 = $23 / TRY 700 = $26 / TRY 1035 = $38

Etiler / TRY 440 = $18 / TRY 505 = $19 / TRY 745 = $28

Taksim TRY 440 = $18 / TRY 505 = $19 / TRY 745 = $28

The rates shown in the table are valid 24 hours a day.

Any bridge, bus terminal or road tolls are the responsibility of the client. In the case of Private Airport Transfer, these are included, which makes the trip much easier and more pleasant, as that makes it also possible to change money in the city then.

If the passenger wishes to use the Eurasia Tunnel to transfer between the Anatolian and European sides of the city, he/she must pay the toll for the 15 July Martyrs Bridge or the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge to cover the return taxi ride to the Anatolian side. This is in addition to the Eurasia Tunnel toll.

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Extra Tip

I recommend that you buy the Istanbul Welcome Card, which not only includes public transportation, but also fast entry and no queues at the main attractions (about $95). It also includes a boat ride on the Bosphorus and excursions. Since you’ll probably want to see Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern and Hagia Sophia anyway, you’ll save a lot of money without having to wait in line.

The Istanbul Welcome Classic Card includes public transportation, a Bosphorus cruise and an audio guide, but not the sights, so it’s cheaper (about $27).

Whichever option you choose, there is always a connection that will meet your needs. The important thing is to do your research and take your time to find the best option for you.

This way, you can start your trip to Istanbul stress-free and start discovering this magical city right away!

Prices and costs at a glance: What can you expect?

If you’re planning to go from Istanbul airport to the city center, you should get an overview of the prices and costs. There are various means of transportation such as buses, taxis and subways.

However, most tourists prefer shuttle services or private transfers as they are more convenient and go directly to the hotel.

The shuttle service costs about 5-10 USD per person and the private transfer costs about 30-45 USD for up to 4 people.

However, if you are on a budget, the metro is a good option as it only costs about 1 USD.

Taxis are also available, but be sure to negotiate the price beforehand or turn on the meter. Remember that bridge and road tolls are your responsibility.

Overall, prices in Istanbul are very reasonable compared to other European cities. So you don’t have to spend much to enjoy the city and discover its beauty. We have listed the exact prices in each section above.

Tips and tricks for your trip to Istanbul

If you are coming to Istanbul, there are a few tips and tricks that can make your trip even more enjoyable.

For example, you should definitely learn a few words of Turkish – even though English is spoken in many parts of the city, it is always helpful to know a few basic phrases.

It’s also a good idea to make a list of the most important sights and restaurants so that you don’t waste time and can hit the ground running.

And last but not least, just let yourself go and enjoy the atmosphere of this fascinating city – Istanbul has so much to offer that you will surely discover new corners and facets again and again!

The 7 days were not enough for me and I will definitely come back.

Conclusion: Discover the magical city of Istanbul with all its possibilities

Now that you know how to get from Istanbul Airport to the city center and what means of transportation are available to you, nothing stands in the way of your adventure in the magical city of Istanbul.

The city offers countless opportunities to make your trip unforgettable. Visit historical sites such as Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern (the Sunken Palace), the Grand Bazaar or the Topkapi Palace and immerse yourself in the fascinating culture of Turkey.

Read more useful tips

Try the delicious Turkish cuisine with its mouth-watering dishes like Dürüm or baklava.

Istanbul also has a vibrant nightlife scene with numerous bars and clubs. Enjoy the view of the Bosphorus while having a drink or dancing the night away.

Whether alone, with friends or family, Istanbul will inspire you and leave you with unforgettable memories. We went to Istanbul as a family and the kids loved it too.

So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and discover the magical city of Istanbul and all it has to offer!

Author

  • Travel Dudes

    I'm sure you've had similar experiences I had whilst traveling. You're in a certain place and a fellow traveler, or a local, tip you off on a little-known beach, bar or accommodation. Great travel tips from other travelers or locals always add something special to our travels. That was the inspiration for Travel Dudes.