Istanbul on Foot
Istanbul is quite big and, more often than not, you will need some sort of vehicle to get around the city. Some semi-pedestrian areas, such as Istiklal Caddesi, offer pleasant walking routes especially when they are not as crowded (as they always are on weekends) and when the weather is nice. The tourist spots in Sultanahmet, the Bazaar Quarter, and Beyoğlu are perfect for exploring on foot.
When walking around the city, keep in mind that Istanbul’s streets may not be as ordered and easy to navigate on foot as you might think. You may find that some neighborhoods are lacking in pavements or that the pavements are too narrow or damaged. A good tip is to always look where you are going as unexpected holes and dents can be found around the city—even in the most posh neighborhoods. Keep in mind that Istanbul’s streets are not made with mothers in mind, so it is quite difficult to go around with a stroller in most areas. You should also take note that Istanbulian drivers can be notoriously reckless and often do not stop for pedestrians—even at pedestrian crossings—which is why you should always exercise extreme caution, even when crossing at lights.
Taxis are bright yellow cars with a ‘Taksi’ sign on the roof. You won’t have a problem finding a taxi day or night, and they can be hailed on the street at any time or found at taxi ranks. It is advisable to catch a licensed taxi from a taxi rank late at night. Taxi drivers are not always streetwise and it is usual for them to ask for directions from other drivers or shop owners, so it’s wise to carry a map. Since most drivers don’t speak any English, it’s also a good idea to have your destination written down.
As of 18 December 2010, the taxi meter starts with 2.5 TL and adds 1.4 TL per kilometer thereafter. You must add bridge crossing and toll fees to the meter (currently, it costs 3.6 TL for bridge crossing).Tipping is not necessary; however, you can round off the meter cost to the nearest hundred.
If you experience any improper behavior, call the taxi Complaint line (0212) 456 578 9.
Dolmuş is a form of shared transportation commonly used by locals. Dolmuş can either be yellow station wagons (mainly on the Asian side) or blue minibuses (mainly on the European side). These vehicles run on a fixed route (which is displayed on the vehicle’s front and side windows). You may have to wait after you get on the dolmuş, as drivers will usually set off when the vehicle is full. You can get on or get off a dolmuş pretty much anywhere along the route by informing the driver. These shared taxis offer a cheaper option than taxis and a more frequent schedule than buses. Dolmuş usually operate until the evening and some major routes (such as the ones from the Asian Side to Taksim Square) operate until late.
Dolmuş don’t have stops like buses. To get on a dolmuş, stand on the side of the road on a dolmuş route, and hold your hand out as if hailing a taxi. As you’re getting on the dolmuş, double check with the driver to make sure that the dolmuş will stop at your desired destination. Once you get on, take a seat (if there is any space left), state your destination, and pass the money to the driver or to the person sitting in front of you (who will pass it along to the driver). When you want to get off, shout out “inecek var”.
The distance that you will travel determines the fare, which will range between 1-2 TL and 7-8 TL.
The routes on the European Side are as follows:
All the dolmuş leaving from the Asian Side to the European Side take off from Bağdat Caddesi. The routes between the Asian Side and the European side are as follows:
The dolmuş also operates between the neighborhoods on the Asian Side. These can be hailed on the Sahil Yolu. The routes are as follows:
City buses are plentiful and in various colors (blue, red, green). Green and red buses require that you have an Akbil to get on board, while the blue ones allow you to pay cash. (See the Akbil section for more info.) The buses offer numerous routes around the city and are an inexpensive option. Keep in mind that buses tend to be quite crowded and you may have to wait extended periods of time. The local transport authority IETT’s website (http://iett.gov.tr/en/) offers detailed information on routes and maps in English.
Istanbul has a small but well-functioning metro system that started operating in 2000.
M1 line:This line operates between Atatürk International Airport and Aksaray.
M2 line: This line operates between Şişhane and Darüşşafaka with stops in Şişhane, Taksim Square, and Levent (the business district of Istanbul).
Trams and Funiculars
Tünel Funicular: The world’s second oldest underground cable-car is the Tünel Funicular that operates between Karaköy and Tünel Square every few minutes. This short run costs 2.50 TL.
F1 Funicular line:This line operates between Taksim Square and Kabataş. (You can transfer to the T1 line at Kabataş—see below—to get to Sultanahmet.)
T1 Tram Line:This line operates between Kabataş and Zeytinburnu, with stops throughout the old city.
Taksim-Tünel Tram: This 19th-century tram connects Tünel Square and Taksim Square, running the length of Istiklal Street.
T3 Tram Line: This line connects Kadıköy and Moda on the Asian side.
Metrobus refers to buses that operate on special lanes that allow them to run without getting stuck in traffic. There are three lines of the Metrobus extending between the European and the Asian sides. Line 34 runs between Avcılar and Zincirlikuyu, Line 34T runs between Avcılar and Topkapı only. Line 34A along the Söğütlüçeşme and Edirnekapı route can be used to cross the bridge.
There are ferry (vapur) and sea bus (deniz otobüsü) services along the Bosphorus for those wishing an alternate route. Ferries, a more nostalgic version of sea travel, are cheaper than sea buses, which are faster, more modern, and more comfortable. Common routes operate between Beşiktaş, Kabataş, and Eminönü on the European side and Üsküdar, Kadıköy, and Karaköy on the Asian side.
There are services operating between the city (from both sides) and the Princes’ Islands; these services are more frequent during the spring and summer months. There are also regular services running along the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus Strait (with stops in Ortaköy, Arnavutköy, and Bebek).
The ferries and sea buses operate quite frequently and their timetables can be viewed at the terminals. You can also view timetables online; for sea bus timetables, visit www.ido.com.tr/en/index.cfm, and for ferry timetables, visit www.sehirhatlari.com.tr/en
This innovative, 24/7 commuting service is a (more expensive) alternative for those who wish to cross the Bosphorus or visit the Princes’ Islands on their own schedule.
Deniz Taksi boats can hold up to 10 people and prices are calculated based on the distance traveled. You must call to request a taxi when you are by the water or you can reserve ahead of time. To make a booking and for fare information, call 444 44 98 or visit www.deniztaksi.com (the website does not have an English version yet).
Su Samuru is a fairly new and elegant sea-taxi company that has the capacity to transport 10 passengers. The elegantly-decorated boat is equipped with a music and LCD system, air-conditioning, and heating. The sea taxi is also available for guided tours. To make a booking and for fare information, call 0533 777 77 18 or visit www.su-samuru.com (the website does not have an English version yet).
If you will be in Istanbul for an extended period of time, it is worth investing in an Akbil, a smart, electronic pass that makes getting around in public transport easier and faster. Akbil can be used with all forms of public transport except for dolmuş. An adult Akbil travel pass can be used by more than one person as long as enough number of fares can be charged from it. Akbil offers 10\\% discount at all fares as well as 50\\% discount for the next five transits within 120 minutes.
Akbil can be purchased from ticket offices close to main bus, metro, and train stations by paying a small deposit. Keep in mind that you can’t purchase an akbil inside train or metro stations. You will need to find a booth with a “Akbil Satış Noktası” sign near major stations (such as in Mecidiyeköy and Taksim Square). Akbil recharging kiosks are located inside most stations.
Akbil is refundable, so remember to keep your purchase receipt if you would like to return it at the end of your trip.
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