Not sure how to get from Istanbul Airport to the city center of Istanbul (Sultanahmet or Taksim)?
Whether you are coming from Istanbul’s new airport (IST) or Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW), there are plenty of options to get to the city center no matter what kind of budget you have.
Without further ado, let’s jump right into the different ways to get from Istanbul Airport to the city center!
How To Get From Istanbul Airport (IST) to City Center
Where Is The Istanbul Airport (IST) Located?
Inaugurated in 2018, the Istanbul Airport (IST) is the newest airport in Istanbul. It took over all passenger flights from the old Istanbul Ataturk Airport, which is now closed and only used for cargo and maintenance services.
The Istanbul Airport is located in the Çatalca-Göktürk-Arnavutköy area, about 38 km (23.5 miles) from Taksim and 41 km (25.4 miles) from Sultanahmet. It is on the European side of Turkey, unlike the SAW Airport, which is located on the Asian side.
Public Transportation From Istanbul Airport to City Center
There are many options to get from the new Istanbul Airport to the city center, but none is as affordable as utilizing Istanbul’s excellent public transportation system. But before we decide which bus to hop on (or metro), you need to purchase an Istanbulkart!
Getting An Istanbulkart At The Istanbul Airport
The Istanbulkart is an indispensable card when it comes to mastering public transportation in Istanbul. Basically, it is a reusable contactless stored valued card where you can put money on it and use it to pay a fare on public transportation.
As you cannot pay with cash on public transportation, it is something you must have if you want to take buses, trams, ferries, or metros. It is even used to pay for using public restrooms.
No matter how long is your Istanbul itinerary, it is important to purchase an Istabulkart the moment you get off your flight! Luckily, there are Istanbulkart vending machines where you can purchase your own.
Unfortunately, the Istanbulkart vending machines only accept Turkish Liras. That means you must exchange some local currency at the airport or take out some Turkish Lira from the ATM.
We don’t recommend exchanging Turkey currency in the airport because of the horrendous rates. The ATMs are excellent though, as some of them are based on international rates. The ATMs that charged us no fees were Ziraat Bankasi and HSBC.
Once you have your cash, you can purchase the Istanbulkart, which costs 10 TL. Once you have the card, you can top it up using the same machine to make sure you have enough for the journey.
The Istanbulkart vending machines are located on the -2 level of the arrivals at Istanbul Airport.
Buses From Istanbul Airport to City Center
The public buses from Istanbul Airport to city center depart from the -2 level of the arrivals in Istanbul Airport, conveniently where you can also get the Istanbulkart. The public buses are operated by IETT (Istanbul Electricity, Tramway and Tunnel).
If you are going to Sultanahmet (the historic center of Istanbul):
Then you will want to catch the H-9 IETT bus, get off at Cevizlibağ, and then change to the T1 tram towards Kabatas or Eminonu. From Cevizlibağ, it is 11 stops on the T1 tram to get to Sultanahmet stop.
The H-9 IETT bus runs every day from 6 AM to 7:30 PM with a frequency of every 2 to 2.5 hours. The entire journey takes about 2.5 hours, if you are lucky with the traffic.
Because the frequency of the H-9 bus is so rare and it doesn’t run all the time, you might not be able to take the H-9 bus even if you want to. In that case, the 24/7 IETT H-2 bus to Mecidiyeköy might be your best bet.
The H-2 runs every 15 to 30 minutes and takes you to Mecidiyeköy. From there, walk to Sisli station where you can hop on the M2 metro train (using the Istanbulkart) towards Yenikapi and get off at Vezneciler.
From Vezneciler, it is a short 5-minute walk to Laleli-Universite tram stop, where you can catch the T1 tram towards Kabatas or Eminonu. The T1 tram stops at Sultanahmet in 3 stops.
1 bus, 1 metro, and 1 tram, just missing the ferry and you would experience all the modes of public transportation in Istanbul. Don’t worry, it might seem intimidating at first but the process isn’t actually too bad.
With this method, you would get to Sultanahmet in about 2.5 hours, depending on the traffic condition. Be aware that the trams and metro run until midnight.
If you are going to Taksim (the modern center of Istanbul):
Then you will have an easier time, as Taksim (and the neighboring Beyoglu) is a little closer to the Istanbul Airport than Sultanahmet. Visitors can take the IETT H-2 (same one as above) and get off at the final stop, Mecidiyeköy.
From there, take the M2 from Sisli station towards Yenikapi. Two stops later you will arrive at Taksim station.
Keep in mind that the M2 metro stops running at midnight.
This route takes about 2 to 2.5 hours.
Metro From Istanbul Airport to City Center
At the time of writing of this post, the Metro connecting Istanbul Airport to the city center is not yet available. It is originally supposed to open in August 2021, but there have been quite a few delays.
M11, the official name for this new Metro line, is planned to connect Gayrettepe to Istanbul Airport to Halkalı.
We are not sure when the Istanbul Airport Metro station will open, but when it does, it provides another alternative for getting to the city center from the airport.
Havaist Airport Shuttle From Istanbul Airport to City Center
The Havaist Airport Shuttle buses are also excellent means of going from the IST Airport to the city center. Unlike the public IETT buses, Havaist buses are faster due to their less frequent stops and are generally more comfortable.
In exchange, the fare for the Havaist buses is around 3x more expensive than IETT buses. At the time of writing, a trip on Havaist buses is around 25 to 43 Turkish Liras (3 to 5.1 USD).
Each Havaist bus is numbered like the following: iST-1, iST-2 and so on. As far as we know, you can only pay with Istanbulkart as far as we know. It is rumored that you can also pay with Turkish Liras and credit cards, but I wouldn’t risk it if I were you.
The good thing about the Havaist buses is that they run 24/7 in a more frequent interval. This is perfect for travelers who are arriving in Istanbul late at night.
The Havaist buses also depart at -2 level of the arrivals hall of IST Airport.
How to get to Taksim from IST Airport using Havaist buses:
From our experience, the iST-16 bus takes you to Taksim Square. However, with the recent global situation, the routes for the iST buses are constantly changing. We have been told that the iST-14 bus and the iST-19 bus also take you to Taksim Square, but we cannot verify that because of the changing times.
It is important that you go to the Havaist official site and look for the most updated information if you decide to take their buses. You can also buy a ticket online through their site to save all the hassle.
How to get to Sultanahmet from IST Airport using Havaist buses:
Getting to Sultanahmet used to be hassle-free with the Havaist buses, but it is no longer the case. The iST-20 bus used to take passengers directly from Istanbul Havalimani (Istanbul Airport) directly to Sultanahmet. But because of the recent situation, service to iST-20 is suspended until further notice.
By the time you are reading this guide, the iST-20 might be back up and running, or it might be under a different route number, or it might still be unavailable.
If the direct Havaist shuttle to Sultanahmet is no longer running, it is still possible to use the Havaist buses to reach Sultanahmet, but you will need to make a transfer.
Take iST-12 for Beyazit Meydan (Beyazit Square) from IST Airport. Once you arrive, Sultanahmet Square is a 15-minute walk away. Alternatively, you can catch the T1 tram towards Eminonu or Kabatas from Beyazit tram station. Sultanahmet is only 2 stops away.
Private Shuttle From Istanbul Airport to City Center
If you prefer luxury, security and convenience, then a private shuttle is the best way to get from Istanbul Airport to city center. There is really no trick to getting a private shuttle, you tell them where you are staying in Istanbul, the driver picks you up at the airport, and then they drop you off.
Here is the private shuttle we recommend for Istanbul Airport.
Taxi From Istanbul Airport to City Center
If you prefer comfort and convenience and budget isn’t an issue, then consider taking a taxi from Istanbul Airport to city center. A taxi from Istanbul Airport to city center (Sultanahmet or Taksi) costs about ~200 Turkish Liras under ideal circumstances (at the time of writing).
However, Istanbul is known for its horrendous traffic, especially during rush hour. Because the taxis are metered in Istanbul, it could seriously drive up the fare of your trip if you are stuck in traffic.
Also, there is a possibility that your taxi driver might try to scam you by taking a longer route than needed to get to your destination. There has personally happened to us when we took a taxi in Istanbul.
If you are traveling with a group of people, a taxi is certainly an option worth considering.
Taxis can be easily found outside all levels of the airport, but there are actually three types of taxis you can get on: the luxurious black “E-type” taxis, nicer blue “D-type” taxis and original orange “C-type” taxis.
“C” taxis charge regular fares while blue taxis charge 15 percent more than regular taxis. Black taxis charge 70 percent more than orange taxis.
A taxi takes about 1 hour to get to city center from IST Airport.
How To Get From Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) to City Center
Where Is The Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) Located?
The Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) is located on the Asia side of Istanbul in Pendik, about 32 km (20 miles) southeast of the city center. Opened in 2001, the SAW Airport was the biggest airport in Istanbul until the opening of the Istanbul Airport in 2018.
It hosts plenty of international flights but from our experience, it tends to be more popular for domestic travel than IST Airport.
Public Transportation From Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) to City Center
As a mature airport in Istanbul, plenty of public transportation options connect SAW Airport with the city center. However, similar to the public transportation from IST Airport, the first step is getting your Isntabulkart.
Getting An Istanbulkart At The SAW Airport in Istanbul
Getting an Istanbulkart at the SAW Airport in Istanbul is extremely easy. Once you exit out of the arrivals hall, walk straight forward until you reach the bus-departing station. It will be easy to tell thanks to the number of buses that will be there.
Once you have arrived, use one of the Istanbulkart vending machines and get your own personal Istanbulkart. Then top up accordingly to which public transportation you will be taking. An Istanbulkart costs 10 Turkish Lira at the time of writing.
There are ATMs and currency exchange at the arrivals hall of SAW Airport so you can get some local currency and buy your Istanbulkart!
Buses From Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) to City Center
Multiple Public IETT (Municipal) buses depart from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to various locations throughout Istanbul. However, if you want to get to Taksim or Sultanahmet, then only the E-10 or E-11 would do the job.
The E-10 or E-11 takes you to Kadikoy, a neighborhood in the Asian side of Istanbul directly east of the Bosphorous.
Getting to Taksim with IETT Public Buses from SAW Airport:
Once the E-10 or E-11 drops you off at Kadikoy, you can catch the ferry to the Kabataş ferry terminal, which is in the neighborhood next to Taksim.
Once you are in Kabataş, we actually recommend getting a taxi directly to your accommodation because the F1 funicular that connects Kabataş with Taksim Square runs very rarely. The entire route would take around 2 hours, depending on traffic and how lucky you are with the ferry schedule.
This is all quite complicated and we wouldn’t recommend this method. If you are going to Taksim from SAW Airport, we recommend taking the Havabus, which we will discuss below.
Getting to Sultanahmet with IETT Public Buses from SAW Airport:
Going from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet via the IETT public buses is a little bit easier. Once you have arrived at Kadikoy with the E-10 or E-11, hop on the ferry towards Eminonu.
From there, catch the T1 tram towards Bağcılar and get off at Sultanahmet. If you are arriving past midnight, then you cannot get the T1 tram at Eminonu and must catch a taxi instead.
This method takes a minimum of 2 hours, but it is the cheapest way to get to Sultanahmet from SAW Airport.
Metro From Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) to City Center
At the time of writing, there is no Metro connecting Sabiha Gokcen Airport to the City Center. Future plans indicate that the M4 Metro line will eventually reach the SAW Airport.
With the M4 line, travelers can easily get to many different parts of the city, including Taksim and Sultanahmet.
Havabus Airport Shuttle From SAW Airport to City Center
The Havabus airport shuttle is one of the more popular ways of getting from SAW Airport to city center.
The two shuttle buses (named SG-1 and SG-2) depart 24/7 and go to three popular locations in Istanbul: Taksim (city center of modern Istanbul), Kadikoy (one of the most popular neighborhoods in the Asian side of Istanbul), and Yenisahra Metro Station.
If you need to go to Taksim from SAW, the BEST way to do so is truly the Havabus shuttle (SG-1). It only takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes once you are on the bus.
However, if you are staying in Sultanahmet, it becomes a little bit more difficult as it will require some transfers.
The quickest way to get to Sultanahmet from SAW Airport with the Havabus is to take the SG-2 to Kadikoy and get off at Yenisahra Metro Station. From there, take the M4 Metro line towards Kadikoy and switch to the Mamaray Line at Ayrılık Çeşmesi.
When you are on the Mamaray Line, head towards Halkalı and get off at Sirkeci Station after two stops.
Once you are in Sirkeci, you have the choice to either walk to Sultanhamet, which takes around 15 minutes or so, or take the T1 tram towards Bağcılar and get off at Sultanahmet Station.
All of this should be nice and easy EXCEPT if you are arriving late at night and the metro/trams aren’t running. The metros and trains don’t operate after midnight but the ferry does.
In that case, taking the Havabus directly to Taksim might be your best option. You can catch a taxi from Taksim to your accommodation in Sultanahmet for an affordable price.
Note that the Havabus are more expensive than the public IETT buses, costing 27.5 TL and 20.5 TL for the bus to Taksim and Kadikoy/Yenisahra, respectively (at the time of writing). You can pay with cash or the Istanbulkart onboard.
Make sure you check the Havabus official site for updated information as it changes frequently.
Private Shuttle From SAW Airport to City Center
If you hate headaches (who likes headaches?!) and want comfort and security, then a private shuttle is the best way to go. Though they are a little bit more expensive than public transportation, it saves you the headache of getting your Istanbulkart, finding your bus, making sure you don’t get lost, etc.
There are so many ways that it can go wrong.
A private shuttle will pick you up from the airport and drop you off at the door of your accommodation at any time of the day. No preplanning is required!
Check out our recommended Airport shuttle service from SAW airport here!
Taxi From SAW Airport to City Center
A taxi from SAW Airport to city center isn’t a bad option for those that seek convenience, especially if you are traveling as a group. Visitors can easily find plenty of taxis queuing up outside the arrival hall at Sabiha Gokcen Airport.
A taxi to Taksim will cost somewhere around 150 to 200 TL, depending on the traffic condition. A taxi to Sultanahmet is usually more expensive, somewhere around 200 to 250 TL, as the taxi driver needs to take the Eurasia Tunnel.
For a more exact fare of the trip, check out the taxi estimator here!
A taxi ride from SAW Airport to city center takes about an hour to an hour and thirty minutes.
Where to Stay in Istanbul, Turkey
Below we will recommend some of our favorite places to stay in Istanbul’s city center: Taksim and Sultanahmet.
Where To Stay in Taksim, Istanbul
Best Hotel in Taksim – Pera Palace Istanbul
If discovering the history of Istanbul isn’t enough on your trip, take it to the next level and stay in a historical accommodation. Designed in 1892 by a renowned French-Ottoman architect, the Pera Palace is a special category museum hotel designed in neoclassical, art nouveau and oriental styles.
The rooms are flavorfully designed and offer the utmost comfort. When you are not relaxing in your hotel, the Taksim district and magnificent Galata Tower are on your doorstep.
Click here for more information!
Best Vacation Rental in Taksim – Historic Galata
If you are looking for a small cozy place to call home in the historic Galata district, then look no further than this Historic Galata vacation rental. The rooms are excellent value-for-money as they feature a kitchen for those that would like to cook, along with modern facilities and decor to provide excellent comfort to guests.
Each room is equipped with a balcony or garden, perfect for guests to enjoy some of Istanbul’s beautiful weather. Its location near the Galata Tower makes it one of the best places to stay in Istanbul.
Click here for more details!
Best Hostel in Taksim – Hostel Le Banc
If you are looking for an affordable, cozy and upscale hostel in Istanbul, then Hostel Le Banc is perfect for you. Each dormitory bed includes a comfortable mattress on an ornate wooden frame, a curtain for privacy, and AC in the room.
The hostel also has a beautiful terrace for catching the sunset, a kitchen for cooking, and a bar downstairs for Turkish foods and drinks. Its location next to the Galata Tower is simply unparalleled.
Click here for more info!
Best Hotel in Sultanahmet – The Magnaura Palace Hotel
If you are looking for a luxury stay in the heart of Sultanahmet district, then the Magnaura Palace Hotel is ideal for you. Located minutes away from two of the biggest attractions in Istanbul (Hagia Sophia and The Blue Mosque), guests have the best of Istanbul at their doorstep.
When you are not out exploring the historic district, enjoy a beautifully decorated hotel with stunning Turkish textiles. When you are not relaxing in your air-conditioned room, head up to the terrace for magnificent views of the historic mosques of Sultanahmet.
Click here for more info!
Best Vacation Rental in Sultanahmet – Blue Mosque Suites
The Blue Mosque Suites in Sultanahmet is one of the highest-rated vacation rentals in Istanbul and it is no surprise. With each unit featuring a hot tub and a fully-equipped kitchen with dishwater, the Blue Mosque Suites know what it takes to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
When you are not soaking your aching limbs in your hot tub from walking around Istanbul, enjoy the beautiful sea view from the terrace with a cup of complimentary tea or coffee. The vacation rental is within walking distance from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia!
Click here for more details!
Best Hostel in Sultanahmet – Antique Hostel
Antique Hostel is everything a budget traveler can dream of: air-conditioned rooms, free wifi, dormitory beds with curtains and electric sockets, a beautiful terrace restaurant with sea views, and a complimentary breakfast buffet to jumpstart your day!
Besides having excellent facilities, the hostel is located within minutes from the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Hippodrome! Its location just cannot get any better!
Click here for more information!
This concludes our guide on how to get from the Istanbul Airports (both IST and SAW) to the city center of Istanbul (Taksim/Sultanahmet). We hope our guide has helped you plan your exciting trip to Istanbul!
Any questions? Leave them in the comments!
Looking for more Turkey content? Check out our other Turkey posts!
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