Istanbul is a huge city with a few airports on different banks and a bit complex subway system. I remember how confused we were on our first visit when trying to understand all the details about airport transfer. After living in Istanbul for a while and making many trips to and from the city’s airports, I decided to put together this Istanbul airport transfer guide.
In this post, you’ll find tips and tricks on how to get from three airports in Istanbul to different parts of the city. Although only two airports (such as the New Istanbul airport and Sabiha Gokcen airport) serve commercial flights, I am still providing details of transfer from the third airport – Ataturk. Its terminal is turned into an exhibition center, so if you will be visiting, you’ll know how to get to and from there.
The New Airport in Istanbul – IST Airport – What to Know
The grand opening of the New Istanbul Airport took place in October 2018. On the Independence Day of Turkey, on April 6, 2019, the final transfer from Ataturk Airport to the New Airport took place. And since then most of the flights arrive here.
This airport was built due to the lack of opportunity to expand two other airports – Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen. It is huge and at the present time can handle 90 million passengers a year. After the completion in 2023, it will be able to handle 2.5 more people.
At this modern airport, everything is automated and it’s very easy to navigate through.
Those who are waiting for a flight have access to two art galleries, restaurants, mother and baby rooms, game rooms, pharmacies, and shops. The Duty-Free Zone consists of 9 large sectors.
In the arrivals area, there are two storage rooms in opposite lounges. They work around the clock and the cost of the service per day ranges from 10 to 20 Turkish liras (1.5-3 euros, depending on the weight of the luggage).
New Istanbul Airport Transfer to the City Center
There are a few types of transportation each of us can use in order to get from the IST airport to the center of Istanbul and back to the airport. They are buses, taxis and pre-arranged in advance shuttles. Let’s look at each of them separately.
Transfer From IST Airport By Bus – Cheapest Way to Get to Istanbul
Since the public transport network in Turkey is well developed, getting from this Istanbul airport to the city is pretty easy.
For now, public transport includes only the use of the bus. However, at the end of 2020, the M11 metro line will run to the airport too.
So for buses, a carrier Havaist provides bus services from the IST airport to Taksim, Kadikoy, Yenikapi and other parts of the city.
When you arrive, after going through customs and picking up your luggage from the belt, you’ll enter the outside hall for arrivals. From there, start following the blue signs to the bus terminal. You will have to go down with the escalator to reach the lower floor where the bus terminal is.
The terminal has designated areas for buses. Each of those areas has big large signs with the name of the final destination. So you can easily find a platform, without asking anyone, from where a needed bus will depart.
Also, each bus has a number. If you look at the picture above, you’ll notice that bus IST-1 goes to Sultanahmet, IST-19 to Taksim, IST-7 to Kadikoy, etc. Usually, during the day and evening, they run every 30 min, in the night once an hour. The first bus to Sultanahmet leaves at 7:30, the last one at 21:40. The first bus to Taksim leaves at 07:30 and the last at 00:00.
It takes between 1-1.5 hours to get from IST to Taksim, depending on traffic. And between 1.5 and 2 hours to get to Kadikoy.
If you have been to Istanbul before and have a transport card, you can use it for paying for the ride. There are automatic refill machines near the bus stop, so topping up your card will not be a problem. Those who don’t have a card can easily pay with cash (only Turkish lira) or credit card.
Children under 6 years old can travel for free given the fact that they do not occupy a seat.
The ticket cost depends on the route. Tickets from IST airport to Taksim and Sultanahmet go for about 18 TL (about €3) per person and a trip to Kadikoy costs 25 TL (around €4.2).
If you are staying on the European side not far from Taksim, from there you can take the green line of the subway (M2) to go to your final destination.
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IST Airport Transfer By Shuttle – the Fastest Option
A shuttle transfer from Istanbul’s New Airport is undoubtedly the fastest and most convenient way to get anywhere in Istanbul.
With a shuttle, you can be sure that:
– the transfer price is fixed and, unlike a regular taxi, cannot increase during the trip;
– the driver meets you at the exit of the arrivals area which saves a lot of time;
– you can pay for your transfer online which eliminates the need to change money at the airport;
– if needed, child seats are available too.
There are two types of IST airport transfer by shuttle: individual and group transfer.
Group transfer or shared-transfer service works great for all types of travelers, not only those who travel in large groups. And you can be sure that it is safe and reliable. Definitely, there will be other tourists in the shuttle but this type of transfer is still much faster than using an airport bus or public bus. We used it a few times and were pleased.
A big advantage of group transfers is flexibility. You don’t need to notify anyone if your flight is delayed and you arrive at Istanbul airport later. Transfers depart every 30 minutes in the high season and every 60 minutes in the low season. So if you are late, you can just catch the next minibus. Also, with this transfer, you’ll be dropped off directly at your accommodation.
The fare is around 150 TL (€24) which is slightly cheaper than a taxi or private transfer.
NOTE: If you want to use the group transfer from Istanbul’s new airport, book your accommodation in the Sultanahmet or Taksim area only. Shuttles do not go to any other areas.
IST Airport Transfer By Taxi
When it comes to taxi, you need to remember that taxi drivers at the Istanbul airport as in any other airport in the world take every opportunity to empty the pockets of tourists. It is much more reliable to pre-order a shuttle transfer from the airport to the hotel and back.
If you are interested in taking a taxi on the spot, here is what you need to remember:
– payment is only in cash and in Turkish lira
– black taxi cars mean a premium class
– yellow cabs are economy class
– the fare for a ride from IST airport to the center of Istanbul ranges between 200 – 350 TL (€33-€56). But you need to be ready that driver tells you a higher amount since there is an extra payment for waiting in a traffic jam.
If you are looking for more privacy, I recommend booking a private transfer from kiwi-taxi. This is a great company which offers taxi services in many European countries at very reasonable prices. In fact, the price for the ride with them will cost less than with a regular cab but the level of comfort is much higher. We often book transfers from this company and highly recommend it to our friends and family. Check them out!
How to Get From IST Airport to Sabiha Gökçen Airport
The distance between the new airport in Istanbul and Sabiha Gokcen airport is over 84 km. There is no direct bus, so you’d need to make a transfer.
At first, you need to get to the Taksim or Kadikoy area. From there, take the Havabas express bus (you can find the schedule on their website).
In total, the trip will take about 3 hours.
For the cost, expect to pay 42 TL (about 6 euros).
Another way, more convenient, but also more expensive is a taxi or private transfer. The transfer price starts from 70 euros (about 500 TL) and you can order it here. A taxi can be both cheaper and more expensive, depending on the traffic situation and the honesty of the taxi driver.
Sabiha Gokcen Airport Transfer
Getting from Sabiha airport to the city is also pretty easy and straightforward. You can use one of three types of transportation to go from Sabiha to the center. And they are bus, shuttle, and taxi. Unfortunately, there is no subway or high-speed tram to this airport.
How to Get To/From Sabiha Gokcen to Taksim Square By Bus
The cheapest way to go from Sabiha airport to Taksim is by bus. Havabus is the only carrier that provides bus services to Taksim Square. Buses depart from the international terminal and it’s very easy to find them. Havabus offers buses only to Taksim and Kadikoy.
Once you exit the terminal and cross the road, you’ll see a few different lines where people wait for their own bus. Just ask someone in line which bus they are waiting for. Unfortunately, Sabiha airport is not as modern as the new IST airport, so there is no separate area for buses and no clear signs. Yet, it is still very easy to find your bus since the airport is small and everything is close.
Havabus buses depart every half an hour from 3:30 am to 1 am in the morning. Travel time from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Taksim Square on a good day with moderate traffic takes about 1.5 hours. The ticket price is 18 TL (around €2.5) per person and you pay inside the bus.
Sabiha to Taksim By Taxi or Shuttle
Istanbul airports have a fairly large number of taxi drivers who do not work officially and try to cash in on tourists. Always be careful if taking a taxi on the spot. The cost from Sabiha Gokcen airport to Taksim Square should be around 50 euros.
From our experience though, the best taxi company for Sabiha airport transfer is kiwi-taxi.
When ordering a service through them, you have an option to pay in advance or in cash to the driver. Confirmation of the order takes place the day before by phone (English-speaking employees from Kiwitaxi call) and a representative will come to meet you at the exit. Besides taxis, you can also book a shared transfer service. Check what kiwi-taxi has on offer for Sabiha to Taksim transfers.
Another option of how to get from Sabiha to Taksim is to arrange a private transfer. This luxurious one-way transfer service is now on sale and costs less than 30 euros per person.
No matter which option you choose, make sure to allocate extra time. Due to heavy traffic delays happen often. On our first visit to Istanbul, we met a few random people at the terminal and later in the airport shuttle who missed their flights because they were stuck in a traffic jam and got late.
Transfer From Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Sultanahmet and Nearby Neighborhoods
If you opt for public transport to get from Sabiha Gokcen airport to Sultanahmet or nearby districts, you’ll need to make another transfer on the Asian side in Kadikoy.
Transfer From Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Kadikoy
There are three different buses you could take from Sabiha to Kadikoy.
Your first option is to go with Havabus. As mentioned above, buses on this route run every half an hour from 3:30 am to 1 am on a daily basis. The fare is 14 lira and the journey takes around an hour to get to Kadikoy pier if there is no traffic.
Your second option would be to take a public city bus E10 which departs from Sabiha Gokcen airport around the clock.
And the third option is to take express bus E11.
For travel by E10 and E11 buses, you can use an Istanbul card or buy a regular ticket at the ticket booth.
If you prefer a private transfer to Kadikoy, kiwi-taxi offers it as well.
From Kadikoy to Fatih which includes Sultanahmet and other districts you need:
- Hop on a ferry to Eminonu. There, across the road from a ferry terminal is a high-speed tram stop with the same name Eminonu. On the fourth stop, you’ll reach the center of Sultanahmet, where the main attractions of Istanbul are located. Riding further will bring you to Bayazit, Laleli, and Aksaray districts.
- Or take a Marmaray train that goes under the Bosphorus Strait from Kadikoy to Sirkeci station.
What to remember: Ferries between Asian and European parts of Istanbul run only during the day hours. So if you arrive late at night you may want to choose another way of transportation or stay overnight in Kadikoy.
Another Option How to Get by Public Transport From Sabiha to Sultanahmet
- To get from Sabiha Gokcen airport to Taksim Square by Havabus bus and then take the cable car to Kabatas station. From there take the high-speed tram to Sultanahmet.
- Get from Sabiha Gokcen airport to Taksim Square by Havabus, take the M2 metro (green line), go to Vezneciler station (Istanbul Universitesi Station) which will bring you to the Laleli district. Continue on foot or hop on another tram to the desired stop.
Transfer from Sabiha Gokcen to Princes’ Islands
To get to Princes’ Islands or as it is also called Adalar you need to take a bus E9 from the airport to the Bostanci neighborhood in Kadikoy district, and from there look for a ferry run by IDO company. This is the best and fastest option.
How to Get From Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Haydarpasa and Marmaray Sirkeci Train Stations
If you arrived in Istanbul, and then plan to move around the country by train, then you need to get to one of the stations in Istanbul: Sirkeci or Haydarpasa.
Keep in mind that Sirkeci railway station is located on the European side of Istanbul near the Eminonu marina while Khaidarpash railway station is located on the Asian side of Istanbul near the Kadikoy pier.
- To get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Sirkeci station, you need to take Havabus shuttle or bus E10 to go to Kadikoy pier. From there take a ferry to the European side to Eminonu Pier. From Eminonu there is only one stop by tram to Sirkeci station or a few minutes on foot.
Another option is to use the new metro line Marmaray and get off at the Sirkeci station right near the train station.
- To get to the Haydarpash station, you just need to go from the airport by bus to Kadikoy pier, and then walk about a kilometer to the station or catch a taxi.
ATATURK AIRPORT TRANSFER
How to Get From Ataturk Airport to Sultanahmet & Nearby Neighborhoods
Ataturk Airport is an international airport in Istanbul. It is located on the European side of the city, within 20 km from the historical center of Sultanahmet and 29 km from Taksim Square.
To get from Ataturk Airport to Sultanahmet or adjacent neighborhoods of Aksaray, Laleli, and Gulhane, where the main attractions and a lot of hotels and guesthouses are located, you can take a taxi or metro. A taxi ride should cost around $25-$30.
A metro stop Havalimani (red line) is conveniently located near the airport, so it makes the entire process of getting into the city easier.
Finding the metro station is very easy too. In the airport follow the signs to “Metro/Subway”. At some point, you’ll reach the escalator, go down and the entrance to the metro will be on your right. You can either use an Istanbul card or buy a token.
From Havalimani in 6 stops get off on Zeytinburnu metro station and make a transfer to T1 high-speed tram. By it, you can go to Aksaray, Laleli, Sultanahmet, and Gulhane stops. I do recommend making a transfer at Zeytinburnu station, not at Aksaray station. Aksaray has a very long crossing, so it may be difficult to walk with suitcases. Plus, there is a higher chance for T1 tram to be empty at Zeytinburnu, so you’ll get a chance to sit down, put aside your bags and even see a bit of the city outside the window.
Ataturk airport transfer to Taksim Square
To get from Ataturk airport to Taksim Square is very similar to transfer from Sabiha Gokcen airport.
- You can either hop on Havabus bus that runs every 30 minutes from 3:30 am to 1 am. The ticket cost is 12 lira and the journey takes about 40 minutes, excluding traffic jams.
- An alternative to that would be subway, tram, and funicular. In this case, you take a subway at the Havalimani station, make a transfer to a tram at Zeytinburnu station and stay in a tram until the last stop Kabatas. There, you’ll find a funicular station (with the same name Kabatas) and go up to Taksim.
- Another, newer way how to get from Ataturk Airport to Taksim is by M2 metro line (a green line.) Ride to Yenikapi metro stop, change to M2 line and from there go to the Taksim stop.
Ways to get Ataturk airport – Sabiha Gokcen airport transfer
In order to get from Ataturk Airport to Sabiha Gokcen Airport (or vice versa,) you can use Havabus buses. By it get at first to Taksim Square, then transfer to the bus of the same company (it stops in front of the Point hotel) and get to Sabiha Gokcen. Ataturk – SAW airport transfer takes at least 2.5 hours and costs 35 TL per person.
Another option is to use a combination of metro, tram, ferry, and bus. But in my opinion, it is a bit exhausting. Still, here are the details: go by metro to Zeytinburnu station, there make a transfer to tram and go to Eminonu stop. From Eminonu walk a few minutes to ferry terminal and catch a ferry to Kadikoy. In Kadikoy hop on a city bus E10 or Havabus bus to Sabiha Gokcen.
This transfer will suit those travelers who have a long layover in Istanbul but fly to and from different airports. In this way, there is a good chance to experience some of the best attractions in Istanbul, especially if you are visiting for the first time.
One more option for Ataturk – SAW airport transfer is to take the M1 metro from Ataturk to Yenikapi, transfer to Yenikapi station (Marmaray line) and follow the Marmaray tunnel to the Asian side of Istanbul, and then take the E10 bus and drive to Sabiha Gokcen Airport.