4 Ways To Get From Istanbul Airport To City Center: Bus, Taxi, Metro & Transfer

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Post author Nicky

Written by our local expert Nicky

Nicky, originally from the UK, is now a local in Turkey. She moved to Marmaris, Türkiye for love 12 years ago and is now your Turkey travel planner.

This detailed transportation guide explains how to get from Istanbul Airport to the city center. We cover the bus, Metro line, taxi, and private transfer options.

Turkey Travel Blog_How To Get From Istanbul Airport To The City Center

If you’re visiting Istanbul for the first time, you’re in for a treat! For sure, you’ll be exhausted when you leave, but you will have seen some of the most impressive sights ever, enjoyed food like nowhere else and probably shopped ’til you definitely dropped!

Ask anyone; Istanbul is a city that never disappoints.

However, Istanbul is huge, which means you really need to know the best ways to get around.

Most people will arrive at either Sabiha Gokcen Airport on the Asian side of the city or the newer Istanbul Airport. This super-sleek airport took over from the old Ataturk Airport in 2018, and it’s a pretty impressive place to travel to/from.

Where is Istanbul Airport?

Turkish Airlines Plane - Istanbul Airport

The newly constructed Istanbul Airport, located on the European side, about 35km northwest of the city center near Arnavutköy, offers state-of-the-art facilities amidst lush landscapes, establishing itself as the main international airport in Istanbul.

Despite its distance from Istanbul’s traditional center, excellent transport options to get from the new Istanbul airport to wherever you need to go-including buses, taxis, and the metro, ensure easy access to and from the airport. 

It provides a variety of amenities like duty-free shops, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes for travelers. Having traveled in both directions from Istanbul Airport, I found it to be highly efficient, with large distances between gates and terminals clearly signposted in Turkish and English.

The staff are friendly, and there are rentable areas for rest during long waits, enhancing the comfort of your stay.

Istanbul Airport To Istanbul City

Many people ask how to get from Istanbul Airport to downtown, but the first thing to consider here is where exactly the city center is. Istanbul doesn’t have a clearly defined center! There are very popular spots that are in the middle of the city, so perhaps that’s what people are asking.

So, to narrow it down, let’s say that the city center of Istanbul is either:

Thankfully, there are ways to get from Istanbul Airport to all these places downtown.

How To Get From Istanbul Airport To Taksim

Istanbul Airport To Taksim By HAVIST Bus

HAVAIST From Sultanahmet To Istanbul Airport

Taksim is often regarded as the city center, although it is a modern center. This bustling part of the city is full of nightlife, shopping, and gastronomy. Taksim literally never sleeps.

If you are traveling from Istanbul Airport to Taksim, you have a few options. Firstly, you could take the HAVAIST bus. This coach shuttle, which also serves as an airport bus, runs between the new airport and Taksim 24 hours per day. However, this is a very popular coach, so if it’s full, you’ll have to wait for the next one.

This bus to Taksim first stops in Levent and Besiktas before arriving in Taksim, and the daily times are:
00.20, 01.00, 01.50, 02.40, 04.40, 05.40, 07.30, 08.30, 09.30, 11.00, 12.00, 13.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00, 18.00, 19.15, 20.30, 21.30, 22.30, 23.30.

As you leave the airport arrivals terminal and head to platform 16, look for the HVIST -16 bus. A one-way ticket currently costs 74 Liras. The journey time is around 90 minutes but depends heavily upon traffic. The bus will drop you off at Taksim Square, and from there, it’s easy to get to wherever you are staying in Taksim on foot.

Istanbul Airport Metro To Taksim By Metro

Another way to get to Taksim from the airport is by Metro. There is a Metro station outside exit 11 of the airport, which connects you to the Metro service that runs all around the city. Taksim Square has a Metro station, and you can reach everywhere else in that part of the city on foot.

If you want to save a little money or you want a local experience, the Metro is the way to go. It’s very easy to use and very comfortable.

The Metro service runs from 6 am until midnight, and trains run to Taksim every 10 minutes or so. This is a bustling line, especially in the afternoon, so it may not be the best option if you have a lot of luggage. However, it will take around 35-40 minutes, and you won’t encounter traffic! You take the M11 line to Kağıthane (purple line) and then switch to the M7 & M2 line to Taksim.

Fun fact: The M11 line is the fastest in the country!

The M11 line is very regular, with a train every 8 minutes, and the overall journey takes no more than 24 minutes. Then you switch, and you’ll be where you need to be in less than an hour from the airport to your destination.

It is five stops to Kağıthane, and once you arrive, you’ll need to exit the station to the street level and follow the M signs to the other Metro station, which takes just a couple of minutes. This is where you will take the M7 line. And don’t panic; it sounds complicated, but it’s all so clearly marked, and you definitely won’t be the only person going in that direction.

Take the M7 line to Şişli-Mecidiyeköy and then switch to the M2 line, which goes directly to Taksim two stops later. Again, don’t worry; it sounds like a lot, but it’s so easy.

Getting From Arrivals To The Istanbul Airport Metro Station

This in itself needs a how-to guide!

You can use the moving walkways to get from the arrivals terminal to the Metro station, so if you have a large suitcase, you don’t have to drag it behind you. The Metro station is very well signposted, so when you exit the terminal, look for the signs with the big letter U on a red background; alternatively, head to doors 3 and 19, which have clear instructions on them.

Don’t worry, you really can’t miss the signs!

Once you get to the Metro station, there are escalators or a lift; if you have a lot of luggage, wait for the lift.

It’s also helpful to note that if you have mobility issues, there is a buggy service that will take you to the Metro station. Ask a member of the airport staff or head to gate 11, where you’ll find a call point for the buggy service to pick you up.

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Getting To Taksim By Taking A Taxi Or Private Airport Transfer From Istanbul Airport

Taxis in Istanbul

You can take a taxi from the airport, just outside the arrivals terminal, and ask to be taken to Taksim Square.

There are three types of taxis at the airport, the most common being yellow taxis. Depending on traffic, a 40-minute journey to Taksim will cost around 440 liras.

You can also pre-book a private transfer, which costs a little more than a taxi, but there are big benefits to pre-arranging a private transfer from the airport to your Istanbul hotel.

For starters, you’ll avoid the hassle and stress of trying to hail a taxi or navigate public transportation after a long flight. A private transfer lets you relax and enjoy the ride as someone else takes care of the driving.

In addition, private transfers are often more comfortable and luxurious than other transport options. You can choose to ride in style in a limousine or SUV or opt for a more budget-friendly sedan. Either way, you can sit back and enjoy the scenery as you’re whisked to your destination.

Finally, by pre-booking your transfer ahead of time, you can be assured of a smooth and seamless experience. Your driver will be waiting for you at the airport when you arrive and will help with your luggage before escorting you to your vehicle.

This is the perfect way to start or end your trip without any worries about getting around town.

The Way To Get From Istanbul Airport To Sultanahmet

Let’s run down all the options to get you to Sultanahmet.

How To Get From IST Airport To City Center Sultanahmet By HAVAIST Bus

There is an airport bus to Sultanahmet every half an hour from IST Airport, and you need to look for the sign that says ‘Sultanahmet/Eminonu.’ This is the HVIST-12 service which leaves from platform 12.

The bus journey takes 45 minutes but can often be longer depending on traffic. It will drop you off in Sultanahmet Square, which is across from Hagia Sophia.

A one-way ticket is currently 87 Liras; however, this may change over time, so check before you take your journey.

There is also another HAVAIST service, which goes to Kadikoy on the Asian side. For that, you’ll need the HVIST-14 service leaving from platform 14.

How To Get An Airport Transfer To Sultanahmet By Taxi Or Private Airport Transfer

Getting around Istanbul - Taxi in Istanbul

If you prefer to get a taxi to Sultanahmet, you can use the yellow, blue, or black taxis outside the arrivals terminal. However, the most common type is the yellow taxi, and for a journey of 53 minutes (depending upon traffic), you’re looking at around 480 Liras.

Just like with Taksim, you can book a private transfer that will cost a little more than a taxi, but you will avoid the hassle and stress of waiting in long lines, and the driver will be waiting for you at the airport when you arrive and will help with your luggage before escorting you to your vehicle. This is the perfect way to start or end your trip without worrying about becoming a taxi scam victim.

Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet by Metro & Tram

If you want to use the Metro to get to Sultanahmet, you simply need to follow the same instructions as we outlined for Taksim. Except when you arrive at Şişli-Mecidiyeköy station, you take the M2 line and wait for five stops, getting off the Metro at Vezneciler station.

Once there, exit the Metro station and walk for five minutes, following the signs to Istanbul University. On your way, you’ll see the tram stop at Laleli-Istanbul Üniversite.

Again, this is very easy in reality; it just sounds complicated on paper! Overall, the entire journey, including transfers between stations, takes no more than 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Once there, take the T1 tram, which goes towards Eminönü or Kabataş. You’ll stay on the tram for three stops, and you’ll arrive at Sultanahmet!

How To Get From Istanbul Airport To Besiktas

Let’s run down all the options to get you to Besiktas.

How To Get From Istanbul Airport To Istanbul City Center Besiktas By HAVIST

The HAVIST bus to Besiktas is the HVIST-15 bus that also stops in Taksim. However, Besiktas is the stop directly before. It will also stop in Levent before you get to Besiktas.

Departure times are: 00.20, 01.00, 01.50, 02.40, 04.40, 05.40, 07.30, 08.30, 09.30, 11.00, 12.00, 13.00, 14.00, 15.00, 16.00, 17.00, 18.00, 19.15, 20.30, 21.30, 22.30, 23.30.

You need to look for the HVIST-15 bus as you leave the airport arrivals terminal. A one-way ticket currently costs 74 Liras. The journey time is around 80 minutes, but it depends heavily upon traffic.

How To Get From Istanbul Airport To Besiktas By Airport Taxi

You can also take a taxi from the Istanbul Airport to get to Besiktas, and while you may be stuck in traffic at some point, you will get to where you need to be in comfort.

As before, there are different types of taxis, but the most common type is the regular yellow taxi. This journey should take around 39 minutes, depending on traffic, and cost about 440 Liras.

Pros & Cons Of Each Transport To City

You might need a little help choosing whether to go with HAVAIST, the Metro (and a combination of trams), a taxi, or a private transfer. To help you, let’s break it down.


Metro Line


  • The cheapest way to get to your destination
  • Easy to use
  • You can use your IstanbulKart
  • A more authentic experience


  • There is some effort involved, so if you’ve had a long flight, you might be too tired.
  • You may need to change stations, which can be tricky if you’re not a confident traveler
  • Not great if you have a lot of luggage
  • If you arrive during rush hour, the Metro can be very busy, especially the M2 line



  • Easy to use; no effort required
  • Buses run regularly
  • Tickets are inexpensive
  • You can book your ticket beforehand via the website
  • Several destinations are catered for
  • There are no issues with the luggage


  • Buses are first come, first served if you haven’t pre-booked your ticket, so you may have to wait
  • It can get very busy around the HAVAIST ticket office and platforms
  • Not all locations are catered for
  • You may get stuck in traffic

Istanbul Airport Taxi


  • It is a very easy experience; all the hard work is done for you
  • There are plenty of taxis outside the arrivals hall
  • It is ideal if you have a lot of luggage
  • A good option if you’re traveling with children


  • A taxi is the most expensive option
  • It would be best if you made sure the driver puts the taxi meter on
  • There are some taxi scams in Istanbul, particularly when the driver takes the ‘scenic route.’ This can be hard to know about if you’ve never been to Istanbul before

Private Transfer To City


  • You can travel safe in the knowledge that your driver is waiting for you outside when you arrive
  • There are no issues if you have a lot of luggage
  • This is a great choice for groups and families
  • You can shop around online for either a private transfer or a shared one
  • A door-to-door service


  • A more expensive option than public transport
  • If you opt for a shared transfer, you may have to wait for the other passengers to arrive

About The IstanbulKart

Istanbul Card - transport in Istanbul

Before we talk about using public transport, we need to cover an important subject – the IstanbulKart.

The IstanbulKart is a pre-paid, contactless card you use to pay for all public transport across Istanbul, including the bus, Metro, ferry, and tram. If you have a group, you can buy one card, and five people can use it.

Don’t think you don’t need this card if you’re only visiting for a few days; you cannot pay for public transport in any other way, so you must have this card. Taxis are ridiculously expensive and quite hard to get when you want one, so having a public transport card gives you a lot more freedom and peace of mind.

You can buy your IstanbulKart from the Metro station at the airport. The machines are blue and yellow and clearly state ‘IstanbulKart’ on them. Some machines allow you to pay by credit/debit card, and others enable you to pay with Lira cash. You may have to queue, so just be patient.

Once you have your card and you’ve topped it up with some money, you ‘beep’ your card at the Metro gate or when you get onto a bus/tram throughout the city.

For reference, a one way journey (regardless of the distance) costs 7.50TL currently. However, if you have to switch buses or Metros to get to your final destination, you’ll need to scan your card twice, so you’ll pay twice.

The current price of an IstanbulKart without any credit is 50TL.

If you’re using the HAVAIST service to get to any part of Istanbul, you’ll need to purchase your ticket from the HAVAIST ticket office, which is located close to the huge transport map in the arrivals hall. You can pay by cash or card. Note that you cannot use your IstanbulKart on HAVAIST buses; it’s a separate service. However, you can pre-purchase your ticket online from the HAVAIST website.

Istanbul International Airport To The City Center FAQs


How much is a taxi from Istanbul Airport to Istanbul city?

You will need to budget around 450-500 lira for a taxi from the Istanbul Airport to downtown.

How much is a taxi from Istanbul to New Istanbul Airport (IST)?

A taxi will cost around 500 lira to the Istanbul Airport from the city center.

Does the Istanbul Airport have a metro?

Yes, and as of 2023, the line goes from the airport to the center of Istanbul.

Is there a shuttle bus from Istanbul Airport to Istanbul?


Now that you have your guide on getting from Istanbul Airport to the city center, we hope you enjoy your time in Istanbul and that your travel time is quick and fast.

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