Getting stranded in previously unknown locations can be a very unpleasant experience.
Visitors in Turkey—especially first-time travelers at the airports in Istanbul—need tips and guidelines on some efficient, reliable and cost-effective means of transportation notwithstanding their preference for road or rail travels.
The three main airports in Istanbul are:
- Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport (ISL): It is located far away from the city centre Sultanahmet (about 50 kilometres or approximately 31 miles) but closer to the border with neighbouring Asian countries.
- The New Istanbul Airport: This location became Istanbul’s main international airport on 7 April, 2019.
- Istanbul (Atatürk) Airport: Commercial flights at the airport was officially closed on 7 April 2019, the same day flight operations were moved to the New Istanbul Airport (IST).
This article provides an overview of the Havaist Airport Shuttle, public transportation alternatives and private shuttle services, including other important information you might find useful for a memorable experience in Istanbul.
Traveling from Istanbul (Atatürk) Airport to your hotel
Since flight operations at the Atatürk International Airport were closed, first-time travellers going to Taskim or other locations in Beyoğlu need comprehensive guidelines on the most efficient means of transportation to save time and money. However, a timely arrangement for free or paid airport pick-up will save you some money and unnecessary stress—especially if you’re traveling in groups or with baggage.
- Make sure that details of your hotel address and phone number are accessible. There are lots of hotels rendering 3 to 5-star hospitality services in Istanbul. The number is so high that residents may not remember them by name. With this information on piece of paper or any visual storage medium, it is easier to get help from people—even if the hotel receptionist doesn’t speak English language.
- Some hotels offer airport pickup services at little or no cost. Make adequate preparations and timely inquiries before heading to Istanbul.
Havaist Airport Shuttle Service
Depending on your destination, you may need a combination of public or private transportation service.
Havaist Airport Shuttle Service, for example, is a public-owned company and one of the commonly used transportation services. For ease of movement around Istanbul, Havaist guarantees excellent travel experience aboard its fleet of airconditioned and spacious vehicles. The company is one of Europe’s best public transportation brand for its time-saving, safe, convenient and comfortable rides.
If you’re going to Taskim between 4am and 1pm, Havaist provides daily services through the shortest distance for 15 TL. The private shuttle bus company has its headquarters in Gezi Park metro, a location near Taskim Square which serves as drop-off and pick-up points. Time is not more than 50 minutes and this can be less if there is no gridlock.
However, a taxi ride is more expensive and can last up to ninety minutes.
Information from Turkey Airport confirms that Havaist is one of your best public transportation options to and from Istanbul Airport no matter your location within the Muslim-majority country. Passengers are guaranteed best services from over 150 shuttle buses, 65 bus stations and on 20 different lines. Havaist Shuttle Bus offers a 2-way service every hour. Buses leave the company’s departure points every 15 minutes to cater for passengers’ need for punctuality and free movement.
The major issue is that Havaist doesn’t have shuttle busses to Sultanahmet so travellers will need a transfer to a taxi or tram to reach their location.
Movements to and from the airport on public transportation systems (buses and trams etc) are restricted between 6am to midnight but at intervals between 45 minutes to 1 hour. This is a cheaper alternative and passengers get to see more of the city’s beauty.
Nonetheless, passengers with luggage find it difficult to change vehicles or lines, especially if they need to use elevators or escalators. In addition, traveling in rush hours can be frustrating so it is most advisable to travel at night.
Passengers pay between 25 – 30 TL at M1a (an underground metro) which goes through Kabataş for trips to Sultanahmet, Galata or Sirkeci or Tophane. You can get off at Zeytinburnu and take T1 tram to any of the locations. If you’re traveling to Cihangir, Şişli, Nişantaşı or Taskim, you will need to alight in Yenikapi (the last stop), take M2 metro line which goes towards Haciosman and get off at the nearest stations to your hotel.
Travelers who don’t have TL notes can use Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) services for cash withdrawals around the airport. Large denominations above 50 Liras are unacceptable. Your credit cards or foreign currencies will not substitute for cash in the local currency.
From ISL Airport to Taskim or Sultanahmet
You should avoid boarding taxis at Sabiha Gökçen airport unless you have enough cash to spare and more time to waste. The following tips will be useful if you’re traveling Beyoğlu or Sultanahmet:
- Do not succumb to pressures from taxi drivers promising to give you a smooth and cheap ride to your hotel. Taxis going to Sultanahmet from the airport charge nearly 130 Turkish Liras (TL) and the duration is longer than Havaist Shuttle Service, which operates through special lines that save time.
- You just need to walk a distance from the airport to find a HavBus pick-up station.
- Alternatively, make sure you are up-to-date with taxi fares to your hotel.
- It is not weird to see the drivers asking for directions at intersections. This explains the growing number of hotels—a reason you should have your hotel address at hand or use pick-up service.
- If you’re heading to Beyoğlu (Cihangir/Taskim/Galata), it’s advisable to board a taxi to Taskim Square, where you can take an airport shuttle bus to any of the three towns. The journey will, however, require one more short-distance drive by tram or cab.
Havabus Airport Shuttle
On 29 October, 2018, a new airport transport bus service system was established to ease movements to and from ISL Airport—thanks to the new contractual agreement between Havaist, IETT and the Turkish government. Though both companies are owned and managed by Otobüs AŞ, IETT serves passengers traveling on Mahmutbey, Halkalı, Mecidiyeköy and Atatürk Airport on H2, H3 and H4 lines whereas Havaist operates from IST1, IST2, IST3, IST7, IST19 shuttle lines.
Taskim: Buses going to Taskim operate from Gezi Park metro station between 4am to 1am every day. The estimated cost is 18TL and duration is about ninety minutes though the timing may change according to traffic. Travellers can get off at Taskim or Beşiktaş, depending on their hotel locations.
Sultanahmet: Travellers on this route have the option of getting to Taskim Square and taking a taxi at 17TL. Alternatively, you can use a combination of airport shuttle going to Kadıköy (approximately 60 minutes) between 4am to 1am every day>>trek to the dock at Şehir Hatları>>take a ferry ride to Eminönü at the cost of 15TL>>and continue to your final destination by tram or taxi.
Travellers have an option of using private shuttle buses which provide a great alternative to Havaist and taxis. This private bus companies operate at fixed prices and offers a smooth, safe and convenient ride to your hotel’s gate—a major competitive advantage against competitors. This is also perfect for families, groups, and travellers with children or baggage.
Havaist and private shuttle services, for instance, operate with less risks of accident compared to taxis, which are more expensive. Ferries and trams provide better options for time-conscious passengers because the roads are usually gridlocked between 7am to 10am and after 4pm every day.
Additionally, your safety on the metro is guaranteed because security personnel are always on ground at all stations and the availability of elevators and escalators makes these means of public transportation more comfortable for the elderly, pregnant women and people with children. One of the disadvantages is that you will be required to walk some distance.