Getting Around in Istanbul

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Getting around Istanbul is relatively easy regardless of whether expats decide to use their own transportation or take public transport. Most expats living in Istanbul do have their own cars; this is particularly essential if one is living in the suburbs. However, for those living fairly centrally, it is often more efficient and economical to consider the city's many public transport options.

Public transport in Istanbul

Istanbul has an extensive public transport system, with many modes of transport operating within an integrated system. Those who plan on using public transport regularly should consider an Istanbulkart, an electronic chip card that can be reloaded and used to travel on most modes of public transport in Istanbul.


Buses run regularly in Istanbul and have a good network in the city; they are, however, less frequent and less well connected in the suburban areas. Buses in Istanbul are cheap and reliable, but can be very crowded.


Istanbul's metro is excellent, clean and modern; however, it only serves an extremely small network. Don’t rely on the metro for journeys beyond a small ring in the centre of the city. Three of the main shopping malls are on the metro line.


These are mini buses that stop to pick up and drop off passengers anywhere on a pre-established route. There are no dolmus stops – rather the minibus stops to pick up passengers wherever it is flagged down, or stops to drop off passengers whenever one asks the driver to stop. These are quicker than regular buses.

Water taxi

Water taxis in Istanbul serve as an on-call boat taxi service. The fare is calculated according to the distance travelled, rather than per person.


There are regular ferry services in Istanbul and they offer the cheapest and quickest way to cross the Bosphorus.


Taxis are metered. These are fairly reasonably priced, but, as anywhere in the world, the costs add up if using regularly. Another drawback of the cabs is that the drivers generally don't speak English. It is best to write down the address in advance and show it to the driver. Tipping is not expected, but a small tip is always appreciated.

Driving in Istanbul

Istanbul has a good network of highways but it also has old, narrow and extremely steep streetsl. Turks tend to drive fast on highways and do not always stick to the rules, so be alert.

By and large, the traffic in Istanbul is well regulated and fairly disciplined. Parking is not a huge problem compared to other major metropolises as there are many ‘Pay and Park’ areas available.

A chauffeur is always useful to have, but not essential. They are much more affordable than in the West. A chauffeur can be an excellent source of information and a fantastic city guide. It is possible to find English- and German-speaking chauffeurs.
European and US licences are valid for driving in Turkey. However, it is essential to get a notarised Turkish translation of the licence when arriving, and to keep both the original and the translated copy available at all times when driving.

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