Istanbul - getting there and away


Staff member
Site Admin
Istanbul's Atatürk Airport is Turkey's largest and busiest. Any number of popular regular services from the Middle East, the USA, Australia and Europe land here. Although the city's major airline, Istanbul Airlines, went bust, the main domestic carrier, Turkish Airlines (THY), has regular flights to major European and Asian cities. In 2001 another airport, Sabiha Gokçen International Airport, opened at Kurtköy on the Asian side of the city, though most flights still arrive and depart from Atatürk. The price of your air ticket will usually cover the airport departure tax.

Atatürk Airport is 23km (14mi) west of Sultanahmet. A taxi into the city centre is the quickest option; it takes around half an hour. A cheaper option is to band together with a few other thrifty travellers (make sure the meter's on) to get you to Yesilkoy banliyo tren istasyonu, the railway station in the neighbouring town of Yesilkoy. From there get a rattling battered old train to Sirkeci station in the city. Another cheap option is to take an airport bus, which costs around US$02.00 and takes 35-60 minutes to get to Taksim Square. If you are heading for Sultanahmet, get out at the Yenikapi stop beneath the underpass.

A number of local bus companies service other European destinations, but these services are slower and often more expensive than the equivalent flights. Within Turkey, bus is the most widespread and popular way of getting around; they go literally everywhere, all the time. The main bus station, the 'otogar', is a town in itself, with 168 ticket offices, restaurants, mosques and shops. Buses leave here for domestic and international routes. There's also a bus station on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus at Harem. Train is the least preferred option for international visitors travelling to Turkey, as the services are generally slower and quite expensive for what you get. The main station is Sirkeci, and there's also Haydarpasa station on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus.

Driving through Turkey isn't recommended - the traffic is horrendous. However, if you're game to get behind the wheel, you can bring a car over on a ferry from Italy or Greece but you'll find yourself docking in Izmir or Cesme rather than Istanbul. Car and passenger ferries operate fairly regularly around the Turkish coastline - book your trip well in advance as they're popular.