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Transportation options from new IST Airport to Sultanahmet area

Hi,

I will be arriving in Istanbul at 5pm on a Friday evening after flying from Honolulu and want to find out what my transportation options are to get to my hotel in the Sultanahmet area of Istanbul.

I understand that taking a taxi can be a bit dicey but does anyone know what a fair price should be on a busy Friday night? Do taxi drivers at the airport use their meters? Is it best to negotiate a flat rate or insist they use their meters? Or am I better off booking a private transfer? For one person, this probably would be costly which is why I might try to take public transportation if it’s not too complicated (and I’m not too jet-lagged).

But I’ve having a hard time figuring out what combination of bus and tram I need to get to my hotel near the Blue Mosque. I already contacted my hotel and they just referred me to the airport’s website for info about the bus —which didn’t help me much. I appreciate any help.

Thank you!

Posted by
6073 posts

Read the part about Havas Airport shuttle in this link (https://theistanbulinsider.com/how-to-get-from-the-istanbul-ataturk-airport-to-your-hotel/). It's exactly how it's spelled out - unfortunately it does involve a series of transfers which look more difficult than they actually are (From the Taksim Square shuttle drop-off, take the F1 Taksim-Kabataş funicular, followed by the T1 Kabataş-Bağcılar tramway and get off at the Sultanahmet stop).

One thing you may want to consider to make your life easier is not to stay in Sultanahmet the first night since your journey to your hotel will be much smoother just using the Havas Airport Shuttle (without transfers). The Taksim area (around Istiklal Cadessi, or street) is full of life and a great transport hub. There are lots of hotels there and it has a different (more modern, livelier at night) feel than the Old City/Sultanahmet.

If you've never been to Istanbul before and you're flying from Hawaii (and you still want to stay in Sultanahmet the whole time), I would probably recommend just taking a taxi. I'm sure it will be expensive and you'll likely get ripped off, but what can you do? Only because Istanbul is truly sensory overload and that's a lot of transfers to get to your destination. I'm sure you'll be exhausted and it will likely be dark as well, which just adds to more confusion. Don't forget to get your Turkish e-Visa beforehand (use the official government site), so you idon'thave to stand in yet another line at the airport.

Posted by
106 posts

I just checked the Havaist website. It looks like they have made a few route changes since I used the Havaist bus to get from the new airport to the Old City in mid April 2019. But, the Havaist timetable does still show they have a bus to Sultanahmet. As of mid April 2019, the fare was 18TL and the ride could be 1 hour to 1.5 hours. Depending on which hotel you stay in, you could be a close walk from the bus stop to your hotel. Also, you would need to purchase an Istanbul Kart (used to pay for almost any public transportation in Istanbul, including Havaist Buses). However, since you will be coming off a very long flight, you will be exhausted and jet lagged, it will be hard to navigate all of this. If you want to take a taxi, download the BiTaksi app. The BiTaksi app works like Uber (but uses official yellow taxis) and you will be much less likely to get ripped off. The BiTaksi app has an English selection. It has a map, tells you where the taxi is and how much the trip will cost (even before you get in). The tricky part is finding your taxi at the super busy airport. If you get a taxi at the official taxi stand just outside the airport, make sure they turn on the meter (usually located in the rear view mirror) and follow the taxi on Goggle Maps during the ride and try to figure out if the driver is taking a weird route.

Definitely avoid the hustlers inside the airport trying to offer you a ride. They are rip offs for sure.

Posted by
106 posts

As of mid April 2019 there were two huge currency exchange “desks” right outside the International Arrivals doors within the new airport. They were giving a very good exchange rate and did not charge commission. I love the Xe Currency app, it is very helpful. You will definitely need some cash in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey. Smaller stores don’t accept credit cards, especially for small purchases. Even if the store clerk says they accept credit cards, they often try to use the card, then tell you the machine isn’t working at the moment. I ran into that a lot. I found it pretty comical. Wish they would just tell you they have a minimum purchase for credit card use.

Posted by
686 posts

The Havaist buses now accept credit cards.
There is a youtube video on walking from the gate to the buses. It looks simple. Follow the signs.
The ATM machines are in the arrival hall.
The Istanbulkart kiosk is right next to where you board the bus. The cost as mentioned above is 18TL which is close to $3.
A taxi or shuttle provided by your hotel will cost up toward $50 depending on traffic. Say "taximeter" when getting into the taxi.
There is a nice sticky post about how to deal with taxis in Istanbul on Tripadvisor.

I plan to use the bus. 12 days and counting.
I have read many reviews from many people using the bus after an international flight and everyone stated that it was a very simple process. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
106 posts

The Havaist buses are supposed to accept credit cards, but the machines most often do not work. Cash is not accepted on board the bus either. So, definitely be prepared to pay with an Istanbul Kart, which can be purchased at a kiosk on the same lower level as the Havaist buses arrive/depart.

As for a visa for entering Turkey, it is very easy to get it online. Price should be around $23. Use the official Turkish government website only. It is possible to buy the visa at the Istanbul Airport, but it is a pain. Do yourself a big favor and get your visa online before you leave.

Posted by
17 posts

Thank you everyone for your help!

I’ve decided to switch my hotel from the Sultanahmet area to an Airbnb around Galata Tower; just haven’t selected one yet—there are so many good options. I agree that staying in a less touristy part of the city with access to good transportation sounds like a better bet. I’ve already downloaded my Turkish Visa. Thanks for info about airport ATMs etc.

I didn’t know about the taxi app. I imagine trying to find the taxi that I summoned with the app at the airport might be difficult. For the rest of my time in IST, how does using the taxi app compare to using Uber (for night trips or when I don’t want to deal with public transportation)?

Thanks,
Janalla

Posted by
106 posts

The BiTaksi app works very similarly to Uber. If you are an Uber user it will be very easy for you. Download the BiTaksi app soon so you can play with it. You can set it up with your credit card for payment or pay with cash when you are about the get out of the car. BiTaksi uses yellow taxi cabs, not regular passenger cars. Uber is not allowed in Turkey.

Posted by
686 posts

My understanding is that there are certain taxis that are certified to be at the airport. Do not use an app to summon a taxi to the airport. Go to the taxi stand. Confirm that they are using their meter. Don't accept a set fee.

Posted by
17 posts

@Michelle Traveller

Thanks for the Information that Uber isn’t allowed in Istanbul since I thought I had read somewhere online that it was. I’ve downloaded the BiTaksi app to use instead.

Posted by
756 posts

We have a hotel in the Sultanahmet area before our tour starts for 4 nights because that is where most of the stuff we are seeing is. Makes more sense to us. We are getting a private transfer from the airport to our hotel through them and it was not that spendy at all. Even if it was just one of us it would have been a good option.

Posted by
6073 posts

I’ve decided to switch my hotel from the Sultanahmet area to an Airbnb
around Galata Tower

That's a great idea, even for a first night so you can get your bearings. Now all you'll have to do is to take the Havas Shuttle Bus to Taksim Square and then get to your hotel from there (the latter step may still be confusing). I would try to go on Google and do a virtual "walk" because that is a very busy area and it will help if you could "see" your way before you get there. The side streets from the main commercial drag (Istiklal) are very windy, there is no grid system. Near the Galata Tower, some streets are very steep as well.

Posted by
106 posts

To add to what Agnes said about walking from Taksim Square to the Galata Tower: Once you get off the Havaist bus from the airport, ask someone to point you to Istiklal Cadessi (Street). Taksim Square has several streets going from it like a star. Istiklal Street is a wide pedestrian street with lots of chain stores. No cars are allowed to drive on Istiklal but there are old fashioned nostalgic trolleys (they restored the trolleys from the 1960s). You will continually be walking down hill as you walk towards the Galata Tower. When Istiklal Street ends, the street you will continue walking on is basically still straight ahead and downhill. It has a diff name (no longer called Istiklal). That street is more narrow than Istiklal and has small, independent stores (not chain stores).

BiTaksi drivers are allowed to pick up passengers from the airport but trying to find your BiTaksi would be a nightmare. Elsewhere in Istanbul, using the BiTaksi app is very good. Make sure you are in a spot where it would be relatively easy to identify your BiTaksi. I have used it and my son (university Student) used it. We found it pretty easy to use since we are used to using Uber.

Posted by
17 posts

@ Agnes & Michelle Traveller

Thanks for the info. I found a great Airbnb near Galata tower and although I’m arriving at night, I think I can manage the Havabus and 1 stop on the metro to get to my first place. I will save the taxi app for other times during my time in IST.

Thanks everyone for all your assistance. Aloha!