I have blogged on travel tips for Istanbul before.
My visits in May ’19 produced a couple of useful new tips, so this is just a wee update.
The first is the new airport. Turkish Airlines transferred all passenger operations there in April 2019. Atatürk is no longer used. The new airport is massive, and you have to allow plenty time to move between gates if you have a connection. On the other hand, it is spacious and pleasant compared to Atatürk and so a longer layover would be a more civilised experience.
The new airport is a long way (43 km/26 miles) north of the city (measured to Sultanahmet, where I was staying) so if you are breaking a journey there a trip into the centre is now longer and more expensive.
I was told a taxi from Sultanahmet would cost 150 TRY (£19.50 or €22.20) and it is safe to assume airport taxis charge more. My guesthouse organised transfers for me at €40 (£35) per trip.
Another option is HavaIst, which operates a coach service between the new airport and the city centre. The metro is being extended to reach the new airport. The information I found suggests it could be ready in 2020.
It took just 30 minute to go to the airport on a Sunday morning. It took over an hour in the other direction during Friday night rush hour – even allowing for going against the flow of traffic.
Istanbul’s other airport – Sabiha Gökçen – is still operating as before but it is a long way from the city centre too – on the Asian side.
For this trip I flew with Turkish Airlines from Edinburgh to Istanbul, and then on to Tbilisi. I broke my journey to Tbilisi in Istanbul, but (from memory) that was choice rather than necessity. The EDI/IST leg cost £280 (return) and the IST/TBS one was £290 return.
The other Istanbul travel update to mention is taking the vapur (passenger ferry) across the Bosphorus from Eminönü on the European side to Kadıköy on the Asian side. It is a commuter hop, but the views of the city are amazing – unless you hit a thunderstorm, as I did!
The cost is 5 TRY each way – that was £0.65/€0.74 at the time. The last time I did the “voyage” (about 10 years ago) you bought a metal jeton (token) to put in a turnstile type entry gate to board the ship. Now you buy a plastic card. I could not find any ticket kiosk and maybe you have to buy from one of the automatic machine.
Locals all use a rechargeable IstanbulKart. The cards are also what you need for the tram, metro and bus services, so buying the rechargeable version (for 6 TRY) will save you time if you expect to be using public transport a lot.
Certainly the tram, metro and vapur services are very user friendly once you get familiar with them and can save you from getting hot and sweaty in the summer months. The trams’ air conditioning is worth 5 lira alone when it gets you out of the summer heat!
The vapur have a buffet compartment on board for snacks and drinks. In the morning I recommend you buy a simit – the bagel shaped, sesame seed covered bread roll – to take on board to eat with a Turkish tea from the buffet. Eat and drink out on one of the open air decks if the weather is good.
Another top tip is to buy a balık ekmek – fish sandwich – before you board. They sell them at the büfe on the quay at Eminönü. Ayran is ideal to drink with it (or beer, if so inclined).
ⓒ iain taylor, 2019