The akbil electronic travel pass is definitely the best feature of the constantly improving Istanbul public transportation network. Akbil is short for ‘akıllı bilet‘, which means intelligent ticket. And that’s exactly what it is. It’s a basically a small stainless steel button in a plastic holder, together not bigger in size than any key on your keychain. Akbil serves as computerized fare tag which you can use for all public transportation except on a dolmuş or minibus. Although the akbil is slowly being phased out in favor of the new Istanbul Kart, it will remain popular for a long time and will save you both money and time.
The Benefits of Akbil
For starters it’s very convenient and easy to carry around since it fits on your keychain. It will save you time while getting on buses, trams, metros or ferries since you won’t have to look for a token or ticket sales office and stand in line to buy a jeton or bilet prior to hopping on the public transportation vehicle.
Secondly, it will also save you money. Not only do you get a 10% discount by using your akbil, the next five transits you make within a 120 minute period you get a 50% discount.
If you’re traveling with a party of two or more, there is technically no need to get more than one akbil. However, keep in mind that while everybody will still benefit from the basic 10% fare discount, only one will get the 50% transit fare discount. If you want to take the full advantage of akbil, it’s better to get one for every person.
Where and How to Get Akbil
With the new Istanbul Kart surfacing, the amount of Akbil Sales Points (Akbil Satış Noktası) has unfortunately been dramatically reduced. The easiest way to obtain an electronic travel pass is to buy it at the busy bus stop on Taksim Square. Look for the blue and white kiosk that has the İETT logo and the text Akbil Satış Gişesi on top of it. You can’t miss really.
Once it’s your turn, hand the clerk TL 6 as the deposit and say akbil almak istiyorum (I would like to buy an akbil). He will hand you the travel pass and a receipt. Keep the receipt if you intend to return the akbil at the end of your stay in order to reclaim your deposit. That’s it, no forms or paperwork to be filled in. You of course still have to load it before you can use it.
How to Load and Recharge Your Akbil
There are two ways to load or recharge your electronic travel pass: either at a akbil/ticket sales point, or by using one of the many akbil recharge machines located at most of the transit points. They come in different shapes and sizes.
The ones that recharge akbil or Istanbul Kart are most of the time built-in into a wall, while the rechargers that serve both travel passes and also provide tokens (jeton) are stand-alone rectangular machines.
Fortunately, the procedure to load your electronic travel pass is the same:
- press your akbil firmly on the socket
- insert a TL 10 or TL 20 banknote in the machine
- once the money has been accepted, press your akbil again firmly on the socket to add the respective credits
How to Use Akbil
Prior to boarding a tram, metro, funicular, ferry or sea-bus you have to pass turnstiles. At the right-hand side of every turnstile, you’ll find a socket just underneath a small display. Press your akbil firmly on the socket until you hear a double beep sound and the screen shows your destination and the fare that has been deducted. At this point the turnstile will allow you to pass through. Repeat this process for as many people travel with you on the same travel pass.
If you’re using a bus or the nostalgic tram, then look for an orange machine with a socket and display. It is mostly located next to the driver seat and press your akbil firmly on the socket for every passenger in your party.