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Getting Around in Istanbul by Metro, Tram and Funicular

by Istanbul Trails

in City Trip, Transportation

The most efficient and cheap way to get from a to b in Istanbul by public transportation is undoubtedly by metro, tram, funicular and/or ferry. These means of public transportation are very efficient, quick and punctual. Not in the least because they don’t suffer from Istanbul’s constantly clogged streets. In this article I focus on the vehicles with steel wheels and cover what lines you can take, how and where to catch them, their operating hours and fares.

Istanbul has 2 metro lines, 5 tram lines and 2 funiculars. For an overview, check this map of the Istanbul rail systems, which will open in a new window for your convenience. I won’t cover all these lines, because as a tourist you will probably only need and use (a combination of) the M1, M2, T1 and F1. For all of these lines I’ll mention the most important stops.

General Information

To get on a metro, tram or funicular you have to pass the turnstiles in order to reach the platform. To pass the turnstiles, you either need to buy a token (jeton) or use your pre-loaded akbil or İstanbul Kart. The price for all railway systems is TL 1,5. The vehicles are modern and air-conditioned.

The Aksaray-Airport (Havalimanı) Metro Line (M1)

Metro Sign

Metro Sign

I already explained the best way to get from the airport to your hotel in Istanbul (or vica versa) in a previous article. But if you really insist to use public transportation and drag your suitcases along, this is the metro line to start with. It’s not a ‘real’ metro line since it runs both below and above ground, hence why it is called the ‘light metro’ or ‘light tramway’ (Hafif Tramvay). Keep in mind though that you will have to transfer to the T1 (see below) in Aksaray (the final stop) to reach Sultanahmet, and transfer again from the T1 to the F1 (see below) in Kabataş to reach Taksim. The transfer in Aksaray also means you’ll have to carry your suitcase(s) up and down some stairs.

  • First Train: 06:00
  • Last Train: 00:30
  • Frequency: every 5 minutes; every 7,5 minutes on Sundays

The Şişhane-Atatürk Oto Sanayii Metro Line (M2)

This is the only real metro in Istanbul. It is a work in progress, with new stops being added regularly. Currently there are 10 stops. As a tourist, you’ll probably use the metro to go north from Taksim for shopping purposes. Get off in Osmanbey to reach Nişantası, in Şişli to visit the Cevahir and Profilo shopping centers or in Levent to browse around in the Metrocity & Akmerkez shopping centers. The last one requires a small taxi ride or walk to reach it.

  • First Train: 06:15; 06:30 on Sundays
  • Last Train: 00:30
  • Frequency: every 4,5 minutes; every 7 minutes on Sundays

The Zeytinburnu-Kabataş Tram Line (T1)

For tourists, this is undoubtedly the most interesting line of all. Not in the least because it connects the historical part of Istanbul with the modern part of Istanbul by crossing the Galata Bridge.

It has stops like Laleli Üniversitesi (to reach the Süleymaniye Mosque), Beyazıt and Cemberlitaş (gates of the Grand Bazaar and famous hamam), Sultanahmet (plenty of sightseeing spots), Eminönü (Spice Market, New Mosque and Scenic Bosphorus Cruise & Kadıköy ferry dock), Karaköy (with connection to Tünel), Tophane (Istanbul Modern) and Kabataş (connection to Taksim via F1 or quick ferry or sea-bus dock for a visit to the Princes’ Islands).

  • First Train: 06:00
  • Last Train: 23:50
  • Frequency: every 5 minutes

The Taksim-Kabataş Funicular (F1)

Furnicular connecting Taksim & Kabataş

Furnicular connecting Taksim & Kabataş

This funicular, inaugurated in 2006, has been long-awaited and takes you up the steep hill from Kabataş to Taksim in only 150 seconds.

  • First Train: 06:15; 06:30 on Sundays
  • Last Train: 00:50; 01:20 on Fridays and Saturdays
  • Frequency: every 5 minutes

Real Life Example

So, how to go from Sultanahmet to Taksim for example? Well, hop on the T1 and pay TL1,50. Maximum 10 minutes later, you’ll arrive at Kabataş. Transfer to the F1 and pay TL 1,50 if you use a token, or TL 0,75 if you use akbil and enjoy the 50% transfer discount. Summarized, this trip will take no more than 15 minutes and cost you in a worse case scenario TL 3 per person.

In other words, unless you’re traveling with a party of more than three, using the tram/funicular combination is not only quicker, but also cheaper than taking a taxi.

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