Istanbul has plenty of excellent public transportation options, but the inner-city buses are in my opinion not one of them. For starters, it is not the quickest means of transportation. Unlike Istanbul’s tram and metro system, they don’t have their own lanes and therefore suffer from the chronic Istanbul traffic jams. Secondly, it is not the most comfortable way of transportation. In an attempt to catch up on time lost, bus drivers swing their buses around to find a way through traffic.
Moreover, buses tend to be very crowded throughout the day which makes your chances in finding a seat very slim. And to make things worse, most buses don’t have (properly working) air-conditioning systems, so in summer you’ll most likely start sweating (and smelling) just like the person next to you.
Take my advice and make use of Istanbul’s excellent tram, metro and funicular system, use the (quick) ferries where available and for all other destinations under 15 km take a taxi. But if you personally want to experience a bus ride, here’s how it works.
Different Buses, Same Difference
There are two kinds of city buses: the ones operated by the municipality (İETT) and the ones operated by a private company (Özel Halk Otobüsleri). The first ones come in red and white, or green when they use a ‘green’ or gas engines. The private company’s buses are colored in pale blue and green.
Good to know? Yes and no. They both operate under municipal jurisdiction, most of the times they use the same bus stops, they follow the same route, and charge an equal fare. Both will dsiplay their destination either electronically just above the drivers windshield, or in the right bottom corner if the bus is older. The only (small) difference is the way you have to pay for your ride.
How to Pay for Your Ride
To board an İETT bus, you must either use your akbil or have a ticket (bilet). Tickets can be bought from the white fiber booths at major bus stops, from nearby shops (look for İETT otobüs bileti satılır) or from private sellers around the bus stops. In case of the latter, you’ll pay slightly more for your ticket.
The private buses don’t accept these tickets, but they do accept cash money. Just hand the conductor exact change or a small note and hop on. Most also accept akbil.