As we keep saying, Istanbul is a never-ending treasure house and, as there really is so much to see and do there, it makes sense to plan your trip before you go.
Transport is easy and cheap. Use the tramways or metro whenever possible and, to avoid having to keep buying tokens (jeton) it’s worth investing in an Istanbul Kart which works on all buses, trams, metros, ferries, funicular and traditional trains across the city.
The card is the size of a credit card, and you wave it over the machine at the entrance to transport facilities and it releases the turnstile. You only need one card whatever the size of your group. You just keep repeating the action at the turnstile until everyone is through, then do it once more to get yourself through as well.
You can get a map of the metro and tramways on-line and work out where you need to go in advance. A jeton costs 3TL and is valid for only one journey on the tramway or metro.
The same journey on your Istanbul Kart is charged at 1.95TL, and may even be less at certain times of the day/night.
You can buy the cards, which have now replaced the old ‘akbil’ device, at the kiosks where they ‘top up’ the money on your card (‘dolum merkezi’ in Turkish). The card costs 7TL but soon pays for itself.
On our most recent trip we were a group of five, and spent 40TL per day on transport for up to eight journeys on a range of transport systems. Do the sums and you’ll see that works out at a mere 1TL per journey per person.
You can put money on your Istanbul Kart via a machine available at most tramway and metro stations. It has instructions in English as well as Turkish.
On our most recent trip we took normal city buses for the first time in ages, and were pleasantly surprised at how regular they are, and how easy to use.
The buses have a large screen which shows the next stop, and that information is also broadcast on the bus’ sound system. If you get on the wrong bus don’t worry.
The driver will let you off at the next stop, and there will always be someone on the bus who speaks English, and will tell you the number of the bus you ought to be on. If you invest in a good guide book, the book will tell you which bus to take.
Talking of Guide Books, the Ultimate Guide, which we highly recommend, is now available in a paperback version for 55TL – cheaper than the hardback, and a lot lighter. Well worth the cost, it will provide you with places to go and things to do, however much time you spend in Istanbul.
And don’t forget the ferries. Whilst there are now far fewer ferries than once plied up and down the Bosphorus and Golden Horn, they are a lovely way to get around when they fit with your plans.
The ferry line produce a small timetable which is in English and Turkish and comes out twice a year, with Winter and Summer schedules. Ask at Eminonu or Karaköy ferry termini for a copy.
If you plan a visit to the Rahmi Koç Museum, or the holy places at Eyüp, you can take a ferry up the Golden Horn to reach both these places – then return to Eminonu by bus, or walk part of the way.
We still think taxis are cheap in Istanbul although we only took one, when it was pouring down, on our most recent trip.
However, we dread to think what the cost of our average eight journeys per day would have been by taxi. So learn to use the public transport options and really get good value from a trip to Istanbul.