There are so many things to see and do in Istanbul that you’d want to have the most efficient way of going from point A to point B at the city. Since Istanbul is a big city, traveling efficiently would, more often than not, be an important requirement to make the most of your vacation. You have plenty of options when it comes to gallivanting around the city. Istanbul has around 5,200 square kilometers, with the Bosphorus Strait dividing it into two – the European side and the Asian side.
For one, you can take the bus. Buses that ply the different routes of the city are either state-owned or private buses. The sheer number of vehicles on Istanbul’s streets, however, means that oftentimes, especially during rush hour, traffic would grow thick and fast. Thus, buses can not just be painstakingly slow (especially if you’re in a hurry to make it to that tourist attraction before it closes), they can also be crammed and uncomfortable affairs.
The next option would be the trams. At the Asian side, a tram connects Moda to Kadikoy. There are three trams on the European side. The Nostaljik Tramway goes along Istiklal Caddesi and you can use this to link through to Karakoy, by way of the Tunel underground. However, this turn of the century tram is basically for nostalgia, as it can seem to be so slow for some. Another tramway, a more modern one, this time, goes from Zetinburnu on to Beyazit, Sultanahmet, Eminonu and to Kabatas. Another line transports riders to outlying suburbs beyond Edirne Gate. The tram is a great way to experience the city, as the tram slowly clatters along the streets; you get to see more of Istanbul – glimpses of everyday life, snippets of conversations between friends, a peek at how locals go about their business.
To get from one side to the other, you can cross the Bosphorus strait via passenger ferries. This is a fast way of getting from the European side to the Asian Side and vice versa – and it’s free of traffic, too! The exciting this is that there are a lot of ferry docks along the Bosphorus’ shores, so that you can easily get connected to the district of your choice. You can also reach the Princes’ Islands via the ferries. Plus, you can enjoy amazing views of the palaces and structures alongside the Bosphorus by taking a cruise along this busy waterway.
The great think about transportation in turkey is that they are generally cheap and convenient to buy. You can buy tickets at most of the stops or from the terminals from which these originate. A great way to save up on transport cost is to get a smart ticket, which you can use when riding the ferries, metro or buses. Called the akbil, you get to use it for a number of trips and will save you a tenth of the actual cost of the fares, you also enjoy free transfer from one vehicle to another, as long as you make the change before 45 minutes has passed. One other advantage is that you don’t have to hunt for a stall, if you need to buy a token for your ride. The akbil is available at the terminals in Sirkeci or Taksim Square and can also be recharged at the metro stations.
Other options include taking a taxi, renting a car so that you can do the driving or taking the dolmus (which is Istanbul’s other version of the taxi).
When you’re in doubt as to what is the best way to go about the city, you can log into www.iett.gov.tr/en. This will help you, as, more often than not, if you use public transport, you will have to transfer from one vehicle to another. It will also help if you are able to say the name of your planned destination and say it in proper Turkish. If you have difficulty doing that, ask someone at your hotel to write the name for you, so that you can show it to the driver.