Colorful transport of a colorful city ISTANBUL
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Colorful transport of a colorful city ISTANBUL   


Transport Turkey

Due to its unique position and its incredible size, Istanbul has an incredible variety of transport modes incorporating small and large vehicles for road and rail as well as a variety of water vessels. Having lived in this city for almost eight years, I have never felt the need to purchase a car.

On both sides of the Bosphorus the most common mode of transport seem to be the so-called “minibuses”, light blue on the Asian, cream on the European continent – they are not allow to cross from one part into the other.


The advantage of these small buses is that they serve the more remote parts of Istanbul and stop wherever you want them to stop, but when in motion they tend to move at neck-breaking speed, making the ride rather unpleasant. In addition they tend to be overcrowded and a tall person will find it difficult to stand straight if no seat is available as the ceiling is rather low. They are also not the safest mode of transport, but probably the cheapest with prices varying according to distance.

At the other end of the price scale are registered taxis, easy recognizable in their bright yellow, which can be flagged down on the street or found at designated taxi stands. Istanbul taxi drivers are a cheerful bunch, often trying to make conversation, even in foreign languages and can generally be trusted to not extend the route unnecessarily. Prices are moderate, there’s a starting fee of 2.10 YTL and a 3 km ride will set you back around 6-7 YTL. If you happen to cross one of the two bridges, the driver will charge you two bridge tolls, if his base is on the side where you board the taxi.

The easiest way to get around Istanbul is undoubtedly using the vast range of municipal and public buses. There are at least 300 lines covering all of Istanbul including suburbs. Information about lines can be obtained on or at any major bus station and prices for a single journey on one continent are 1.40 YTL and 2.80 YTL when crossing continents at the time of writing. A range of discount cards are available and some of these also cover boats, trains, subway and trams. Some of these bus lines are ideally suited to do some sightseeing around Istanbul without having to use the more expensive tours, but of course lack the commentary.

The buses are green, cream and red or blue, depending on line and operator. Bus drivers and conductors generally don’t speak any foreign language. While it is customary to offer seats to elderly or pregnant citizens, the local youth seems to have forgotten about this habit almost entirely. An obstacle using the bus might be the fact that there aren’t many designated bus lanes, leaving you stuck in the always heavy traffic. This isn’t valid for the newly introduced Metrobus, which runs from Avcilar to Topkapi on the European side with its designated lane in the middle of the city motorway.

In recent years, the subway system has seen a massive expansion and there are now two major lines connecting the airport, Taksim and the financial district Levent on the European side. There are expansion plans on the Asian side, where the completion of a line envisaged for 2010. At the same time, the Marmaray tunnel under the Bosphorus nears its completion and both sides will be connected in order to ease traffic on the existing bridges.

Parts of the rail network are also the two tramways in Beyoglu and Kadikoy. As part of bringing back some nostalgic elements the local municipalities re-introduced these trams to cater mainly for shoppers and clubbers as they run through two major shopping and entertainment districts on either side of Istanbul. In addition there are also two cable cars, which take tourists to places high up over the Bosphorus.

Above sea level there are two types of boats – the fast sea buses, connecting the major ports such as Kartal, Bostanci, Kadikoy, Uskudar and Beykoz on the Asian with Bakirkoy, Yenikapi, Eminonu, Karakoy, Kabatas, Besiktas and Sariyer on the European side. The sea buses tend to operate more frequently during rush hours – exact times can be obtained on

The site also lists the schedules for the traditional passenger boats running between the two continents. These are somewhat slower than the sea buses, but a lot more romantic. They feature open and closed decks and serve Turkish tea and coffee as well as cold drinks during the journey. Some of the working population has their breakfast here on the way to work. While most boats operate between two main ports only, one line exclusively cares for the smaller, picturesque ports on the eastern Bosphorus.

Unfortunately most of the public transport still shuts down at night and the only alternative left besides taxis are the same-colored Dolmush (“Dolmus”). They have designated start and end points, can carry up to 7 people and leave for their destination when full. As people get off during the journey, they take new passengers on board when flagged down. The advantage here is clearly their round-the-clock availability and the fact that you always get to sit as they don’t allow standing. Using the road, they are of course subject to traffic conditions. Their prices are higher than those of the buses, but still a lot lower than taxis.

The latter may be cheaper if shared – some taxi drivers and operators run a shared taxi service, where passengers with the same destination share a 4-seater vehicle as well as the costs.

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