How to get from airports to Istanbul City Center

Istanbul is the most populated city in the whole of Europe. It has more population than huge cities like Moscow or London. As well as the population, Istanbul is also a big city in terms of residential areas. 

Therefore, getting to the city center from remote areas could be difficult. You can use different means of transportation such as taxi and bus services. After reading our article, you will find answers to all questions on your mind about getting to the city center of Istanbul from airports.

How many airports are there in Istanbul? 

Shortly, there are two airports in Istanbul which are open to commercial passenger flights. Today, the active airports of Istanbul are Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport.

After the opening of Istanbul Airport, Istanbul Atatürk Airport closed to commercial passenger flights. Although Istanbul Atatürk airport is open to cargo flights, business flights, air taxi flights it is not open to commercial passenger flights. 

Locations of airports in Istanbul

Click on the image to enlarge, Google Map Data 2020

Istanbul Airport

As we said, there are two different airports in Istanbul. The bigger and newer one is Istanbul Aırport. First, we will talk about it.

Istanbul Airport is on the European side of the city. It is located in the junction of Çatalca-Göktürk-Arnavutköy. It is possible to access Istanbul Airport by using public transportation like a bus or airport shuttle. You can also access the airport by taxi and your own vehicle. 

It is 24 miles  (40 kilometers) away from Taksim, which could be evaluated as the center of the European side of the city.  It is also 26 miles (42 km) away from another important district of the European side of the city,  Şişli.  The distance of Beşiktaş to the Istanbul Airport is 25 miles (41 km). The distance of Kadıköy which is on the Anatolian side of the city is 39 miles (61km).  Sultanahmet is 31 miles away from Istanbul airport.

DistrictTaksimŞişliBeşiktaşKadıköySultanahmet 
Distance24 miles (40 km)26 miles (42 km)25 miles (41 km)39 miles (61 km)31 miles
(50 km)

Sabiha Gökçen Airport 

It is located in Pendik district. Generally, planes of AnadoluJet and Pegasus land at this airport.  However, it also serves as the secondary base of Turkish Airlines.  Although it is not as large as Atatürk Airport, it is still one of the biggest airports in Turkey.

It is 24 miles  (40 km) away from Kadıköy,  31 miles (50 km) away from Taksim,  27 miles (44 km) away from Beşiktaş, and  30 miles (49 km) away from Şişli. Sultanahmet, which is another important district of Istanbul is 30 miles (47 km) away from Sabiha Gökçen Airport. You can easily access the city center by different means of transportation. Taxis, public buses, Airport services are all available options.  You can also reach the city center by renting a car.  

DistrictTaksimŞişliBeşiktaşKadıköySultanahmet
Distance31 miles (50 km)30 miles (49 km)27 miles (44 km)24 miles (40 km)30 miles
(47 km)

Istanbul Airport(IST) transportation options 

As we said, there are lots of options you can choose to reach the city center from Istanbul airport.  Now, we will inform you about them in detail. All prices in the article are given as of January 2021.

Taxi

Taxis are a popular choice among tourists. You may prefer to take a taxi to reach your hotel. However, you should keep in mind that Istanbul Airport is at least 24 miles  (40  km) away from the city center. That means the taxi would cost 16 USD (120 TL) minimum (as of 2021 January). However, if the taxi is stuck in traffic and needs to use a longer road, it would cost much more than 120 TL. If you have a limited budget, we advise you to choose other means of transportation. 

Airport Shuttle Services

Shuttle services are reliable means of transportation to get to the city center.  The shuttle service which you can use to reach the city center from the new Istanbul Airport is Havaist. 

  • Between 04:00 and 01:00 you can take Havaist buses to reach Taksim. The bus will take you to the Gezi Park metro entrance at Taksim. Generally, the ride takes about 40 minutes.  The ride costs 2.5 USD (18 TL) for Taksim. 
  • You can also go to Sultanahmet(old town) by Havaist. It serves 24 hours a day. You can take the bus every 15 minutes.  It generally takes 45 minutes to get to Sultanahmet Square.  The fee for Sultanahmet is 3 USD (25 TL).
  • The Havaist airport shuttle is also the most useful way to go to Besiktas from Istanbul Airport. The fee is 2.5 USD (18 TL) and it generally takes 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach Beşiktaş.
  • Unfortunately, there are no Havaist routes between Istanbul airport and Sisli. You can see the details about other alternatives in the next parts. However, you can use the metro to get to Sisli if you reach Taksim by Havaist. Sisli is only a few stations away from Taksim.
  • Reaching Kadıköy from Istanbul airport is really easy. You need to pay 4 USD (32 TL) to reach Kadıköy by Havaist shuttles. The ride approximately takes about 2 hours.

Metro

Unfortunately, metro routes from Istanbul Airport to the city center of Istanbul are currently under construction. Therefore, you could not use the metro to access Sultanahmet, Taksim, Beşiktaş, Şişli or Kadıköy.

Public Bus

There are some municipality bus routes which you can take from the Istanbul Airport. However, we do not suggest them to reach the city center of Istanbul. They are cheaper than other alternatives but they have some disadvantages at the same time.

Municipality buses are generally overcrowded and it is hard to get in with luggage.

Private Shuttles

Another alternative you can choose to reach central districts in the city like Taksim, Sultanahmet, Kadıköy, Beşiktaş, Şişli is private shuttles. Private shuttles would be a plausible choice because they are more comfortable than taxis and municipality buses, you know what you are going to pay at the end of the ride because they have standard prices and they would bring you to the front of your hotel. Thus, you can choose private shuttles to reach the city center. Some private shuttle options are below;

Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) transportation options

 There are lots of alternatives you can choose to get to the city center from the Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Taxis, municipality buses, airport shuttles(HAVABUS) and private shuttles are all available transportation options.

Havabus

Havabus is the name of the shuttle service which works between Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport and districts of Istanbul.  You can go to almost all the central districts of Istanbul by Havabus.

  • Havabus shuttles working between Sabiha Gökçen Airport 24 hours a day. Every 30 minutes a new bus takes off. Approximately, a trip between Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport and Taksim takes about an hour and a half. You need to pay 2.5 USD (18 TL) for Havabüs. 
  • You can also go to Kadıköy from the Sabiha Gökçen Airport, Istanbul. Kadıköy buses of Havabüs take off every 30 minutes like Taksim buses.  Approximately, a Kadıköy trip will take about 60 minutes. The fee for Kadıköy is 2 USD (14 TL).
  • Sultanahmet is a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul. It is also one of the central districts of Istanbul. If you want to go to the Sultanahmet area, you should change vehicles after you take the Taksim shuttle. After getting to Taksim, you can go to Sultanahmet by the combination of Metro and Tramway or public bus or taxi.
  • Unfortunately, there is no direct shuttle from Sabiha Gökçen airport to Besiktas. However, you can easily go to Besiktas from Kadıköy. You can take Havabüs shuttle to Kadıköy and when you arrive at Kadıköy, you can take a ferry to Besiktas. As an alternative, you can take the Taksim shuttle and when you arrive at Taksim, you can take  42T, 40T, and 25T buses to reach Besiktas.
  • Like Sultanahmet and Beşiktaş, there are no shuttle services between Sabiha Gökçen Airport and Şişli. However, you can take the Taksim shuttle. If you take the Taksim shuttle, you can walk to Şişli in half an hour. But it is not easy to walk with luggage. If you do not want to walk, you can take the metro and arrive at Şişli in about 15 minutes. 

Metro

Unfortunately, there are  no direct metro routes from Sabiha Gökçen airport to the central districts of Istanbul.  There is an ongoing metro project for Sabiha Gökçen Airport but unfortunately it is not active yet. When the project is completed, you can take the metro to Sabiha Gökçen Airport as old Atatürk Airport.

Public Bus

Public buses are available to reach some districts of Istanbul from Sabiha Gökçen Airport. The only advantage of public buses would be the price. However, you should keep in mind that; public buses will cost you time while they cost less in terms of money.

Moreover, taking the public bus would be difficult for you with luggage.  You should also keep in mind that public buses would not take you to your hotel. You would probably need to taxi to reach your hotel after you arrive at the bus stop. So we do not recommend you to take a public bus from the Sabiha Gökçen Airport.  However, if you still want to choose the public bus option, you can see a list of buses and directions below.

  • To reach Kadıköy by public bus, you should walk to the entrance of the airport and take the E-10 public bus. The average time of the trip will be about 88 minutes. 
  • When you take E-3 from the Sabiha Gökçen Airport, you can reach Şişli and Beşiktaş. For Şişli, you need to leave the bus at 4.Levent Metro Station entrance and take the bus with 25G code. In 25 minutes. You will be at Sisli. 
  • To go to Beşiktaş by public bus from the Sabiha Gökçen Airport, you need to take E-3 from the airport and leave the bus at 4.Levent. Then, you can walk for 45 minutes or you can take 25G and leave the bus at Beşiktaş station. You can also take a taxi and it will probably cost about 20 TL.
  • For Sultanahmet, there is no direct bus route and the trip would last for 3 hours if you want to go to Sultanahmet by changing at least two buses. 
  • There is also no direct bus route for Taksim. If you want to use public buses to reach Taksim you need to change at least two buses. The trip would last about 2 and a half hours.

Taxi

You can take a taxi to reach the city center from Sabiha Gökçen Airport. However, you should keep in mind that you need to go at least 24 miles (40 kilometers) to reach the Kadikoy by taxi.  That means you need to pay at least 120 Turkish Liras.  However, if the taxi hits the traffic it would use longer roads and the fee you need to pay would be higher than 120 Turkish Liras. 

Private Shuttles

Private shuttles are possible in Sabiha Gökçen Airport as Istanbul Airport.  Again, there are lots of private shuffles options that you can choose to reach the city center. They are reliable and comfortable options for tourists.  Below, you can see the list of private shuttle firms that you can use to reach city center from Sabiha Gökçen Airport;

Is there a metro from Istanbul airport?

Unfortunately, there are no active metro routes from Istanbul Airport. Metro for Istanbul Airport is under construction right now. You will need to choose other means of transportation to reach the city center from Istanbul Airport.

Is Uber available in Istanbul?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is no. Actually, Uber was available in Istanbul until 2019, and lots of people used Uber for transportation. However, Uber faced some legal issues in Turkey. Eventually, after a court decision in 2019, Uber became unavailable in Turkey. 

Is Ataturk airport the same as Istanbul airport?

No, it is not. Istanbul Airport is a new airport that opened in 2018. Atatürk Airport is no longer open to commercial passenger flights. In short, there are two active airports in Istanbul now. One of them is the Istanbul Airport and the other one is Sabiha Gökçen Airport. 

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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