Whenever I can, I like to take public transportation in a foreign city. It’s not about saving money, but about the sense of independence. It’s very easy to travel from Istanbul’s Attaturk Airport by public transportation. The hotel seemed to agree: the manager was most frank in the disadvantages of each way of reaching the hotel. The metro for three costs hardly less than a taxi; the taxi drivers are notorious for not turning on their meters, and the private car is vastly more expensive than these other two. The hired car was still a fine value. But we travel to travel- we want to experience things. Just not aggravating things, like arguing with taxi drivers. We opted for the metro- a little texture, plus you are at no one’s mercy.

At the Airport

On your way out of the airport, right before passport and visa control, there is a small information desk- they have metro maps. Ask for a couple. Maps are not available all over the place. Across from this there are stands with city maps from sponsors- stores, etc. These are handy also. Go though passport control and follow signs to the metro. A long underground corridor will lead you to the only entrance.
How to pay
There are two ways to pay for public transportation in Istanbul- the “Jeton”- 4 TL each from vending machines, and the card. You can purchase cards from the lady in the kiosk at the entrance to the metro at the Attaturk airport Metro station. You can’t miss it- the small kiosk is on the left before you go in.
Jeton automat-
If for some reason you can’t get a card,
you will need a Jeton for each leg of the journey.
To Sultanahmet, for instance, that means 2-
one for the metro,
and one for the tram you’re switching to.
Metro card- no need to remove it from its case-
just scan it at the turnstile
Machine for topping up your transportation card.
Takes bills, but does not necessarily give change

The advantage of an Istanbul Public Transportation card

We had read and heard that buying a metro card ends up being much less expensive over the course of your stay, and this was true- most rides seemed to dock mere 2,15 TL from the card, as opposed to 4. The cards themselves are 10 TL, with 4 TL of that is credit for riding. They can easily be refilled at machines at the entrance to every metro or tram station. We filled our card with extra to start- 30 TL total for the card and the extra fares.

How Public Transportation is charged in Istanbul

Istanbul public transportation is not charged by time, like in Athens, nor in distance, like in San Francisco, but simply per use- one swipe, 2,15 TL usually, per mode. That means one swipe on the metro, and another at Zeytinburnu when we transfer to the tram. You can keep swiping the card for each travelling companion, but we think the fare is less for the first swipe than the subsequent swipes, and the sound is different.
The Airport stop is the last one- so you cannot get on a train in the wrong direction. If you miss it, don’t worry- you’ll barely have time to admire the station before another one comes.

Changing from the Metro to the Tram

If you are going to the center- Sultanahmet- you will get off the metro at Zeitinbrunu- 6 stops. You exit the metro station, and swipe your pass again at the turnstile at the entrance to the tram- directly next to the metro station. Check the signs with the stops to make sure you are going in the right direction. Miss one again? You won’t have time to fret- trams come even more often than metros. There are about 15 stops from here to Sultananahmet, and you’ll see lots of the city- the University, splendid Mosques, and bustling neighborhoods. You also get oriented travelling at street level.
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