Istanbul transport

Public transportation in Istanbul consists of various services such as suburban train, metro, tram, nostalgic tram, funicular, cable car, bus network, metrobus, ferry and sea bus, serving a population of more than 15 million that encompass an area of 5712 km.


Public road transport in Istanbul dates back to August 30, 1869, when a concession agreement was signed to build a tram system in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. With this contract, “Société des Tramways de Constantinople (Dersaadet Tram Company)” – founded by Konstantin Krepano Efendi – obtained the privilege of operating public transportation for forty years. Within the scope of this concession, it was decided to build horse-drawn tram lines on four routes between Azapkapı – Galata – Tophane – Beşiktaş, Eminönü – Aksaray, Aksaray – Yedikule and Aksaray – Topkapı on the European Side of Istanbul.

The first line between Azapkapı and Beşiktaş was put into service in 1871 and served 4.5 million people in the first year. In the following years, more tram lines came into service. A total of 430 horses were used to pull 45 tram vehicles, 15 of which were open-airsummer type and some of which were double-decker, on these routes with a meter (1000 mm) track gauge. During the Balkan Wars that started in 1912, horse-drawn tram services had to be stopped for a year after the Ministry of War sent all horses to the front.

Operated by Istanbul Electricity, Tramway, and Tunnels General Management (İETT), trams slowly returned to the city in the 1990s with the revival of a Nostalgic tram on Istiklal Avenue and –a faster modern tram line, which now carries 265,000 passengers each day.

The oldest underground urban rail line in Istanbul is the Tünel, which entered service on 17 January 1875. It is the world’s second-oldest underground urban rail line after the London Underground which was built in 1863, and the first underground urban rail line in continental Europe.


The Istanbul Metro comprises ten lines (the M1, M2, M3, M6, M7, M9 and M11 on the European side, and the M4, M5 and M8 on the Asian side) with several other lines (M12 and M14) and extensions under construction. The two sides of Istanbul’s metro are connected under the Bosphorus by the Marmaray Tunnel, inaugurated in 2013 as the first rail connection between Thrace and Anatolia, having 13.5 km (8.4 mi) length.

The Marmaray Tunnel together with the suburban railways lines along the Sea of Marmara, form the intercontinental commuter rail line in Istanbul, named officially B1, from Halkalı on the European side to Gebze on the Asian side.

This rail line has 76.6 km (47.6 mi), and the full line opened on 12 March 2019. Until then, buses provide transportation within and between the two-halves of the city, accommodating 2.2 million passenger trips each day. The Metrobus, a form of bus rapid transit, crosses the Bosphorus Bridge, with dedicated lanes leading to its termini.


International rail service from Istanbul launched in 1889, with a line between Bucharest and Istanbul’s Sirkeci Terminal, which ultimately became famous as the eastern terminus of the Orient Express from Paris (France). Regular service to Bucharest and Thessaloniki continued until the early 2010s, when the former was interrupted for Marmaray construction but started running again in 2019 and the latter was halted due to economic problems in Greece. After Istanbul’s Haydarpaşa Terminal opened in 1908, it served as the western terminus of the Baghdad Railway and an extension of the Hejaz Railway – however today, neither service is offered directly from Istanbul.

Service to Ankara and other points across Turkey is normally offered by Turkish State Railways, but the construction of Marmaray and the Ankara-Istanbul high-speed line forced station closure in 2012.


Istanbul has three large international airports, two of which currently serve commercial passenger flights. The largest is the new Istanbul Airport, opened in 2018 in the Arnavutköy district to the northwest of the city center on the European side, near the Black Sea coast.

Sabiha Gökçen International airport, 45 kilometers (28 mi) southeast of the city center, on the Asian side, was opened in 2001 to relieve the traffic at Atatürk. Dominated by low-cost carriers, Istanbul’s second airport has rapidly become popular, especially since the opening of a new international terminal in 2009. The airport handled 14.7 million passengers in 2012, a year after Airports Council International named it the world’s fastest-growing airport.

Istanbul Atatürk Airport, located 24 kilometers (15 miles) west of the city center on the European side, near the Marmara Sea coast, was formerly the city’s largest airport. After its closure to commercial flights in 2019, it was briefly repurposed for cargo aircraft.

Funiculars and cable cars

Three underground and one viaduct funicular lines serve in Istanbul.

The oldest of these lines, the F2 (Karaköy – Beyoğlu) Historical Tunnel Funicular Line,has been providing uninterrupted service since 1875 and is the second oldest metro line in the world after the London Underground. The Tunnel, which is 573 meters long, varies 60 meters in altitude. The system, which was initially operated with two wooden trains moving with steam power on parallel rails, was modernized in 1971 and started to serve with two trains moving opposite each other on a single rail. The line is currently operated by IETT.

The F1 (Taksim – Kabataş) Funicular Line, which was put into service in June 2006, and the F4 (Boğaziçi Üniversitesi/Hisarüstü – Aşiyan) Funicular line, which was put into service in October 2022, are operated by Metro Istanbul, while the F3 (Seyrantepe – Vadistanbul) Funicular Line is operated by Vadistanbul AVM.

The first cable car line in Istanbul, TF1 (Maçka – Taşkışla) Cable Car Line, was built in 1993 on Maçka Democracy Park, located in the valley between Taksim and Maçka. The line connects Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus on one side and Parksa Hilton and Swissotel The Bosphorus hotels on the other.

The second cable car line, TF2 (Eyüp – Piyer Loti) Cable Car Line, was built between Eyüpsultan Square and Pierre Loti Hill. TF2 line has become the most expensive cable car line in Turkey with a cost of 5 million Euros.


The rapid bus transportation system in Istanbul is called Metrobus. Construction work for the Metrobus line started in May 2006 and the system evolved into its current form after four distinct stages. It went into operation on September 17, 2007 between Topkapı and Küçükçekmece on the European Side, and was extended to Avcılar on the western axis on October 12, 2007. The system, which was extended to Zincirlikuyu on the eastern axis on September 8, 2008, and to Söğütlüçeşme on the eastern axis on March 3, 2009, was extended to Beylikdüzü Sondurak on the western axis on July 19, 2012. The total length of the Metrobus system – which consists of a two-lane road with departure and arrival lanes – is 52 kilometers (32 miles) and encompasses 44 stations.


The bus public transportation system in Istanbul is completely dependent on IETT. However, since 1985, Private Public Buses (ÖHO) have been allowed to operate under the authority of IETT. As of May 21, 2018, there are 783 bus lines(excluding transfers). Many routes have interchanges that operate on average one round trip per day. Some routes also have shorter lines operating at peak hours for crowded stops. In 2010, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality established a bus company in order to replace old vehicles faster. As of December 2012, it has a fleet of 544 vehicles. The vehicles in this fleet are completely low-floor and certified according to Euro 5 standards.

In 2021, Istanbul Transportation, Private Public Buses and IETT’s own buses reorganized under the umbrella of IETT brand.


There are ferry services on 30 lines serving 27 piers on the shores of the Bosphorus and the Marmara Sea. Today, there are 3 types of ferry services in Istanbul: Istanbul Sea Buses (İDO), City Lines (ŞH) and private motorboats.

The first steam ferries started to serve on the Bosphorus in 1837 and were operated by private sector companies. Company-i Hayriye was founded by the Ottoman Empire on January 1, 1851. Company-i Hayriye continued to operate its ferries, which became the symbol of the city, until the first years of the Republic period, when it was taken over by the Turkish Maritime Enterprises. Since March 2006, Istanbul’s traditional ferries have been operated by Şehir Hatları, a subsidiary of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.

The current design of Istanbul ferries as they are known today were largely created by Fairfield Shipbuilders of Glasgow, Scotland, which has built the majority of Istanbul ferries since 1851.

Sea bus

On April 16, 1987, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality established Istanbul Sea Buses (IDO) to provide fast sea transportation with catamaran-style sea buses, and the modernization of sea transportation was achieved with the first ten ships purchased from Norway. Today, İDO serves 29 terminals with its fleet of 28 vehicles, including six fast car ferries.

Tickets and pricing

Various tickets and tokens were first used in public transportation vehicles in Istanbul, but were replaced byAKBİL in 1995. In 2009, the smart RFID card technology Istanbulkart, which is an integrated electronic ticket system for buses, metro, trams, funiculars, suburban trains, ferries and ferries, was released in 2009. In 2014, AKBİL was completely canceled and replaced by Istanbulkart. Istanbulkart is used not only in public transportation, but also in the city’s toilets, food and beverages, grocery shopping, etc.

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