Given that you’re checking out Istanbul as your next destination, you probably know that there are two airports in the city: Atatürk International Airport (IST) and Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW).
But since Atatürk is the busiest of Istanbul’s two airports and since you’re most likely going to land there, let’s review different ways you can get from this airport to Taksim Square in central Istanbul. The distance between the airport and Taksim Square is about 23 kilometers.
See also: Best Ways to Get Around in Istanbul
If you’re planning to stay in Istanbul for more than just a couple of days, it’ll be more convenient for you to buy an Istanbulkart, which allows you to pay for virtually all public transportation in the city.
Istanbulkart costs only 6 TL (€1.8 / $2.0) and is sold at IETT counters, at the airport, and even at the newspaper stands and kiosks.
In order to load money to Istanbulkart, you can use service at either IETT counters or private vendors. Look for signs ‘Istanbulkart (or Akbil) Dolum Noktası’.
You can load money with the help of attendants by giving them your card and money. Or do it yourself by using Automatic Vending Machines (OSM).
Airport Transfer Services provided by Efendi Travel at the Atatürk airport is a far more comfortable, convenient and reliable way to get to Taksim compared to taxi.
However, it’s a little more expensive and it takes an Efendi driver about 10 minutes longer than a taxi driver to get you to Taksim (Efendi drivers don’t drive like mad, as your safety and the safety of your luggage is their first priority).
Although it’s not the fastest way to get to Taksim during rush hours (it can take up to 1.5 hours in heavy traffic), but it’s the best way if you’re travelling with your family and luggage, because there is lots of room in a comfortable air-conditioned Efendi minivan or midivan.
Efendi Travel is a private service and you can pre-book your ride.
Travel time: 40 to 50 minutes (in good traffic conditions)
Cost: €25 ($28)
Service hours: 24 hours
Service schedule: Your Efendi Travel liaison staff member will be waiting for you upon your arrival, 24/7 (private hire).
Taxi is the fastest and convenient way to leave the Atatürk airport. It’s a very good option if you’re travelling with your family and luggage.
Just like with Efendi Travel service, traveling from the airport to Taksim by taxi can make you get stuck in traffic for up to 1.5 hours during rush hours.
You can find a taxi at the Atatürk airport 24/7 and the taxi driver usually has change, even if you’re paying in euros or dollars. However, don’t expect your taxi driver to have change for big notes like a €500 note.
There is a long queue of taxis waiting for you at the exit of every terminal.
Travel time: 30 to 40 minutes (in good traffic conditions)
Service hours: 24 hours
Havatas operates convenient and relaxing air-conditioned buses from and to the Atatürk airport. They can get you to Taksim with all your luggage, as their buses are very spacious.
It’s far cheaper than taking an Efendi minivan or a taxi as you save up to $25 for the same route. And the travel time is almost the same.
However, you might have to wait up to 30 minutes for the departure of a Havatas airport bus, while an Efendi minivan and a taxi can take you out of the airport immediately.
Service route: Atatürk Airport – Coast Road – Bakırköy – Yenikapı – Aksaray (Marmaray) – Taksim
Travel time: 40 to 50 minutes
Cost: 12 TL ($4)
Service hours: 04:00 – 01:00 daily
Service schedule: Departure every 30 minutes.
Metro is another option that can bring you to Taksim. As for travel time, it’s approximately the same amount when travelling by taxi or bus. But there is one thing that is different: You can’t really squeeze yourself and your heavy luggage in a crowded metro. If you’re traveling light, that’s definitely a good way to get to the city centre.
The Airport Railway station is only a few minute walk from the airport. Take the metro (M1 red line) to Yenikapi and then transfer to the M2 green line, and the train will get you to Taksim.
Travel time: 45 minutes
Cost: 4 TL (2.3 TL via Istanbulkart) = $1.3 ($0.77)
Service hours: 06:00 – 00:00 daily
Service schedule: Intervals are 3 minutes during rush hours and 6-9 minutes during off-rush hours.
It’s definitely the worst way to get to Taksim if you’re travelling with luggage, as all these modes of transportation – metro, tram and füniküler – get crowded during rush hours (morning 08:00 – 09:30, afternoon 17:00 – 20:00). And you have to change the mode of transportation from metro to tram and then füniküler.
We can say that this combination is the slowest way to get to your destination. The only thing that encourages you to do so is the saving this method can bring about. You can save up to $25 (compared to Efendi and taxi), just like you would if you got on a Havatas airport bus (see above).
The Airport Railway station is only a few minute walk from the airport. Take the metro (M1 Red line) to Zeytinburnu and then get on the tram (T1 line) and reach the terminal station, Kabataş.
Then you should take füniküler (F1 line), which is just a short walk from the tram station, and get to Taksim.
Travel time: 15 minutes (by metro) + 50 minutes (by tram) + 5 minutes (by füniküler) = 1:10 hours
Cost: (total for metro, tram and füniküler) 12 TL (6.05 TL via Istanbulkart) = $4 ($2)
Service hours: 06:00 – 00:00 (metro), 06:00 – 00:00 (tram), 6:15 – 00:00 (füniküler) daily
Service schedule: Metro every 3-7 minutes | Tram every 2-15 minutes | Füniküler every 3 minutes