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You can travel from Istanbul’s Atatürk airport to Sultanahmet, the center of historic Istanbul (and the best hotel area) completely by metro and tram in about an hour for TL10 or less.

Here is a map of Istanbul’s public transport.

I assume if you need a Turkish visa, you have already purchased it online before you leave the House. More…

You reach the International arrival terminal of Ataturk airport, pass through immigration (passport control) and in the baggage area and the customs area.

You will need Turkish liras (coins, TL5 and / or TL10 notes) to buy a Token or a ticket to pay your fare in the subway and trams. Bureaux de change and ATMs (ATMs) are located in the baggage claim area in the arrival hall outside the secure customs area. Exchange rates at the airport exchange offices are usually not advantageous, so I would recommend that you do not change large amounts of cash here. More…

There are also ATM’s issuing Bank notes/bills, at the entrance to the airport (Havalimanı) metro station.

(If you buy something in the duty-free shops in the baggage room or in the cafes and shops outside the secure customs area, you can TL1-coins and/or small TL notes request for exchange).

After you exit the secure customs area, turn right and go to the end of the terminal, to pay attention to the signs to the subway.

A man can come to you, while you go and try to take a shuttle van into the city. (It happens to me every time.) I tell him Istemez! (eess-teh-MEHZ, “it is not wanted”). The problem with a shuttle van is that it circulates through the city to many hotels. If yours is the last one, you drive around a lot. There are other dangers. More…

Walk down the escalator or lift / lift and through the sliding glass doors-that is, you have left the safe terminal and would have to go through a complete security check to enter it again.

You are now in a large underground garage beneath the Parking garage connects The domestic and International terminals, as well as the U-Bahn station.

Turn right and follow the signs along the concourse to Havalimanı (airport) metro station at the end left.

U-Bahn to the old town
Three types of fare machines greet you at the entrance of The Havalimanı metro station:

  1. Istanbul kart
    There is a machine to buy an Istanbul kart. Hope it’s all right! Insert a TL10 note to purchase an Istanbulkart RFID fare card. You must then go to the nearby Biletmatik machine to load some credit on the card with TL notes of 5, 10 or 20 liras (no coins). More…
  2. What do you mean? Biletmatics
    These ticket vending machines vend paper electronic tickets good for 1, 2, 3, 5 or 10 rides. Paper tickets are more expensive per trip than with a Istanbul ticket.

Biletmatik machines can also be used to load value on the Istanbul kart fare cards. More…

  1. 3. 4. Jetonmatics
    These machines vend plastic tariff Token (jeton). You need two metro tokens (jeton) per person to travel from Ataturk airport to Sultanahmet, Eminönü or Kabataş, three to Taksim square. (Here is more traveling from Ataturk Airport to Taksim Square.) The fare (price for each jeton) is subject to change, but should be booked on the wall or marked on the Jetonmatics machine. You probably have enough coins to buy a Token.

Click here for more on rates & how to pay…

Admission to the U-Bahn
You place your Istanbulkart near the sensor on the turnstile, or insert your bilet (ticket), or put a chip, through the turnstile, descend the escalator (or Elevator/lift) and take any U-Bahn for Aksaray (map) of both platforms. Havalimanı train station (airport) is the end point of the M1 metro line so you can board any train—they all go to Aksaray. You can’t get in the wrong train.

Beware of pickpockets!
I picked up my bag only once in 40 years on any Istanbul public transport, and I got my wallet with intact content; but I felt nothing, as he stole them. Read and believe: if it’s in the bag and if your hand is not on it, it can be stolen, and you won’t feel anything. Take valuables out of your pockets and place them under your clothes (a neck pouch or waist belt is best). En garde!

As you enter the train at your starting point, you have good chances to find a seat, which increases your comfort and reduces pickpockets.

Change at Zeytinburnu
You get out of the metro at Zeytinburnu, the 6th U-Bahn-Station.

Use a different token or your new Istanbul cart or multi-ride ticket to enter the tram hubs. Look for trams marked Eminönü or Kabataş (not Bağcılar). (Eminönü and Kabataş are stations on the same line: Eminönü is part way along to the tram Terminus at Kabataş.)

Take the tram to Eminönü and / or Kabataş. If the tram is already full, and your Luggage is bulky, you should wait for the next tram so that you have a better Chance to get a seat. A seat is also a good way to reduce the risk of pickpockets in the crowded trams between Aksaray and Eminonu is active.

Stop (the recorded station-stop announcement says sool-TAHN-ah-meht, and also BLOO mosk in English!) and out. You’ll be on Divan Yolu at the northeastern end of the Hippodrome with the huge Blue mosque clearly in view, about 300 metres/yards to the South.

See TTP Sultanahmet Street Guide for street-by-street guide.

Sirkeci & Golden Horn
If you are bound to Sirkeci hotels, the Golden Horn, the Marmaray commuter train or the ferry docks of Eminonu, take the tram to the tram stop Gülhane, Sirkeci or Eminonu districts of Istanbul. (Connection with the Marmaray is in Sirkeci.)

If you take the tram to Kabataş, take the Eminonu, cross the Galata bridge over the Golden Horn to Karaköy (Galata) and travel to Kabataş, where there is another ferry, and a funicular to Taksim square. (You need a third token for the funicular. If you are using an Istanbulkart, you only pay a discounted transfer rate.)

From the old city to Ataturk airport:
Buy two Jetons (jetons) or a multi-fare ticket at a vending machine, shop or kiosk near a tram stop or use your Istanbul ticket. Get off at a Bağcılar tram and go to Zeytinburnu. (Note: trams labeled Cevizlibağ do not drive to Zeytinburnu. Wait for a Bağcılar tram.)

You leave the tram in Zeytinburnu, follow the metro signs in the adjacent U-Bahn station, climb the stairs and hop on the other side of the tracks to be on the /Westweg. On board a train to Havalimanı (airport). You go to the last stop, and you will be directly under the airport car Park, on the concourse between the National and International terminals.

You must go through a security check to enter both terminals.

With Private Transfer
More expensive but safer, faster and more comfortable alternatives to Metro and tram travel are with private transfer (good value!), taxi (may have problems), or shuttle van (may take some time, multiple hotel stops before heading for the airport)

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