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Getting Around Istanbul: Joan Trip Part VII

Follow contributing editor Ed Perkins as he embarks on a round-the-world “Joan Trip.” (What’s a Joan Trip? Find out in Take That Special Trip … While You Still Can.) According to Perkins, “neither frequent-flyer miles nor people improve with age,” so he’s working off a bundle of miles seeing the world, combining places he missed over the years with some old favorites. Read the rest of Perkins’ round-the-world-trip posts.

The relatively cool weather here in this centuries-old city was a welcome relief after the stifling heat of Dubai. So was the relatively short line at customs and immigration when I arrived. However, compared to Dubai’s airport, Istanbul Ataturk Airport seems a bit more chaotic. There are no simple instructions on how to get into town and the rest of that stuff. But here’s what I discovered:

  • A taxi direct to your hotel costs about 50 lira (about $30; see for current exchange rates) to the Sultanahmet District, and maybe 70 to 80 lira to Taksim.
  • A shuttle bus costs 10 lira.
  • A private car costs 28 lira.
  • The Metro costs 2 or 4 lira, depending on how you use it.
  • There’s also a public bus from the airport to Taksim.

The shuttle bus—arguably the best option in terms of cost and convenience—is tough to find. At least for now, the ostensible link on the airport’s website doesn’t seem to have any details. But you can check with the shuttle’s operator for more info.

Ever the public-transit enthusiast, I checked out the Metro. The airport station is right at the terminal, and the train takes you to the commercial center in 30 minutes, avoiding the often horrendous traffic. One 2-lira fare is all it costs. But your tip doesn’t end there. Instead, if you’re heading for a hotel in the Taksim area, take the Metro to the end of the line and hop a cab—transit just doesn’t work to Taksim.

But if you’re heading to one of the dozens of tourist-oriented hotels in the Sultanahmet region—and that’s the best place to stay—you take the Metro only as far as a junction point at Zeytinburnu. Then, change to the light rail system on an adjacent platform. (Elevators and escalators ease the change.) Pay another 2 lira, and then the light rail takes you right to the Sultanahmet area.

Sultanahmet is full of small hotels that cater to tourists, in a broad price range, and its location couldn’t be better. All three of Istanbul’s blockbuster attractions are within what would amount to about six city blocks: the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, and Topkapi Palace. Given the relatively long access times, I recommend not staying at airport hotels unless you have a very early morning departure—staying out there, you would spend far too much time on the Metro and light rail. I also do not recommend staying in the Taksim area, even though it has lots of good hotels. Again, you’re not close to the attractions, and transit connections are not good.

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(Photo: Shutterstock/Faraways)

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