Busy cities are perfect for weekends away – but unfortunately, you’re probably not the only person who’s had that idea. Avoid the crowds and make your trip as stress-free as possible with this guide on getting from the heart of Istanbul to the airport 14 miles out.
Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, sitting on the border between Europe and Asia. It’s an enchanting place filled with amazing buildings like the Hagia Sofia, legendary markets like the Grand Bazaar – and of course, quite a lot of people. Once you add up all the locals and tourists, it’ll come as no surprise to learn that the roads tend to get a bit congested, especially during the morning and evening rush hours. Make your journey from the city centre to Atatürk Airport as easy as possibly by following this simple guide.
The Urban Rail System
The M1 metro line reaches as far as Atatürk Airport, but don’t spend too much time searching for that name on the metro map. The station you’re looking for is Havalimanı, which translates very simply as airport, and it’s the final stop on the red line. If you’re coming from the historic Sultanahmet District, you’ll need two tokens, which can be purchased from any station. The payment system charges one token for every line, so whenever you need to change lines, bear in mind that you’ll need another token. Board the T1 tramline at Sultanahmet and travel as far as Zeytinburnu, where you can transfer to the M1 line. You should allow about an hour in total for your journey, and you can take a look at Istanbul’s rail transit map here.
If you’re travelling from Taksim Square in the heart of modern Istanbul, the journey is a little more complicated. With three changes, you’ll need three tokens, and should allow around two hours. Start by taking the funicular across to Kabataş, where you’ll be able to change onto the T1 tramline. After that, just stay put until your tram pulls into Zeytinburnu, then change onto the M1 line and head straight to Havalimanı.
If you feel a little nervous about tackling the public transport system, this is probably your best bet. Taxis here are brightly coloured with the almost-familiar word “Taksi” written on them. The use of the taximeter is obligatory in Turkey, and you will need liras to pay for your journey – probably around 30 or 35 from Sultanahmet and Taksim respectively. If you’re staying at an airport hotel like our Radisson Blu Conference & Airport Hotel, Istanbul, you may want to ask the hotel staff to handle your payment to make sure everything is above board and you pay a fair price.
Private Shuttle Services
Airport shuttles provide travellers with a private car and their own driver, who’ll usually speak English. There are two main companies operating for the two airports in the city: the Istanbul Airport Shuttle Service, and Havataş. If you’re coming from Taksim, the latter will be your best option, as they run a regular service between the square and airport. There’s no need to book in advance and the journey is cheap and direct. The Istanbul service is more flexible, but must be booked in advance. Prices start at 10€ per person.