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Istanbul airport to downtown, how to go?

We tell you how to go from the Istanbul airport, both the European and Asian parts, to the city center.

Istanbul is a huge city, which is located between two continents and on each side has an airport. It is normal that it seems quite intimidating, especially if you are going to arrive for the first time. At least that’s how we felt. That is why we want to tell you what are the options of how to go from Istanbul Airport to downtown, when we say downtown we mean the most common places to receive visitors. We will also tell you about the options that exist for the two airports in Istanbul.

Which are the airports of Istanbul?

There are two airports in Istanbul:

  1. One in the European part, recently built, is the Istambul Airport, IATA code: IST. Previously the city’s main airport was Atatürk International Airport, but nowadays it is used only for cargo flights.
  2. Another one on the Asian side, which at the time was built to compensate for the shortcomings of the Atatürk airport. Its IATA code is SAW.

How to go from Istanbul Airport to downtown?

This airport is located about 60 kilometers from the city. So even if we are lucky enough that there is no traffic, like on a Sunday morning, we have to go with plenty of time. About two hours is the minimum for a day without traffic, so in times with cars you have to spend more time. To estimate the most exact time depending on the day you are going to take the plane, ask your hotel about the most current times.

These are the options to move from Istanbul Airport to the center and vice versa:


From the airport you can take the yellow taxis of Istanbul, or the blue ones, the fare will depend on what the taximeter shows. If the taxi driver refuses to start it, do not get on.

Subway (someday)

It has been said for a long time that it will be available soon, but when we went it was not yet there. When it will be ready, you’ll be able to reach the airport with the M11 line, from Gayrettepe station (in the northern part of Taksim Square).


From Istanbul Airport, you can take buses called Havaist. To take them, you have to go down to floor -2. There are several routes, the most convenient depending on where you stay are the HVIST-12 with the final stop at Beyazit Meydan Square (from there you can take a taxi, tram or walk to Sultanahmet). In case you stay in the Taksim area, the most convenient would be the HVIST-14 since it ends its route near it.

These buses operate 24 hours a day, the price of the ticket is variable depending on where you get off. For example, from the airport to Beyazit Meydan square it’s 52 Turkish liras, you can check the prices on their website. If you’re short on cash, good news: you can pay by card. We took this bus on our way back from Cappadocia and to finish our trip in Turkey. Just before we take our last flight with Turkish Airlines.

Private transportation

The private transfer has to be contracted in advance, generally with the hotel or you can contract it by yourself. You have to check prices and compare. It is useful in case you arrive late and you can’t yet find your way in the city. We used this option on our first arrival in Istanbul.

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How to get from the Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul to downtown?

It is not as big as the new airport in Istanbul, but the truth is that I expected to see a tiny airport and not at all! it is quite big. The airport is ocated 55 kilometers from the city, but on the Asian side. Most of the low cost flights, both domestic and international, land here.

The options to get to and from Sabiha Gökçen Airport are:


As in the airport on the European side, do not get on if the taxi driver does not agree to turn on the taximeter.


Here there is also a bus that arrives at the airport, in this case it is called Havabus and it is taken very close to Taksim Square. Once you are in Taksim Square, look for the Havabus stop on the map, a bus leaves every 30 minutes, only here it does not run all day. Check the schedules to be sure.

Private transportation

As for the airport on the European side, this type of private transfer can be booked in advance, with the hotel or on your own.

Now yes, once installed in Istanbul, give yourself the task of discovering its delicious gastronomy, to help you here we tell you what to eat in Turkey.

How to go from Istanbul Airport to Sabiha Gökçen and vice versa?

Just over 80 kilometers separate the two airports in the city. Travel time is something that must be taken into account, especially if you have an airport change on your itinerary. In addition to the same options already mentioned above, such as taxi or private transport, you can take a bus.

It is the Havaist bus, HVIST-13, which takes approximately 110 minutes (according to what it says on its page, you always have to consider more time). And at the time we write this, the price is 65 Turkish Liras, but the prices are constantly changing.

When you hire a transport always make sure that they take you to the correct airport

It might seem obvious, that they are going to take us to the right airport, but no. When taking the bus that took us to Sabiha Gökçen, the man who sold us the ticket insisted on making sure that we understood which airport we were going to. Then we understood the reason, this is something that surely happens to many.

When we were queuing to drop our baggages at the Istanbul Airport, some hurried ladies arrived skipping the line, telling us that their flight was leaving in no time, we let them pass. And the thing became dramatic when we found out why they were in such a hurry: the transport, taxi or private, that they had hired took them to Sabiha Gökçen! They left with all the anticipation in the world. I do not want to imagine the despair when realizing that they arrived at the wrong airport. Because the distances are not small. In the end, we hope that they were able to take their flight and their story remains here as a lesson for all.

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Olga Grijalva

Olga is a traveler and travel content creator with 17 years of experience. Her goal is to share useful information to help you plan your adventures. She has visited more than 40 countries and is excited to share her experience with you.