Big Buses blend into the Istanbul background very well. You don’t see them unless you pay attention. And once you do, you start seeing Big Bus Istanbul’s brown double-deckers everywhere. They take hundreds of tourists to the most popular destinations in Istanbul.
Red and Blue Lines
Big Bus Istanbul is a hop on & hop off bus. You may get off wherever you want to visit or explore something, and then get on the bus again whenever you feel like it.
The buses are divided into two lines: red (leaving every half an hour) and blue (leaving every hour on the hour). The blue line follows the route along the Golden Horn. It includes places such as the cable car, Miniatürk, Rami Koç Museum and Spice Bazaar. If you decide not to hop off the bus and simply enjoy the full tour, it takes a little more than one hour.
For the red line you need at least two hours. On the way you will see, among other things, Dolmabahçe Palace, Naval Museum and Taksim Square.
The convenient location of the Big Bus Istanbul makes it popular with tourists who very often decide to take the bus spontaneously. There is really nothing you need to know before you get on the bus. You will be provided with all the necessary information and equipment.
Once you decide which line to choose first, you will be given a map with all the important places marked on it and a set of headphones. That is all you need, just sit down, relax and enjoy the ride. The upper level of the bus is perfect for enjoying a light breeze on a hot summer day and admiring some breathtaking views.
Multilingual Tour Guide
Once the Big Bus takes off, make sure you have your headphones on. You can plug your own if it has a 3,5 mm jack. You can choose to listen to the commentary in one of the eight languages: English, German, Spanish, Russian, French, Italian, Turkish and Arabic. The commentary is pre-recorded but it is perfectly synchronized with the pace of the trip. It is also very interesting. I must admit that despite having good prior knowledge of Istanbul, I still learned some interesting facts.
However, the information was not updated. The changed name of the Bosporus Bridge after the failed coup attempt was not mentioned. Also, Atatürk Airport was portrayed as still fully functioning, whereas it had been closed for months. There was no information regarding the new Istanbul Airport either.
I had many doubts when I first heard about the idea of a hop on & hop off bus in Istanbul. I was especially worried about the traffic and thought it was impossible for any vehicle to stay on schedule and be on time. However, I was surprised to see that it really works.
The buses follow a clear schedule and it is really easy to get off, do the sightseeing and then catch another bus. In addition, there is somebody from the Big Bus team waiting to help at most stops. You will definitely find it easy to take the ride, get off, and then get on the bus again.
One of Many Ways to Explore the City
Seeing Istanbul from the top of the Big Bus was a pleasant experience. It showed me places that I already know from a different perspective. The ride is especially nice on a hot summer day when walking in the sun is hard. If you have a limited time in Istanbul, this is good way to do your sightseeing. You do not need to worry about transportation, and you will not get tired trying to find your way in this enormous city. However, it doesn’t come cheap.
Where and How Much?
Finding the starting point of the Big Bus is a piece of cake. It’s located in Sultanahmet, at the square between Hagia Sofia and The Blue Mosque.
Although you may buy the tickets just before you enter the bus, planning your trip beforehand and getting the tickets online is more affordable. There are three types of tickets. Classic ticket is valid for 24 hours and it costs 50 € (45 € online). Premium ticket is valid for two days and it costs 61 € (55 € online). Deluxe ticket is valid for three days and it costs 67 € (60 € online). There are also family (2 adults, 2 children) tickets for 24, 48, and 72 hours. Online they cost 105 €, 130 €, and 143 € respectively.
All tickets include entrance to the Naval Museum (red line) and Miniatürk (blue line). The two lines have slightly different locations. If you encounter any troubles, the staff of the Big Bus will surely help you.