The Sabiha Gökçen Istanbul Airport is attracting more and more passengers every year. Unfortunately, Sabiha Gökçen is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, well outside the city center. Unless your hotel has arranged for a free airport pick-up, you will need to find transportation from the airport to your hotel.
From the Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul, you have several options regardless the location of your hotel — Sultanahmet or Beyoğlu (Taksim/Cihangir). I hope this overview helps you make the correct choice based on your destination and/or preferences. You can find new Istanbul International Airport (IST) transportation options here.
- Get Turkish Liras – If you don’t have Turkish liras on you, use one of the many ATMs in the airport to withdraw some cash money. None of the transportation options mentioned below will accept credit cards, foreign currencies or big Turkish lira notes. Make sure you have some 5, 10, 20 or maximum 50 notes handy. Also, check out our Istanbul money strategy.
- Hotel Address – Make sure that you write down or print out the exact address of your hotel, together with its telephone number. Istanbul is a huge city with an uncountable amount of (small) hotels. Even locals don’t know them all by heart. So, if you need help, just hand over the piece of paper. It’s not unusual for taxi drivers to ask for directions at traffic lights or call the hotel. Don’t worry, he’ll get you there.
Unless money is no object, stay clear from taking a taxi from the Sabiha Gökçen airport. A ride to Beyoğlu or Sultanahmet may easily take over an hour. Accordingly, you’ll have to pay 125 TL and upwards, depending on your final destination. Always check out the most up-to-date taxi prices.
Havabus Airport Shuttle (and Public Transportation Combination)
Havabus, a municipality owned reliable airport shuttle service, is your best option to reach your hotel. Depending on your destination, either direct or in combination with public transportation.
To Taksim – This is the most straightforward route. Outside the airport, find the Havabus heading for Taksim. These buses operate daily between 04:00 and 01:00. The current pick-up and drop-off point is the Gezi Park metro exit/entrance, just past Taksim Square. The ride costs 18 TL per person (luggage included) and takes approximately 90 minutes, depending on traffic. You can get off at a few places, but most tourists will want to get off at Beşiktaş or Taksim, depending on your destination.
To Sultanahmet – To reach Sultanhamet, you have two options. Either you take a 17 TL taxi ride after reaching Taksim Square (see option above), or you combine another airport shuttle line with a ferry ride, followed by a small taxi or tram ride as I’ll explain now.
First, hop on the Havabus heading for Kadıköy. The buses operate daily between 04:00 and 01:00. The ride costs 14 TL per person (luggage included) and takes approximately 60 minutes. In Kadıköy, walk to the Şehir Hatları dock and board the ferry to Eminönü. You can find the operating hours here. The ferry ride (with a nice view) takes about 15 minutes and costs 3 TL per person.If your hotel is in Eminönü, you can walk from there. If not you, must either take a small taxi ride (5 minutes maximum) or take the T1 Kabataş/Eminönü-Bağcılar tram in the direction of Bağçılar, and get off only a few stops later in Sultanahmet.
Although very romantic, in my opinion and with all your luggage, the first option (Havabus to Taksim followed by taxi to Sultanahmet) is your best bet outside rush hour.
A private shuttle is a great alternative for both the taxi and the standard airport shuttle. They are much more comfortable than taxis, have a fixed rate, hence offer a much more relaxed (and safe) drive to your hotel. Unlike the Havabus Airport shuttle, private shuttles bring you to the hotel’s doorstep. They are also the best option when your party is three or more people (with a lot of luggage) or when you travel with very young children. In case of the latter, ask for a child seat.
I recently booked a shuttle with KiwiTaxi to take me and two friends from the airport to their hotel. The driver was waiting for us in the arrival hall (1 hour waiting is included), holding a plate with my name on it. He was very kind and helped us with our luggage. The car was clean and comfortable, meeting basic expectations. We had quite a bit of traffic, but that didn’t bother us since we were paying a fixed price anyway. He dropped us off nicely in front of the hotel lobby, and again was very helpful with our luggage. No need to say I gave him a nice tip.
I can really recommend KiwiTaxi. They have no less than 12 car classes, ranging from Micro for 3 passengers to Minibuses for 19 passengers. Just pick the most comfortable car for your needs. If you are traveling with children, don’t forget to order a child seat.
Hotel Airport Pick-Up
Most hotels will offer (upon request) an airport pick-up. These pick-ups are rarely free of charge, and often much more expensive than the options mentioned above. It’s up to you to calculate the difference and decide which option best suits your needs or preference.