The new Istanbul Airport (ISL) is becoming the main international airport of Istanbul. The airport is located next to the Black Sea on the European side, about 40 km away from Taksim and 45 km from Sultanahmet. To reach your hotel, you have several options, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s an overview to help you make the right choice based on your needs, preferences and budget. I have similar articles for people flying in from Atatürk Airport and Sabiha Gökçen.
- 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 my Istanbul money strategy.
- Get an Istanbul Kart — If you plan to use public transportation, make sure to get an Istanbul Kart at the airport, and load sufficient funds on it. Using the card is not only cheaper, it’s also mandatory on most public transportation lines these days.
- 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 a taxi driver to ask for directions at traffic lights or call the hotel. Don’t worry, he’ll get you there.
A lot of tourists instinctively take a taxi to reach their hotel. But with the New Istanbul Airport being minimum 40 km away, you may want to give that some extra thought. A trip from the new Istanbul airport to Taksim will set you back for minimum 110 TL, and 125 to Sultanahmet. However, these are NOT fixed prices; if the taxi hits traffic, uses toll roads or takes a longer (but according to the taxi driver) quicker road, the fare may increase quickly. Even if you’re a party of four and the driver manages to fit all your luggage in the trunk, you’re still better off taking one of the options below.
In case you must take a taxi, just walk to the official taxi ranks located just outside the terminal. Never take a ride from the hustlers inside the airport terminal, and always ask to switch on the meter.
Havaist Airport Shuttle
Havaist is a new airport shuttle service operating five bus lines between the new Istanbul airport and spots all over Istanbul.
To reach Taksim, it’s really straightforward. You take the line IST 19: New Istanbul Airport – Beşiktaş – Taksim (which also stops at Zincirlikuyu and 4. Levent Metro) and you get off at the last stop, in front of the Point Hotel, close to Taksim square. From there you can either walk to your hotel, take a taxi or the metro.
To reach Sultanahmet, I would take the same bus line, and take a taxi to my hotel in the Sultanahmet or Fatih area. Alternatively, you could take the line IST 1: New Istanbul Airport – Yenikapı. This will take you to the ferry docks in Yenikapı, from where you must take a taxi to your hotel. The latter might be a bit quicker, but I find Yenikapı a little unorganized.
The fare for bus lines is 18 TL per person, one way, luggage included. Both trips take on average 100 minutes, more during rush hour. Luckily the buses have TV-movie-series services, WiFi, and USB charging units to make the trip a bit more enjoyable. You can find the timetables on the official Havaist website.
A private shuttle is a great alternative for both the taxi and the standard airport shuttle. They are more comfortable than taxis, have a fixed rate, hence offer a much more relaxed (and safe) drive to your hotel. Unlike the Havaist airport shuttle, private shuttles bring you to the hotel’s doorstep. They are also the best option 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. Nor did we have to deal with local currencies or getting an Istanbul Kart at the airport since we already paid in advance. 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.
Of course there is also regular public transportation, but there is a reason why I put this almost last in the list. Although a bit cheaper, it is rather adventurous. First of all, you may find yourself struggling with your luggage in crowded vehicles during rush hour. Secondly, the only line more or less suitable for tourists is the H2: New Istanbul Airport – Mecidiyeköy. From there you must either take a taxi or take the metro to reach your hotel, which may include taking some stairs in case elevators or escalators are out of order. Moreover, the operating hours are only between 6 am and midnight.
In the future, there will be a metro line. However, the M11 is still being constructed and planned to start operating at the end of 2019. It will start from Gayrettepe and integrate with the metrobus line, M2 Yenikapı-Hacıosman metro line (currently active) and M7 Kabataş-Mahmutbey line (still being constructed-first section, Mecidiyeköy-Mahmutbey, is projected to launch in the last quarter of 2019.
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.