Catching public transport in Istanbul: A Guide to using the Istanbul Kart

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Grace Hillier

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We use public transport in Istanbul almost every day.

Frequently, we will have tourists come up to us and ask how to catch the metro, bus, tram or ferry.

Navigating the city can be challenging, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the ticketing and payment system. That’s where the Istanbul Kart(card) comes in.

In this article we outline all you need to know about catching public transport in Istanbul and getting the right transport card.

What is the Istanbul Kart?

It is a rechargeable card that you can use to pay for public transportation in the city, including buses, trains, trams, and ferries. In addition to transport, it also covers payment for entry to public toilets, car parks, city beaches and airport buses.

The card is available for purchase at a small fee, and it is valid for five years from the date of purchase.

Key takeaways

  • The Istanbul Kart is a rechargeable card that you can use to pay for public transportation in Istanbul.
  • You can obtain an Istanbul Kart from kiosks or vending machines located throughout the city, as well as from the airport or local convenience stores.
  • To use the Istanbul Kart, you’ll need to load money onto it and then use it to pay for public transportation in Istanbul.

Purchasing an Istanbul Kart

To obtain an Istanbul Kart, you’ll need to visit one of the many kiosks or ticket machines located throughout the city, generally located at transportation hubs (you’ll see them outside the ferry, metro and tram, for example).

You can also purchase an Istanbul Kart at the airport or from a local convenience store like Şok and Migros. 

Machine for Istanbul Kart
Ticket machine for Istanbul Kart

Loading an Istanbul Kart 

Once you have your card, you’ll need to load money onto it. You can do this at any of the kiosks or ticket machines, or you can use the Istanbul Kart app to add funds to your card. You can also top it up online. Once your card is loaded, you are ready for public transportation in Istanbul!

The cost of an Istanbul Kart

As of 2023, the fee for a new Istanbul Kart is $2.23 USD (60 Lira). 

How to get an Istanbul Kart

To obtain an Istanbul Kart (card), you’ll need to follow these steps:

  • Locate a vending machine or kiosk that sells Istanbul Karts.
  • Select “New Card” on the vending machine or tell the vendor that you want to purchase a new card.
  • Pay the initial fee of 60 Turkish Lira (TL) for the card. This fee includes no credits, so you’ll need to add credit to the card before using it.

Once you have your Istanbul Kart, you can add credit to it at any vending machine or kiosk that sells Istanbul Karts.

Putting money into the machine
Putting money into the machine

Can I use my credit card to get entry onto public transport if I don’t have an Istanbul Kart? 

Most of the transportation types no longer accept cash payments, so having an Istanbul Kart is a must-have for any traveller or resident of Istanbul.

However, you can tap your credit card the same as you would an Istanbul Kart and this works for all public transport. You will be charged a higher rate though, roughly double what you are charged when using an Istanbul Kart.

Some tourists use this option to save the hassle of purchasing and topping up an Istanbul Kart, especially if their stay is short. In our opinion, if you are going to use public transport regularly in Istanbul, it’s worth purchasing an Istanbul Kart.

How to use an Istanbul Kart

To use your Istanbul Kart, simply tap it on the card reader at the entrance of the transportation mode you want to ride. The fare will be deducted from the balance on your card. If you don’t have enough credit on your card, you won’t be able to use it to pay for your fare. On the screens you will see a red signal instead of a green one appear if your card has no credit.

If you lose your Istanbul Kart, you’ll need to purchase a new one and transfer any remaining credit to the new card.

How to load money onto an Istanbul Kart

After obtaining your Istanbul Kart, you will need to load money onto it to pay for your rides. Here are the two main ways to load money onto your Istanbul Kart:

Physical locations

One of the easiest ways to load money onto your Istanbul Kart is to visit one of the many physical locations throughout the city. These locations include:

  • Istanbulkart vending machines
  • İETT and İstanbul Otobüs A.Ş. service points
  • PTT branches
  • Kiosks in major transportation hubs such as Taksim Square and Eminönü

To load money onto your Istanbul Kart at a vending machine, simply follow these steps:

  1. Place your Istanbul Kart into the designated slot on the machine.
  2. You can select “English” or your desired language.
  3. Insert the amount of cash you wish to load onto your Istanbul Kart.
  4. Wait for the machine to process your payment and load the money onto your Istanbul Kart.
  5. It’ll then ask if you want to print a receipt.
  6. Remove your Istanbul Kart card.

It’s important to note that the ticket machines don’t allow 200 Lira notes, only 100 Lira notes and below. 

Loading money onto an Istanbul Kart
Loading money onto an Istanbul Kart

Online methods

Another convenient way to load money onto your Istanbul Kart is through online methods. Here are the two main online methods to load money onto your Istanbul Kart:

  • Istanbulkart Mobile App: You can download the Istanbulkart mobile app on your smartphone and use it to load money onto your Istanbul Kart. Simply link your Istanbul Kart to the app, select the amount of money you wish to load, and pay using a credit/debit card.
  • Istanbulkart Website: You can also load money onto your Istanbul Kart through the official Istanbulkart website. Simply log in to your account, select the amount of money you wish to load, and pay using a credit/debit card.

How much does a standard fare cost when using an Istanbul Kart? 

One fare on public transport in Istanbul is 15 Lira, and this is true however many stops you ride.

For example, you will be charged 15 Lira whether you ride 1 or 10 stops on the metro, as long as you don’t transfer lines. If you are transferring between different modes of transportation, you need to tap your card again at the entrance of the next mode of transportation to continue your journey. Here you can find the latest price list

Discounts for public transport in Istanbul 

If you are a student, then you will be charged 7 Lira (you will need to purchase student Istanbul kart, however). Teachers and social workers can purchase a special card called a Sosyal Kart, which allows them to travel at the reduced rate of 10 Lira per fare. 

If you are frequently using public transport, then you may want to consider purchasing an unlimited monthly Istanbul Kart, which is called a Mavi Kart (Blue card) which costs 1177 Lira ($43.76 USD) which gives you unlimited rides.

However, to make it worth your while, you’d have to use it 78 times or more per month (which works out to be roughly 2 and a half times per day). 

Using the Istanbul Kart for public transport

Here’s how to use your Istanbul Kart for each mode of transportation:

Buses

When you board a bus, simply tap your Istanbul Kart on the card reader located near the driver. The fare will be deducted from your card balance automatically. Make sure to tap your card both when you board and when you exit the bus, as the fare is calculated based on the distance travelled.

Trams

To use your Istanbul Kart on a tram, you’ll need to tap it on the card reader located on the platform before boarding. Once you’re on the tram, you won’t need to tap your card again unless you transfer to another mode of transportation.

Ferries

When taking a ferry, you’ll need to tap your Istanbul Kart on the card reader located at the entrance of the ferry terminal. The fare will be deducted from your card balance automatically. Note that the fare for ferries is higher than for other modes of transportation.

Metro

To use your Istanbul Kart on the metro, you’ll need to tap it on the card reader located on the platform before boarding. Once you’re on the metro, you won’t need to tap your card again unless you transfer to another mode of transportation.

In conclusion, we recommend getting an Istanbul kart if you are in Istanbul for more than a few days. İyi yolculuklar! Happy travelling! 

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