Public transport in Istanbul: İstanbulkart & Prices (Updated for 2023)

The Istanbulkart is a public transportation card handed out by the local municipality and is a rechargeable card that you have to show if you want to use public transportation in Istanbul. Find out how to get tickets for bus and train, as well as other means of transportation such as ferry and metro. We explain how much the İstanbulkart costs and where you can buy it. 

Disclaimer: Price Updates in 2023

The government of Istanbul has announced that the prices for public transport and taxis will increase at the beginning of 2023. Whilst not all details have been made public, it is known that public transport prices in Istanbul will rise by 29,10%. With this price increase, a normal ride will cost 9,90 TL. Once all new prices have been announced, we will update this article again. For now, we calculated all current prices with a 29,10% increase.

How to use public transportation in Istanbul?

It is not always easy to judge the situation of public transportation in foreign countries. In Turkey, it is not possible to buy a ticket from the driver when boarding a bus or train. Each Turkish city has its own city pre-paid tickets. In Istanbul, you will need to make sure you have an İstanbulkart to show before you start your journey. Here you can learn all about the İstanbulkart, where to buy it, and how to use it. 

Questions and answers about public transportation and tickets in Istanbul.

What is the İstanbulkart?

The İstanbulkart is a ticket card developed by Belbim, a subsidiary of the Municipality, mainly for the use of public transportation. Nowadays, in addition to public transportation, the İstanbulkart can also be used in public toilets, Hamidiye brand water vending machines, cafes and restaurants operated by the municipality, and some supermarket chains. The primary use, however, is public transportation, as it cannot be used without a valid and loaded İstanbulkart. 

Who can buy the İstanbulkart?

As a rule, anyone can buy a İstanbulkart. There are different types of İstanbulcards. Many locals, such as students, pupils, teachers and elderly people can apply for a card at a discounted price. Besides, there are subscriptions, where you can travel at comparatively cheaper prices. However, this only pays off for above-average trips, which a tourist is most unlikely to make. 
There are two different İstanbul cards for tourists: disposable cards for one, two, three, five or ten trips, and the ‘Anonim Kart’, which can be reloaded again and again. 

Which card is best for tourist purposes? 

The so-called ‘Anonim Kart’, the anonymous card is best suited for tourists. The card can be recharged over and over again and used indefinitely, while the disposable cards are limited in the number of trips. The disposable cards do not pay off financially if you stay a few days in İstanbul and want to take the bus, metro, or ferry more often. The anonymous İstanbulkart can be used by several people at the same time. So you can buy one card and share it with your family/friends. Just make sure that you have enough credit on the card. The one-time cards can also be used by several people at the same time. So it is always enough if you buy only one card regardless of the number of travelers.

What are the advantages of İstanbulkart?

The biggest advantage of the İstanbulkart is that you can use all means of public transportation without any worries. Unfortunately, it is not possible to pay the drivers directly in cash or with a card. An anonymous İstanbulkart can be recharged indefinitely and used again and again. The one-time cards, on the other hand, must be purchased again after the credit is used up. The cards are anonymous, which means that one card is quite enough. Children under 6 years of age may travel free of charge. 

How to use the İstanbulkart? 

Using the İstanbulkart is as easy as pie. First, make sure you have enough credit on your card, then you can use it in all means of transportation. You will find card readers in the entrance at the stations for the metro, tram, Marmaray, Metrobus, and driving. You have to hold your card to the card reader, the credit for the ride will be deducted from your card and the barrier to the entrance of the waiting area or track will open. For bus rides, board at the front with the driver, where you will find the card reader. Again, you must hold your electronic ticket up to the card reader. The credit will be automatically deducted from the card. 

How much does the İstanbulkart cost? 

The anonymous İstanbulkart costs 50 TL once. For each ride, you have to pay at least 9.90 TL in 2023, depending on the route and the means of transportation. The İstanbulkart comes without credit after purchase, so you have to recharge it once before you can start trips.

Anonymous card (one time)50₺ + 7.67₺ per ride
1 pass15₺
2 pass25₺
3 pass35₺
5 pass45₺
10 pass90₺

How much does public transportation cost in Istanbul:

  • A trip by bus, metro, or tram costs 9.90 TL, for interchanges you pay 7.05 TL
  • For the metro bus, you pay between 7.09 TL and 14.69 TL depending on the route. You will be charged the highest price when you start your journey. After you get off, you can hold your card up to the reader again and get the overpayment back.
  • In the Marmaray, the train that runs under the water and connects the European side with the Asian side, a ride costs between 9.90 TL and 21.91 TL. The same principle applies here as with the Metrobus, you will be charged the maximum amount when you start your journey and when you get off you can get the difference back. For this you have to hold the card at the reader in the station, otherwise, the system will think that you have traveled to the final station. 
  • The price for a ferry ride varies from 7.67 TL to 12.05 TL depending on the route. A ticket for the ferry to the Princes Islands costs 21.90 TL.
  • Once the updated prices for 2023 have been released, we will update this article. For now, we only know that prices will increase by around 30% and calculate this increase in the amounts above.
Where to buy the İstanbulkart?

The anonymous İstanbulkart and one-time tickets can be purchased at the metro stations and train stations at the yellow ticket machines of the public utilities. In addition, you can also buy the tickets at the small kiosks that you can find almost on every corner. Many small stores in tourist areas also sell tickets. Look for the signs ‘Akbil’ and ‘İstanbulkart’. Most outlets make it clear on their windows and doors that they sell the card. You can also buy the Istanbulkart at Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gökcen Airport. Please be aware that you have to pay with Turkish Liras.

How and where to recharge the İstanbulkart?

Please pay attention to the balance of your İstanbulkart. If you do not have a balance on the card, you will not be allowed to use public transportation. The İstanbulkart can be recharged at the same place where it was purchased. You can recharge the card at the yellow ticket machines at train and metro stops. Note, however, that the ticket machines only accept bills and do not give change.  
Many small kiosks and stores that identify themselves as vending and reloading points can reload your card for you in exchange for cash. As a rule, there are always recharging points near tourist sites, whether they are ticket machines or points of sale such as kiosks. 
However, please keep in mind that there are only ticket machines at train, metro, Marmaray, Metrobus, and ferry stations. There are no ticket vending machines at bus stops. If you download the İstanbulkart mobile app, you can easily top up your card on the go. More about the app in the next section. 

Load credit on your İstanbulkart at a kiosk

  1. Find an İstanbulkart service point
  2. Give your card to the person at the kiosk 
  3. Mention the amount you want to have credit on your card
  4. Take your card with the new balance

Load credit on your İstanbulkart at a vending machine 

  1. Go to a vending machine 
  2. Put your card on the reader 
  3. Wait for the machine to recognize your card
  4. Put in your banknotes
  5. Wait until your new balance pops up on screen
  6. Pick up your card with your new credit
What is the İstanbulcard mobile app?

With the Istanbul card mobile app, you can check your balance and also top it up, as well as view past trips. The app also shows you recharge points near you. However, the most important feature is that you can use the QR code scanner to pay for your trip without a card. To do this, you simply need to scan the QR code on the card reader. However, this is not possible on the Marmaray.

Where is the İstanbulkart valid?

The İstanbulkart can be used on all public transport operated by the municipal utility. In total, the electronic ticket can be used in up to 9088 places throughout Istanbul. These include buses, metro buses, subways, driving, cable cars, streetcars, ferries and the Hava-Ist airport shuttle bus lines. In addition, you can also use the İstannbulkart to enter public restrooms and pay in public parking lots. The card is also valid in the restaurants and cafes of the public utility company, as well as at the Migros supermarket chain. 

Where is the İstanbulkart not valid?

The card cannot be used on the shuttle buses to and from Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Furthermore, it cannot be used for Bosphorus tours that are not operated by the public utility company. The electronic ticket is also not valid in cabs and shuttle cabs. 

Frequently asked questions about the İstanbulkart:

What is the price of the İstanbulkart?

You can purchase the İstanbulkart for a price of 50 TL. Pay attention: this is only the cost of the card itself. You also have to top up the card with money. The prices for public transport vary from 7.67 TL to 16.97 TL depending on the route. You can also buy a single pass, two passes, three passes, five passes, and ten passes tickets for a price between 15₺ and 90₺ depending on the number of passes.

How can I recharge my İstanbulkart?

You can fill up your İstanbulkart with cash money at the ticket vending machines that you can find in the train stations. They are usually placed close to the waiting area inside the station or directly at the entrance. The İstanbulkart can also be topped up at some small kiosks and shops. Watch out for the signs on the shop’s windows. Participating shops show clearly that they recharge your İstanbulkart.

How to activate the İstanbulkart?

You don’t have to activate the İstanbulcard. The card is already active when you purchase it. Once you have the card, you have to load money on your card. You can do this at ticket machines or some local shops.

Where to buy the İstanbulkart?

The easiest way to obtain an İstanbulkart is by buying it at the ticket machines at the stations. Some local shops in busy areas also sell the card.

Where to buy the İstanbulkart in Sabiha Gökçen Airport?

You can buy the İstanbulkart directly at the Sabiha Gökçen Airport. After leaving the arrivals, you will find a white kiosk directly across the street. At the kiosk, you can buy and charge your İstanbulkart in SAW airport.

Where to buy the İstanbulkart in İstanbul Airport?

There are ticket vending machines for the İstanbulkart in İstanbul Airport. The ticket machines are located in floor -2 of the arrivals terminal. You can also buy the İstanbulkart at the exit of the international and domestic arrivals next to the airport shuttle busses Havaist. These are also located in the -2 floor.

Do you still need a HES code for the İstanbulkart?

The HES code installation on İstanbulkarts, which came into force with the pandemic, made the existing cards unusable without the code. According to the new decision, the HES code application has been abolished. Thus, the HES code will not be requested when using public transportation vehicles

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