Travel to Istanbul

Flying to Istanbul

Airlines flying to Istanbul from the UK include Turkish Airlines and British Airways (to Istanbul Ataturk) and easyJet and Pegasus Airlines (to Sabiha Gokcen).

Flight times

From London - 3 hours 30 minutes; New York - 9 hours; Los Angeles - 13 hours; Toronto - 10 hours 30 minutes; Sydney - 22 hours.

Travel by road


Although the road network throughout Turkey is extensive, maintenance can be poor and conditions dangerous. European road rules are now better enforced than before, although the great volume of buses and trucks still make driving in Turkey challenging. The legal driving age in Turkey is 18 years.

Driving in Istanbul is on the right and drivers must give way to the right at all times. Visiting drivers should also note that traffic lights change abruptly from red to green. Speed limits are 120kph (75mph) on motorways, 90kph (56mph) on main roads and 50kph (31mph) in towns. Drivers bringing cars into Turkey must show their registration documents, passport and international driving licence at the place of entry. If arriving from Europe, visitors must have a Green Card and top-up insurance. A valid driving licence, passport, logbook, insurance certificate and vehicle registration must be carried at all times. British motoring associations have reciprocal agreements with the Turkish Touring and Automobile Association (tel: (0212) 282 8140;

Emergency breakdown service:

Traffic Police (tel: 154).


The route to Istanbul from Europe has been greatly improved by the Istanbul bypass and two Bosphorus bridges which lead to the Istanbul-Ankara express. The E-80, E-90 and Trans European Motorway (TEM) are the three main roads leading to Turkey from European borders. The main motorway from the Turkish border at Edirne straight through to Istanbul, Ankara and beyond is the E-80, closely paralleled by the somewhat smaller D-100. The route to Antalya follows the E-80 to Izmit and then heads south on the D-650.

Driving times:

From Ankara - 6 hours; from Antalya - 12 hours.


The safest and most convenient method of internal transport, especially for travel to southern Turkish resorts, is Turkey's vast system of intercity coaches. Buyuk Istanbul Otogari (International Istanbul Bus Terminal) in Esenler, about 10km (6 miles) west of Istanbul, serves all international and most domestic lines. Most major intercity companies have free service buses from central Istanbul (usually Inonu Caddesi and Sirasilveler Caddesi in Taksim) to the bus station. The Esenler bus terminal can also easily be reached by the Hizli Tren (rapid train) service from Aksaray, or from Sultanahmet by using a combination of tram and metro.

IETT city bus 83-O runs direct to the bus station from Taksim square. A few Anatolian services leave from Harem otogar on the Asian side. Some of the best coach companies in Istanbul include: Kamil Koç (tel: 444 0562;, which serves a wide range of destinations throughout Turkey, including Bursa, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, Bodrum, Fethiye and Çanakkale; Ulusoy (tel: 444 1888;, which serves international destinations, Ankara, the Black Sea, as well as Izmir and Antalya; and Varan (tel: 444 8999;, which serves Greece and Austria as well as much of western and southern Turkey. Long journeys are usually made at night, leaving Istanbul after 2200 and arriving at the destination in the morning.

Travel by rail


Rail services from Istanbul are cheap and the cities is well connected.

Turkish State Railways - TCDD (tel: 444 8233; operates the national railway network, with rolling stock that is often slow and lacking air conditioning, although cheap. There are two stations in Istanbul - Sirkeci Station, Ankara Caddesi, near Eminönü on the European side, and Haydarpaşa Station, Haydarpaşa Istasyon Caddesi, near Kadiköy on the Asian side. Trains bound for Sofia, Belgrade, Bucharest and Budapest (with transfers to Munich and Vienna) leave from Sirkeci Station, departing in the evening.

Plans are still underway to complete a high speed, Ankara to Istanbul rail link, that will cut the journey time from around seven to three hours.


Turkish State Railways offers the Friendship Express service to Thessaloniki from Sirkeci Station. Trains for Turkish destinations (Asian side) leave from Haydarpaşa Station. There are express trains between major Turkish cities but cheaper rural routes can be painfully slow and crowded.

Journey times:

From Ankara - 6 hours 30 minutes; Izmir - 11 hours; Gaziantep - 27 hours; Denizli - 15 hours.

Travel over water


The main port of Istanbul is located in Karaköy, at the point where the Golden Horn flows into the Bosphorus. It is located in the heart of Istanbul.

Ferry services:

A number of different cruise ships call at Istanbul as part of European itineraries.

Transport to the city:

Once you leave the passenger terminal, (Yolcu Salonu), walk along the boardwalk until you reach the Galata Bridge, and cross it. You can now decide whether to explore old or new Istanbul.