Travel to Istanbul

Flying to Istanbul

Airlines running direct flights to Istanbul from the UK include Atlasglobal, Turkish Airlines and British Airways (to Istanbul Ataturk) and Pegasus Airlines (to Sabiha Gokcen). Turkish Airlines operates direct flights from the USA. Prices tend to be higher during the peak summer months.

Flight times

From London - 3 hours 40 minutes; New York - 9 hours 50 minutes; Los Angeles - 12 hours 50 minutes; Toronto - 10 hours; Sydney - 21 hours (including stopover).

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, you must have a Green Card and top-up insurance. You must carry a valid driving licence, passport, logbook, insurance certificate and vehicle registration at all times.

The Turkish Touring and Automobile Association (tel: +90 212 282 8140; has reciprocal agreements with some international motoring associations.

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 - 5 hours; from Antalya - 9 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. You can also easily reach the Esenler bus terminal 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, in Turkey only;, which serves a wide range of destinations throughout Turkey, including Bursa, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, Bodrum, Fethiye and Çanakkale; Ulusoy (tel: 0850 811 1888, in Turkey only;, which serves international destinations, Ankara, the Black Sea, as well as Izmir and Antalya; and Varan (tel: 0850 811 1999, in Turkey only;, 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 city is well connected. A high-speed train line connects Istanbul with Ankara.

There are two stations in Istanbul: Sirkeci Station, Ankara Caddesi, near Eminönü on the European side and Pendik, Hatboyu Cadeesi, in the Pendik district. The latter is the high-speed train terminal.

Haydarpaşa Station, Haydarpaşa Istasyon Caddesi, near Kadiköy on the Asian side, has been closed since 2012.


Turkish State Railways - TCDD (tel: 444 8233, in Turkey only; operates the national railway network, with rolling stock that is often slow and lacking air conditioning, although cheap.

Journey times:

From Ankara - 4 hours; 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.