Istanbul has two major airports; Atatürk International Airport and Sabiha Gokcen International Airport. Most visitors come into the city via Atatürk, located in Yesilkoy, about 23 kilometers west of Sultanahmet. Sabiha Gokcen is in Kurtkoy on the Asian side of Istanbul and was built to handle the overflow from Atatürk.
Approximate flight times to Istanbul: from New York 10 hours 0 minutes; from Toronto 10 hours 30 minutes; from London 3 hours 30 minutes; from Los Angeles 13 hours 0 minutes; from Sydney 22 hours 0 minutes (shortest flight times given).
Up to 20 million travelers go through Atatürk International Airport each year, which is used by major airlines throughout the world. Convenient and well-organized, Atatürk offers travelers a full range of amenities to make the arrival into Istanbul as pleasant as possible. There are food and beverages areas located in the domestic terminal and the arrival and departure floors. There are lounges, conference halls, shoe shiners, a photography service, children’s play area, hairdressers, porter services, florist, pharmacy, bank, currency exchange, and tourist services. There are even in-airport medical services.
An interesting service provided by Atatürk International Airport is Prime Class or CIP Service. No matter what airline or seating class, those who book with this service 48 hours before their flights receive support from the Prime Class team. For a very low price, passengers can be met at the airport by a guide and have their baggage transferred. The process is expedited with special x-ray, check-in, and passport gates. Access to the CIP lounge is also included, where guests can enjoy a drink in comfort and take a break from the rigors of traveling.
Those wishing for the Prime Select option are given a variety of personalized services, including use of conference halls, transfer by chauffer, city tours, expedited car rentals, and hotel reservations. The lounge has internet access, newspapers, children’s room, cocktail bar, showers, and more. For more information on these services, visit the Atatürk International Airport website or call +90.212.465.5555.
Visitors can rent a car at the airport from Holiday Autos, Alamo, Beneluxcar, and more, or take taxis, metros, or buses into the city.
There are many taxi companies operating out of Atatürk International Airport, however do insist that your driver uses the meter. Travel to Sultanahmet, Old Istanbul, will cost roughly TL 25 to TL 30 while to Taksim Square should cost about TL 30 to TL 35 (from 6:00am to 12:00am).
This is an inexpensive way to get to the Sultanahmet area. It takes about an hour and only costs TL3. Look for “Hafif Metro” signs after the Customs area, and buy a few jeton, or tokens, at the metro booth. It takes two jetons to get to Sultanahmet, Eminönü or Kabatas, and three to get to Taksim Square.
These are also a less expensive option, but the problem is that they travel to many hotels in the area. If yours happens to be last on the route, you could be waiting quite a while. Another issue is that some drivers are not as reliable or careful as others, so it behooves you to carefully choose your shuttle or take another form of transportation.
Havas is a company that operates shuttles for both Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen Airports. These are being phased out, and you may find they have been replaced by city buses. You can use airport buses to get to Taksim Sqaure, Kadikoy or to the Sabiha Gokcen Airport.
City buses, which are less expensive than the Havas shuttles, run from Ataturk along the Sea of Marmara. Stops are made at Yenikapi Ferry Terminal, Aksaray Square, and Taksim Square. The IETT express bus 96T is a fast way to get to your accommodations in the city.
Rentals are available at the airport; these cost a minimum of TL 60 per day for the most basic of cars. Rental companies include: Avis, Budget, Hertz, Alamo, National and Sixt. Take then E5 or O-1/O-2 motorways to get into central Istanbul.
Airport Transfer Service
This is a service offered by Backpackers Travel Agency for travelers at both Ataturk and Sahiba Gocken. Your driver will be waiting for you after you clear Customs, and you will ride in a Mercedes-Benz minivan that is reserved solely for your use. The driver will take you to your hotel and help you with your bags. Free drinks and snacks provide refreshment after your long journey. This costs about TL 42.70 from Ataturk and Sultanahmet, TL 53.44 to Taskim Square, and TL 96.20 from Sabiha Gokcen to either of these locations.
Named after the first female fighter pilot in the world, Sabiha Gokcen International can handle up to three million passengers a year on both domestic and international flights. A beautiful, modern airport, Sabiha Gokcen offers amenities such as rental car agencies, food and drink stations, shopping opportunities, and CIP lounge (much like Atatürk’s). A new terminal is under construction, and this will allow the airport to handle up to 25 million passengers.
The Havas shuttles run to Taksim Square from Sabiha Gokcen from 4:00am to 1:00am every hour. You can get to Pendik, Bostanci, Kadiköy and Harem. As mentioned, you may have to wait a while before reaching your hotel. Check the route because it may be a good deal for you.
You can take a public city bus to Levent, Kadiköy and Kozyatagi. These cost very little and are generally reliable and relatively fast. The E10 costs only TL 3 and goes to the Kadikoy ferry dock, which also leads to metro and bus stations. This leaves every 30 minutes during the day, and about every hour from 11:00pm to 6:00am.
These are available all day and night, though it costs 50 percent more to ride from 12:00am to 6:00am. It costs about TL 75 from the airport to Taksim. Getting to Sultanahmet is more. Remember that Turks don’t customarily tip drivers unless they help with bags. It is more standard to round up the fare and not accept change. Insist that they use the meter.
You will find Avis, Decar, Hertz, and WRC rental companies at the Arrivals area by the baggage claim. Renting a car can be expensive in Turkey, so public transportation may be a better way to go. The E6 expressway or E5 motorway will take you into central Istanbul.
Airport Transfer Service
Sabiha Gokcen also offers this exceptional service for those who want to arrive at their accommodations with the least amount of stress. It costs more than taxis, but it may be worth it for the comfort and convenience.
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