Istanbulkart is a credit card sized travel card that provides great convenience for tourists visiting Istanbul. Istanbulkart users can access the most important public transportation vehicles in the city such as metro, tram, ferry and funicular with a single card.
Istanbulkart may also be referred to as “Akbil” in some old travel guides. This old pass, which looks like a small clock battery, has been replaced by Istanbulkart over time. With Istanbulkart, it is possible to access not only transportation vehicles, but also public toilets in parks and touristic places.
In this article, you can find everything you need to know about the Istanbul travel card, simply named Istanbulkart. I will also try to answer the questions of the current Istanbulkart price, where to buy it and how to top up.
How to Buy Istanbul Travel Card?
The easiest way to buy Istanbul travel card is the newsstands in touristic places. You can see many newsstands where you can buy Istanbulkart in popular districts such as Sultanahmet, Sirkeci, Karakoy and Taksim Square.
Apart from newspapers and Istanbulkart, these kiosks also sell simple snacks and beverages. When buying an Istanbulkart, you first pay a small price for the card itself. Then you can also ask the officer to load Turkish lira on the card.
Where to Buy Istanbulkart in Sultanahmet
The tram is an ideal means of public transportation to travel between the touristic spots of Istanbul. For example, you can find a few of the newsstands I mentioned above in Sultanahmet.
In order to buy Istanbulkart from Sultanahmet, you can go to the kiosk you see in the picture above. To find this place, you can follow the tramway in the direction of the Grand Bazaar, taking Hagia Sophia behind you.
It will be enough to walk for five minutes from the road called Divanyolu Street where the tram tracks are located. After passing the Sultanahmet Tram Station, you will see the kiosk I mentioned on your left.
Where to Buy Istanbulkart in Taksim
You can also use the newsstands to buy Istanbulkart from Taksim. Also, if you go down to the metro station in Taksim Square, there are also official Istanbulkart machines.
In these Istanbulkart machines installed by the Istanbul Municipality, the card is usually a little cheaper than the kiosks outside. You can both buy Istanbulkart from the machine and load Turkish Lira into it.
Istanbul Travel Card Price 2021
Istanbulkart price is 10 TL for 2021. When you pay this money to the Newsstands, they only give you a blank card. You can fill Istanbul travel card yourself from the yellow top-up machines, or you can directly ask the staff at the newsstand to load money into it.
What makes Istanbulkart so useful is that it can be topped up easily and it is simple to use. Moreover, you can use it to pay for others (friends, family etc…). Therefore, if there are others who accompany you, you don’t have to buy two separate cards. As long as you have enough credits in your card, there is no limit to how many people can use it.
Another feature of Istanbulkart is that it offers discounts for transfers after the first use. The card, which charges the full price in the first time, allows you to get on the other 3 vehicles used within the 2-hour time window, cheaper each time.
Transfer Discounts for Istanbulkart
Istanbulkart transfer discounts allow you to travel for a little less each time you use the card for the second, third and fourth time. For example, while you charge 4.03 TL the first time you use the card, you pay 2.88 TL for the second time, 2.19 TL for the third time and 1.38 TL for the third time. Prices were last updated in October 2021.
These prices are valid for the metro, tram and ferry, which are the most used public transportation vehicles by tourists. However, it should not be forgotten that some transportation vehicles have different tariffs.
For example, vehicles that provide transportation between the European side and the Asian side, such as Metrobus and Marmaray, will charge more. Buses crossing from one side to the other in Istanbul also charge extra.
How to Get Refund on Istanbulkart?
In order to get refunds on Istanbulkart, you need to be using vehicles such as Marmaray or Metrobus, which have a long route. These vehicles travel a very long distance from the suburbs on the European side of the city to other suburbs on the Asian side.
When you use Marmaray or Metrobus, a price much higher than the normal fare is charged to your travel card the first time. The system assumes that you will go to the last stop and charges the full fare. However, when you get off at the previous stops, the fee is refunded.
To get a refund, you need to find the refund machines at the station exits. There are many of these machines at the central stations to avoid queues. You can get a refund by touching your card to these devices, which you can see from the picture above.
Istanbulkart could be returned to kiosks after being used in the past. The money you paid for the card itself was a kind of deposit and was refunded. So the reclaimed card was sold to someone else. However, in recent years it is not possible to return the card itself. Since there are millions of Istanbulkarts in the market, it has no monetary value anymore.
How to Top Up Istanbulkart?
In order to top up Istanbulkart, you can use the yellow machines at metro, tram and ferry stations. For example, at the tram station you see in the picture above, the yellow-black machine with “Biletmatik” written on it is an Istanbulkart top up machine. These machines enable passengers to top up only in 30 seconds.
To the left of this Istanbulkart machine, you see a second machine with “Jetonmatik” written on it. Those who need a one-time ticket can buy a one-way tram ticket from this token machine. However, one-time tickets are more expensive than the Istanbulkart tariff.
Covid Update for Istanbul Travel Card
Using Istanbulkart these days may not be as practical as usual due to the precautions taken during the Covid process. During the Covid process, both locals and tourists are given a number called the HES code, which indicates their current health status.
You need to match your Istanbul travel card with your HES code. In order to match Istanbulkart with your HES code, you can visit the official website of Istanbul Municipality by clicking here.
In summary, Istanbulkart is a very useful public transport card for both Istanbulites and tourists visiting the city. Since it is very difficult to use public transportation in the city without an Istanbulkart, I recommend you to get this card while you are at the airport.
On this site, there is more detailed information about the means of transportation you can use Istanbulkart. For example, you can take a look at the article called Istanbul Metro Map about the metro system in Istanbul.
In addition, if you want to learn about the tram, which is by far the most used means of transportation in Istanbul, I recommend the article called Istanbul Tram T1. In this article, you can see how to use public transportation between the most popular tourist destinations such as Sultanahmet and Taksim.
Information on Istanbul Travel Card (Istanbulkart) by Serhat Engul