So this will be my first ever blog post written while actually on the road. I’m sitting here at the Sabiha Gokcen airport waiting for my flight and got to thinking about how to get in to Istanbul from this rather distant airport.
Istanbul has two international airports, this one (SAW) on the Asian side of Istanbul and one on the European side called Artaturk which is the larger main airport serving Istanbul.
SAW is more of the secondary, cheaper airport where the budget airlines fly out of and just like budget airline airports in Europe (like the ones that usually serve the likes of Ryan Air) they are usually rather remotely located from the city to take advantage of cheaper real estate.
From SAW the common way to get to the city center is by taking one of the Havatas Shuttles to Taksim square and from there taking either a taxi (about 10-15 euros) or the underground (you will need to take two lines so it’ll cost around 6 Turkish Lira) to get to the main tourist area of Sultanahmet where the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are located.
The purpose of this post though is to take an alternative route that can end up cheaper, much more scenic and quicker. The first time I visited Istanbul I took the above route to Taksim but today I took the route I’m about to discuss and it was much better in my opinion.
From the airport you take one of the Havatas Shuttles to Kadikoy (9TL or about $3 USD). This part of the journey can take anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour depending on the traffic.
The thing about Istanbul that makes the SAW airport very inconvenient is the traffic. Istanbul roadways are crazy congested and always seem to be backed up! At least from Artaturk you can take the underground in to the city to avoid the congested roadways but not so from SAW.
So once you get off at the last stop in Kadikoy you will be next to the water where all the ferries are lined up taking passengers to various parts of Istanbul. You will want to find the ones destined for Eminonu. This ferry ride takes about 15 minutes and costs a mere 4TL ($1.25 USD).
Once in Eminonu you can walk to the Sultanahmet area in about 10 minutes. It’s quite a nice walk through the old historic looking streets of Istanbul. Combined with the great views offered on the ferry ride, this was in my opinion a much nicer way of getting to this district. It took about 1.5 hours total at around 9:30am since the roads were heavy with traffic but coming back to the airport in the afternoon it took under an hour total so it all depends on the traffic.
On your next visit to Istanbul consider this alternative route if you happen to arrive at the SAW airport and want to get to the Blue Mosque. It’s very cheap and a nice scenic route to make the journey a little more enjoyable!