How to Get from Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet (Old City)


There are many hotels and historical locations in Sultanahmet. Most who stay there have just a day or two to see Istanbul’s sights, so they rush to Sultanahmet directly from Istanbul Airport.

There are several ways to get from Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet. This post summarizes options for transportation to make your journey a little easier.

You can use the Havaist Airport shuttle bus, a taxi, a rental car, or take a bus. There is currently a limited number of transportation options since this huge airport is not yet fully completed. Once it is finished, the metro will also operate from the airport. It is scheduled for completion in October 2020 or 2021 at the latest, which isn’t that far off.

1. By Havaist

Havaist is the only shuttle bus service operating at the new Istanbul Airport right now. When you go outside after getting your baggage, head for the exit door where you will see a sign with large letters in front of you. There are four or five elevators going down to Havaist and the bus stops. Press two (2) and go outside to find Havaist bus stops with destinations in all directions. Take IST-20.

Before taking the bus, be sure to buy your Istanbul transport card from the yellow machines. The price of a card is 6 TL ($1), and the shuttle bus is 18 TL ($3) per person. You will have to buy multiple cards if you are traveling with a group, but you can load your card and swipe as many times as you need. You can use your Istanbul card on all kinds of public transportation, including buses, ferries, metros, and trams.

Havaist buses depart every 30 minutes. The distance from Istanbul Aiport to Sultanahmet is 47 km, and it takes about 100 minutes, depending on the traffic.

2. Rent a Car

Although this is a pricy option, renting a car is a lifesaver when staying in Istanbul. As you know, Istanbul is a huge city, and getting around from one place to another can sometimes feel like torture. Public transportation actually operates in every corner of the city, but they tend to take the scenic route before arriving at your destination. This means that what might be a 15-minute trip by car could take an hour by bus, so if you plan to stay a few days in Istanbul, want to save some time, and protect yourself from taxi scams that overcharge, this is the best way. All you need is to have a GPS navigation program, which is a must if you want to find your way around this enormous city. If you need to purchase a local number and Internet package, there are Turktelekom and Turkcell mobile operators inside the airport. You can pick up an Internet package before you leave the building to ensure safe travels. 

The rental companies are to the right of the exit door. Be sure to negotiate your price and choose a new car to avoid technical problems. We recommend asking for a car made in the last two years.

Expect to pay at least 130 TL ($20) per day to rent a diesel car. The last time we were there, we rented a Dacia (2019) from the Cizgi company for 14 days, and we did not have any problems with either the car or the company. 

Important note: the process of renting a car will take at least 30-45 minutes, and don’t forget to take your driver’s license if you plan to rent a car. Without a driver’s license, you won’t be able to rent a car.

3. By Taxi

If you don’t want to deal with the process of renting a car and you have a limited amount of time, then a taxi is the best option. A trip from Istanbul Airport to Sultanahmet will cost about 130 TL ($20-21). You can negotiate the price beforehand, but if there is a taxi meter, you will have to pay what the meter displays. Make sure the taxi driver doesn’t take the long way around. 

4. By Bus

Buses also operate from the new airport and they are the cheapest option among others. You can get on the board with your Istanbul card. It costs only 2.60 TL (0.5$), but unfortunately, there is not a direct bus to Sultanahmet. If you have missed Havaist and do not want to wait another 30 minutes for the next, you can take a bus going to a near distance to Sultanahmet and from there you can change the transport.

There are H-1, H-2, H-3, H-4, H-6, H-7, H-8 bus numbers going to Mahmutbey metro, Mecidiyekoy, Halkali, Mescid-i Selam and Haciosman/Sariyer.

How far is Sultanahmet from Istanbul Airport?

Buses also operate from the new airport, and they are the cheapest options. You can board a bus using your Istanbul card. It only costs 2.60 TL ($0.50), but there are no direct buses to Sultanahmet. If you missed Havaist and don’t want to wait another 30 minutes for the next shuttle, you can take a bus to a nearby Sultanahmet and switch buses from there.

The H-1, H-2, H-3, H-4, H-6, H-7, and H-8 buses go to the Mahmutbey metro, Mecidiyekoy, Halkali, Mescid-i Selam, and Haciosman/Sariyer.

How far is Sultanahmet from Istanbul Airport?

Sultanahmet is about 50 km, and takes around 45-50 minutes by car, depending on traffic. By Havaist shuttlebus, it takes 100 minutes.

Which Airport is Closest to Sultanahmet?

From Sultanahmet, both Istanbul and Sabiha Gokcen Airports are about 50 km away.

Is there Uber at Istanbul airport?

Uber no longer operates in Istanbul due to legal problems.

For now, the transportation options are limited, as the new Istanbul Airport has not yet been fully completed. Once it is finished, it will serve 200 million passengers a year, which is a lot of people! I liked the old Ataturk Airport very much, as there was a metro inside the airport and you can go anywhere in the city via metro, and that option is not available right now. The good news is that two different lines going to the airport are under construction.

The first is the Gayrettepe-Istanbul Airport line, which is planned to open in October-November of 2020. The second is the Halkali- Istanbul Airport line, which will pass through Bashakshehir and Metrokent and go to Turkey’s largest hospital, the City Hospital.

Metro is the fastest and cheapest method of transportation, connecting you to the city center in less than 30 minutes.

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There are also some coffee shops, restaurants, cafes, a pharmacy, mobile operators, and a flower shop in the exit hall. I like to get my coffee at Gloria Jean’s Coffee Shop before I take the Havaist shuttle bus. Remember that it will take around 100 minutes, and you might need a good cup of coffee after your flight.

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