Istanbul Card 2024 – Public Transportation Card Explained

You will likely use public transportation when traveling to Istanbul, so having an Istanbul Card is essential. This prepaid card allows you to travel on buses, trams, metro, funiculars, and ferries and save money at the same time. This post will give detailed information on where to buy it, its benefits, and how to use it. 

Istanbul Card, or IstanbulKart in Turkish, is an all-around required prepaid, contactless card to use public transport in Istanbul, as you can’t pay with cash. There are several types of Istanbul Cards, but the one most convenient for a tourist is the anonymous (anonim) card, without your name and a picture.

The card was launched in 2009 and has become a go-to for many locals and tourists for its comfortable use. It is the same size as a regular debit or credit card, so it fits perfectly in any wallet. 

Istanbul Card

As mentioned above, having the card grants you access to all public transportation vehicles and lines in Istanbul. The only exception is the minivans, which locals call dolmus. However, if you stick with the city center, tourist locations, and sights, you won’t need dolmus, as it’s a slightly complicated Istanbul transport. 

It doesn’t matter how long you are staying or if you have a long layover and plan on visiting the city – buying an Istanbul public transportation card is essential the minute you get off your flight. Luckily both New Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport have vending machines to buy it at the airport. 

The Istanbul transport ticket prices

The city does have single-use tickets, but traveling with them can get expensive if you plan on using public transport a few times during your stay in Istanbul. 

However, if you don’t need to buy the card, you’ll need to know about the electronic tickets to use in public transportation. 

These tickets are also sold in similar black/yellow machines at metro entrances, where you can get the Istanbul Card. 

Here are the most updated costs of these tickets for 2024. 

Istanbul Card 2024 - Public Transportation Card Explained 1

Istanbul Card fare prices

All the transportation vehicles except the Metrobus, such as buses, ferries, and Istanbul metro tickets, cost 9.90 TL with the card for the first time. And the price reduces when you change the lines or transportation means. Here are the most updated costs and transfer amounts for 2024. 

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Metrobus is a 50 km bus rapid transit with 45 stations using dedicated bus lanes for almost the entire route, making it another fast and convenient means of Istanbul public transportation. Unlike others, Metrobus fare is calculated by the number of stations you have traveled (more on this in the benefits section below). 

Here is the most up-to-date ticket price table for 2024. 

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Where to buy Istanbul Card

Istanbul city has plenty of booths and black/yellow vending machines with Biletmatik written on them to buy Istanbul Card, so you won’t have trouble finding it. Corner shops and kiosks sell the card and even top it up in under 30 seconds. Look for the phrase Akbil Dolum Noktas

The Istanbul Kart vending machines and kiosks only accept Turkish Liras and no credit card payments. So if you are buying it in the airport, you’ll need to exchange money or use an ATM to withdraw some cash. I travel with a Wise international card which allows me low withdrawal and exchange rates to local currency. 

istanbul card

Istanbul Card vending machines are also available at Istanbul metro entrances as well as at every tram, Metrobus, and ferry station. It accepts 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 TL notes, while the instructions are in various languages, making it easy for everyone to use. These black/yellow machines don’t accept coins and don’t give change back.  

Note: I saw one vending machine that said they’d take a credit card, but we couldn’t make it top up our Istanbul Card for some reason. 

The Istanbul Card price is 70 Turkish Lira. It might be a bit expensive at corner shops and kiosks. You can’t return the card when leaving Istanbul. After purchase, you must add an additional amount to use your Istanbul transportation card.  



Where exactly can you use the Istanbul transport card?

The card is valid for all sorts of Istanbul public transportation, including Havabus from Sabiha Gokcen Airport and Havaist airport shuttle from the New Istanbul Airport, all the buses, Metrobuses, nostalgic trams in Kadıköy and Taksim, Marmaray, Istanbul electric tramway, funicular rides at Kabataş and Taksim (tunnel), IDO ferries or city lines, cable car, Turyol, and Dentur Bosphorus cruises, and TCDD railways. 

It is even used to pay for public restrooms, making it one of the most convenient public transport cards I have ever had. 

Can two people use one card? 

Since Istanbul Card is not personalized, several people (up to 5) can use one card when traveling together. No one will stop you when paying with one card if you travel as a couple, family, or group of friends. If you are traveling with children under six years old, they can travel for free. 

However, the only disadvantage we saw when having one card for both Oto and me were the benefits and the cashback it gives (see more below). 

How to check your Istanbul Card balance?

You can use the same vending machines you bought the card to check your balance. You need to tap it to display the credit. Then you can top it up.  

What are the benefits of an Istanbul card?

Istanbul is a metropolitan with more than three dozen neighborhoods stretching over the two continents, so transportation from one spot to another can be costly. That’s where Istanbul Kart comes in handy. 

The most significant benefit is that it’s a multipurpose card for all public transport, as mentioned above. To board the Istanbul metro or the nostalgic tram on Isticlal Caddesi, for example, you’ll need to buy a single-use ticket or a token in any case. With Istanbul Card, you can hop on and tap the machine to pay for your fare without waiting in lines and carrying different single-use tickets. 

Another benefit is the ease of use, as you can ‘wave’ the card within 8 cm of the reader to pay for your ticket without taking it from your wallet or tapping it on the reader. Once the reader takes your payment, you will hear the sound, and the screen will also display the ticket price. If you don’t have enough, the screen will say Kontör Yetersiz

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The most significant benefit of the Istanbul Card is its discounts and cashback. Having the card, you already take advantage of reduced prices over the standard fare. Instead of paying 25 TL per ride without the card, you pay 17.70 TL, for instance. You’ll spend less for every transfer if you use several transfers within two hours. 

When using Istanbul Card on Metro buses, you can even get money back for unused/untraveled stations. When you board the Metrobus, it charges you the full price from the boarding station till the end station, so when you come out after two or three stations, you can get the difference back. You need to find a machine that says ‘return’ in English and tap it. The screen will notify the cashback amount. 

This brings me to a point where having one card for multiple travelers is inefficient. We discovered that we would get the cashback for only one traveler calculated from the last tap on the machine. For instance, if we were supposed to get 14 TL for both of us, if we had two separate cards, we could get only 7 TL with one card.  

And lastly, you can pay for public restrooms scattered across the city, its streets, and parks.

While I plan on updating this guide as needed, if you find any information provided here changed, I’d appreciate it if you reached out and left a comment below. 

Istanbul City Card – an alternative for tourists

If you believe Istanbul Card seems overwhelming, you’ll be stressing out if you have enough balance to pay for the ticket, or don’t want to stand in line to top up the card, then Istanbul City Card is the right transportation pass for you. 

This Istanbul tourist pass is ideal for those staying for a few days and will be using public transportation in Istanbul very often. 

The Istanbul City Card provides unlimited travel on all public transport, including buses, trams, and ferries. This means that you won’t have to worry about the cost of individual tickets and can instead focus on enjoying your trip to Istanbul. 

With six designs of famous Istanbul landmarks, the City Card has several day passes catered to how many days you’ll be staying in Istanbul. A 1-3-5-7-15 day Istanbul pass card allows you limitless public transport access within your chosen timeframe. 

Here are the prices of the Istanbul City Card passes; however, note that they might have increased due to the economic situation after our last visit to Istanbul. 

Purchasing Istanbul City Card is easy since there are dedicated vending machines at airports, metro stations, and other locations throughout the city. You must use your debit or credit card to buy the necessary card. 

6 Comments

    1. Hi Sel,

      Istanbul City Card doesn’t have an official website; it’s part of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. This company is one of few who have the right to sell those Istanbul City Cards, and they encourage everyone to get their tourist pass too for free of lower price entrances on various attractions. Just remember, Istanbul City Card is designed for tourists for unlimited public transportation during a chosen timeframe (1,3,5, etc. days); Istanbul Card, or IstanbulKart, is a regular transportation card for the city.

      I haven’t used the City Card myself, so I can’t say you can use it for multiple people. I know that similar to IstanbulKart, it doesn’t have a passenger’s name on it.

  1. Today I bought an Istanbul card at a kiosk using debit/credit card.

    1. Hi Bassam, yes you can buy it with a card in Kiosks

  2. Can you confirm if I understand this correctly? The Istanbulkart, I have to purchase and load with money and then use up the money. The Istanbul City Card is valid for a certain time frame (1, 3, 5 etc days) but is unlimited rides. The picture above, is that the pricing for the 1-day City Card, 155 TL per person? I feel like it would make sense to buy the City Card instead of the Istanbulkart for 5 people. Do you know if they are available at the nearest station to the Galataport Cruise Terminal? Thank you!

    1. Hello Heike, yes, you understood it correctly. You buy IstanbulKart and then load money to use it as you go. As for the Istanbul City Card prices shown in the picture, below it I mention that the prices might have changed since my last visit, so don’t entirely depend on these numbers. However, the card is for one person only, while you can share the IstanbulKart with others. The machines are at the port stations as well as metro stations so it’s very easy to purchase the cards

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