How to Get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to City Center in 2024

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Sabiha Gokcen is the second airport in Istanbul, serving more budget-friendly airline companies. Unlike the new Istanbul Airport, this one is now served with a direct metro line. Therefore, getting from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to city center is much easier and quicker. And here is your practical guide and everything you need to know. 

Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW), situated on the Asian side of Istanbul, serves both international and domestic flights. It’s a hub airport for Turkey’s low-budget airlines such as AnadoluJet and Pegasus. 

Named after Sabiha Gökçen, the adoptive daughter of Atatürk and the first female fighter pilot in the world, the airport opened in 2001. It quickly gained popularity by offering well-connected flight schedules to Europe and Asia. 

sabiha gokcen airport to city center

In 2010, Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport was named World’s Best Airport at the World Low-Cost Airlines Congress. By 2015, it served more than 28 million passengers, making it the busiest single-runway airport in the world. 

The airport is located on the city’s eastern side, around 50km from the tourist city center. On average, it takes around 1:40 hrs, depending on the traffic, to get to the center by various means of transport.

You might want to explore the airport and even get into a premium lounge for a shorter layover. Click here to get the ticket. 

If you have a slightly longer layover and want to explore the city instead of staying in the airport, the up-and-coming neighborhood of Kadikoy could be your best bet to stay closer to the airport. Otherwise, read my detailed guide on spending a long layover in Istanbul visiting the iconic sights of Sultanahmet, such as Hagia Sophia or Topkapi Palace. 

You can follow the same route from the city center to Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen airport. However, ensure you arrive at the airport at least 1:30hr early for domestic flights and 2:30hr before international flights. This means you must leave the center 3:30hr to 4:30hr before your flight. In case you are flying into the new Istanbul Airport instead, read my detailed transport guide from that airport

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How to get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to city center

There are a few options to get from the airport to the city center and vice versa. Gokcen Airport is served by metro, municipal, and shuttle bus services from various Istanbul neighborhoods, as well as taxis and private transfers.

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. 

Sabiha Gokcen Airport to city center metro

As of 2022, there is a metro line M4 connecting Sabiha Gokcen Airport to city center, running from/to the Kadikoy neighborhood.  

With 23 stations and a total length of 33.5km, this metro line was in the making for around 14 years. The journey from one end to another is 52 minutes without delays and runs daily from 6 am to midnight. The price for the metro ticket is 17.70 TL with Istanbul card

Using the M4 metro line from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Kadikoy also enables you to transfer to other public transportation systems, such as the T3 Kadikoy-Moda tram line and ferries at Kadikoy station, to Marmaray at Ayrilik Cesmesi station, and to Metrobus at Unalan station to name just a few. 



IETT Municipal Public Bus

Currently, ten municipal bus lines connect SAW to Istanbul. They run on fixed routes and schedules every day from early morning until around 9-10 pm. 

Remember that these buses mainly go to non-touristy destinations, and you’ll need another transport to get to the city center – Sultanahmet. There is only one direct bus to Taksim Square. 

Depending on your destination, you can either reach your final stop by them or change to a ferry to cross to the European side. You’ll need an Istanbul Card to pay for the bus ticket (see below how to get it at the airport).    

The only downside of these buses is that they make frequent stops, prolonging the journey to the final destination. However, if you are not in a hurry, that’s also a great way to people-watch and get an idea of locals’ everyday lives. 

Here are the bus numbers and destinations:

  • E-3 to 4.Levent metro
  • E-10 to Kadikoy and Kurtkoy 
  • E-11 to Kadikoy
  • SG-1 to Kadikoy
  • SG-2 to Taksim 
  • 130H to Deniz Harp Okulu 
  • 132H to Pendik High-Speed Train Station
  • MR60 to Pendik High-Speed Train Station

Check the schedule and timetables here, but the English version of the website is not working properly. 

How to get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Taksim Square: if you are staying at one of the Taksim hotels and need to get there, your best option is to take the SG-2 line from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to city center.

There is an option of taking E-10 and E-11 buses to the Kadikoy neighborhood, then taking a ferry to Kabatas, and lastly, F1 nostalgic funicular to Taksim Square. This might be a slightly complicated route for a first-timer in Istanbul, so I advise skipping it and sticking to the direct bus line. 

Unlike Taksim, getting to Sultanahmet from SAW airport is much easier. After hopping off the E-10 or E-11 buses (E-10 has fewer stops), get on the ferry to Eminonu. From here, you can get the T1 tram to Bagcilar and get off at the Sultanahmet tram stop.

Remember that trams stop working at midnight, so if you arrive afterward, you’ll need to catch a taxi to get to your hotel. The latter route takes around two hours to reach the final destination, but it is the cheapest and the most convenient way to get to Sultanahmet. 

Havabus Airport Buses

Before the metro, the Havabus airport shuttle was one of the more convenient ways to get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to city center.

Havabus also runs frequently, taking passengers from SAW airport to Kadikoy, Yenisahra metro station, and Taksim. The journey time varies from 45 minutes to 1:30 hrs to Taksim, depending on the traffic. 

SAW – Taksim bus costs 121 TL; SAW – Kadikoy costs 91 TL, and SAW – Yenisahra also costs 91 TL. Click here to check the schedule.

Sabiha Gokcen Airport taxi

Taxis are the most convenient way of getting hustle-free from SAW airport to the city center. Taxis vary by color (yellow and blue) and prices and are metered. 

The yellow taxi meter starts at 24.55 TL when you get in, while the starting point for the turquoise taxis is 28.24 TL. Each km costs 17.62 TL for the yellow ones and 20.25 TL for the other. 

Taxis are always parked at the arrivals hall’s exit, and someone will always help you get one. If you prefer to order a taxi, you can do so from the BiTaxi app. However, remember that even though it shows the price for the journey, that’s average and might end up a bit more. 

Private airport transfer

Whether traveling alone, with a group of friends, or with family to Istanbul, getting a pre-booked private airport transfer avoids all the headaches of withdrawing or exchanging money at the airport and worrying about various little things. 

Having a private transfer is easier as the price is already set, and you won’t worry about each Turkish Lira the ordinary taxi meter shows on the screen.

How to get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Istanbul Airport 

If, for whatever reason, you have to change airports for your connecting flights, don’t worry; there is a way how to get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Istanbul Airport with a HAVAIST shuttle bus service. 

HVIST-13 bus runs between two airports with a journey time of 2 hrs without traffic jams. The ticket costs 215 TL. You can see the schedule here

Before you leave SAW Airport to city center

Compared to the new IST airport, SAW is a little smaller. Therefore navigating yourself through terminals and passport control is relatively easy. And similar to my IST airport guide, this section provides all the essentials to do before you leave Sabiha Gokcen Airport to the city center.

Get a Visa for Turkey

Every international flight passenger needs to pass through immigration and show documents. 

Turkey does require visas from certain countries to obtain from Turkish embassies or consular offices. Some nationalities can travel visa-free, some can enter the country with their national IDs only, and some can apply for an e-visa. Moreover, a few nationalities can get a visa on arrival. Please refer to Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and check iVisa to see what type of visa you need and apply online.

Withdraw local currency (Turkish Lira) at IST Airport

Suppose you plan on using any of the public transportation methods explained above. In that case, the first thing you’ll need to do after passing immigration and collecting your bags is to get some cash in local currency – Turkish Lira (TL). 

All ATMs in Turkey accept foreign cards; the difference is the withdrawal fees that Turkish banks charge on top of your bank’s fee and their exchange rates. Be aware that some banks don’t display withdrawal charges; I have only noticed them after looking at my transactions. 

Withdrawal fee differs from bank to bank, but the most common percentage I have seen is 6-7%. Ziraat Bankasi and HSBC might not charge you a fee, but pay attention before hitting that accept button. 

Even if you are not a frequent traveler, these fees add up. Therefore, get a Wise account and their card (if you qualify) to minimize exchange rates and withdrawal charges when taking local currency from ATMs. I found that HalkBank and Turkish Bank have the lowest withdrawal charge on the Wise card

Several leading Turkish banks’ ATMs are scattered across the airport, so you won’t have trouble finding them. 

Exchange money at the SAW Airport

If you arrive with cash and need to exchange it for Turkish Lira, there are several exchange offices at various airport areas. These exchange booths work 24/7, so you won’t be left without money. 

As in most airports, the exchange rates are low compared to the city. Therefore, you should exchange it only if you have to and exchange a small bill that would be enough for transfer to your accommodation. 

Get an Istanbul Card at the airport

Before leaving the airport, remember to buy Istanbul Card, the city’s public transport card, if you plan to use the bus or metro to get to your hotel. You’ll still need it during your Istanbul trip, so why not get ahead of things when you can? Because no cash payments are available on Istanbul public transportation. 

The Istanbul Card is a reusable contactless card that you can top up with Turkish Lira and use to pay for all means of Istanbul public transportation, including ferries and even public restrooms. Unlike Tbilisi public transport, you can’t use your foreign debit/credit cards to pay for the fare in Istanbul. 

To purchase the Istanbul Card at the airport, walk straight to the bus-departing station once you exit the arrivals hall. Istanbul Card vending machines are black and yellow, so spotting them is easy. 

The purchase process is straightforward, and it has English and several other languages to help you with the process. To purchase the card, you need Turkish Lira in cash; unfortunately, you can’t buy it with debit/credit cards. You’ll need 70 TL for the card and the rest to top it to pay for your transportation. 

2 Comments

  1. Good article, very useful. I wasn’t able to complete it, however I would like to report misinformation. It is stated at the first paragraph that the new Istanbul Airport does not have a metro line to it. I will give the benefit of the doubt and say that this information simply hasn’t reached you considering the fact that the metro line ‘M11’ going to Istanbul Airport opened literally a few days ago. I also think you’ve contradicted yourself by stating in the first paragraph by stating that the Sabiha Goçken Airport now has a metro station and then later on under the sub-headline “How to get from Sabiha Goçken Airport to city center” in the first paragraph stating “There is no direct metro line to the airport”. Overall very useful airport, however, the knowledge that both airports are now officially connected bu metro lines would be good to clarify.

    1. Thank you, Birol, for your comment, I really do appreciate it! I heard about the metro line opening after writing and publishing this article. And thanks for confirming it. I will make sure to edit these articles accordingly!

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