While those coming to Istanbul for the first time may not be aware, Istanbul’s long awaited, shiny new airport has officially been opened! And while it’s a welcome reprieve from the absurd crowds and chaos of the old Atatürk International Airport, there are some important new details you’ll want to know.
First of all, the airport never seems to have been given a proper name. Everyone was wondering what it would be called and in the end, it seemed like Istanbul Airport just sort of stuck. As of posting this article, some airlines will still show Ataturk Airport as the destination even though it has been fully closed to all passenger flights. So be aware that it’s (almost definitely) the new airport you’ll be flying into even if it shows Ataturk.
(note that there is a smaller airport called Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul, airport code SAW.)
While there have been complaints about certain aspects of the airport, it’s important to remember that the airport isn’t actually finished, so we can assume things like lack of paper towel dispensers in bathrooms are only issues in the short-term.
On the positive side, the new airport is beautiful, it’s spacious, signage is great, and people flow through at a MUCH better rate than the old airport. Since it’s all one terminal it’s a bit easier to figure out where you need to go and connections won’t require you to make confusing train journeys to satellite terminals.
The downside of Istanbul Airport being the worlds largest single-terminal airport is that there is a lot of walking required to get from place to place within the colossal building and moving sidewalks can only help so much. So just be warned that while lines may move quicker, there’s going to be extra walking. Make sure to contact your airline to request assistance if walking is an issue for you.
While Istanbul Airport is being called a single terminal airport, that’s not entirely true. There is a second mini terminal that hasn’t been opened yet that will require a very short trip on a shuttle bus.
Another downside to the single terminal design is that you will often have to get out of the plane and into a bus to get to the terminal itself. Not the end of the world but be aware that this takes a bit more time.
By way of a bonus tip: when you land in international arrivals and head over to passport control there are MULTIPLE bathrooms on your way. If there’s a huge lineup at the first one, head on to the second one! If there’s a line at the second one, there are still 5-6 more before passport control.
For more about travelling in Turkey check out our guide to all forms of transit in Istanbul and beyond!
Getting from Istanbul Airport to Istanbul City
The question that many are asking (and have been since long before the airport even opened) is “How do you get to the new airport”? Considering the airport is some 45 kilometres to the North-West of the city proper, this is a rather important question for travelers.
Unfortunately, there is no rail connection to the city at this point and there probably wont be for a good number of years to come. Considering Sabiha Gökçen Airport will have waited nearly 20 years before getting a metro connection I wouldn’t expect the new Istanbul Airport to have one in less than five years.
While Istanbul Airport is in the middle of nowhere, this means that the highways around the airport are free from the city’s nightmarish congestion problems; using trains or underground metros really isn’t all that necessary. Here’s a few above ground, road using options.
Other Public Transit:
(note: these buses will cost about 5tl and require an Istanbul transit card)
H-1 For tourists, this bus is pretty much useless. It runs into a neighborhood far away from anything that a tourist would actually want to go to unless you make some transfers.
H-2 This bus is a bit better. It runs from the airport to the Mecidiyeköy bus/metro station where you can connect to an express bus to the Asian side of the city or take a metro into the Taksim and Sultanahmet neighborhoods where the bulk of the tourist attractions are located.
H-3 This bus runs all the way down to near where the old Ataturk Airport is and connects to a coupe of trains that run into the city. One of which, the Marmaray, runs all the way along the coast and far on to the Asian side of the city.
(note: these busses will range in cost from 12 to 30tl depending on the route and require an Istanbul transit card)
If you want to be guaranteed a seat and an all around more comfortable experience, there are special shuttle buses with comfy seats and storage compartments for your luggage. These are called ‘HavaIst’ and have 19 routes to a variety of points in the city. Buses go every 20-30 minutes depending on the route and run 24 hours a day.
For details on routes, times, and prices check out the official HavaIst website.
First thing to note is that there are a couple of different types of taxis. One is your standard yellow, and the other is a turquoise colour. The teal taxis are a nicer, bigger, newer, and more comfortable but will also cost a bit more.
Unless you have a ton of people and a ton of luggage don’t get sucked in by the guys with chartered vans. In our experience they are extremely crooked and will give you an outrageous price. If you’re confident in your ability to barter down to a good price go for it but otherwise be prepared for a price way higher than the normal going rate.
Here’s the estimated taxi fare between Istanbul Airport and some of the touristic neighborhoods of the city for normal yellow taxis. Vans and the high-end turquois taxi will cost more.
Sabiha Gökçen Airport -220tl
Taxi companies are at war with Über and so Über isn’t offering service to the Airport.
Hopefully this helps make your first hour or so in the wonderful country of Turkey a bit easier! If you have anything you think we should add let us know!