Transportation in Istanbul
Public transport in Istanbul comprises a bus network, various rail systems, funiculars, and maritime services to serve the more than 13 million inhabitants of the city spread over an area of 5712 km².
Basic Istanbul public transit fares are:
Children 7 years and older must pay a fare; those six years and younger do not.
You buy single-fare tokens at Jetonmatik machines or snack/newspaper kiosks in or near busy Istanbul Metro stations, bus stops and ferry docks. Eminönü is a good place to look.
(If, like the one pictured on the right, the Jetonmatik has a sign reading Arızalıdır, or Hizmet dışı, it's out of order.)
Istanbulkart is a contactless RFID "electronic wallet" card to be used in Istanbul, Turkey. (Similar RFID cards are used in many other cities: Oyster Card in London, Navigo in Paris, Charlie Card in Boston, etc.)
The first and obvious use of the Istanbulkart is as a transit pass: you place the card near a fare point (say, at a Metro, tram or ferryboat turnstile, or when boarding a city bus) and the amount of your fare is deducted from the card.
The Istanbulkart is sold at commercial kiosks (little stands that sell newspapers, snacks, cigarettes, chewing gum, etc.) near major transit stops such as Eminönü, Sultanahmet, Beyazıt/Kapalı Çarşı (Grand Bazaar), Taksim Square, etc. (The easiest place to find one is probably Eminönü.) Look for the word Akbil or phrase Akbil Dolum Noktası (Akbil Refill Point) on kiosks—they'll probably have Istanbulkarts to sell and load.
You pay a deposit of TL 10 for the card itself, then you can have any amount of fare credit loaded onto it. I'd suggest TL10 in credit (about six fares) for a single traveler, or TL20 for a couple
Akbil Transit Pass
Istanbul's Akbil electronic transit pass is being phased out in favor of the Istanbulkart RFID card, but Akbils are still in use
The Akbil is a small stainless steel "button" (actually a Maxim Integrated Products iButton) on a plastic holder. Inside is a computer chip.
Passengers using Akbil are allowed reduced-fare transfers among transit lines and means. Pay for the initial stage of your journey with an Akbil, and you can transfer to other transport within 120 minutes at reduced charge. So you could take the tram from Sultanahmet to Karaköy, board a ferry to Haydarpaşa, then board a suburban train, and your Akbil will record about two fares. (If you use tokens (jeton) or tickets (bilet) instead of Akbil, you'd pay three full fares for this journey.)
When you use your Akbil to transfer, the turnstile will make a different sound.
Two or more people can use the same Akbil. There is no need for a traveling party to purchase more than one Akbil. Just use the one Akbil for each person as they pass through the turnstile. However, you may not receive the reduced fares for transfers if you use an Akbli for more than one passenger.
Akbil is accepted on Istanbul's buses (both municipal and private), trams, Tünel, Metro, Füniküler, suburban trains, "sea bus" fast catamaran ferries, and traditional ferries. (For shorter trips, four people can take a taxi for the same as, or just slightly more than, four transit fares.)
The Akbil is supposedly being phased out (TTP users have reported difficulty in buying them), now that the long-heralded Istanbulkart is finally available (March 2011). The other fare machine now being most promoted is the old-fashioned throwback Jetonmatik token machine.
An Akbil should cost TL6, which should be refunded to you if you wish to return your Akbil to a kiosk.
This unwieldy name designates a disposable, paper 5-fare RFID transit card that costs five times the normal fare and saves you from the trouble of buying five tokens at a time. It does not seem to be in general use.
Multi-mode fare machines and Jetonmatik token machines located at major bus stops, Metro and tram stations, ferry docks, etc. allow you to buy jetons and besiBiryerde, and to reload credit onto your Istanbulkart or Akbil with coins, Turkish lira notes, or credit card—if they're in working order. (The ones in Metro stations usually are, the ones outdoors sometimes aren't.) If the machine bears a sign saying Arızalıdır or Hizmet dışı, it's out of order.)
Instructions are in Turkish, English and German.