The daily Istanbul traffic jam begins in the morning at around 7 o’clock when everybody leaves home to go to work. The overcrowded streets remain congested until 10 o’clock. This is then repeated in the evening from about 5 to 8 o’clock when people return home.
Lunch breaks in Turkey are relatively short and every company has its own restaurant or canteen where the staff eat, so this has little impact on traffic.
If you choose to travel to a business appointment by taxi during the morning or afternoon rush hour, you should be patient and start early to ensure you are not late.
Taking a taxi
There are two types of taxi that you will find in major cities like Istanbul: those which drive around and which you can stop on the street, or those you can book or order by phone. It is advisable for foreigners to order a taxi through an office because these taxi drivers will not demand more than is displayed on the meter. Even if you should forget anything inside the taxi, you can call the office and ask for your belongings. On the other hand, if you flag a taxi down on the street, you surely will arrive at your destination, but it could be that it takes a bit longer than expected and the journey will, for sure, be a bit more expensive, especially if the driver recognises you are not from Turkey.
To avoid the stress of sitting in a traffic jam and to save money, there are several possibilities to travel around the city. In Istanbul there is a very good and extensive public transportation system. The metro is considered to be the fastest way of travelling in Istanbul. However, you will find city buses, trams, metro buses, ferries and speedboats and even a train under the Bosphorus Strait. This train is called “Marmaray”, and the first part of the project was opened in October 2013. Up to now, unfortunately, there is no connection between this train any other railway stations in Istanbul. However, there are plans to link the European and the Asian parts of Istanbul with a rail tunnel in 2015.
Apart from the means of transportation mentioned above, there are other options, which are probably used by tourists more than the general public. For example, the nostalgic tram (nostaljik tramvay) or the funicular (füniküler) are very popular.
In Istanbul you can travel around very easily and very cheaply, particularly with the Istanbul Card (İstanbulkart). You can buy this card at the airport in Istanbul after you land or at any kiosk or outlet near to the public transport stations. Once you have bought the card, you have to charge it with money. You can use the card on all means of transport in Istanbul. If there is not enough money left on your card, the card reader will show a warning message Yetersiz Bakiye (insufficient deposit) on the display.
Finally, it is worth mentioning one particular means of transport that is found throughout Turkey: the dolmuş or shared taxi. These are large vehicles, which travel 24 hours a day and which can take up to 8 passengers. The idea is that each passenger only pays one eighth of the full fare, so they have no timetable and often only set off when there are 8 passengers. The dolmuş travel to locations within Istanbul but also to destinations outside the city. The destination is usually given on the front of the vehicle. Needless to say, you cannot use the Istanbul Card in the dolmuş.
- Istanbul is congested at all times of day. Taxis are a good choice for short distances. For longer distances take the tram or subway.
- You can buy an Istanbul Card (İstanbulkart) and top it up with cash. You can use the card on trams, metro, ferries.
- If you take a taxi it is a good idea to let the driver know that you know where the destination is or how far it is, so he doesn’t get the wrong ideas.
- Many Turks have worked in Germany and speak German.
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