Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Scenic Route - Public Transportation in Istanbul

     tour-ist  :  one that makes a tour for pleasure or culture

I was born to be a tourist...  I can travel year-round, every day, everywhere... I don't even mind taking little tours of my own city... sometimes those turn out to be my favorites.  But, while I can live like a tourist, I actually like to experience a place like a local, which is somewhat of a paradox I guess, as far as the dictionary is concerned anyway. I like to walk around the streets or sit at a cafe and absorb the air, the feel, the rhythm of a city and try to understand it and its people, how they live their lives, where they do their shopping, how they go to work, where they go out to eat...

I spent most of my life living in Istanbul and no matter which geographic location I may be inhabiting it is the one place that always feel like home. Due to circumstances, I live in New Jersey these days but the exhilaration I feel whenever I get back here, is without equal. Everything tastes more succulent, smells sweeter, seems more vibrant and a mellifluous vibe seems to permeate the air of this exotic city.  
Even the public transportation system is a part of this, it seems...

I had a liberating experience with Istanbul's public transportation system today.  There is a huge web of buses that run to every corner of this megalopolis that I have been hesitant about using due my own ignorance.  It just seemed too confusing and intimating to decipher until I was left with no choice.  I was in Etiler, a neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul and I had to get to Bagdat Caddesi, the main shopping district on the Asian Side.   There are ferries that run across the Bosphorus...(those I can handle)... but I would have to take a bus to get to the Ferry.  After intense consideration, I finally decided to try out the new Metrobus, which promises to be the fastest way to get across the bridge to the other side.  

I walked for 20 minutes to locate the Zincirlikuyu Metrobus Stop which could have easily been avoided if I had taken any vehicle to get there in five ... but as the Turks say " Feet suffer the act of a foolish mind".  After that it was incredibly smooth sailing.  There was a huge, consistent crowd at the Metrobus stop but the buses  (No. 34Z) were arriving two at a time and leaving as soon as they were full.  It took me five minutes to wait for a bus in which I could get a seat, and then we were off... 
The bus goes over the Bosphorus Bridge or the First Bridge as it is known to the locals to reach Sogutlucesme in just 15 minutes.  INCREDIBLE for Istanbul traffic.
The ride is comfortable and the view from top of the bridge is amazing.

There is a big Dolmus stop at the last stop of the Metrobus in Sogutlucesme. Dolmus is one of the greatest inventions of this country, it is a shared taxi that operates on a specific route and costs a little bit more than the bus, varying according to the travelers destination on the route.  I waited for 5 minutes for the car to fill up and then arrived at my destination in 15 minutes.

My favorite mode of transportation in Istanbul, without a doubt is the Ferry, though.  I bet it is probably the mode of transportation with one of the most magnificent views in the world.... and I have pictures to prove it... After taking care of my business, my husband and I took the Car Ferry from Harem neighborhood on the Asian Side, to get back to the European Side this evening. It was glorious... the perfect ending to a perfect day... spent as a tourist in my own city, traveling back and forth with the locals but leaving with the awe of an individual who has seen Istanbul for the first time.  

 The Metrobus lines:


Websites and Routes for Dolmus: is a website that provides useful information on some of the Dolmus routes in Istanbul. is a site in Turkish with a list of all the routes that are available. 

Information about the Ferry and Seabus Lines:

The Istanbul Sea Bus Authority (IDO) has a website for important information on timetables and rates. The Car Ferry I took on my return trip is listed under Conventional Ferry Lines: Sirkeci-Harem

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