Transports in Istanbul





The more   important a city is, the more numerous means of transport you find, Istanbul does not break this rule : taxis, buses, boats, car sharing, streetcar, funicular.

Taksi : let us begin with taxis, (Taksi in Turk because X does not exist in the alphabet), yellow as their American homologues ! In  Taksim square, there is  a taksi every 3 cars; the square is a crossroads of communication. The taxidrivers, in search of customers, call  the pedestrians dragging their steps or the frantic tourists, by honking. Besisdes  many foreign tourists pay  full price during the day, that is to say the night rate, because they do not understand the difference between 'Gunduz' (daytime) and 'Gece' (night) small lights arranged on the taximeter; but the practised rates are so low for the Europeans that this tithe is not excessive! The night rate, 50 % on top, is applicable between midnight and 6 o'clock in the morning!

Some taxidrivers behave as inveterate reckless drivers, but  others treat  their vehicle with dexterity in the traffic jams or  take incomprehensible but time-saving detours while  others don't know  Istanbul at all and it is then necessary to guide them. But if  your car is bumper to bumper with a taxi in a narrow alley, it is necessary to negotiate if you do not want to reverse !

In the district of  Tophane, a taxidriver hands out a coin to an old man with a moustache, to thank him  for regulating the traffic at a dangerous crossroads which the municipality cannot or doesn't want to modify !

But as soon as the end of the afternoon arrives, the number of taxis diminishes with  knocking-off time. And if you finally find a free vehicle, it is not rare that the taxidriver refuses to take you if you do not go in the same way as he does !

It is hell  by rainy weather in the ice-cold winter, when the roads are flooded with muddy waters and the cars splash you. Then  taking taxis by storm  is a rare thing !


Dolmus : 'dolmus' (pronounce dolmouche) are collective taxis which always go along the same route between two points of the city and which leave only when they are full. The origin of their name : 'dolmus' which means full up . Not so long ago this role was held by old American cars of the 50s, today  there are only a few left in  the town centre because they are real collectors'cars, many of which very regrettably have left the country so they should become part of National Heritage ! Today these old jalopies are replaced by minibuses, advantageously for  safety, comfort and  speed but not so for the pleasure of the eyes and for nostalgia !

It is funny to get into these vehicles for the first time, so accidentally if you find yourself  in the middle of the vehicle, you will be asked  by a pat on the shoulder by  the persons at the back to hand in their fare  to the taxidriver, then in the other direction in order to hand in their change. Solidarity between travelers is complete. As soon as the demand for taxis increases, this dolmus is straightaway transformed into a taxi, by rainy weather for example!


Subway : the subway of Istanbul was inaugurated in October, 2000. So it is a recent means of transport for Istanbul inhabitants ; and besides, in spite of  communication campaigns , it  has not yet been accepted by the Turks! Maybe they are simply afraid of earthquakes during the journey or then, they are put off by the depth of the subway, due to the hilly landscape of Istanbul ! Whatever the case may be, Istanbul dewellers  can be proud of their subway because it is beautiful, but am I objective? It was built by the French !


Bus : the bus remains the most popular means, because it is the  least expensive, but it is useful in order to know the Turkish population. There still  reigns much courtesy in this means of  public transports. Pregnant women, children or old persons are the object of attention on the part  of the travelers. I even saw myself offered a bus ticket  by a Turk while I had got on the vehicle without a ticket. But the most remarkable  is the discipline with which people queue up to wait for their bus, what contrasts with the anarchy of the road traffic ! But such is Istanbul, filled with contradictions !

Vapurs Vapurs : Istanbul without the Bosphorus would not exist, all the charm of Istanbul comes from it ! And visiting Istanbul without taking once these boats, which ferry you from Asia to Europe in a few minutes, it is as if you hadn't known Istanbul ! Indeed  these 'vapurs' formerly worked by steam, and today they transport every day tens of  thousands of Turks especially from Asia towards Europe in the morning, and vice versa in the evening. One  third of Stambouliotes live in Asia and  go to work in Europe. Indeed since 74, there have been two bridges on the Bosphorus but they are often saturated, then why not take the 'vapurs'. It is the  ideal means to approach Karaköy to Usküdar Léander's tower, the only non-artificial island of  the Bosphorus, or else  going to Besisktas to see the Dolmabache palace by sea!

But on these boats  a whole life is revealed the time of a  dozen of minutes'crossing ! The traveler chooses his place, either for the sight, or to take advantage of the sun, or to shelter from bad weather, or still to stay in front of the door to be the first one to jump out even before the boat has been moored. And then it is the moment to sample a 'salep' (boiling-hot drink the base of which are bulbs of orchids) in winter or an orange juice freshly pressed or simply a 'simit' (bread with sesame seeds) that one can share with the troop of gulls which follow the boat, all these are  proposed by a boy in a white jacket walking across the decks of the boat in search of customers. Others boys, unofficially, take advantage of the occasion  to try to sell glasses, newspapers or gadgets with forceful  demonstration. The traveler, a prisoner, is forced to undergo every one of these commercial practices ; the Turks are patient and easy to please !

But if during the crossing all this life  annoys you, you can take a smaller boat but which  leaves only once it is full up, like a dolmus of the sea. But beware ! If a passenger indicates dolphins to port, do not rush toward this side of the boat, one has already seen skiffs overturn this way !