How to get to the city from Sabiha Gokcen Airport?

The main question that worries visitors who arrive in Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen Airport is: how to get to the city. The city here is usually perceived as the historical centre of the capital. Istanbul has a well-developed infrastructure and offers its guests many types of transport, which vary in cost, comfort and travel time. It makes sense for travellers to get familiar with types of tranports available, before choosing the right one.

Sabiha Gokcen
Sabiha Gokcen is an international airport in Istanbul.

Location of Sabiha Gokcen Airport

The need for the construction of a new international airport in Istanbul arose in 2006-2009 when Istanbul Atatürk Airport ceased to cope with the ever-increasing passenger flow.

For this purpose, a small runway was used in Pendik - the outlying region, which is located in the south-eastern part of the Turkish capital.

The number of terminals had increased from 2 to 8. They were placed in a single complex with a total area of ​​200 thousand m², and the technical equipment was brought into line with European standards. During the construction, anti-seismic isolators were used, the departure area was expanded, and a comfortable hotel was built nearby for those wishing to stay in the vicinity of the airport. The airport was named after the adopted daughter of Turkish Republic founding father - Mustafa Kemal Ataturk - Sabiha Gokcen, who became the first woman pilot in military aviation in the history of the country.

By the beginning of 2020, the number of passengers using the services of the airport exceeded 40 million, and it ranks 14th in the European congested airports. Its popularity is due to the fact that it operates mainly low fare airlines (Pegasus Airlines, Borajet, etc.), which offer cheap plane tickets. In 2010, it was recognized as the best in the world among airports operating low fare flights.

Location of the airport
Sabiha Gokcen is located in the Asian part of Istanbul.

The arrival hall is equipped with Information terminals, where you can find the information on how to get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to the centre of Istanbul. 

Information terminals work in two languages, Turkish and English providing detailed information and understandable diagrams and graphics.

Distance to the centre of Istanbul

Sabiha Gokcen Airport is built in the Asian part of the city. It is located at a distance of 35 km from the famous Fatih district, where the main attractions are concentrated: the Sultanahmet Quarter, Taksim Square, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace. Depending on the route and kind of transport chosen, the trip from the airport may take from 30 minutes to 1.5 h. In heavy traffic jams and congested streets, it stretches to 3 hours.

Touristically significant places on the way to the city

There are no attractions in the vicinity of the airport. The closest interesting place through which all bus routes run is Kalamış Marina in the Kadikoy area. Here is a beautiful promenade, tea gardens, fashion districts and the monumental Haydarpasa Station, designed by two German architects Ritter and Cuno. The construction started in 1906 and was completed in 1908.

Touristly significant places
A beautiful promenade.

Using water transport, tourists have the opportunity to admire the Bosphorus Strait and the Golden Horn. On the north of the Golden Horn, tourists can enjoy the view of The Galata Tower - once being a lighthouse, now is known as one of the oldest symbols of the city, preserved from the time of Byzantium, and is beautifully lighted at night. 

Bus routes

Bus transport is the most popular and economic transport preferred by tourists.

Near the airport building, you can choose one of 3 options:

  1. Route E 10. Paid with a pre-bought token or IstanbulCard. The trip to the centre takes a long time, as there are about 60 stops along the way.
  2. E 11. It completely covers the route of E 10, but it is possible to get to the centre faster due to the fact that the bus stops only 19 times.
  3. Havabus. Luxury buses owned by a private company. The fare is paid to the driver in cash onboard. Buses have luggage compartments and comfortable seats. Buses take tourists to their destination place without stopping. 
Bus routes
Havabus transport in Istanbul.

The final destination of Havabus is the Kadıkoy station, from where tourists get the ferry terminal in Kadikoy (5 min walk, approx 400m) and are transported to the European part of Istanbul by ferry for the cost from 2 - 5TL. In addition, Havabus arrives at and departures from Taksim Square.

Tokens, tickets and travel tickets can be purchased in the airport building in the Jetonmatik and Biletmatik machines, located in the waiting room, or in special kiosks at the exit. Tickets are sold for a limited number of trips (from 2 to 10), and the IstanbulKart is an unlimited boarding pass for all routes. It is a pre-paid and rechargeable card, which enables you to travel by different types of transportation, like buses, trams, metros, ferries etc. The card can be used up to 5 passengers. Travelling with an Istanbul Card is easier and cheaper. 

Operating hours

Public transportation in Istanbul operates from 06:00 in the morning till 01:00at night. Depending on routes and the type of transport.

Havabuses run every 30 minutes - from 04:00 to 01:00.

Special Metrobus

Metrobuses are highly comfortable high-speed transit buses that move along specially dedicated bus lanes. The busway is around 50 km with 45 stations. They were introduced in 2007 to facilitate travel between the European and Asian parts of the city.

Metrobus is a new type of transport.

From Sabiha Gokcen Aiport you need to get on Uzunçayır Metrobüs taking buses E 9, E 10, E 11, or 16S, and then change to metro M4 to get to Ünalan Metro Station. But it should be borne in mind, that this type of transport is extremely popular with the local population, and is always crowded. Payment is usually made through IstanbulKart.


Marmaray station

The opening of an underwater railway tunnel - the Marmaray Tunnel crossing under the Bosphorus Strait, made it possible to get to the city centre without problems and in the shortest possible way. The underground tunnel joins European (runs from Kazlicesme) and Asian (to Ayrılık Cesmesi) part of Istanbul. The Marmaray is the deepest underground tunnel in the world (56m under Bosphorus Strait) and stretches 1,4km under the strait.

Metro ride
Travelling through the Marmaray tunnel gives you the opportunity to get to the city centre as soon as possible.

Ticket or token costs 5TL, and with IstanbulKart around 2.6TL for 1 trip. 

Opening closer stations

The M4 metro line will extend to the airport itself (modelled on Istanbul's central air terminal). First, the completion date was planned for the end of 2020, but the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic caused a delay in the completion of the construction, and postpone the date by 2021.

Buying tokens and their cost

In Istanbul, there are special machines, called "Jetonmatik" which sell tokens, but they work only with turkish currency. If you don't have any liras, you can exchange EUR or USD in Exchange Offices in the airport. "Jetonmatik" accepts both coins and paper bills of 5, 10 and 20TL. Single fare token costs 5TL.

A token for 1 trip costs 5 lire, but the price of them periodically increases.

Tokens can't be used in all means all transport. They can't be used on buses. They are designed to travel on the subway, tram, ferry and cable car.

Airport car rent and service price

The ability to rent a car without leaving the airport building does not cause difficulties since almost all the major companies of this business work here (Avis, Dollar, Europcar, Circular Car Hire, SAW, Garenta and many others).

The price range is large and depends on the brand and capacity of the car. Budget options, such as the Hyundai I 10 or Nissan Micra, will cost 15 -20 EUR per day, and executive cars and minivans can cost from 60 to 75 EUR per day. On average, a 2-week rent of an executive car costs visitors from 600 to 900 EUR (pre-booking makes the price even less).

Car rent
You can rent a car at the airport.

However, all those who are planning to rent a car in Istanbul should be aware of traffic jams, high congestions of the streets, narrow lanes, where parking a car is often forbidden, or in some places not allow U-turns. 

Using taxi services

This is probably the fastest and most comfortable way of travelling. Taxi drivers are well-oriented in the city and know many diversions and short cuts to get to the destination place quicker. However, beware that some taxi drivers can be fraudulent and take their customers to the traffic jams in order to increase the cost of the trip. This trick helps them to earn up to $ 100 for a route that costs $ 45-50. It is always better to look for a reliable taxi company than take the first free one.

Choosing a taxi, remember about cash payment ONLY, cards and electronic payments ARE NOT ACCEPTED. 

Transfer to Sultanahmet

To avoid cheating and manipulations that increase the cost, it is advisable to book a transfer from the Sabiha Gokcen Airport to your destination place before arriving in Turkey. You can do this online, it is a very easy and safe way. Transfer drivers are waiting for their customers in the arrival zone with a sign written the name of transfer company or a customer's name. The drivers are always helpful with carrying the luggage, and if necessary provide a child seat (for an additional fee).

Transfer Order
You can book an airport transfer online.

You can choose from:

  • Transportation
  • Private Bus or Minibus
  • VIP
  • Private vehicle
  • Shuttle (which is the cheapest option)

Ferry crossing the Golden Horn

Ferry transportation is popular in Istanbul for many reasons, it helps to unload automotive transport and railways routes, and creates a peculiar atmosphere when getting to know the city.

2 main routes used by visitors:

  1. From Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Pendik (bus E-9), then bus 251 to Kartal. Metro M4 from Kartal to Kadikoy.
  2. From Kadikoy Ferry Terminal to the Eminonu Ferry Terminal.
Ferry crossing
Crossing Bosphorus by ferry creates a peculiar atmosphere.

The ticket price depends on the length of the journey and ranges from 2 to 5 TL.

How to get to Ataturk Airport

The distance between Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Ataturk Airport is about 70 km, and the road takes from one and a half by car to 3 hours by public transport, depending on the time of day and the situation on the roads. However, from April 6, 2019, the Ataturk Airport has been closed, and all international flights have been transferred to the newly opened Istanbul Airport, located 90 km from Sabiha. Direct bus service is provided between them. The round-the-clock IST-8 express departs from the arrivals area every hour and delivers passengers to Istanbul without stopping. Ticket price - 30TL.

You can also take a taxi from the nearby taxi rank. A pre-order private transfer for 1 person will cost from € 75.

When planning transfers in Istanbul, one should take into account the difficult transport situation in the metropolis, and start your trip earlier to have a spare 4-5 hours in the case of traffic jams, blocked highways, car accidents or diversions caused by road works.


How to get from the city to the Sabiha Gokcen Airport

The easiest way is to get to Sabiha Gokcen Aiport is by metro. The key points are Levent and Pendik stations, as well as the Kadikoy, from where private buses like Havabus go to the airport.

In addition, Havabus company provide services from the Royal Hotel on Taksim Square directly to the airport building entrance.

If it is not possible to use public transport, a taxi can be ordered through the internet or at the hotel reception. Using free Wi-Fi in a hotel, you can also pre-book an airport transfer online.