There are many different public transportation options in Istanbul such as metro, metrobus, marmaray, tramway, bus and minibus. Each of these transportation options is used by the locals frequently. However, as a tourist, you will have to use only a few of them since you will be mostly visiting the central city.
Metro is the fastest option among them all. It is convenient and easy to use not only for locals but also for the tourists. Metro lines reach most of the landmarks and popular districts of Istanbul. Even though there are many different metro lines, only two of them will allow you to travel most of Istanbul.
M1A and M2 metro lines are the ones that you will be using. M1A is the line that travels between Yenikapı and the old Atatürk Airport that is no longer in use. This line travels most of Istanbul in one line and also allows you to go to Sultanahmet via tram lines that connect to it. M2 metro line is between Yenikapı and Hacıosman. This metro line is used to reach the entertainment centers Taksim and Beyoğlu.
Other than the metro, the tramway is another transportation option that you will be using. The T1 tram line travels between Kabataş and Bağcılar and allows you to reach some of the popular historical areas such as Beyazıt, Sultanahmet, Gülhane Park, Eminönü and even Karaköy.
Marmaray is another great option especially if you want to travel from one continent to the other. Even though metro lines travel on a similar route, marmaray travels much further, covering most of Istanbul in one line.
Buses, minibuses and metrobus are all frequently used transportation options by the locals of Istanbul. They are designed to reach the suburbs of the city making it easy for people to reach the central parts of the city. Even though metrobus travels right on the E5 highway, it does not reach the landmarks of Istanbul, you still need to transfer to another transportation option. In this case, it is better to use metro, marmaray and tramway to reach most of Istanbul as a tourist.
In order to pay for transportation, you need to buy IstanbulKart first. You could travel without buying this card, however, it would be a lot more expensive. IstanbulKart allows you to travel 40% cheaper compared to regular tickets. You only have to pay 7 TL for the card itself. Then, you can load money onto the card via a “biletmatik” machine that is yellow and black in color which only accepts cash and not even coins. When you are ready to go back to your home country, you can simply return the IstanbulKart and refund the 7 TL you paid for it.