Istanbul, the vibrant and dynamic city that sits at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, is served by three airports of Istanbul, but one of them is used only for cargo. There are 2 airports in Istanbul for travellers: the Istanbul Airport (IST)and  Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (SAW).

Each of these airports serves different destinations and airlines, and getting to them by public transport, taxi, or bus can be easy if you know how. I transited and flew from both airports a couple of times and this blog explains more about how to get to each of the airports of Istanbul and how they are different when transiting. 

Airports of Istanbul at night

Istanbul Airport (IST) is located on the European side of Istanbul and Sabiha Gokcen (SAW) is on the Anatolian side of Istanbul (Asia).

The 2 airports of Istanbul:

1. Istanbul Airport (IST)

Istanbul Airport is the newest and largest airport in Istanbul. It is located 35 kilometres northwest of the city centre and is the main hub for Turkish Airlines. Istanbul Airport is also served by many other airlines, including Emirates, Lufthansa, and British Airways. 

The airport has two terminals, with Terminal 1 serving domestic flights and Terminal 2 serving international flights.

Istanbul Airport is considered a great airport for several reasons:

  • Modern Facilities: Istanbul Airport is a newly constructed airport with modern facilities, including duty-free shops, lounges, restaurants, and cafes, making it a great place to spend time during layovers or delays.
  • Efficient Operations: Istanbul Airport is designed to handle large volumes of passengers and planes, making it a very efficient airport. It has advanced technologies and state-of-the-art equipment that helps to streamline operations, reduce wait times, and improve the overall passenger experience.
  • Connectivity: Istanbul Airport has an extensive network of airlines and destinations, with more than 300 destinations served by over 100 airlines. This means that passengers can easily connect to various locations around the world. The airport is also well connected to the city center by public transport, taxi, and bus.
  • Award-winning: Istanbul Airport has won several awards since its opening in 2019, including “Best Airport in Southern Europe” and “World’s Best New Airport” at the Skytrax World Airport Awards in 2020. These awards recognise the airport’s high-quality services, amenities, and facilities.
Istanbul IST Airport Gates M

The new Istanbul Airport IST – Istanbul Airport Departures

The biggest downfall of Istanbul airport?

Istanbul Airport is huge! So getting to your gate can take some time. Make sure you allow a lot of time if you are transiting or catching a flight from here. We almost missed our flight to Eritrea as we had to run across the entire airport to different gates.

The other thing that I don’t like about this airport is its free wifi. It’s complicated!

You can either access the wifi via SMS message, or you have to go to one of the kiosks to verify your passport and log in that way.

Either way, you only get 1 hour of free wifi! It just makes no sense why a new airport would have a time limit for wifi. 

To avoid all that, consider buying an eSIM for Turkey to stay connected in the country. Download a data plan and get connected right away! It’s affordable, easy, and convenient.

Getting to Istanbul Airport by Public Transport:

The Istanbul Airport is well connected to the city centre by public transport. The easiest way to get to the airport is by taking the metro. 

The M11 metro line connects Istanbul airport to the city centre, with trains running every 6 minutes during peak hours. The journey takes around 30 minutes, and the fare is 18 Turkish Lira (TRY) which is less than 1 USD or 1 Euro.

Another option is to take the Havaist bus service. This is a direct bus service that connects Istanbul Airport to various locations in the city centre, including Taksim Square and Kadıköy. The buses run every 20 minutes and the fare is 30 TRY.

Getting to/from Istanbul Airport by Taxi:

Taxis are available from all parts of the city to Istanbul Airport. The journey time from the city centre to the airport is around 40 minutes, depending on traffic.

The fare is around 300 TRY (around $20). Alternatively, you could pre-book a private car transfer from airport to your hotel. A private transfer is approximately $45 for your group (up to 7 people).

It’s very convenient in such a busy airport to have a representative waiting for you with a sign upon arrival at exit gate 9 (just after luggage claim area). You will then be delivered your to your pre-booked hotel in Istanbul.

Airports of Istanbul on the map IST vs SAW on the map

Airports of Istanbul on the map IST vs SAW on the map with Istanbul airports names