Istanbul introduces special travel pass for tourists

Türkiye Materials 1 September 2022 00:45 (UTC +04:00)

The Istanbulkart, the mass transportation pass of Türkiye’s most populated city, now comes with special designs and options for tourists. Starting on Thursday, visitors to the city can purchase an Istanbul City Card for all their transportation needs across the Turkish megapolis, Trend reports citing Daily Sabah.

Designed in six different types, the pass will facilitate transportation for foreign visitors across one of the 10 most visited cities in the world, according to Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB). The cards will come with a “guide kit” and popular routes around Istanbul, IBB said in a statement.

The cards will come in two types, with different pass options, including one providing unlimited daily passes for one to 15 days and access to sightseeing buses known as “hop-on, hop-off” buses. Cards will be available for sale across more than 30 locations, mainly those frequented by tourists, through electronic vending machines.

IBB said more options would be added to Istanbul City Card soon, including access to museums operated by the municipality, ferry lines operating between two sides of the Bosporus and sightseeing ships operating on the Bosporus.

Using the Istanbulkart is the best way to avoid traffic in the city notorious for its traffic jams and overcharging taxi drivers, covering most mass transportation vehicles, including trams operating around Sultanahmet Square, one of the most visited places in the city by tourists as home to Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque and Yerebatan or the Basilica Cistern located near the Grand Bazaar. Yet, its fees are also high for locals. In July, IBB hiked the price for the first purchase of the pass by 100% while also rising the fees for "discount cards" allocated to students, teachers and senior citizens, as well as free passes for press members, disabled citizens, health care workers and police officers.

The city imposed this year’s first increase in mass transportation fees in February, implementing hikes of up to 92% for card purchases. In April, the price to board mass transit vehicles was raised to TL 7.67 from TL 5.48. The municipality defended the hikes in a written statement on its website, citing rising costs of electronic cards “due to the global chip shortage, current economic circumstances and fluctuations in foreign currencies.” Decreasing mass transit fees was one of the election pledges of Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu. In a speech before his election in 2019, the mayor said he would decrease the fees “to symbolic prices” and transportation would be “absolutely cheaper” in the city of more than 15 million people.

The Istanbulkart, which replaced the primitive electronic device Akbil in 2015, allows smooth travel through Istanbul's complex mass transit system. The municipality had recently introduced a mobile app that allows users to add credit to their electronic passes and use contactless payment through a QR code while boarding mass transit vehicles. The electronic pass also serves as a pre-paid debit card in certain shopping venues like supermarkets.