How to Get From SAW Airport to Sultanahmet (Istanbul Old Town): 5 Ways (Metro, Bus, Ferry, More) + Detailed Guide


If it’s your first time visiting Istanbul, there’s a very high chance that you’re staying in Sultanahmet. Also known as Istanbul’s Old Town, Sultanahmet is home to the Hagia Sophia, centuries-old mosques, the Grand Bazaar, and streets that are practically steeped with centuries of history — which all makes it a convenient place to base yourself. 

However, traveling from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet is another story. 😁

There is no direct connection from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Sultanahmet if you’re taking public transportation, which means you’ll need to use a mix of transportation if you want to get to your destination.

The reason why it’s slightly difficult to go between the two places is because Sabiha Gokcen Airport is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, while Sultanahmet is on the European side. These two destinations are literally separated by the Bosphorus!  

No worries! We’ve come up with a super detailed guide that goes over all of the options so you can quickly figure out how to get from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet. 🙂 

Each option includes a list of pros and cons, the price, how long it takes, and other useful information. 

We hope this guide is helpful when you travel from SAW Airport to the Old Town! 

QUICK TIPS | SAW Airport to Sultanahmet Travel Tips

SAW Airport is mostly used for domestic flights and budget airlines, since Turkey’s largest low-cost airline (Pegasus Airlines) is headquartered at Sabiha Gokcen Airport. 

The distance from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet is about 45 kilometers (28 miles), but what makes the trip slightly difficult is the fact that these two places are literally on two different continents. 😅

Really! As we mentioned in the intro, SAW Airport is on the Asian side of Istanbul, while Sultanahmet is on the European side. If you’re taking a car to your destination (i.e. private transfer or taxi), you’ll use the Eurasia Tunnel (Avrasya Tüneli), which was built under the Bosphorus to connect the two continents! 

Likewise, if you use option 1 (metro + light rail), the Marmaray light rail uses a similar tunnel called the Marmaray Tunnel. Isn’t infrastructure awesome? 🙂 

Cheapest option: Option 2 (metro + ferry) 
Most comfortable option: Private transfer
Quickest option:  Option 1 (metro + light rail) if there’s traffic. Private transfer or taxi if there is no traffic.  

📍 Rush hour is from 7am to 9 am and again from 4pm to 6pm+ . Take this into consideration if you plan to take the airport shuttle bus or taxi.

📍 If you’re arriving into SAW Airport late at night, your best option is to book a private transfer.

📍If you’re planning to use public transportation during your trip, we recommend getting an IstanbulKart at the start of your journey. 

The metro is clean, fast, and super stylish 🙂

OPTION 1: BY METRO + LIGHT RAIL 

This is the cheapest way of getting from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet. However, you’ll need to take two methods of public transportation: first the metro, and then the light rail. Let’s start with a little information… 

The M4 Metro line, whose full name is the Kadikoy-Sabiha Gokcen Airport Metro Line, conveniently has a terminal at Sabiha Gokcen (SAW) Airport so there’s no way you’ll get lost and take the wrong direction. 🙂 The length of the M4 metro is almost 34 km and has a total of 23 stations. The M4 runs every 4 minutes (during peak hours) to 10 minutes during regular hours. On the weekend, the frequency is a little lower. 

The Marmaray is a commuter rail that connects Europe to Asia. There are 43 stations that span 77 km. However, we’re only going to use a very short portion (the part that goes underwater and connects Bosphorus!) 

Anyway, back to our trip 🙂 

We’ve marked which station to get off with a 📍

At SAW Airport, follow signs for the “Metro” and go to the bottom floor. 

Take the M4 metro for 21 stops and get off at Ayrılık Çeşmesi station (there are monitors on the metro wagon with the station stops). At the station, follow signs for the Marmaray. 

Take the Marmaray for 2 stops (in the direction of Halkalı) and get off at Sırkecı station. Voila! You are now around the Sultanahmet area. 

Comfort & Amenities

The M4 metro line comes in either a four- or eight-car train. It may get crowded on the metro during rush hour (around 9 am in the morning and 5 pm in the evening), although there should still be plenty of seats if you get on at SAW Airport station.

Each metro station has elevators for travelers with large luggage, and there are escalators at most metro stations. Likewise, most metro wagons have a charging port in the wall (in case you need to charge your phone!) and there are monitors that show the current station and next station.

At the SAW Airport metro station, there are moving walkways that make it easier to get between the station and airport. 

The Marmaray is equally comfortable, but at rush hours it might be crowded (since it’s used as a commuter rail for locals). 

Departure Times

The Istanbul Metro works from 6 am to midnight on weekdays, and 24 hours on weekends (Saturday and Sunday). 

The Istanbul Metro agency has a very convenient page where you can check the working hours of the metro line that you’re planning to take. Click here and then click the pink circle with the M4 (this is the metro line you’ll take).

Where it says “Choose the station,” open the drop-down and choose the metro station that’s closest to you (which is most likely going to be Sabiha Gökçen Havalimanı if you’re traveling from the airport). 

After, click the direction you’ll travel. Sabiha Gökçen Havalimanı → Kadikoy is if you arrive at SAW Airport and want to travel to Kadikoy. 

From there, choose the date that you plan to travel. Additionally, you can click ‘First and Last Train’ to see what time the metro line will begin working and when it stops.  

Be sure to keep this in mind, especially if you have a flight that’s early in the morning or late at night. If your flight falls outside of the metro’s working hours, other options include the airport shuttle bus or a private transfer.

Likewise, the Marmaray starts running at 6:00 am. On weekdays, the last Marmaray train leaves around 23:30 (depending on the station) or around 2:00 am on weekends. You can use this website to check the actual times (be sure to use a translator). 

Payment

The total price of this trip is 48 TL. You’ll pay 15 TL for a full-fare ticket on the metro plus 33 TL for a Marmaray ticket. 

There are multiple ticket machines (called biletmatik) near the metro entrance at the airport. You can even buy an IstanbulKart if you plan to use public transport a lot. Although the machines usually accept credit cards, sometimes this function is broken — be sure to have small banknotes just in case. There are a few ATMs near the metro entrance and inside the airport.

Total Time

The duration for this option is at least 1 hour and 20 minutes. The metro takes about 1 hour + 5 minutes to transfer + wait time for the Marmaray + 10 minute Marmaray ride. The walk to your accommodation is probably 10 ~ 15 minutes, depending on how far away it is from Sirkeci station. 

PROSCONS

📍 Avoids traffic: Since the metro is underground, you can escape the legendary Istanbul traffic 😉  

📍 Comfortable: The metro starts at SAW airport, and Ayrılık Çeşmesi station is small and easy to transfer.

📍Cost-effective: Taking the metro + light rail is less than $2 USD 🙂 

📍 Eco-friendly 
📍 Seating: During rush hour, you’ll need to be quick if you want to secure yourself a seat (especially on the Marmaray)

📍 Limited luggage space: If you have luggage bigger than a carry-on, you might find the metro and/or Marmaray uncomfortable

📍 Might not be the best option if you’re uncomfortable navigating public transportation
Would you like to see these exact views? Just take the ferry!

OPTION 2: BY METRO + FERRY

Another option of traveling from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet is to take the same M4 metro we mentioned above, but with a little adjustment. This option is best if you have small luggage or a backpack. 

Get on the M4 Metro line at Sabiha Gokcen Airport station and take it until the last station (Kadıköy station).

 From there, go upstairs (outside) and take a short walk to the Kadıköy pier and take the Kadıköy – Karaköy – Emi̇nönü ferry. There are LED signs at the entrance of the building telling you which ferry lines are served.  

Get off at the last station (Emi̇nönü), which is a short walk away from Sultanahmet. 

Comfort & Amenities

You can check the information for the M4 metro in “Option 1” above 🙂  

The biggest ferry operator is Şehir Hatları (literally City Lines in Turkish), which is also the ‘official’ ferry operator of Istanbul. We’ll be taking a ferry on this company to go to Sultanahmet. 

The ferries are clean, comfortable, and on-time. There is usually a snack bar onboard, with basic food (sandwiches, toast, etc), snacks (chocolates, crackers), and drinks (water, tea, coffee). The prices are very good compared to other places. 🙂 

If you don’t have large luggage, you can also go to the second floor for better views (some ferries have open-air seating). 

The ferry building in Kadıköy has a small lobby with seating (once you pass the turnstiles). 

Departure Times

You can check the information for the M4 metro in “Option 1” above 🙂 

The first ferry leaves at 6:10 am on weekdays, and 7:00 am on weekends and holidays. There is a ferry every 15 minutes, so you won’t have to wait too long in case you miss your departure. 

The last ferry to Eminonu leaves at 20:30. There are later ferries, but they only stop at Karakoy (which is across the Golden Horn and you’ll need a taxi or tram if you want to get to Eminonu). 

Click here for timetables. Be sure to check that you clicked “Kadıköy departure” and especially double-check the fine print (particularly for early or late departures, as some only work on weekdays!)

Payment

The total price of this trip is 35 TL. You’ll pay 15 TL for a full-fare ticket on the metro plus 20 TL for the Kadıköy – Eminönü ferry. 

Total Time

The duration for this option is at least 1 hour and 40 minutes. The metro takes about 1 hour + 5 minutes to transfer + wait time for the ferry (up to 15 mins) + 20 minute ferry ride. The walk to your accommodation is probably 10 ~ 20 minutes, depending on how far away it is from Eminonu pier. 

PROSCONS

📍 Avoids traffic: Since the metro is underground (and the ferry is along the water), you won’t have to deal with traffic

📍Cost-effective: Taking the metro + ferry is the cheapest way of traveling from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet! 

📍 The views from the ferry are amazing!! 

📍 This option is best for those who have small luggage
📍 Limited luggage space: If your luggage is bigger than a carry-on, it might be uncomfortable carrying large bags on the metro/ferry

📍 Not the best option if you have a very early or very late flight 

OPTION 3: BY PRIVATE TRANSFER 

If you’re looking to avoid the hassle and stress of planning your trip from the airport, taking a private transfer from Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Sultanahmet is definitely a great option. 

This is the most convenient way of traveling from SAW airport, as you’ll get door-to-door service and complete comfort — there’s no need to stress over making it to your metro/ferry/bus, your luggage is taken care of, and you can start to relax on the way to your hotel. 

Comfort & Amenities

Booking a private transfer from SAW to Sultanahmet is the most comfortable option. From the moment you arrive, you’ll have someone waiting for you at the airport with a sign. The driver will carry your bags to the car. The cars are clean and have comfortable seats.

Departure Times

Most flexible, because you can choose the exact departure time (if you’re traveling to the airport). Likewise, your driver will follow your plane’s arrival time and adjust in case of any delay.  

Total Time

The duration for this option is at least 45 minutes (without traffic). 

Payment

You can pre-book private transfers online, which means you won’t have to worry about fumbling for cash or figuring out exchange rates. 

PROSCONS

📍 The most convenient option: no need to worry about your luggage, figuring out where the metro/ferry/bus is, or dealing with a language barrier

📍Safety: Reputable private transfer services carry out background checks and employ drivers who can speak English and/or other languages. 

📍 Drive in comfort: Private transfer vans are spacious, well-maintained, and have comfortable plush seats. You can start relaxing after a long flight from the moment you take a seat!
📍 Private transfers are still subject to Istanbul’s traffic, but at least you’ve paid in advance and won’t be overcharged for the extra time (compared to taxis) 🙂

OPTION 4: BY AIRPORT SHUTTLE BUS 

The Havabus (stylized as HAVABÜS) is the official airport shuttle bus from SAW Airport. It has three lines: SAW to Taksim, SAW to Kadikoy, and SAW to Yenisahra. 

However, to get from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet, the Havabus isn’t really the best option. It takes longer than the other options, and should only be used if you have an early morning flight (since the Havabus works earlier than the M4 metro). 

Here are two options: 

Option 1: Take the Havabus to Kadikoy and then take the ferry to Eminonu
Option 2: Take the Havabus to Taksim. From there, you could call a taxi or walk about 15 minutes and take the T1 tram

Comfort & Amenities

You’re guaranteed a seat (buses leave when full) and there’s plenty of baggage storage under the bus. The seats are comfortable and fairly spacious, and there is an overhead shelf to store small items. 

Departure Times

The Sabiha Gokcen Airport – Kadikoy Havabus departs from SAW Airport starting at 6:30 am. The last departure is at 00:30 (30 minutes after midnight).
If you’re going to the airport… The Kadikoy – Sabiha Gokcen Airport Havabus departs from Kadikoy starting at 4:15 am. The last departure is at 21:15. 

The Sabiha Gokcen Airport – Taksim Havabus departs from SAW Airport starting at 6:30 am. The last departure is at 00:30 (30 minutes after midnight).
If you’re going to the airport… The Taksim – Sabiha Gokcen Airport Havabus departs from Taksim starting at 3:30 am. The last departure is at 22:00. 

Click here for all of the Havabus departure times 

Payment

Option 1 (Havabus to Kadikoy + ferry to Eminonu): 97 TL 77 TL for Havabus + 20 TL ferry ticket
Option 2 (Havabus to Taksim + tram to Sultanahmet): 118 TL103 TL Havabus + 15 TL metro 

Total Time

The duration for this option is at least 1 hour and 30 minutes (if taking the Kadikoy Havabus) or 2 hours (if taking the Taksim Havabus). 

PROSCONS

📍 No need to struggle with luggage: There’s a huge luggage compartment under the bus

📍Guaranteed seats: No need to wrestle for a seat 🙂 (Plus, they’re comfortable!)

📍 Early departures: If you’re traveling during the weekday, the Havabus has earlier departures than the metro 
📍 May take longer due to traffic 

📍 More expensive than other options 

OPTION 5: BY TAXI

We don’t really recommend taking a taxi, especially for such a long distance (there are much better and cheaper ways to get from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet! )

There are a few reasons why: there are much better options, you might get stuck in traffic, and the biggest reason — there’s a high chance you might get scammed. In fact, we’ve unfortunately had to write a blog post on the most common taxi scams in Istanbul because it’s such a prevalent issue. 

There’s an official taxi rank in SAW Airport, but their reputation isn’t the best (at the time of writing, their Google reviews page has an unfortunate 2.4 out of 5 rating). 

As of January 2024, the average price of a taxi from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet is 700 to 850 TL for a regular yellow taxi. Large sprinter vans will cost an extra +25%, and business taxis (black Mercedes, BMW, Audi, etc) are an extra +50%. 

Likewise, there’s an additional fee for taking the Avrasya Tunnel (the tunnel under the Bosphorus that connects Europe and Asia). As of January 2024, the fee is an extra +53 TL for daytime trips (5:00 to 23:59) or +26.50 TL for nighttime trips (00:00 to 4:59). 

If you plan to take a taxi from SAW Airport, we recommend booking a taxi ahead of time through a site like KiwiTaxi. You’ll see the final price ahead of time, the driver will meet you with a nameplate at the airport (i.e. you won’t get lost!), and there are different options to choose from. (i.e. economy, comfort, minibus for groups, business/luxury, etc)

Total Time — The duration for this option is at least 45 minutes (without traffic). 

BY REGULAR BUS 

There are no regular buses that go from SAW Airport to Sultanahmet. Therefore, we don’t recommend this option. 

OTHER USEFUL BLOG POSTS

We have some other useful blog posts about Sabiha Gokcen, traveling around Turkey, and more – click the title if you’d like to check them out:

✈️ Best Airports Near SAW Airport — In case you have an early flight and want to be closer to the airport. 😉 

✈️ Travel Around Turkey by Plane — Helpful travel tips if you plan to take a domestic flight in Turkey. 

✈️ How to Plan a Trip to Turkey — If you’re overwhelmed with planning your Turkey trip, this is a great guide to help you get started!

✈️ How to Get From SAW Airport to Kadikoy — Planning to travel between SAW Airport to Kadikoy? This blog post goes over every transport option!

Photo credits: Ferry: Emre (@reojuve)

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