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The best and easiest way to explore the old city is on foot, but to get to other areas there is a cheap public transport network consisting of buses, taxis or dolmuses (shared minibus taxis), tramways and a metro system that has relieved some of the pressure of Istanbul's endless traffic. The rechargeable Akbil electronic transit pass, available from special kiosks, is a discounted way of using local buses, trams, metro and ferries. A useful underground metro line runs from Aksaray to the main city bus station at Esenler and the Ataturk Airport, and another runs north from Taksim Square, passing the Levent districts. Buses are slow and crowded; tickets must be purchased at outdoor kiosks, as bus drivers do not sell them. Dolmuses and private yellow taxis are more comfortable than the city buses and very inexpensive, but it is advisable for foreigners to have their hotel call a private taxi for them and check that the meter is working, as overcharging is common. A taxi's night rate can be up to 50 percent more expensive than the day rate. Dolmuses can be hailed anywhere along their set routes. Passenger ferries are a pleasant way to see the city, and there is also a train network running along the Marmara shore. Driving or hiring a car is not recommended due to traffic congestion and poor driving standards.
GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
220 volts AC, 50Hz. The European two-pin plug is standard.
The official currency is the Turkish Lira (TRY), which is divided into 100 kurus. Currency can be exchanged at banks, exchange booths, post offices, airports and ferry ports; banks have the worst rates but will exchange lesser known foreign currencies. Banks open mainly Monday to Friday, but some are open daily in tourist areas. ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas, but Turkish ATM keypads usually do not have letters of the English alphabet on their keys. Major credit cards are widely accepted; the most popular are Visa or MasterCard, but American Express is also accepted in some areas. Some hotels in the most popular destinations accept US dollars as payment.
The international country dialling code for Turkey is +90. Mobile phone coverage is good with GSM 900 and 1800 networks covering most of the country. Internet cafes are available in the main towns and resorts.
Medical emergencies: 112. Police: 155.
The Istanbul Metro system provides quick and easy access to the city, including the intercity bus terminal. Use metro station Zeytinburnu and transfer to a tram to reach the Eminonu ferry or Sea Bus docks. The airport Havatas Bus leaves from the Departures terminal gate and connects to Taksim Square or Kozyatagi. Shuttle buses depart from 4am to 1am, and take 40 minutes into the city. Taxis are also available. Taxi rates are 50 percent higher between midnight and 6am.
Car rental companies include Avis, Budget, Hertz, Alamo, National and Sixt.
The Istanbul Ataturk Airport is west of Istanbul and it takes around thirty minutes to reach Taksim Square by taxi. Fees depend largely on the destination in Istanbul. Rates are as much as fifty percent higher at night. Passengers should only take metered taxis and insist drivers turn the meter on.
Escalator walkways as well as travelators connect Terminal 1 (domestic flights) to Terminal 2 (international flights). The transfer takes about 10 minutes.
Banks, ATMs and bureaux de change are available. A pharmacy, children's playroom, hairdresser, florist, newsstand and medical services are available. Other facilities include tourist information and hotel reservations, bars, restaurants, duty-free shopping, a conference centre, post office and 24-hour left luggage.
There are both open and roofed car park options available close to the terminal buildings. These both have long and short-term parking options available.
Wireless internet connections are available in the Arrivals, Departures and General Aviation Terminals. This service is free at the lounges of the Arrivals and Departures Terminals. Additional wifi access spots within the terminal are available for a fee.