just a quickie public service announcement: don’t buy tokens (jeton) for istanbul public transit. it’s a couple extra steps (and a refundable TL10 deposit) to procure, but get the istanbulkart reloadable transit card, especially if you’re staying somewhere that is not on the main T1 tramline.
my airbnb studio apartment (p.s. i love it) in taksim, which is up on a hill. there is a great funicular that connects to T1 but that means if i need to get to the old city (where most of the main sights are, and not have to walk/huff-puff), i need to transfer. according to this price-increase (i think) poster, that could get expensive:
if you use tokens, it’s TL3 a pop, meaning TL6 each time i want to go to the old city (round trip TL12, about $6.60!). if you use an electronic method (either the akbil or istanbulkart), it’s only TL1.95 for the first ride and TL1.25 for the transfer. at TL6.40, you’re saving almost half! the benefit of the istanbulkart vs akbil is that it’s contactless, so you can keep it in your wallet and purse and just touch the whole thing to the reader at the fare gate. there is a display that tells you how much was deducted (so i’m able to verify the pricing in the poster) as well as how much is left on your card.
the ticket vending/reloading machines in the stations seem to be constantly out of istanbulkarts to distribute, so i waited in line at the ticket kiosk behind all the buses in taskim square. you can’t miss it; it’s the one that has the constant line of people. i just gave the man a TL20 bill and told him i wanted an istanbulkart with TL10 on it. easy. (remember, TL10 deposit — which once you get back, you can use for the airport bus back to the airport!)
to reload, use the machines at the tram or metro stops. there are instructions in english, but pretty much you touch your card to the reader, insert money, and touch again. i couldn’t figure out how to load multiple bills (maybe it’s not possible — in this case, i had two TL5 bills i wanted on the card), so i just went through the process twice. the only annoying thing is that there’s a loud automated voice (for vision-impaired?) that broadcasts your business to everyone around.
UPDATE: the third transfer (which i needed to get to chora church) was TL1. also, when i went to return the card, the guy didn’t give me my TL10 deposit back, just what was left on the card. YMMV but i was not in the mood to argue.