A card for Istanbul

Access to public transport and not so easy to get. May we introduce: The Istanbul Card.


Istanbul, the city on the Bosporus and the door to Asia. But also the city with a somewhat quirky access card for public transport: the Istanbul Card. Doesn't sound important enough for a blog entry. And if the following story had not taken place in two slightly frustrating incidents, the author would probably not have announced his intention to write about it in the heat of the moment. But now the reader gets to enjoy this little episode of our travel joys.

Part I
After a not very restful night on the bus from Sofia to Istanbul, we arrive at the bus station at 7am. It is the largest of its kind we have encountered on our journey so far. Our destination is one of the four airports in Istanbul and of course it is the one furthest away... So we make our way to the metro station to find a way there. Immediately we are approached energetically and a member of staff eagerly explains what options we have. When we want to discuss these briefly, it is going on too long for him and he starts all over again. So the different ways are explained to us about five times before we set about buying a ticket for the first part of this journey. We withdraw Turkish Lira for the first time and he does the rest. That was easy.

After a first ride on the metro, we now need a ticket for the train before we have to change to a metro again later. We quickly find a ticket machine and try our luck. However, the machine does not want to accept our 50 Lira (a little more than 3 Swiss Francs). After some trying, we are told by a passer-by that the machines take a maximum of 20 Lira. Of course, we don't have that kind of money. Fortunately, there are six ATMs here as well, so we withdraw 40 Lira several times to get small notes. Back at the ticket machine, we are disillusioned to find that there is no return money either, which is difficult at a ticket price of 23 Lira. Another passer-by gives us the tip to exchange in a shop. So we climb the stairs to find one. In front of us is a four-lane road that separates us from any shops. Our patience is finally at an end, probably due to fatigue, and we decide to take a taxi. An hour and a half ride for 20 francs. We afford ourselves the luxury.

Part II
After a detour to Switzerland, we are back in Istanbul and set out to explore the city. To do this, we want to use public transport, for which we were recommended an "Istanbul Card", which can be topped up and with which all means of transport can be used. We try again at a metro station. We queue at the information desk. When we get there, they tell us that the card can only be obtained from a machine. One staircase further down, we find one. This time we have enough small change, because we are learning. After some back and forth - the language settings, as well as our knowledge of Turkish, leave a lot to be desired - we manage to buy two cards and even top them up. A good feeling.
But the feelings of happiness quickly vanish when the turnstile lights up red. What's wrong now? A member of staff explains to us that the card first has to be linked to an HES code (which you get when you enter the country). Thank you Corona. So we go back to the information desk and queue again. Then we were told that unfortunately this could not be done here, but there was a blue bus in the square above where we could get help. We set off to find the bus. We don't succeed and the police can't help us either. We go back to the information desk and queue again. We are told that the bus was there earlier, but has probably already left. Not exactly a big help. This time we are referred to a tourist office. And indeed, after standing in a queue there again, we are finally helped. We can't trust the whole thing yet and make our way back to the metro station. Carefully we hold the card up to the turnstile and finally it lights up green. We have made it! The three quarters of an hour was not in vain, even if the system does not make it easy for tourists. Satisfied and a little exhausted, we finally sit in the tram.