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Istanbul has been excited about its new airport, which, in its construction, was predicted to be the envy of cities around the world. Istanbul Airport is certainly impressive, with eye-catching Ottoman-inspired architecture, and a spacious interior. And it complements Istanbul, a bustling city of bazaars, mosques, palaces, and ancient ruins that never fails to excite visitors. The new airport has taken over all of the roles of its predecessor and handles flights from popular transatlantic carrier Turkish Airlines. The wonders of Istanbul are well within reach for American travelers.
Travelers arriving at Istanbul International Airport will have a few transfer options to choose from. Havaist and IETT are the primary public transportation providers. The most common route to the city center is to take the IST 19 bus to Taksim Square, which takes just over 30 minutes and stops in the Besiktas neighborhood and at the Zincirlikuyu metro stop. Havaist H2 services are cheaper but less comfortable. Also, they head only to Mecidiyeköy metro station, so they aren't ideal for reaching downtown Istanbul. Taxis and shuttle buses are common alternatives, although taxis can be costly over longer distances. Car rental is also available from international operators such as Hertz and Avis.
Istanbul International Airport is around 30 miles (40 kilometers) outside the city proper, which means that transfers by road can take some time to complete. Travelers should leave themselves 45 to 60 minutes for taxi rides from central neighborhoods, and longer at peak travel periods (although traveling between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. should be absolutely fine). Buses take as long as 90 minutes to reach the center of town, but the closest metro stop is 30 minutes away by bus, so it's possible to reach central hotels within one hour of leaving the terminals. Journey times to specific suburbs can vary as well. For instance, taxis to Galata and Sultanahmet on the western side of the Bosphorus can take 35 minutes, while taxis across the water to Kadikoy will take around 10 minutes longer.
Istanbul International Airport is well set up for travelers, with all of the facilities to be expected from an airport that opened in 2019. There are ATMs and currency exchange offices, restaurants, fast food eateries, and cafés, as well as the usual selection of stores selling travel essentials. The onsite hotel provides premium accommodation (and may be useful for incoming travelers), and there are also plenty of places to arrange accommodation, pick up rental vehicles, or book taxis into the city. Additionally, WiFi is free but needs to be accessed via a special Istanbul Airport app. The airport is also a work in progress, so new services appear at the airport all the time.
As a new construction, Istanbul Airport is well suited to disabled travelers. Staff at the information desks are trained to assist those with impaired mobility and can help out with all phases of the boarding or arrival process. Barrier-free access in the airport is a key aspect of the design, with elevators on hand to transport wheelchair users or the elderly to higher floors. And there are also tactile pavements at various exits to help those with visual impairments find their taxis or public transport services. Most exits feature call buttons that enable travelers to request help with using the car parks and accessing rental vehicles. There are 131 wheelchair accessible restrooms onsite. The airport caters to all arrivals, whatever their mobility needs.
Upon arrival, don't worry too much about struggling through customs or baggage reclaim. The process is fairly efficient, and shouldn't take longer than 20 or 30 minutes. IST 19 buses offer a comfortable RIDE to the most popular tourist areas. Travelers should consider buying an IstanbulKart, a travel card that covers public transport fares across the metro area. Travelers should also bear in mind that Turkey uses the lira as its currency, and that having some cash on hand is always helpful. Withdrawing money from an ATM is often cheaper than exchanging currencies at an airport exchange counter.