How To Get From Sabiha Gökçen (SAW) Airport To Istanbul City Center: 4 Easy Ways

Photo of author
Written By Louisa Smith

Co-Founder of The Turkey Traveler. Globetrotter, Adventurer, and Frequent Traveler to Turkey!

This website uses affiliate links. For more information, click here.

If you’re planning a trip to Istanbul and flying into Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW), it’s important to know the best ways to get to the city center.

There are two airports in Istanbul, and Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) is located on the Asian side of Istanbul, approximately 47km away from the historic district of Sultanahmet and the top tourist attractions.

But don’t worry, even though it’s far out of the city center, there are some convenient and easy ways to get from Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) to the city center, no matter what time of day you land.

Whether you prefer the convenience of the metro, the comfort of a Havabus bus, the ease of a hotel transfer, or the affordability of city buses, here are your options to consider for a smooth and hassle-free journey.

Key Takeaways: The Best Way From SAW to Istanbul City CENTER

If you don’t have much time and need an answer fast, here is an overview of the best ways to get from SAW to Istanbul city center:

  • Havabus – our recommended way. It takes you direct to Taksim and is comfortable. The journey is about 1.5 hours to 2 hours, depending on traffic.
  • Metro – there are 2-3 changes required and it takes 2 hours to reach the city center. This is the cheapest way to Istanbul city center from SAW.
  • Private Transfer – the best way for those with lots of luggage. You can prebook in advance or book with one of the transfer operators at the airport.
  • Taxi/Uber – may be your best option if you arrive after midnight and before 6.00am, but do book using Uber to get an idea of costs. This is the most expensive way, and not recommended.

Distance of Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) to Istanbul City Center


Istanbul sits on two continents. Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) is located on the Asian side, but Istanbul city center is on the European side.

Most tourists taking domestic flights will depart or arrive from Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW), as most international flights will land at New Istanbul Airport (IST) on the Europe side.

However, this is not always the case. We flew from London to SAW with Pegasus, which is an international flight, so make sure you check which airport you land in first. Turkish Airlines also fly to SAW.

The distance between SAW and Istanbul City Center is around 46km.

There are two neighborhoods in the city center; Sultanahmet, the historic neighborhood where you’ll find The Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, The Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace, and Taksim, a popular neighborhood where you’ll find Istikal Street, Galata Tower, and many of Istanbul;s museums.

To get from Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) to Central Istanbul, it takes approximately 1 hour 30 minutes by car, but if you plan to use public transport in Istanbul, it can around 2 hours to reach the city center.

Related Reading: How to Get From Istanbul Airport to the Asian Side (Kadikoy)

Ways To Get From Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) to Istanbul City Center

Now you know the distances between Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) and the city center, let’s look at the best ways to get from SAW to Istanbul city centre.

1. Metro (The Cheapest Way)

Sign for the metro at SAW
Look for the signs for the metro upon leaving the Baggage Hall.

One of the most cost-effective way to travel from Sabiha Gökçen Airport to the city center is by taking the metro.

The metro is cheap and efficient, and you can pay for your ticket with your contactless credit card.

While this option provides a direct connection to Kadıköy, it does require two changes to reach the city center, which may not be the most comfortable mode of transport for those with heavy luggage.

You also need to walk from the metro station to your hotel, which may be a distance from the metro station. This is something to consider before you opt for the metro as your mode of transport.

How to Take the Metro from SAW to Istanbul City Center

Entrance to the metro at SAW
Take the escalators down to the metro here.

To take the metro from SAW Airport, upon leaving the baggage hall, turn left and head to the end of the Arrivals Hall. You will see some escalators near the COVID testing area, which will take you down to the lower levels for the metro.

The metro then takes you directly from SAW to Ayrılık Çeşmesi (Kadakoy) via the M4 Kadıköy-Sabiha Gökçen Airport metro line. This journey takes 1 hour and has 21 stops.

To get to the city center from Ayrılık Çeşmesi, you will need to change onto the Grey Line (B1) and depart at Yenıkapı for those staying in Eminonu, or change again onto the Green Line (M2) to get to Taksim.

The entire metro journey from SAW to Istanbul city center takes 2 hours, including changing metro lines.

2. Havabus Shuttle Bus (The Most Convenient Way)

The Havast Bus at SAW
Once you see this bus, turn right.

For those seeking a comfortable and direct transfer, the Havabus bus service offers a convenient alternative to the metro.

These buses operate from Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW) and take you to Istanbul city center, specifically Taksim Square and Kadikoy Pier.

If you are staying in Eminonu or Sultanahmet, you will need to transfer onto the metro from Taksim Square or take the tram to where you are staying.

Havabus shuttles have English-speaking drivers, so no need to worry about language barriers.

How to Take the Havabus Airport Shuttle from SAW to Istanbul City Center

Havabus in Taksim
Where the Havabus drops you off in Taksim

The Havabus is really easy to take from SAW to the city center. The bus departs from outside the bus station, opposite the Arrivals Hall at Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW).

To find the Havabuses, exit the Arrivals Hall and cross the road. You will notice a building directly across – this is for the City Buses, and is where you can purchase bus tickets to take you to other destinations in Turkey such as Cappadocia, Izmir and more.

Next to this bus station, there is an outside area filled with coaches. There is one coach parked at the front with the words “Havabus” printed on the side. Turn right when you see this bus and you will find a row of all the Havabuses parked.

They each head to different locations, so be sure to ask the driver for Taksim to be directed to the right bus.

You can pay using contactless payment card on the bus, which at the time of writing was 125 Turkish Lira. Alternatively, you can pay the driver directly with cash. There are ATMs inside the Arrivals Hall of the airport.

The bus will drop you off on a side street just up from Taksim Square. It’s a 5 minute walk to Taksim Square Metro Station from where the bus drops you off.

The bus takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on traffic. I took this bus at 8.00am during rush hour traffic, and it took 2 hours in total.

Buses depart at 30 minute intervals, either on the hour or 30 minutes past the hour. You can see the full timetable here. The buses run from 6.30am until 00.30am.

Note on IETT Public Buses

You can also take a public bus from Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport to Kadikoy on the Asia side of the city. From there you can get a metro or ferry to the city center.

The buses that takes you from SAW to Kadikoy is the E10 and E11, and you can find the timetables for them here.

3. Hotel Transfer (Best For Those With Heavy Luggage)

Many hotels in Istanbul offer airport transfers or welcome pickups from Sabiha Gökçen Airport to their premises included in the booking, or as an additional fee – it’s best to check with your hotel first as they may have the best rate.

If you don’t have a hotel transfer included, you can either pre-book one in advance, or book one at the airport from the operators in the Arrival Hall.

We always recommend booking in advance to get the best rate.

How to Take A Hotel Transfer from SAW to Istanbul City Center

airport shuttle counters at SAW
Airport Shuttle counters at the Arrivals Hall

If you have arrived at Sabiha Gökçen Airport and didn’t get your transfer sorted, don’t fret. You can simply book your hotel transfer from one of the operators in the Arrival Hall.

Once you leave the Baggage Hall, turn right, and just before the ATMs you will notice a couple of counters with “Shuttle” or “Transfer” written on the sign. There are around 2-3 operators here, so ask around to see which one has the best deal.

All the hotel transfer operators are in this section, so you don’t need to wander down the hall to find any other operators.

4. Taxi / Uber (A Last Resort)

taxis at SAW
The taxi rank outside the Arrivals Hall at SAW

We would never recommend taking a taxi in Istanbul unless in absolute need, as too often the taxi drivers will try to scam you or rip you off.

However, if you are arriving at Sabiha Gökçen Airport late at night, or in the early hours of the morning, you may not have much choice.

Since the metro stops at midnight, and the last Havabus leaves at 12.30am, if you are arriving after these hours you will either need to pre-order a hotel transfer or take a taxi.

If you left it too late to book a transfer, this is your only option. We recommend you book using Uber, as this will at least allow you to negotiate costs up front. You can expect to pay between 1000 – 1600 Turkish Lira ($32 – $50 USD) for a taxi depending on the time of day.

Read more: A Guide to Uber in Istanbul

FAQs About Getting From SAW to Istanbul City Center

Do you need to buy an Istanbulkart?

Since March 2023, all public transport in Istanbul can be paid for using a contactless payment card meaning you no longer need an Istanbulkart. If you don’t have a contactless payment card, you can use the ticket machines.

How much is a taxi from SAW to IST Airport?

If you need to get from Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) to Istanbul Airport (IST) by taxi, expect to pay 1700 TL ($54 USD) – 2,800 TL ($89 USD) depending on the time of day.

Is there a shuttle between SAW and IST?

No, there is no direct shuttle service between the two airports in Istanbul, SAW and IST. You will either need to take a taxi or get the metro. The metro is your cheapest option, but it takes about 3 hours. A taxi will take you one hour.

Final Thoughts

Navigating from Sabiha Gökçen Airport to the heart of Istanbul should not feel stressful, and the good news is that it’s not.

There are many transportation options to suit any travelers preferences and requirements, but the option you choose will largely depend on your time frame, budget, and the time you arrive at SAW.

We hope this guide helped you plan your journey ahead of time and that you have a smooth and enjoyable start to your Istanbul adventure.

Leave a Comment