How to Take the Istanbul Bosphorus Ferry from Europe to Asia

The Bosphorus Strait is an important waterway in Istanbul connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and separating Europe from Asia. Ferries are a popular mode of transportation for locals and tourists alike.

There are 22 ferry routes across the Bosphorus and the crossing takes just 15 minutes. Tickets cost as little as 12 Turkish Lira ($0.50) with sailings every 15 minutes from 6am to 11pm.

I’ve visited Istanbul on many occasions when travelling overland between Europe and Asia and love to take the Bosphorus ferry as it’s quick, cheap, convenient and offers fantastic views of Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and the city skyline.

Boring stuff: I have visited each of the places I recommend and give you my honest opinion, warts and all. All photos are my own unless otherwise stated and may not be reproduced without permission. Affiliate links may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

Istanbul Ferry Routes

Bosphorus Ferry
Bosphorus Ferry and European Istanbul

There are around 22 routes for the ferry to Asian side of Istanbul and below I’ll list some of the most popular. Many of the routes get very busy with commuters, especially around rush hour, so below I’ll list five of the best ferry routes for tourists.

1. Sirkeci Harem Ferry

Cost: 10 Lira ($0.50)
Journey time: 15 minutes
Operating hours: 06:00 – 21:00
Departure port: Hobyar, 34112 Fatih/İstanbul – Click here for directions.
Arrival port: Selimiye, Sahil Yolu No:36/1, 34668 Üsküdar/İstanbul – Click here for directions.

This vehicle and foot passenger service is one of the most popular ferry rides in Istanbul. It takes just 15 minutes to cross from Europe to Asia, costs the same as a ride on the metro and offers incredible views of the city and famous landmarks.

Sirkeci is a ten-minute walk from the old town, Hagia Sofia and Blue Mosque so is the perfect place for tourists to take a trip on the river without paying the price of a tour (though there are some great Bosphorus ferry tours too).

On my most recent trip (April 2023), I took the bus from Tbilisi in Georgia to Istanbul (30 hours) and was dropped directly at the port in Harem which made getting to my hostel in the old town a piece of cake.


2. Eminonu to Kadikoy Ferry

Istanbul, Turkey
The Bosphorus River in Istanbul, Turkey (European side)

Cost: 12.25 Lira ($0.65)
Journey time: 20 minutes
Operating hours: 06:00 – 23:00
Departure port: Hobyar, 34112 Fatih/İstanbul – Click here for directions.
Arrival port: Caferağa, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul – Click here for directions.

This route is one of the busiest and most popular ferry routes across the Bosphorus. Eminonu is located on the European side of Istanbul, while Kadikoy is on the Asian side. The ferry ride takes around 20 minutes, and you can enjoy stunning views of the Maiden’s Tower and the Istanbul skyline.


3. Karakoy to Uskudar Ferry

Cost: 14.50 Lira ($0.75)
Journey time: 15 minutes
Operating hours: 06:00 – 23:00
Departure port: Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul – Click here for directions.
Arrival port: Mimar Sinan, 34672 Üsküdar/İstanbul – Click here for directions.

Karakoy is another ferry terminal located on the European side of Istanbul, while Uskudar is on the Asian side. The ferry ride takes around 15 minutes, and you can enjoy views of the historic Galata Tower and the impressive Istanbul skyline.


4. Besiktas to Uskudar Ferry

Cost: 10 Lira ($0.50)
Journey time: 10 minutes
Operating hours: 06:00 – 23:00
Departure port: Sinanpaşa, 34353 Beşiktaş/İstanbul – Click here for directions.
Arrival port: Mimar Sinan, 34672 Üsküdar/İstanbul – Click here for directions.

Besiktas is a popular neighborhood on the European side of Istanbul, and the ferry ride to Uskudar takes around 10-15 minutes. This route is popular for its views of the Bosphorus Bridge, one of the most iconic landmarks in Istanbul.


5. Kabatas to Kadikoy Ferry

Cost: 14.50 Lira ($0.75)
Journey time: 25 minutes
Operating hours: 06:00 – 23:00
Departure port: Meclisi Mebusan Cd. Kabataş, 34427 Beyoğlu – Click here for directions.
Arrival port: Caferağa, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul – Click here for directions.

Kabatas is located on the European side of Istanbul, near Taksim Square so this is a popular route for tourists. The ferry ride to Kadikoy takes around 25 minutes, and you can enjoy views of the Maiden’s Tower, the Istanbul skyline, and the Princes’ Islands in the distance.


Istanbul Ferry on the Bosphorus River
Istanbul Ferry on the Bosphorus River

Istanbul Ferry Schedule

You’ll need to check the Istanbul ferry schedule for the individual sailing you want. The ferries start running at around 6am and run every 15 to 20 minutes until 11pm at night. You can find the latest ferry schedules here.

How to Buy Tickets for the Istanbul Ferry

You just buy your ticket in the machine at the port or use your existing Istanbul travel card to enter.

Top Bosphorus Ferry Tours

Another great way to experience Istanbul is to take a Bosphorus ferry tour. Below I’ve listed five of the top tours.

1. Bosphorus Dinner Cruise and Show

This three-hour Bosphorus dinner cruise takes in some of the city’s top sights, including the Ciragan Palace, Bosphorus Bridge, Anatolian Fortress and Maidens Tower. The trip includes a private table and a three-course meal including classic Turkish dishes.

Onboard entertainment is also provided in the form of Turkish folk dancing, dervishes, belly dancing and flamenco. This is one of the best Bosphorus River cruises and is excellent value for money. Book online today.

2. Bosphorus and Golden Horn Cruise

This two-hour Bosphorus and Golden Horn cruise includes an audioguide explaining points of interest along the way. The Golden Horn is the confluence of the Alibey and Kaguthane rivers and is considered one of the largest natural harbours in the world.

See the Galata Tower, Hagia Sofia, the Bosphorus Bridge and other Istanbul landmarks as you cruise between Europe and Asia. Click here to book your cruise.

3. Sunset Cruise on Luxury Yacht

Those looking for a little more luxury can opt for this sunset cruise onboard a luxury yacht. Watch as the lights of Istanbul begin to twinkle as the sun sets across the Bosphorus. Enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks as you pass by Istanbul’s most famous monuments.

The cruise lasts for two and a half hours and includes an English-speaking guide. This is one of the top-rated Istnabul cruises and an excellent way to see the city by night. Click here to book.

4. Bosphorus Music and Dinner Cruise

This Bosphorus dinner cruise with live music is an excellent way to see the sights and enjoy a pleasant evening on the water. The tour includes hotel pickup in an air-conditioned coach, a private table for dinner and unlimited drinks.

The experience lasts for three hours and takes in the top city sights from the Bosphorus Bridge to Maidens’ Tower and more. Live entertainment is provided on board and there is an English-speaking guide. Click here to book today.

5. Luxury Catamaran Cruise with Dinner

Cruise along the mighty Bosphorus on a luxury catamaran while taking in all the sights including the Cirigan Palace, Mehmet Bridge and the Dolmabahce Palace. Enjoy dinner at a private table with complimentary drinks and live entertainment.

This three-hour excursion includes local Turkish dishes accompanied by traditional Turkish dancing so you can be entertained while you take in the evening skyline. Click here to book.


Safety in Istanbul

Istanbul Skyline
Istanbul Skyline and the Blue Mosque

Scams

Watch out for scams. On my first visit to the city in 2017 my friend and I were scammed by a pair of shoe shiners. They drop something and rely on good-natured passersby to pick up the aforementioned item and hand it back.

In gratitude, they offer a free shoe shine and then another appears and they shake you down. I’m still mad about it today six years later! Don’t make the same mistake we did. The unfortunate moral of the story is not to bother helping people in future.

Read my full guide to safety in Turkey and ensure you have proper travel insurance in place before your visit.

Our partners at SafetyWing provide cover for travellers, backpackers and Digital Nomads. Get a quote here and ensure you have the proper cover for your trip.

Istanbul Ferry FAQs

How much does a ferry ride cost in Istanbul?

A ferry ride in Istanbul costs from as little as 10 Turkish Lira ($0.50) making it one of the cheapest and best ways to see the city skyline. Bosphorus cruises start from $30.00 including dinner and drinks.

Are there ferries to Istanbul?

There are up to 22 ferries connecting the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side as well as the nearby Princes’ Islands.

Where can I take the ferry in Istanbul?

There are many ferry terminals across Istanbul. The most popular ports for tourists include Sirkaci and Karakoy and Besiktas on the European side and Harem, Kadikoy and Uskudar on the Asian side.

How long does the ferry take Istanbul?

The Istanbul ferry takes between 10 and 25 minutes. Bosphorus River cruises usually last for around three hours.

Is Bosphorus night cruise worth it?

Taking a Bosphorus night cruise is definitely worth doing as these are great value (under $30) and include dinner and drinks. The twinkling lights and illuminated landmarks look wonderful at night.

Final Thoughts

Now you know all about the best ways to cross the Bosphorus from the Istanbul ferries to cruises. Crossing the river is one of my favorite things to do ni Istanbul as it offers amazing views of the gorgeous city skyline and major landmarks from the Bosphorus Bridge to Hagia Sofia. SO, what are you waiting for? Book that trip today!

You might like these other articles about travel in Turkey:

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About the author:

Steve Rohan is a writer from Essex, England. He has traveled to over 60 countries, lived in Armenia, China and Hong Kong, and is now living the digital nomad life on the road.

Steve prefers “slow travel” and has covered much of the world by train, bus and boat. He has been interviewed multiple times by the BBC and recently featured in the documentary Scariest Places in the World. See the About page for more info.

Where I am now: Yerevan, Armenia 🇦🇲

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