Istanbul Cruise Port Accessibility
By John Sage
Istanbul cruise port disabled access is quite good, especially when compared with the hills and cobblestones that you’ll encounter near the tourist attractions.
Walking/rolling to Istanbul’s Old City would be a challenge, but there is an accessible Istanbul tram option. Unfortunately, the tram is extremely crowded during rush hour which is precisely when most cruise visitors would be using it.
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Disabled cruise passengers will need to move quickly to see the main attractions in this fascinating ancient city. Most people have visits to the accessible Blue Mosque and accessible Hagia Sophia on their must-do list. In my opinion, the Topkapi Palace is more interesting due to the history of its Sultan residents and the artifacts housed there. And who could visit this city without experiencing the accessible Istanbul Grand Bazaar?
many of the cobblestones and steep hills in Istanbul
I gave Istanbul cruise port a 4 Star Sage Accessibility Rating because it has fully-accessible public transportation from the cruise dock to the Istanbul city center. You do not need to make advanced reservations to use the accessible transportation. The extreme (and often overwhelming) crowds on the trams prevented me from giving it the higher accessibility ratings that I gave to the Monaco cruise port, the Naples cruise port, and the Barcelona cruise port.
There are multiple cruise docks in Istanbul. Some ships dock at the Karakoy cruise terminal while most dock at the larger Salipazari cruise terminal. The Salipazari cruise terminal is located right in front of the Istanbul Modern Museum and the Nusretiye Mosque located next to it. The view from the ship when you dock is below.
The cruise terminals are the red buildings located in the photo on the right. Follow the directions to the appropriate Istanbul accessible cruise port to go through passport control.
You will proceed through the red cruise terminal buildings. At the exit of the cruise terminal is where tour guides meet people who have pre-booked private accessible Istanbul guided tours.
Getting from the Istanbul Cruise Port to Istanbul’s Old City
The Istanbul cruise docks are located on the north side of the Golden Horn inlet which is across the Galata Bridge from all the tourist attractions in Istanbul’s Old City. While the distance is a challenge (as much as 2 miles depending on where your ship docks), the other challenge is the uphill slope after you cross the Galata Bridge. Consequently, disabled cruise passengers should book private accessible transportation or take the accessible tram.
to Hagia Sophia (3.2 km or 2 miles)
While accessibility on the Tram Line #1 is good, the biggest obstacle for disabled travelers is actually the crowds on the trams. The Tram Line #1 is enormously popular with locals and can be completely full of passengers going towards the Old City in the morning and away from the Old City in the afternoon (the same routes that cruise passengers will be using). The photo on the left shows a tram that was not very crowded (seriously). I discretely took the photo on the right showing how tightly people are spaced.
If you exit Cruise Terminal #1, you will turn left, pass the tour buses, and exit the parking lot by going past the gate shown in the photo on the right.
At the end of the driveway, is the Meclis-I Mebusan street. The Tram Line #1 runs in the middle of that street. To reach the Tophane tram stop, turn left and proceed 300 meters to the stop. Handicapped passengers can ride for free. Companions will need to purchase a token to get through the tram gate.
Most of the tram stations have a wheelchair accessible ramp that leads to a platform with level access onto the tram. Note – the tram shown on the right is going in the opposite direction that cruise passengers will want to travel (hence the lack of crowds).
One of the tram lines goes in the direction of Kabatas, and the other goes towards Bagcilar. To head to the Old City, you want to go in the Bagcilar direction. The Kabatas direction leads to the Funicular (which is wheelchair accessible) that goes up to Taksim Square.
The platform at many of the tram stops is located in between the tracks (example shown in the photo on the left). Wheelchair users should not have a problem going over the tracks (especially when compared to the more difficult cobblestones found throughout the city). Most tram stops have a couple of turnstiles with a wider gate for disabled passengers (shown in the photo on the right).
The list of accessible tram stations is shown overhead inside the tram. The ones that you will want to use are the Tophane station (where you will get in at the cruise terminal), the Sultanahmet station near the Blue Mosque, and the Cemberlitas station near the Grand Bazaar.
Kabatas – Accessible. End of T1 tram line and location of funicular train up to Taksim Square
Findikli – Accessible. This is the stop that cruisers docking at Terminal 2 will want to use.
Tophane – Accessible. This is the stop that cruisers docking at Terminal 1 will want to use.
Karaköy – Not accessible. Located in New Town, this is the closest stop to the Galata Bridge.
Eminönü – Not accessible. Close to Spice Bazaar
Sirkeci – Accessible. Close to several of the accessible Istanbul hotels that we recommend to clients.
Gülhane – Accessible. Close to the Archaeology Museum
Sultanahmet – Accessible. Close to Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Basilica Cistern.
Çemberlitas – Accessible. Close to accessible Gate 1 of Grand Bazaar.
Beyazit-Kapaliçarsi – Accessible. Close to Gate ??? of Grand Bazaar.
Taking the Funicular from the Kabatas Tram Stop up to Taksim Square
If wheelchair users want to go from the accessible Istanbul cruise port up to Taksim Square by public transportation, the best way is using the Funicular from the Kabatas tram stop. This route is not really helpful for cruise passengers (who should spend their entire day in the Old City), but may be helpful to reach some of our recommendedaccessible hotels in Istanbul.
There is an elevator at the Kabatas tram stop down to the Kabatas funicular station. A photo of the funicular station is shown on the right.
The funicular is reached through gates which require a token. Disable passengers are free, so try to get the attention of someone working there to let you in. To get down to the platform level, you will need to take the large elevator shown on the right.
The funicular brings you far uphill to Taksim Square. Consequently, the funicular (which looks similar to the tram) is sloped one direction and the platform is tilted another direction. The photo on the right gives you an indication of the degree of slope (it’s not too bad). Moving from the platform to the funicular in a wheelchair is not difficult (especially compared to the cobblestones and hills you will encounter in Istanbul).
To exit at Taksim Square follow the overhead signs to the elevator.
Taksim Square has cobblestones with 3 Star Smoothness with covering it. Wheelchair users may need to proceed slowly.
A map of Taksim Square showing the accessible elevator down to the funicular station is shown below:
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