Getting Around Turkey: Transportation Tips

Indeed, one of the best things about Turkey for a traveler is its list of transport options, from buses and bikes to trains, rental cars and more ...

Travel to Turkey

There are many ways to get to Turkey from Western Europe. The quickest and cheapest method is to fly, but sometimes you may want to turn a journey into an adventure and take the bus or train or ferry. 

For people living in Turkey access to cheap flights to and from their home country is an important consideration. From Europe the cheapest direct flights are usually from Germany, but those from the UK may also benefit the cheapest fares due to newly launched airlines. Inevitably, flights from the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Far East are high. To get a cheaper flight to Turkey, you may have to buy an indirect flight.  

If you are prepared to travel by bus, you are likely to be able to get to Turkey overland for less than the cost of airfare. Indeed, if you travel by train or drive your own car, it is likely to be much more expensive than flying. 

It is no longer possible to travel directly to Turkey by train from Western Europe although there are daily trains from Budapest and Bucharest. You can also travel by train from Athens to Istanbul, with one change in Thessaloniki.  

Major Airline companies

     • Turkish Airlines (THY) : www.thy.com
     • Pegasus Airlines : www.flypgs.com
     • Onur Air : www.onurair.com.tr
     • Atlas Jet : www.atlasjet.com
     • Sun Express : www.sunexpress.com

Travel within Turkey

Public transport system in Turkey is very convenient and reasonably priced, and provided by planes, buses, trains, minibuses (namely dolmus), and subways (in major cities). Students have the right to a special discount for intra-city and inter-city transportation.

The intercity bus network is the backbone of the country’s transport system. Big, comfortable buses equipped with reclining seats and hostess service (some of them have even toilets) link up all the big population settlements, usually on a regular basis. Some of the bigger bus companies offer airline-quality service, with single seats, headsets, free newspapers etc, with online ticket reservation and sales system. Fares are still very reasonable, especially on routes where there is plenty of competition. Most towns have a bus station linked to the city centre by free shuttle bus. Buses stop every three or four hours at service stations where it is possible to buy snacks, hot meals, tea, coffee and last-minute gifts.

Unlike the bus network, Turkey’s rail network is fairly poor. However, a few high-speed trains have recently been introduced on the busy Istanbul to Ankara and Ankara to Konya route with premium fares to match their higher quality. On all other routes, train fares are cheaper than bus fares. By paying extra, you can sleep in a couchette or in a sleeper carriage on most of the longer overnight journeys. Recently, TCDD (www.tcdd.gov.tr) has introduced monthly railcards for travel around Turkey. Otherwise, there are 20% discounts for return trips for students.    

With the start of new private airlines serving domestic destinations, air transportation has become cheaper. Several private airlines operate on a number of new routes. Most offer cheap fares, although you need to book early to get a discount at some airlines. Fares operate on a one-way basis with no reductions for round trips and no air passes available.

Major Bus Companies

     • Ulusoy Turizm : www.ulusoy.com.tr
     • Varan Turizm : www.varan.com.tr
     • Kamil Koc Turizm : www.kamilkoc.com.tr
     • Pamukkale Turizm : wwww.pamukkaleturizm.com.tr
     • Metro Turizm : www.metroturizm.com.tr
     • Nilufer Turizm : www.nilufer.com.tr

 

In-Town Transport

Within towns the local authorities normally provide bus services. These are usually fairly frequent except late at night and fares are generally low. 
 
Similar to intercity train services, train services inside towns are also pretty poor. There are limited train services in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

If you live in Izmir or Istanbul, you will find that the most pleasant way of getting about the city is by ferry. Inner-city ferries are cheap, regular and usually fairly comfortable. Istanbul has also some enclosed, high-speed seabus services on the longer routes, e.g. to the Princes Islands. 

Increasingly the larger towns depend on tram and metro services to move people from place to place. Istanbul has the most comprehensive tram and metro network and this is still in the process of expansion. Similarly, Ankara, Izmir, Eskisehir and Adana have got their own metro systems.

Most of the bigger cities also have dolmus services on popular routes. Usually these are minibuses which leave as and when they fill up. 

Within major cities, it is possible for regular users of public transport to buy payment cards that not only give them a discount but also save them from having to queue for tickets. There are also reduced prices for students. In Turkey, students and teachers can obtain cards entitling them to discounts on public transport. 

PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN TURKEY

Discover Turkey, home of public transport

TURKEY'S PUBLIC TRANSPORT

There are number of public transport options in all major and touristic cities of Turkey including suburban trains, local buses, subway, trams, minibuses and taxis.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT SYSTEM

There are huge public transport system in Turkey such as local buses, taxis, minibuses, tram and metro. Your choice of transport will depend on how quickly you want to get from A to B.

Local Buses: All towns and cities have plentiful local buses which are cheap to use. You can purchase a smart ticket for a small deposit which, once loaded with credit, can be used not only on the buses but the metro, tram and ferries.

Minibuses (Dolmus): Minibuses are useful alternatives to local buses and run on standard routes posted on the front screen of the vehicle.

Taxis: Taxis are plentiful and the best boarded at designated taxi stops. Payment is according to the on-board meter. All taxis in Turkey are required by law to have an on-board meter. However, set prices are more common for intercity journeys which are posted clearly at the taxi stop.

RAIL TRANSPORT

Metro: Turkey’s metro system of underground and surface rapid transit trains is growing quickly. Major cities of Turkey now have the underground metros. You need to buy the smart ticket to travel by metro.

Tram: Several cities also have overground trams, which are a quick and efficient way of getting around.

Transport in Turkey

Transport in Turkey, both public and private.

Rail transport

Turkey has a well-developed, state-owned railway system built to standard gauge (1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in)) which falls under the remit of the Ministry of Transport and Communication. The primary rail carrier is the Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları (TCDD) (Turkish State Railways) which is responsible for all long-distance and cross-border freight and passenger trains. A number of other companies operate suburban passenger trains in urban conurbations.

Road transport

There are two types of intercity roads in Turkey: - The first is the historical and free road network called State roads (Devlet Yolları) that are completely under the responsibility of the General Directorate of Highways except for urban sections (like the sections falling within the inner part of ring roads of Ankara, Istanbul or İzmir. Even if they mostly possess dual carriageways and interchanges, they also have some traffic lights and intersections.

Air transport

In 2013 Turkey had the tenth largest passenger air market in the world with 74,353,297 passengers.

Water transport

Sea travel in Turkey - expert tips on getting to Turkey by sea.

List of highways in Turkey

Getting Around Turkey: Transportation Tip

For a land mass as big as Turkey — stretching from the tip of Greece to Syria, from Bulgaria to Iran, and Iraq to Georgia and Armenia — the Turkish populace never seems to be without a means of transportation.

Flying to and Around Turkey

With a host of airlines to fit your budget and schedule, Turkey is easy to navigate by plane. Even Turks, who traditionally travel by road, are now flying more. Why? Prices have dropped, and it’s just plain faster. A flight from Izmir to Istanbul takes just one hour, compared to a bus ride that can take up to 10 hours.

Turkey Taxis and Car Rental

Turkish taxis are generally very reliable and affordable, although they are a little more expensive in Istanbul that in other parts of the country.

Taxi

Turkish taxis are fitted with digital meters. If your driver doesn't start his, mention it right away by saying 'saatiniz' (your meter). Check your driver is running the right rate, which varies from city to city. The gece (night) rate is 50% more than the gündüz (daytime) rate, but some places, including İstanbul, do not have a night rate.

Renting a Car

“Renting a car in Turkey? You must be crazy!” That’s the most typical response from those who have already tried it.

Trains and Trams

Train travel has been a relatively unknown quantity for most travelers in Turkey and even for the average local resident. However, the networks serving cities such as Izmir, Istanbul and Ankara are about to undergo a massive overhaul.

Metro

Several cities have underground metros, including İstanbul, İzmir, Bursa and Ankara. These are usually quick and simple to use, although you may have to go through the ticket barriers to find a route map. Most metros require you to buy a jeton (transport token; around ₺2) and insert it into the ticket barrier.

Tram

Several cities have tramvays (trams), which are a quick and efficient way of getting around, and normally cost around ₺2 to use.

Bus

For most city buses you must buy your bilet (ticket) in advance at a special ticket kiosk. Kiosks are found at major bus terminals and transfer points, and sometimes attached to shops near bus stops. The fare is normally around ₺2.

Coaches and Dolmus (Mini-Buses)

The most popular mode of transport is a bus or coach for long-haul trips of more than four hours across the country, while smaller road trips are invariably served by Dolmus (small mini-buses).

Local Dolmuş

Dolmuşes are minibuses or, occasionally, taksi dolmuşes (shared taxis) that operate on set routes within a city. They're usually faster, more comfortable and only slightly more expensive than the bus.

Dolmuşes & Midibuses

As well as providing transport within cities and towns, dolmuşes (minibuses) run between places; you'll usually use them to travel between small towns and villages.

Motorbikes

For a thrill — or for taking your life into your own hands — why not try two-wheeled travel? Scooters and motorbikes are the favorites for young and adventurous travelers, and they are relatively inexpensive and easy to rent.

Turkey Water Taxis

National water taxi services are provided Fast Ferries, offering excellent transportation between major coastal cities.

Boats and Ferries

Ferries are another popular mode of transportation, particularly in and around Istanbul, over the Bosporus, in and around Izmir, and from the Turkish holiday centers of Bodrum and Marmaris to the Greek islands.

Bikes

Often overlooked, bicycles are one of the best ways to see Turkey at your own pace. You can hire these from local tour operators and, on a day’s rental, pop to the local sites and beaches. It’s also an enjoyable way to stay fit while you travel. To arrange a bike rental, consult the front desk at your hotel, a guidebook or the local tourist office.

Seaplanes

A relative newcomer to the transport sector is the seaplane. Privately operated, the seaplane flies travelers from Istanbul to coastal areas. Seabird Airlines is the only registered company that operates this service, and prices are quite hefty compared to normal bus and train travel. However, it is achieving 85 per cent capacity in flights and intends to expand its service from Istanbul to Ankara. If you fancy a different transport option and a one-off experience with a cool view, then why not take a seaplane?

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