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How to Navigate Transport in Turkey

Taxi
Taxi | © Fabio Sola Penna / Flickr
Its idyllic coasts, fascinating history and unique landscapes make Turkey a top travel destination for any curious traveller. Thankfully, getting around in this beautiful country is easy and budget-friendly. Here is your guide to navigating transport in Turkey with loads of helpful local tips.

Domestic flights

Domestic flights are wide and varied in Turkey, with Turkish Airlines leading the way in popularity and comfort. However, it must be noted that it’s pricier than other national airlines like Pegasus Airlines, Atlas Air and Onur Air. Regardless of which airline you choose, getting a relatively cheap ticket out of Istanbul to any major city in the country is quite easy.

Local tip: If money is an issue, get your flight out of Sabiha Gokcen Airport where prices are almost always lower than those out of Ataturk International Airport.

Turkish Airlines © Atimedia / Pixabay

Buses

With budget-friendly flights, buses have lost their popularity but they are still reliable, comfortable and affordable. A variety of bus companies within a similar price and quality range travel the country on a daily basis. Bus schedules and reservations are available here. Every city and town has a central bus station with minibuses and taxis waiting to take you to your accommodation.

Local tip: Explore new local delicacies at rest stops along your route.

Trains

Although not widely used, a good network of trains still exists, connecting the north, east, west and parts of the south. The only fast trains operate between Ankara, Konya, Eskisehir and Istanbul with a travel time of approximately four hours from Istanbul to Ankara. The most popular train route is Dogu Ekspresi (the Eastern Express) operating between Ankara and Kars. If you have a soft spot for spectacular mountain views, put on your warmest coat and get on this train during winter. For schedule info and ticket reservations, click here.

Cars

Roads in Turkey are well-connected and well-maintained, especially in the west. Renting a car is easy and straightforward with international car rental companies like Hertz, Europcar, Garenta and Budget available in Turkey.

Local tip: Traffic is especially bad between cities during public holidays and the number of car accidents also increase during these periods. Try to avoid the road on the first and last days of public holidays.

Ferries and boats

Cutting down your travel time and making it a bit more enjoyable is easy in Western Turkey with ferries and boats bringing sought-after locations closer together. If heading down to the Aegean or the Mediterranean, get on a two-hour auto-ferry from Istanbul to Bandirma. Tickets, port details and timetables are available here. Island hopping in Greece is available through Turkey’s coastal cities as well with all routes, timetables and ticket info provided here.

Minibuses and shared taxis (dolmus)

Most Turkish people get around in minibuses or shared taxis called dolmus, which are both affordable and frequent. They have set routes and stop anywhere along those to pick up and drop off passengers. All you have to do is raise your hand to hail one. They are undoubtedly uncomfortable and the drivers are notorious for their driving but they do get passengers from A to B for as little money as possible. You’ll need to ask around to learn the route because there are often no signs available.

Local tip: Make sure you have small change with you.

Taxis

Yellow cabs are on the pricier side but they are commonly used by locals. Hailing one on any major street in Istanbul is quite easy; however, smaller cities will require you to look around or use an app (see below for more info).

Local tip: It’s quite common for drivers to try to scam tourists so make sure the driver turns on the meter once you get on. Also, remember to always have cash with you as cabs don’t yet accept credit cards.

Transport apps

Although transport apps are not widely used all around the country, major cities like Istanbul, Izmir and Ankara have several apps that will make life easier on the go.

BiTaksi: The app lets you find cabs nearby and gives you the option of paying by cash or credit card. Using it will help you avoid getting scammed.

Uber: The legality of Uber in Turkey has been a hot topic (Uber officials say it’s legal while some authorities argue the opposite) and it is possible to be pulled over by police and be fined for using the company. In such cases, Uber pays the amount back to the customer. Regardless, the app is used widely in Istanbul.

Yandex: If travelling by car, Yandex is a better option than Google Maps to get directions. It will change your route based on traffic, saving you tons of time.