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Budget Travel in Turkey: A journey on the overnight bus

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Varan Bus
Buses are a cheap, reliable and comfortable way to get around Turkey. Photo: janoganette

Writing about adventures in Paris may be wonderful, but everyone needs a holiday. That’s why I spent the month of July exploring the amazingly beautiful Turkey. After some R&R along the Lycian Coast (which I highly recommend as far as beach holidays go, by the way), I needed to figure out how to make my way back to Istanbul before my flight home.

Transiting around Turkey is a relatively stress-free and economical experience. For all the money I spent on travel, I could probably have bought myself only a one-way train ticket in France!

In order to get around, you have several options:

Turkey by air

Domestic flights in Turkey are generally very budget-friendly due to competition between various Turkish airlines. There are several airports that serve the country, and you can fly with:

Atlasjet: www.atlastjet.com
Onur Air: www.onurair.com.tr
Pegasus Airlines: www.pegasusairlines.com
Sun Express Airlines: www.sunexpress.com.tr
Turkish Airlines: www.thy.com

Prices can range from as low as €30 to around €100… not bad!

Turksih Railway

Turkish State Railways is a dependable form of transport with low prices. Photo: Romel J

Turkey by rail

The Turkish railway system is generally considered to be outdated, but things are slowly improving. Take the train if you’re after a more calming, scenic travel experience, because the railway is certainly not the most direct way between Turkish destinations, but it sure can be beautiful. The high speed train between Istanbul and Ankara is becoming quite popular, taking only 3.5 hours and costing around €33.

For more information, I recommend visiting Seat 61’s page on Turkish trains.

Related: Turkey’s rail revolution

Turkey by bus

Traveling by bus is the most popular and developed form of travel in Turkey. A bus trip in Turkey will most likely be a highly enjoyable experience! I was extremely impressed with the efficiency of all parts of my bus trips, from the planning and purchasing of the tickets to journey itself. Here’s the low-down: almost every Turkish town and city will have a bus station, called an “otogar”. You can buy your bus ticket (“bilet“) there either in advance or just before your trip, depending on the popularity of the route. Here are some of the major bus companies you will find at the otogar:

Kamil Koç: www.kamilkoc.com.tr
Ulusoy: www.ulusoy.com.tr
Varan: www.varan.com.tr

For more information on bus routes, visit Turkey Travel Planner, an amazing source of information.

I purchased a one-way ticket from Fethiye, a small city on the southwestern coast, to Istanbul for €33 with Varan, which was comparatively expensive, due to the fact that I was traveling during a major Turkish holiday. I arrived for the journey 10 minutes early and had plenty of time to spare. By 7 PM, the bus was on its way, right on time.

The seats were big and comfy and relined back to an almost horizontal state. Other perks included the air conditioning, which was a huge comfort in the 100-degree weather, the service of tea, coffee, soda and snacks every few hours, and the mini-TV with Turkish-dubbed films. My bus did not have Wi-Fi, but many do.

As we drove north, the bus stopped twice at rest stops, where it seemed there were thousands of other buses and travelers mid-journey. At the stops you can get out, walk around, purchase some snacks (there are, of course, kebab restaurants) or stay in the bus snoozing. With no appetite at either 11 PM or 3 AM, I stayed in my comfy seat. When I opened my eyes again, it was 7 AM, and we were nearly at our destination. By 8:30 AM, I had arrived at Istanbul’s main bus terminal, Büyük Otogar.

Related: Istanbul budget tips from transit tickets to nightlife

 

Instanbul bus station

The main bus station in Istanbul, Büyük Otogar. Photo: Takehiko Ono

From there, I wearily searched for a Varan mini-bus (“dolmus”) with the words “Taksim” on the window to bring me to my final destination. Sure enough, there was a bus waiting for me, and I enjoyed a free trip into central Istanbul.

Taking the overnight bus in Turkey was a great experience. I was comfortable, safe, well-fed and my wallet was happy. Sleeping on the bus meant not having to pay for another night in a hotel or hostel. If you’re considering visiting Turkey, don’t be thrown off by the idea of a long bus trip—you might just enjoy it!

About the author

Kaitlin Davella

Kaitlin D'Avella is a freelance writer currently based in Paris. She is American, but has lived in Montreal and London, UK in addition to her native New England. She is an avid budget traveler, having recently returned from a journey exploring parts of India. Read more of her work on her website.

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4 thoughts on “Budget Travel in Turkey: A journey on the overnight bus”

  1. During our first time in Turkey we spent a week in Istanbul and then a few weeks along the coastlines. As a result we missed we missed Cappadocia (Kapadokya in Turkish). We primarily used the very good buses that were also affordable. During our second trip to Turkey we bussed in to Istanbul from Bulgaria. This time we were not going to miss Cappadocia. We visited a couple of travel agencies in the old part of town in the SultanAhmet area and discovered that we could take an overnight bus from the main otogar to a variety of towns in Cappadocia and be dropped off the next morning at a number of hotels of our pick based on price. In addition, we could also book a variety of tours in Cappadocia that would enable us to get around to see the primary sites. We did exactly that and then continued our trip by bus again.

    Reply
  2. Bill in San Diego

    Hi Kaitlin,

    So the bus was direct from Fethiye?

    It didn’t make stops in Marmaris, Kusadasi, Izmir, etc.?

    Feel like posting a pic of the seat you were in?

    Also, did you rent a car while touring the coast?

    I’ve just started planning so thanks for this timely article.

    Sevgiyle kal?n,

    Bill

    Reply
  3. Good, brief report.
    Should state that the the comfy buses are actually available on the long distance connections. Shorter stretches can be in small, somewhat dingy affairs.
    And although buses are normally safe one should be alert and prepared to a, how to say, distinctive way of driving. I do remember traveling on a night bus from Mersin to Izmir and it was quite an hair raising experience: at one point our driver decided to overtake another big bus that was going at about the same speed! It took at least a couple of kilometers for him to accomplish his feat. I was scared as hell and a young student seating next to me explained that it was all in the hands of Allah, anyway.

    Reply
  4. Interesting! Good to know about the buses for when I plan my trip to Turkey. And such a great point about not having to pay for a hotel if traveling overnight, that’s a great budget-friendly travel tip. Thanks for this post :)

    Reply

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