In this post, I want to reflect on my travel around Turkey last year. I was there for 5 weeks in total and I visited 8 different cities – Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, Kusadasi, Aydin, Antalya, Konya and Ankara. I spent two weeks in two of Turkey’s most popular summer resorts. Additionally, I explored Ottoman and Seljuk heritage and saw many wonderful historical sites that I’ve written about in my previous posts. I travelled by bus around the country. But, how easy is the bus travel in Turkey? Would I do it again and would I recommend this mean of transport to other people?
I was a bit apprehensive before I went to Turkey, because I didn’t know how easy was to move around by bus and whether or not there was a well established network system that covered destinations that I intended to visit. But, I didn’t allow my fears to stand in the way and I plunged myself into adventure. I knew that I would find the way, I would do the same as Turkish people who inevitably travel in all directions, all over the country.
HOW DID MY TRAVEL ACROSS TURKEY GO?
All in all, I think that in terms of places that I visited and the time I spent in each of them, I planned the trip very well. But, I made two important mistakes.
The first one was that I didn’t stop in Manisa, a town only 39km from Izmir. I could have stayed there for one or two nights or perhaps I could have done a day trip from Izmir. Manisa was an important Ottoman city, there is a lot of Ottoman heritage there. But, I found that out when it was already too late, I was too far away to able to go back.
The second mistake was that I didn’t stop in Denizli and Pamukkale. I passed through Denizli on the way from Aydin to Antalya. It was while we were waiting for new passengers to come aboard at the bus station in Denizli that I thought about this. I don’t know how much there is to see in Denizli, although I am sure that one day would have been perfectly fine. But Pamukkale, only 16km from Denizli, is a miracle place, famous for the mineral rich thermal waters that flow down white travertine terraces. I could have shortened my stay in Kusadasi and could have visited these two places. Anyway, perhaps I will go back there at some point in the future.
BUS TRAVEL IN TURKEY
So, how easy is the bus travel in Turkey? Well, it’s very easy. There are many bus companies and they connect most cities and towns within the country. There are numerous options between major cities, while smaller towns are also connected, although with less frequency.
If perhaps, when you go to buy your ticket, one bus company does not go to the destination where you want to go, just check with another bus company. The biggest bus companies cover the whole of Turkey. I used three companies: Metro, Pamukkale and Kamil Koç.
Finally, the bus travel in Turkey is very affordable. The most expensive ticket that I paid was 110 Turkish liras, for the 6 hours journey from Aydin to Antalya.
BUS TRAVEL FROM ISTANBUL TO OTHER TURKISH CITIES
You don’t need to worry about buying your bus ticket too far in advance, although I made sure to buy my tickets at least 3 days before I travelled. In Istanbul, you don’t need to go to the bus station to buy a ticket, especially because bus stations are far from the centre.
Rather, you should find an office of the bus company that you want to travel with. After Istanbul, I wanted to go to Bursa. So, I went to the the Metro office near Taksim Square and bought my ticket there. But as you can see in the photo below, I could have also chosen Pamukkale or Anadolu, as both these companies were in the same place.
You can also see that in this Metro office you can buy bus tickets to various destinations in Bulgaria and Greece.
ISTANBUL – BURSA
The day I travelled to Bursa, I had to present myself at this Metro office approximately an hour and a half before my journey. What happens is that the Metro mini bus arrives and collects Metro passengers and takes them to the bus station. So, you don’t need to worry about how to get to the bus station, they will take you there. This service is free of charge, it’s included in the cost of the ticket. Make sure that you use this service, otherwise you would have to take a taxi to reach the bus station. But, that would be an unnecessary difficulty, especially if you don’t know Istanbul well.
BUS TRAVEL BETWEEN OTHER TURKISH CITIES
BURSA – IZMIR
Once I’ve gone through that initial experience of buying the ticket in Istanbul, I’ve learnt everything that I needed to know for my further journeys. So, as soon as I arrived to Bursa, I bought the ticket for my next travel to Izmir. I suggest that you do the same, provided that you know the date of your next travel. The photo below is the bus station in Bursa and you can see counters of many different bus companies that operate in Turkey.
Additionally, if you buy your next ticket as soon as you arrive to the bus station, it will save you time and spare you an effort of having to look for the bus office in the city that you are visiting.
The bus station in Bursa is new, there are many places where you can eat or have a drink. But, some stations that I’ve seen were not as new, although there were places selling food and drinks in all of them, so you don’t need to worry about that, especially if there is a long journey ahead of you. You can buy everything at the station. Plus, prices are the same as what you would pay in the city, unlike in western Europe where everything sold in bus (and train) stations is a complete rip-off.
IZMIR – KUSADASI
From Bursa, I went to Izmir. Izmir is also a very big city and the set-up was the same as in Istanbul. The day I had to travel from Izmir to Kusadasi, I went to the Metro office. But here I made several mistakes and that’s perhaps something for you to keep in mind. My bus to Kusadasi was at 12.00am, while the mini bus collected us at 11.30am. I was assured that half an hour was more than enough to arrive to the bus station. And in fact, we arrived to the station at 11.55am. In all honesty, 5 minutes would have been more than sufficient for me to take my next bus, had I not made one crucial mistake.
The bus terminal in Izmir is on two levels and I went to the upper level, the same one to which we arrived from Bursa. But, I should have gone to the lower level. My bus departed from the lower level and I missed it by 2 or 3 minutes.
Anyway, I went and bought a new ticket, but with a different bus company – Pamukkale. I first went to Metro, but their next bus was departing in 6 hours. There was no need for me to wait. Thus, within 5 minutes I was on the way to Kusadasi. It wasn’t a big loss financially, the bus journey from Izmir to Kusadasi was 20 Turkish liras.
So, at the time when you are buying your ticket, make sure that they tell you the platform number. It’s better than having to look for the platform when you arrive at the station. Even then, keep your eyes wide open, as your bus may stop at the adjacent platform. Nothing is set in stone in Turkey.
KUSADASI – AYDIN
After Kusadasi, I went to Aydin. There is no bus service between these two cities, as they are very close. I took the mini bus, also from the main bus station. Mini buses run every 15 minutes and you don’t need to buy your ticket in advance. If there is no space in the mini bus when you arrive, simply wait for the next one, you will be the first in the queue. That journey took 1 hour.
When you arrive to Aydin, the mini bus will stop in the centre. So, if your hotel in the centre, get off there. There is no need to go to the bus station and then return to the city. The bus station in Aydin is far from the centre.
By that time, I was becoming an expert in bus travel in Turkey. I bought all my remaining bus tickets in Aydin – to Konya, Ankara and Istanbul.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT TO CONSIDER
One other thing to keep in mind is that there is public transport from every bus station in Turkey. Perhaps, it may seem too complicated to use and that taxi is a much easier option. Well, it’s true that taxi is the most comfortable way to move from the station to the place where you are staying. But, it may not be the fastest. I learnt this in Antalya, where I took a taxi from the bus station to my hotel. However, when I was leaving Antalya, I took a tram on the way back to the station. While the taxi travelled approximately 1 hour because of heavy traffic, the tram took only 20 minutes and it was much cheaper.
In Konya, I took the tram from and back to the station. It was fast and cheap. But, you just need to find the exact stop where you need to get off for your hotel.
Otherwise, all buses on which I travelled were in a good state, comfortable and with an on-board service. Every bus has a steward who looks after passengers and serves drinks and snacks. You can ask for a drink whenever you want, as many times as you want.
All bus routes have prescribed stops where they usually stop between 20-30 minutes. My longest journey was 6 hours and the bus stopped several times. On shorter routes, there was one stop.
In the photo below, you can see Yöresel Ürünler Pazarı – where we stopped on the way from Ankara to Istanbul.
I spoke with someone in Ankara and we touched the subject of bus travel in Turkey. He told me that buses used to be much more popular in the past. Nowadays, the low cost airline companies have taken over from bus companies.
Indeed, air travel is one more option for you to consider for moving around Turkey. In my case, I could have perhaps taken a plane at the very end of my stay, when I travelled from Ankara to Istanbul. But, I decided to travel by bus. I had time and I wanted to see the landscape.
In any case, it all went well, in fact much easier than I though that it would be. I am very glad with my extensive bus travel experience in Turkey, it will certainly make it much easier next time, if I decide to go back there to see the rest of the country.