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
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.