The extraordinary gateway between Europe and Asia, Turkey, covers a relatively vast area; from the Aegean Sea all the way to the Caucasus Mountains, the country's land is as varied as it is beautiful - and with that variation comes a need for varying transportation methods. As a nation that's twice the size of Germany and slightly larger than the US state of Texas, Turkey does enjoy being well-connected across numerous regions as well as on an international scale. Served by international and domestic flights, it's fairly easy to travel to and from the country, as is flying internally, and its highways make traversing its diverse terrains quite simple, not to mention pleasant in some parts - think mountain summits, city skylines, sprawling hills, and picturesque shorelines for an accurate picture of the drive-by vistas to take in on a road trip.
Although Turkey's railway system does leave a little more to be desired, its major cities boast excellent metro and tram systems, plus even many of its smaller towns and rural villages are served by the odd minus or 'dolmuş' - the term for a shared taxi - at least once a day. In any case, whether tourists intend to descend to savor this stunning nation's vibrant culture, captivating cuisine, major metropolises, charming countryside, breathtaking beach resorts, or its ancient cities steeped in history, they'll need to know how to get from A to B - and it's not always so simple for those unfamiliar with Turkish transportation, especially if it's their first time visiting Turkey. However, keep the following guide to getting around in Turkey to hand when touring its characterful lands, and holidaymakers are sure to find navigating this spectacular country a breeze - and as the place where Eastern Europe blends with Western Asia, they'll want to make the most out of exploring such an incredible place enriched with a fusion of west-meets-east cultures and customs.
Traveling By Air In Turkey
Around 50 or so cities in Turkey have international and domestic airports serving them; however, the smallest of the bunch may only have one or two flights daily, the majority of which connect to one or both of the country's main cities: the capital of Ankara and Istanbul, the latter having two well-served airports. The nation's namesake national carrier, Turkish Airlines, operates most of the domestic flights traveling within it, although its two subsidiaries - AnadoluJet and Sun Express - along with the budget carrier - Pegasus Airlines - offer internal flights regularly as well.
Domestic flight prices are very affordable in most instances, except during peak vacation season in Turkey and any of its major holidays. Couple budget-friendly fares, regular flights, and ample routes with short journeys entailing less than two hours from one end of the country to the other, and it's fairly easy to see why air travel in Turkey is a popular option.
In addition, most airports are served by bus transfer companies that transport passengers to and from their nearby cities, while others have local buses, minibusses, and taxis connecting travelers to airports from cities. However, the trains in Turkey don't typically connect people with airports, which is something to bear in mind when considering transport options between cities and airports.
Traveling By Bus And Dolmuş In Turkey
Thankfully, Turkey's bus system is world-class, with ongoing routes throughout any time of the day or not. The country boasts an impressive network of roads and highways, most of them having plenty of 24-hour service stations and rest stops, including shopping malls along the way, which are all perfect for weary passengers needing to stock up on essentials and refreshments during their journey. The majority of long-haul buses make stops every few hours, allowing travelers to stretch their legs, purchase food and drinks, visit the bathroom, and check out the souvenir stores en route.
Some of the more expansive bus companies, including Kamil Koç, Pamukkale, and Varan, also offer coaches with reclining seats, snack services, and occasionally onboard entertainment and Wi-Fi. These larger transport firms tend to provide coach journeys between Turkey's major cities, opening up a comfortable way of traveling if flying doesn't appeal. Although bus and coach trips can be long, and ticket prices aren't all that different from flights, they're a popular mode of transport and an experience in themselves since they're a quintessential local way of travel. Furthermore, when taking larger companies' routes to and from bus stations situated on a city's outer edges, they normally provide passengers with a van or minibus service from the respective town center, which handily is usually included in the ticket price.
Conversely, those who are venturing to and from rural villages and small towns may find that buses and coaches don't often operate in these areas, which means they'll likely need to transfer to a minibus or dolmuş at the closest bus station - namely, an 'otogar' in Turkish. Generally, a dolmuş is a characterfully flamboyant minibus for the most part; however, it can occasionally be a sedan or a van. In any case, it's advised to be aware that traveling via dolmuş can involve long waiting times for departure in more rural areas since they only set off once they're full - and the hint is in their name; 'dolmuş' is the Turkish word for 'filled.'
Lastly, passengers need to be aware that dolmuş vehicles do operate on a set route, and they'll need to inform the driver where they want to stop and get off. Most have a sign displayed, which shows the intended destination, so it's easy to see where any given one is headed. Also, there are sometimes touts broadcasting the routes and destinations of the next dolmuş in bigger, busier cities, which makes it handy for travelers searching for the right one to hop on. As transport in Turkey's busier urban parts develop, many dolmuş routes are being updated, now featuring properly scheduled departures and pre-planned stops - much like how minibusses are operated.
Traveling By Taxi In Turkey
Taxis in Turkey are in abundance and widespread; they're available pretty much everywhere, be it in big cities, smaller towns, and even in rural villages. Despite being a convenient and ready way to travel, some Turkish cabs - particularly those in Istanbul and big cities popular with international guests - do have a notorious reputation for trying to con tourists; thus, care is advised when scoping out a taxi - notably in the form of agreeing on a price with the driver before entering the vehicle and accepting a ride.
For a higher level of security and accountability when using taxis in Turkey, it's recommended to use the country's local ride-calling app called BiTaksi, or alternatively, its well-known counterpart: Uber. However, note that Uber in Turkey only offers services via standard yellow and turquoise cabs due to complaints from local taxi drivers. What's more, travelers can ask their hotel to call a taxi instead of grabbing one on the street, which helps avoid the issue of being overcharged by dubious cab drivers. Of course, not all taxis are untrustworthy like this, but there are enough of them to make such antics important to be wary of and on the lookout for.
Traveling on Public Transport In Turkey's Cities
Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, and Bursa are the largest cities in Turkey, and all of them boast an operating metro or modest railway system. Others, like Antalya, Gaziantep, and Konya, also have these, but they typically aren't as well established, nor run routes as often. The country's railway operations aren't that impressive, with very few train routes on offer - even the ones that do run tend to stick to chief cities only, leaving smaller towns and rural regions off the map. However, the good news is that such smaller cities and even many countryside areas are served by minibusses, dolmuş, and buses, with the most rural parts perhaps only having infrequent services.
While the distinct lack of signs and route maps makes public transport a little more challenging, public transport is a great way to get around - so long as passengers are alert and on the ball. In any case, Turkish people are very friendly and hospitable, so anyone unsure of how to get to where they want to be should have no issue when asking a local person for help.
Traveling By Train In Turkey
Operated by Turkish State Railways, train travel in Turkey is the least convenient way to travel since it's so limited. It's also said to be slow and unreliable, although those responsible for the railways are currently trying to develop its systems, fortunately, so improvements are expected in the coming years. In spite of its less-than-positive reputation, one railway option is breaking the rule; the high-speed line that links Istanbul, Eskişehir, and Ankara is highly spoken of and has become noticeably favored.
Due to this service's convenience and popularity, purchasing tickets well in advance is recommended, as they sell out quite fast. Locals and tourists also have good things to say about the exceedingly popular Doğu Ekspresi (Eastern Express) - a photogenic overnight trip with tons to see and snap pictures of along the journey between Ankara and Kars.
Traveling By Car In Turkey
Turkey's highways are excellent and well-maintained, along which are no lack of picturesque small villages, off-the-radar sights, and sublime coastal oases. With such gorgeous sites and views on offer, combined with the country's top-tier road systems, road-tripping in Turkey is a rewarding experience. Plenty of tourists enjoy renting cars and hitting the road to discover the country's diverse regions, and it gets even better; vehicle rental with insurance is widely available and usually affordable, with automatic and stick-shift transmission cars possible to hire. Plus, car hirers should note that any vehicle they rent should have an electronic device that clocks bridge and highway tolls, the cost of which will be recorded on the bill upon returning the wheels.
Conveniently, a wide variety of vehicles can be rented in Turkey - from small cars to larger people-carriers - but for anyone adventuring in the country's more rugged and remote regions, like the mountains in the Black Sea area, a four-wheel-drive is definitely advised. Although there are lots of positives to exploring Turkey by car, it doesn't come without a couple of cons; many drivers in Turkey can be quite bold and even belligerent at the best of times, with enough appearing to willfully ignore the rules of the roads. Because of this, visitors intending to drive during their vacation must keep an eye out for risky behavior at the wheel. As for the second negative, drivers should also note that traffic in large metropolises like Istanbul can be horrific, and parking is no better - so perhaps avoiding being in the driver's seat in built-up places is the wisest move - who wants road rage on a 'relaxing' vacation anyway?
Traveling By Bicycle In Turkey
Cycling in cities is not generally a good idea as a result of underdeveloped bike-friendly infrastructure and aggressive, unaware vehicle drivers who don't typically enjoy sharing the road. Although, at the other end of the scale, exploring Turkey's countryside and rural regions on two wheels is a beautiful experience rated highly by seasoned cycling enthusiasts. So long as cyclists are knowledgeable of safe biking practices, have ample supplies, and ride safely, numerous dedicated trekking trails accessible to both hikers and bikers are prime playgrounds for exploration. Out of all the cycle-friendly routes, two favorites enjoyed by locals and tourists include the Hittite Trail located east of Ankara and the Evliya Çelebi Way in West Turkey.
Traveling By Boat In Turkey
Turkey doesn’t offer that many boat routes, which is surprising given it's bordered by no less than four seas. Among the options the country does offer, though, are Istanbul's popular ferries, traversing the Marmara Sea to Yalova - the home of the famous Yalova Termal hot springs - as well as to Mudanya. On top of these, one ferry also goes to and from Bodrum and Datça - two of Turkey's iconic, very popular vacation destinations situated on the southwest coast.
Clearly, traveling around Turkey is indeed doable through various facets, although each mode of getting from one place is unique in itself, with some being far more comfortable, affordable, and convenient than others. Wherever Turkey's tourists find themselves, it's refreshing to know that there's always a way of getting from A to B. From soaring through the skies and floating on a boat to cycling, road-tripping, buses, and coaches, and doing it like the locals aboard the whimsical and wondrous Turkish minibus or dolmuş duo, transport options abound for one's wonderful exploration of this experience-rich land, where two major continents collide.