Stretching in the Aegean Sea towards the Caucasus Mountains, Turkey covers a place bigger than the size of Texas. Fortunately, it's well-connected by domestic flights and buses, although less so by rail.
With generally good highways and varied landscapes which range from sea shores to summits, Turkey is prime road-trip territory. Larger cities have metro and tram systems, while even the smallest villages are generally served by a minumum of one daily dolmus (shared taxi) or minibus.
Here's our guide to the very best methods for getting around in Turkey.
Nearly 50 cities in Turkey have active domestic or air-ports, though the smallest might have as little as one daily flight, typically connecting and among Istanbul's two airports or using the capital of Ankara. Domestic tickets are usually cheap unless you're trying to travel during one of the major Turkish holidays. And you may fly from one end of the nation to the other in only under 2 hours.
Domestic flights are operated by national carrier Turkish Airlines, along with its subsidiaries AnadoluJet and Sun Express, and by low-cost carrier Pegasus Airlines.
The transport company Havas offers comfortable bus transfers into nearby towns and cities from 19 airports. Other places are with local buses and minibuses as well as taxis. Apart from Antalya and Izmir, most cities don't have rail systems connecting to their airports.
Bus and dolmus
At any hour during the day or night, buses of any size and standards are criss-crossing Turkey, supported by a vast network of 24-hour rest stops, most of which could pass for small shopping malls. Most long-haul buses stop at these every few hours so passengers can smoke, eat, pray, use the bathroom, and look for local foods and souvenirs.
Larger bus the likes of Kamil Koc, Pamukkale and Varan operate coaches between major cities with reclining seats, snack service and sometimes even seat-back entertainment systems and wi-fi. Journey times could be long, and ticket prices aren't always that as good as flight fares, but it is a really local way to travel.
To reach smaller towns and villages, you'll likely need to transfer to some dolmus or minibus in the nearest otogar (bus station). A dolmus is most often a minibus, though sometimes a van or sedan, that sparks only once it is full of passengers (dolmus means “filled” in Turkish), which could mean wait times in little-traveled areas. Dolmuses operate on a collection route, but passengers need to tell the driver where they would like to leave. The vehicles usually have an indication within the window indicating their destination, and in busy cities you may see a tout calling out the routes of the next departing dolmus. In many places, dolmus routes are being transformed into minibus ones, with scheduled departures and set stops.
Tip to take long-distance buses in Turkey: When bus stations can be found on the city's outskirts, large companies will usually provide a minibus or van servis (service) from the town center that's included in the ticket price.
An extensive and mostly well-maintained highway system and a insightful scenic small villages and fascinating, off-the-beaten-track sights make road-tripping a satisfying method to travel in Turkey. Rental car with insurance from a major international company like Avis, Budget or Enterprise usually costs between $50 to $70 each day. Both manual and automatic transmission cars are typically available. For travel into more remote, rugged places such as the mountainous Black Sea region, renting a 4WD vehicle is strongly recommended.
Drivers in Turkey can be aggressive and do not always follow the rules of the road, so keep your wits in regards to you and expect the unexpected. Parking and traffic in Istanbul in many cases are abysmal, therefore it will probably be worth paying the higher rate to rent at the airport and start your journey after that, rather than the city center.
Tip for renting a car in Turkey: Car rentals should be designed with an electronic device for recording highway and bridge tolls, and also the cost is going to be added onto your total bill once you return the automobile.
Train travel is usually limited and slow in Turkey, though the choices are improving. One major exception for this is the busy high-speed line connecting Istanbul, Eskisehir and Ankara. Make sure to buy tickets well in advance with this route, and for the popular overnight trip around the Dogu Ekspresi (Eastern Express), a leisurely and Instagram-friendly journey between Ankara and the border city of Kars. All trains are operated by Turkish State Railways, including local services around Izmir and trains to Konya and Adana.
Despite being bordered by four seas, Turkey doesn't have many options to get around by boat. Ferries from Istanbul travel across the Marmara Sea to Yalova (the place to find the springs of Termal) and Mudanya (near Bursa). A ferry also runs between Bodrum and Datca, two popular vacation destinations around the country's southwest coast.
Taxis can be found almost everywhere in Turkey, from big cities to small towns. In Istanbul, they have a poor track record of surliness and trying to scam passengers, particularly tourists. Using the local ride-hailing app BiTaksi (also is obtainable in Ankara) or Uber (which only offers rides in standard yellow and turquoise cabs due to outcry by taxi drivers) can provide more accountability, just like having your hotel call taxis instead of finding one in the pub. Such troubles are encountered a smaller amount elsewhere.
Public transportation in cities in Turkey
Turkey's largest cities – Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara and Bursa – have the ability to some type of metro or light rail system, as do Antalya, Konya and Gaziantep, among a handful of others. Smaller cities are usually well-served by bus and dolmus or minibus, though the lack of route maps and signage could make mtss is a tricky way to get around for visitors. The tiniest towns and villages might have only infrequent minibus service.
Turkey isn't a particularly bike-friendly place, with limited infrastructure and little driver understanding of sharing the street, but bike touring in the Turkish countryside is rewarding for skilled and well-prepared cyclists. Several marked trekking routes, including the Evliya Celebi Means by western Turkey and the Hittite Trail east of Ankara, are also accessible by cyclists as well as long-distance walkers.
Accessible transportation in Turkey
Newer airports, trains, metros, trams, buses and ferries in Turkey might have some features to make them more available to travelers with disabilities, however these can be inconsistently applied. In crowded cities, unexpected obstacles could make getting around tricky for travelers without mobility challenges.
Click here to download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide.