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PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Turkey has one of the best public transport systems in the world, capable of getting the visitor without a car to almost anywhere in the country. In the twenty years that I have been writing about Turkey I have never had a car, hired or otherwise, and yet I've managed to reach the remotest of locations by one means or another. 

That said, the bus system which is the bedrock of the public transport system is showing some signs of breaking down as those with money increasingly either fly or drive, leaving those with the least clout to take the buses. Where once services seemed to have been designed by bus travellers with the needs of bus travellers in mind increasingly they seem to be designed by town planners and construction firms with rather different agendas which means that bus stations are being located further and further away from the towns they serve and it is becoming harder to get on and off buses where you want to. 

Inter-city transport

Planes

The last twenty years have seen airports open all over Turkey, usually served by more than one carrier so that prices have been kept fairly low. Given the size of the country if you can afford to fly this is the quickest way to cover the most ground although there are no airpasses offering discounts for multiple internal flights. 

To get the best fares you normally need to book in advance and be warned that prices rise alarmingly in summer and over public holidays, especially at weekends.

Most airports are served by local buses or Havaş airport buses timed to meet the flights although a few such as Van Airport leave passengers at the mercy of taxis. 

Trains

Until recently Turkey's train network tended to be the butt of jokes with claims that it had been designed by Germans who were being paid by the kilometre and so designed the network to take the longest rather than the shorest possible routes. It didn't help that stations were often far from the town centre, and that trains often arrived and departed at very inconvenient hours. Prices were impressively cheap though.

Now Turkey is rapidly upgrading its train network with high-speed trains in operation on the İstanbul-Ankara, and Eskişehir-Ankara routes with many more routes in the pipeline including one that would link Kayseri with Antalya via Nevşehir and Konya. These new trains are far more comfortable than the old ones but the prices are also much higher. 

Some new local train services especially around İzmir are extremely comfortable, cheap and convenient although sometimes overlooked by travellers.

Buses 

There is no town in Turkey that doesn't have an inter-city bus network operating out of an inter-city terminal (otogar, terminal). Usually there are plenty of services throughout the day and you can show up without a ticket and expect to be on your way within the hour. This is not the case over public holidays though, and sometimes your plans can be thrown out because you want to travel at a time when the military are using the buses to move their soldiers. There are also unexpected transport black spots such as Sivas and Mardin where you can find yourself having to wait much longer than you had anticipated.

Almost all the bus companies offer comfortable seating with conductors (yardımcıs) who come round at intervals with hot and cold drinks, and cologne with which to freshen up. Water (su) is always available free of charge. These days most buses have decent air-conditioning (and you are NEVER allowed to smoke). What they don't have is toilets which means that on most - but not all - routes you stop every three or four hours at a service station (dinlenme tesisleri) where you will be able to get a meal. In Western Turkey these service stations are often mini shopping malls. Out east they are likely to be far more squalid. 

The three biggest otogars in the country are İstanbul's Esenler Otogarı (once shiny and new, now starting to look its age), Ankara's AŞTİ and İzmir's otogar. These are all still in the city centres although elsewhere bus stations are often far from the centre - Bursa's otogar, for example, is 15km from the centre, Samsun's is 13km. 

Most otogars permit servis shuttles, minibuses that meet the big buses and run passengers into the town centre. However, some authorities don't permit this (Bursa is one such guilty party), leaving passengers with heavy luggage to use local buses for which they must often buy a ticket in advance - not always so simple when you're a visitor.

Inner-city transport

 

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