Getting Around Turkey
All of Turkey’s major regional towns and cities are connected by air to Ankara, Istanbul and other major transport hubs including Izmir and Antalya. Turkish Airlines (www.turkishairlines.com) provides the largest internal flight network. Other airlines operating on key routes within Turkey and internationally include Atlasglobal (www.atlasglb.com), Onur Air (www.onurair.com.tr), Pegasus Airlines (www.flypgs.com) and SunExpress (www.sunexpress.com.tr).
Turkey’s road network continues to improve, with four-lane motorways (otoyol) connecting major cities, and well-surfaced modern highways elsewhere. However, further east and in rural areas, roads may be less well surfaced.
Standards of driving can be poor, and serious accidents are common. Main highways are well policed, and radar cameras are in use. Fines are levied on the spot for speeding offences; drivers of rental cars must pay the penalty when returning the vehicle to the rental company, which may add an additional administration charge. In rural areas, and especially in southeast Turkey, drivers may encounter road blocks manned by armed jandarma (militia) officers.
Side of the roadRight
Road conditions and standards of driving in Turkey can be poor. There is a road toll system in Turkey whith uses electronically-read HGS cards; hire cars should be fitted with these.
Both chauffeur-driven and self-drive cars are available in all large towns and resorts. All international companies are represented.
There are many types of taxi, share-taxi and minibus in operation. Taxis are numerous in all Turkish cities and towns and are recognisable by their chequered black and yellow bands. All taxis have a meter which must be switched on at the start of the journey. For longer journeys, the fare should be agreed beforehand.
A dolmuş is a collective taxi or minibus which follows specific routes. Each passenger pays according to the distance travelled to specific stops. The fares are fixed by the municipality. The dolmuş provides services within large cities to suburbs, airports and often to neighbouring towns. This is a very practical means of transport and much cheaper than a taxi. Taxis may turn into a dolmuş and vice versa according to demand.
Cycling through Turkey is entirely possible but cyclists are advised to make sure they are prepared for the heat, and ensure bikes are in good condition as the rough roads are frequent, especially in the countryside. Cycling in the major cities is relatively uncommon and should only be attempted by the brave. Watch out for heavy traffic as drivers may not be used to bicycles sharing the road.
There is an extensive bus network around Turkey linking the larger urban centres to smaller villages, and if you're willing to put up with long-distance overland travel, these can be much cheaper than taking domestic flights.
The minimum driving age is 18 and front seat belts are compulsory. Children under 12 may not sit in the front. The speed limit is 120kph (75mph) on dual carriageways, 90kph (56mph) on highways and 50kph (31mph) in built-up areas.
The Turkish Touring and Automobile Club (tel: +90 212 282 8140; www.turing.org.tr) provides insurance and advice for foreign drivers.
An International Driving Permit or photo-ID licence is necessary. Green Card international insurance, endorsed for all Turkish territory (or Turkish third-party insurance obtained at a frontier post) and car ownership documents are also required. A 'carnet de passage' is required for those continuing to the Middle East.
You can bring cars into Turkey for a maximum of six months in any year. For longer stays, it is necessary to apply to either the Ministry of Finance and Customs or the Turkish Touring and Automobile Club.
Extensive conventional bus services operate in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. There are buses in all other large towns. These are generally reliable, modern and easy to use. Tickets are bought in advance from kiosks and validated on board. In Istanbul, you can pay as you go by buying jetons (tokens). Alternatively, an Istanbulkart smartcard can save money on bus, tram, ferry and metro journeys. These have replaced the old Akbil cards, and you can buy them at vending machines and booths near stops and stations.
Ankara has a four-line metro system; Istanbul's is more extensive but covers mainly the more central areas of the city. The Marmaray tunnel, an underground railway under the Bosphorus rive, connects the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side of the city in just eight minutes.
Many trains of the Turkish Railways (TCDD) (tel: 444 8233, in Turkey only; www.tcdd.gov.tr) have sleeping cars, couchettes and restaurant cars. Some are air-conditioned. Fares are comparatively low, but are more expensive for express trains. Discounts are available for students (though a Turkish student card may be required), groups, round-trips and passengers over 60. Children aged seven and under travel free. You can buy tickets at TCDD offices at railway stations and TCDD-appointed agents. The journey from Istanbul to Ankara takes 4 hours.
Train Tour Card: allows 30 days' unlimited travel on most of the Turkish train network. Tour cards are available for high-speed trains, express trains and sleeping car trains. Validity begins on the first day that the card is used.
InterRail One-Country Pass: offers travel for three, four, six or eight days in one month within Turkey. Travel is not allowed in the passenger's country of residence. Travellers under 26 years receive a reduction. Children under 12 travel free when accompanied by an adult using an Adult Pass. Supplements are required for some high-speed services, seat reservations and couchettes. Available from Voyages-sncf.com (tel: +44 844 848 5848, in the UK; www.voyages-sncf.com).
Eurail Turkey Pass: offers travel for three, four, five or eight days in one month within Turkey. Available to non-EU nationals from Eurail (www.eurail.com).
A frequent car ferry crosses the Dardenelles at Gallipoli, from Çanakkale to Eceabat and Gelibolu to Lapseki. Istanbul Fast Ferries (tel: +90 850 222 4436; www.ido.com.tr) operates frequent seabus services from Bostanci, Kartal and Yalova to Yenikapi, Yalova and Bandirma.