When first arriving in any new country you’ll need to figure out how to get around. In Turkey, you can utilize the bus, train, planes, and more! With our route along the stunning Turquoise Coast, we knew we would be taking some buses in Turkey… However, we had no idea what we were in for! Here are some tips for using the Turkish buses or “Dolmus” and interesting stories from our own experience using the bus.
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3 Types of Buses in Turkey
Let’s start with the most interesting form of transportation in Turkey! Known as Turkish Dolmus, these minibuses might look intimidating at first. Yet, they can be a very effective way to get around the country.
The minibuses run an intricate network of local and long-distance set routes. The best part about using the Turkish Dolmus is that in the popular destinations there are a TON of them running. For example, on the famous Turkish Riviera, it seemed like there was one every 30 minutes available going between the coastal towns.
The negatives are more glaring especially if you’ve never taken this type of transportation before. The drivers seem to stop at will picking people up and don’t stop when the seats are full. That means you’ll have people standing in the aisles of these tiny buses for long distances. And let us tell you, it’s quite the bummer if you’re the one standing going up and down through the Turkish mountainside!
Big Turkey Bus
This version of the Turkey bus is the standard one you’re probably used to. The routes are set with fewer stops than the minibuses and sometimes you will even be assigned seating. The big buses in Turkey are typically used for longer distances but sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw. It really depends on where you’re going and coming from.
We were always happier when we saw the Turkey bus station had a row full of larger buses compared to the smaller Turkish Dolmus. They definitely make for a more comfortable ride and usually have air conditioning. If you’re making long-haul trips in Turkey you can actually book your tickets in advance to reserve your seat.
Private Transfer Shuttle
There are also shuttle buses in Turkey that run direct routes in between destinations. However, these are often way more expensive than most travelers are willing to pay.
We would only suggest this form of transportation if you have a large group and it makes sense money-wise. Group shuttles are also popular if you are traveling from the airport to a popular town in the area or vice versa.
If you’re traveling long-distance and you have the extra cash, you’re probably better off just paying for a flight than using a private transfer.
Where Do the Buses in Turkey Go?
Quite simply… Everywhere! Really it seems like there isn’t a place you can’t go by bus in Turkey. We were shocked at the wild routes there are available across the country.
The problem we found is that some of them didn’t link up with our exact plans. Even on some schedules along the Turquoise Coast we had to switch multiple times and were curious why there was no direct route.
Sometimes we had to plan our travel days around the Turkish buses which made things a bit more difficult. At the end of the day though, the price was hard to compete with for how far we were traveling. I mean you can’t really beat a few dollars for a 3-5 hour bus ride!
→ Turquoise Coast in Turkey: 12 Best Tips For Visiting the Turkish Riviera
Drivers of the Turkish Buses
Unless you speak Turkish, you’re going to be relying heavily on your driver to know when you get on and off the minibuses. We found that asking for help prior to getting on the bus was completely pointless most of the time. I’m sure some things were lost in translation, but inquiring with the hotel and restaurant owners for any information regarding the buses would often result in 10 different answers.
Not to worry though! Most drivers we encountered using the Turkey bus system were super friendly and willing to help. They did not speak perfect English but easily enough to get you to and from your destination.
There are typically signs in the front window of the Turkish buses showcasing their stops. If not, you just need to be proactive in asking for assistance.
Also, after you get on the bus and are seated the drivers will come around and collect the money. Sometimes if they’re too busy or don’t have enough change they’ll wait until later or when you’re getting off to take payment. On most minibuses if you have a credit card you can swipe it as you get on, too.
Our First Experience Using the Turkish Bus System
So our first Turkey bus ride got a little wild. With it also being our first time in the country, we were already a bit confused about how to get around. Initially, we had asked our hotel for help and they didn’t mention that we first had to take a bus outside of Bodrum to a bigger bus station.
Only then would we board a minibus and start our route to Fethiye. They had also assured us it was a large bus and not the smaller ones we’d seen bumping around the city.
Once arriving we went inside and found out that the only vehicles going our way were the tiny minibuses! Luckily, we had experience using these style buses in Albania. Still, nothing could’ve prepared us for what would happen next…
Our Turkey Bus Crash
Yes, you read that heading right! Unfortunately, on our very first turkey bus ride, we had a crash. What are the odds right?? About one hour into sitting in the back of the Turkish Dolmus we had pulled over on the side of the highway to pick up a passenger when…
We were struck from behind by another van. Thankfully everyone was ok which was quite astonishing considering there were multiple people standing in the aisle and no one was wearing seatbelts. What happened next was wild, confusing, and something we still don’t really understand. Bullet points are honestly the easiest way to break it down so this isn’t a 10,000 word blog.
- Everyone gets off the bus and views the damage. Our vehicle was remarkably intact with just a large dent in the back bumper and door. The other driver was not so lucky as his front end was completely smashed in.
- Our bus driver and the other gentleman started yelling at each other in Turkish.
- What felt like the entire neighborhood came out in support of the guy that hit us. Apparently, he lived close by.
- Phone calls were made. Originally, we thought they were calling the police or insurance companies? Yet, no one ever came to the scene.
An Unscheduled Turkish Bus Stop
So after all this, we’re still not entirely sure what happened or if it was resolved. We were definitely a little shook but happy to be back on the road and heading towards Fethiye. At least we thought we were! About 20 minutes back into the Turkish bus ride we pulled off into a small village.
It was then that we quickly realized we were at an autobody shop! Thinking back this is kind of hilarious because our bus was still full of passengers. At this point, we were already hours behind schedule and everyone was annoyed. Keep in mind, it was mostly locals on the bus with us and not tourists as well.
The driver who hit our minibus pulled in behind us and the argument started once again. This time it was mixed with the random input from the autobody shop owner as they pointed at the damage. After about 45 minutes of this (not kidding) we were finally back on our way! Nothing was fixed and we’re not sure they ever came to any resolution about the van.
Getting the Hang of the Turkey Bus System
Obviously, our first experience using the Turkish buses was definitely not the best. However, we had our trip planned out around them and didn’t want it to ruin our entire time. Honestly, between all the buses and transfers we’ve taken in Asia, South America, and Europe, this wasn’t the first time we’ve had a long and unpredictable travel day!
After this strange day, the rest of our buses in Turkey went MUCH smoother. Other travelers we have spoken with also said they used the Turkey bus system to get everywhere without any issues. So clearly we just got a bit unlucky!
As we mentioned, we only took the buses along the popular coast of Southwest Turkey. Getting to the station early and taking the larger buses over the Turkish Dolmus is definitely recommended when you can. At the end of the day, there is really no cheaper or more efficient way to get around!
→ Oludeniz Beach Turkey: 9 Fun Things to Know Before You Go!
5 More Tips for Using the Buses in Turkey
Payment: Surprisingly, most of the Turkish Dulmus take credit cards! If not, try to have small bills as some of the buses don’t have a lot of change. The larger buses you can book online or buy tickets from the offices at the bus stations.
Stay Safe: Take all of your valuables out of your big bags. They are going to get squished into the back of the buses with no regard as there is not much storage space. Travel with a separate smaller backpack for your computers, cameras, etc… And bring it with you to your seat.
Arrive Early: This is so important to secure a seat! If you don’t you’re at risk of standing or not sitting with your travel partner. We would get to the bus stop 20-30 min early to avoid this.
Offline Map: Download an offline map like maps.me if you’re not planning on having cell service or a SIM card. This is essential in knowing when to get off at your stop as the drivers don’t all speak English.
Be Patient: Things run on their own time and Turkey! As you saw with our minibus experience, you never know what you’re in for. Just know that eventually, you will get to your destination!
Have any questions about the buses in Turkey or want to share your own tips for using the Turkish Dolmus? Let us know in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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Turkey Travel Planning
Flights: We always find deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from Thailand to Siem Reap Cambodia for under $50 USD!
Rental Car: Discover Cars is our company of choice when abroad. It is especially popular to rent a car and explore the famous Turquoise Coast.
To pre-book long distance buses check Omio for the best routes all over the country.
Accommodation: Compare competitive sites for hotels such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for fun activities all over Turkey. You can book everything from a Hot Air Balloon ride in Cappadocia to a Turkish Dance show in Istanbul and even take a Full-Day Jeep Safari in Kusadasi to the National Park!
Travel Insurance: Never travel internationally without being covered. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Here’s all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists! Including electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials.
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