About one month ago, I took my very first extended solo-trip during my one-week break from work for Turkey’s Bayram holiday. Usually one to plan every minute detail down to my mealtimes, I decided to leave this trip unusually open by only purchasing my night-bus ticket to Göreme, Cappadocia from Istanbul’s Harem Otogar (bus station). Unfortunately, I had waited a bit too long to buy my ticket and I ended up using one of the not so favorable bus companies which is one of the only ones that goes to that region of Turkey from Istanbul, Nevşehir Seyahat. I don’t want to focus this post on my experience with Nevşehir Seyahat, but I would like to talk about the company for future travelers in Turkey.
Nevşehir Seyahat is not a bad bus company by any means. It is reliable, many locals and travelers use it, and it did get me from point A to point B in one piece. The seats were comfortable and there were TVs on the backs of the seats that showed Turkish television. The service on the bus was not bad either. My only real complaint was that there was a problem with my seat and no one helped me resolve it.
On Turkish long-haul buses, seats are usually sold by gender. Men sit with men (bay) and women sit with women (bayan). Knowing this beforehand made me feel much more comfortable traveling alone on a night bus.
However, when my bus pulled up in the station, I was confused to see girls sitting together on both sides in the front. I went on the bus, and most of the front rows were mixed and made up of families. Next to my seat, there was a rather large and intimidating man. I didn’t know what to do. I tried to switch seats, but no one else spoke English and I did not get any help. Luckily, nothing happened, but I did not feel very comfortable. I was not very pleased with their customer service and I was a bit upset that no one, even in the ticket office, knew how to speak English. I did make an effort to communicate in Turkish, but their was a definite language barrier that made things difficult. Thus, I would not recommend Nevşehir Seyahat for solo-travelers, especially females.
Luckily, the rest of my experiences on buses in Turkey were excellent. Traveling by bus in Turkey is a much more comfortable and enjoyable than traveling by bus in the U.S. or even in many parts of Western Europe.
Turkish buses have bus attendants. They are similar to flight attendants and they help you find your seat, pass out drinks and snacks, and make sure you are comfortable throughout your journey. Throughout my travels, I have only ever had bus attendants while using the ALSA Premium service in Spain and when I used the Czech Student Agency Bus company to travel from Berlin to Prague. In the case of ALSA Premium , I had to pay an additional fee for the service, and the attendants on Student Agency Bus really only gave us hot drinks. However, on Turkish buses, you are provided with several drinks and a few snacks. On one occasion, I was even given ice cream!
Once you arrive at the bus station of your destination, many Turkish bus companies provide free shuttle services to different points around the city, town or nearby tourist sites. These shuttles can be small dolmuş–style vans or larger mini-buses. They may be difficult to find at the bus station, so ask the driver or bus attendant for help (… nerede? = Where is…?) The shuttle service is especially useful in cities like Izmir where the bus station is 7 km outside of the city center.
One thing to keep in mind when traveling by bus in Turkey is that you may not be able to buy your tickets online with a foreign credit or debit card. All of my cards were rejected when I tried to pay online, so I had to pay in cash at the bus stations. Luckily, you can reserve a ticket online and then, when you’re at the station, you can look for the company’s sales counter and pay for the reserved ticket in cash or using a card.
Which bus companies should I use for traveling within Turkey?
After talking to locals in Göreme, Izmir and Istanbul, and traveling on my own with a few different companies, I’d say that the best bus companies to travel with are: Kâmil Koç , Pamukkale Turizm , and Metro Turizm. I’m sure there are other companies that are safe and reliable, but these three seemed to be the most popular and respected companies.
Overall, traveling by bus in Turkey is a safe, comfortable and reliable way to get around and see the country. Always use caution and research the company in advance and make sure you look into shuttle services in your destination. Happy travels!!