Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Fethiye to Istanbul - A Night On A Turkish Intercity Bus




It's 8:30 pm and bus drivers, driver's mates, crew, desk staff, travellers and those who have come to wave off the travellers are milling around the various buses, lined up in Fethiye otogar. Most buses to Istanbul set off at 9 pm so tickets are being checked, bags are being loaded, cigarettes are being smoked.
Turkish Intercity Bus
At 8:50, the engines start and we climb onto the bus to find our seat. This is the exciting part - tomorrow morning, we'll wake up in a new city. Hugs for those who are leaving family and friends behind and everyone begins to board.

These days, the intercity buses have wireless internet and tv/radio. It's the same every time - people find their seat, put on the headphones and start to flick through the channels. In 20 minutes time, the novelty wears off, boredom sets in and the monitors are turned off.
Turkish Intercity Bus Technology
9 pm on the dot and the bus pulls out of the otogar. We head towards the D400, take a right towards Antalya and the tea boy makes his way along the bus to check tickets again. "Alibeyköy," he says to us and moves on. We know the drill by now. Alibeyköy is where we'll get off the bus in Istanbul.

He makes his way back along the bus, this time with his snack trolley. Fruit juice, fizzy drinks, hot drinks - all included in the price of the journey - are on offer. We opt for the Nescafe and once again wince as we take a sip. It's a 3-in-1 sachet; coffee, powdered milk and a ridiculous amount of sugar for such a small cup. It's part of the journey, though. We forget about this every time. It's dark outside. Nothing much to see as the bus climbs through the mountains. We recline our chairs and begin the process of bus-sleep.
Intercity Bus Breaks
2:20 am. We've had fitful sleep. Head against the window, head against the chair, leaning on each other, improvising by using my fleece jacket as a pillow (it works), shuffling and repositioning and then the bus sweeps into the service area for our first stop of the journey. Bright, fluorescent lighting stings our sleepy eyes and we take a minute to adjust before getting off to stretch our legs. We've got 30 minutes here.
Products For Sale In Afyon
Welcome to Afyon. The 9pm Fethiye to Istanbul Pamukkale bus stops here every time. At 2:20 am, it's a dream-like, surreal world of gift shops, gözleme stands producing the frothiest ayran we've ever seen, lokantas churning out hot meals, queues for the WC...and it's also a world of sucuk.
Afyon Sucuk
There's always a sense of guilt with Afyon. We've lost count of the amount of times we've been here - but it's always been a silly hour of the morning, en route to elsewhere in Turkey. What do we know about Afyon? Not a lot. It's cold, icy cold in winter, and it must be famous for sucuk. Everywhere in this service area, sucuk is for sale and people queue to buy it. Oh how we want to try that sucuk döner. We promise ourselves we'll try it every time we pass through Afyon - but, every time, it's the middle of the night, we're half asleep and we have no appetite at all. A can of Ice Tea is all we can face, right now.

We board the bus once more and drift off to sleep to the sound of gentle snoring. At around 4am, we pull into a service area in Kütahya. We don't get off here. Apart from the smokers, most people prefer to remain on the bus to get more sleep. Sleepy heads loll from side to side as the bus heads northwards and the next time we open our eyes...

Izmet, Turkey
...it's 6:30am and it's a bright, sunny, new morning as we cruise towards Izmit. As more of the passengers wake up, the tea boy once more inches along the bus with his trolley. Tea, coffee and breakfast buns are handed out and, despite still feeling sleepy, it's daylight and there's Northwest Turkish scenery to be taken in. We're getting close to Istanbul and within a couple of hours, the clues are all too obvious.
Istanbul Traffic
Early-morning Istanbul rush hour traffic. A jolt to the system when we're so used to the relative calm of Fethiye but for us, we're not in the daily gridlock, trying to get to the office. We're here to once again soak up all that is Istanbul. We're happy. We're never sure how much further we have to go until we see the bridge in the distance.
View From Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge, Istanbul
Early morning on the Bosphorus Strait as we cross the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge. Forget the traffic. We're back in Istanbul! 
Alibeyköy, Istanbul
It's 9:30am. At Alibeyköy, we and remaining passengers alight the bus, pick up our bags and wander along the line of complimentary service buses. These guys are heading to various districts in the city. We look for a sign that says Taksim, find our bus, throw our bags on and head off to enjoy Istanbul.

Have you used the intercity buses in Turkey? We love them but many don't. What was your experience? Would you much rather fly to Istanbul?

25 comments:

What an adventure! There is always something neat about night buses...the people, the thrill...

Very interesting post. I don't think many coaches in the UK have tv on the seat backs.

Can't say I love them. But I think they are a great service cheap and normally always on time.

We use them to get from Adapazari to Dikili near Izmir which is about 7 hours. The road however is through the Mountains and it can get a bit scary at times, especially last winter when it was snowing.

The best trip we had was from Bodrum to Istanbul and waking up early morning to a ferry ride over the Bosphorus and having a breakfast of tea and toast watching the city approach from the water and the sunrise, you wouldn't get that anywhere else.

Glad you enjoyed your trip. Kerry x

We always fancied doing a long distance trip on a Turkish inter-city bus but never got round to it. Pity.

. . indeed we have - twice in 15 years! First time the bus (big company) broke down and the second time they loaded swordfish on top of my bag in Fethiye otogar!!
Our older bones can't take it any more so we fly; although generally I'd say the buses are excellent.

Love this post....I felt like I was there on the trip with you on the bus.
My experience on the bus in Turkey was one time when the planes were on strike a long time ago. We had to go from Izmir to Istanbul...well coming from North America it's the planes we most use and the buses here are uncomfortable. Well I was upset to take the bus all night but was shocked to see a double-decker with comfy seats and a 'teaboy' walking around like an airplane steward handing out refreshments. Then about 2 hours before Istanbul the bus went on this huge boat that took us across some body of water.......didn't even feel like the bus was on a boat....so smooth.
....that was my experience on the bus in Turkey...haven't gone yet, but might take my daughter so we can see the countryside on our next visit.
Thanks for sharing your post and photo's.

Gosh, I remember those buses from the time before the indoor smoking ban. Do they still hand out lemon scented water for refreshing trucker showers?
Mette

OMG u r soooo lucky!!
Wish u a good journey:)
YES, I love the intercity buses...My husband and I use them often to travel here in Canada. I prefer them over the plane caus I don,t want to miss the scenery!

@ Belinda: We love the intercity buses in Turkey. Use them whenever we can. :)

@ Anne Mackle: Isn't it a shame that the bus service in the UK isn't the same. No excuse, really.

@ Kerry Arslan: We use the bus all the time. Much prefer it to flying. Know what you mean about the mountain roads but I guess we miss a lot of them on the night bus. ;) When you come back from Istanbul, going back to Fethiye, you take the ferry but it's dark so we've never got the true benefit from the sail. :(

@ Jack Scott: Aww, would have loved to have seen your write up about your experience travelling across Turkey. Would expect a few laughs! :)

@ Alan: Oh dear. All down to the experiences you have and it doesn't sound like yours were too great. ;)

@ Erica (Irene): Hope you get to come over here and take your daughter on a trip through the Turkish countryside in the daytime. How lovely that would be. :)

@ Italian Notes: Oh no, I forgot to mention the lemon cologne!! :) It's still freely passed around by the bus boy AND when you come out of the loo as well. ;)

@ Anonymous: Thank you. Wish we knew your name! :) The scenery is the main thing for us too and we also like to feel how far away places are from each other. :)

always love these posts... very useful information... be happy & keep smiling & thanks Bim

How much I would love to get to Istanbul again! And I love traveling by bus/train :)

@ Bim Prasad: Thank you. Oh, and we always try to be happy and keep smiling. We do our best. :)

@ Angela: Yeah, we'd love to be back in Istanbul again, too... Glad you like the bus - oh, but the train is amazing. None in Fethiye though, unfortunately. :)

I've used the intercity coaches a few times but, unfortunately they're not built for people like me who are over 6 foot and weigh 18 stone. It can be worse than travelling Cattle Class on Sleasyjet.

Despite that, the service they provide is still far better than UK trains or buses.

@ Kaya Koyu Walker: Yeah, I guess me and Barry are both of average height. Wer just prefer to road to air, where feasible. As for Easy Jet, I quite like their leg room. Better than a few of the others who ply the route between the UK and Turkey. :)

About 18 months ago I toured Türkiye for two weeks with Intrepid Travel. We went to many great towns and cities on the buses: Bursa, Fethiye, Konya, Selçuk. and of course Goreme.

I was impressed with the quality of the vehicles, much better than Greyhound in Canada.

The stop areas are amazing too. An interesting way to sample the cuisine - so unlike the terrible fast food franchises in North America.

@deBeauxOs: Sounds like a great tour. We've heard about those before. We've never been to Canada or the US but have also heard many tails about the greyhound buses. Bus travel in Turkey is a much more pleasant experience I suspect - especially with the food in the lokantas. Thanks for your comment. :)

UK Motorway Service Area Operators could learn a lot from the Turks. The service and food is always freshly prepared and tastes good. The toilets are always clean and sweet smelling. There are facilities for the washing and servicing of vehicles 24/7, attended fuel pumps, free screen washing.

I've also used service areas operated by the Turkish Truck Drivers Association and they are run to the same standards and members of the general public are encouraged to use the facilities too.

Maybe its because I can't sleep on buses, but did you consider flying from Antalya to Istanbul? I found the domestic flights to be very cheap. I went one-way Bodrum to Istanbul to save the travel time back. How's the price difference of the overnight bus and flying?

@ shtina25: We can fly from Dalaman to Istanbul for cheaper than we can get the bus but we just love the bus travel. Like to feel the size of Turkey rather than getting somewhere quick. Daft, I know. ;)

@ Kaya Koyu Walker: Road travel in Turkey is definitely a much more pleasant experience than it is in the UK - and many other places in Europe for that matter. :)

Went from Antalya to Istanbul a few years ago in November. Got very cold outside during the night - dep snow. Bus very comfortable, slept most of the way.

Other travellers very friendly.

Prefer apple tea to sweet coffee.

@ Anonymous: We've had a few cold sessions when getting off the bus in Afyon at whatever time of the night. We've always found other travellers friendly, too. :)

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