If you’ve been to Turkey in years gone by, the chances are you’ve had the ‘dolmuş experience.’
It’s oft said now that this (probably) most famous form of public transport in Turkey is slowly on its way out as a way of getting about in the big cities.
Trams, metro systems and bus services are more commonplace, these days.
Well, we can’t speak for the big cities. But, quite honestly, Fethiye wouldn’t function if it wasn’t for the dolmuş.
If you read a lot of our posts, you’ll know we’re big fans of public transport – especially in Turkey – so a lot of our time and money is spent on the good old dolmuş.
Granted, things have a changed a lot for the bus system in Fethiye in the 21st Century.
But they’re still well used. And much needed.
What Is The Meaning Of Dolmuş?
‘Miş’ is a suffix in the Turkish language.
It means, among lots of other things, ‘apparently’ or ‘must be’. ‘muş’ is the same as this.
And ‘dol’ means ‘stuffed’.
So, the rough translation of dolmuş (dol-mush) is ‘apparently stuffed.‘
And if you’ve used the dolmuş in times gone by, you’ll know how true this is.
People were almost stood on top of each other as the driver stopped every 10 metres or so to let people on and off.
It was all part of the ‘Turkey experience’.
When we first came here on holiday in 1998, we used the dolmuş to get to Ölüdeniz.
It was a big adventure for us. We were doing something independently.
We can’t tell you how pleased we were to get out alive when we got to the final destination facing Belcekiz Beach!
The dolmuş was a proper charabanc. And it was ‘apparently stuffed’ (no ‘apparently’ about it – we were squished) to the rafters.
Back in those days, the driver was able to hold a cigarette in one hand, keep his mobile phone wedged between ear and shoulder, take money and pass change back.
This was all at the same time as manouvering his vehicle through traffic to pick up and drop off passengers.
No air-conditioning. And a bus load of old Turkish ladies who don’t like draughts.
They insisted on all the windows being closed. It was a heatwave that year, touching 50 degrees!
Now, that was a travel experience!
Muğla Büyükşehir Belediyesi Dolmuş
Fast forward a few years…
Okay, a few people still dislike the dolmuş. But personally, we love it.
And, not having a car, we rely on it.
The town of Fethiye is part of the Muğla Province.
As such, the dolmuş system has become a Muğla-wide service run by the Muğla Büyükşehir Belediyesi (the administrative council for the province).
Rather than the dolmuş operating as a communal taxi that crawls along the road looking for potential passengers, they now run along determined routes and keep to a relatively strict – and reliable – timetable.
The dolmuşes are all new white minibuses with the ‘Muğla Büyükşehir’ logo on them.
And mercifully, for the summer months, they have air conditioning!
Depending on where you are in Fethiye, the set routes for your particular dolmuş will be plied according to a timetable.
In winter, some rural areas will only see a few minibuses throughout the day.
But in urban areas the dolmuş will run on a regular basis whatever the time of year.
Regular Summer Services
If you’re in the Fethiye area – or other parts of the Muğla Province – during the summer months, chances are you are going to be staying in an area that is popular with travellers and holidaymakers.
The powers-that-be who create the timetables for the different dolmuş routes are fully aware of this.
In summer, these popular routes will have a more regular dolmuş and the last dolmuş of the day will be much later than in the winter.
In summer, the Fethiye-Ölüdeniz dolmuş runs every few minutes, for example.
And at night, after you’ve finished partying in Ölüdeniz or Hisarönü, the last dolmuş back to Fethiye is in the early hours.
Summer Beach Services
Some dolmuşes will also run slightly different routes.
As you can see, the local Fethiye dolmuş system is invaluable.
Okay, you might be a bit squished sometimes – people do still pile onto them – but at least you’re getting to where you want to go for a reasonable price.
And, on popular dolmuş routes, if it’s too full you can let it go by. Because another one will be along a few minutes later.
How To Use The Dolmuş – FAQs
If you are catching a dolmuş mid-route, you will see set stops along the road at regular intervals.
In the Muğla Province, these stops have a black D (this stands for Durak – stop) on a white background with a blue frame.
In remote rural areas, you will be able to flag the bus down along the road. But in urban areas, you will usually need to be at the stop to get on the dolmuş.
Some dolmuş stops cater for numerous routes.
The end destination of the dolmuş – and sometimes main areas in between – are displayed in the front window of the bus. This is either an electrical sign or a printed card.
If in doubt, ask the driver.
In tourist areas where most people are heading to similar destinations, the driver will often stop without prompting. And shout to the passengers where they are so that those who want to can get off.
On regular routes, you will need to get off at a designated stop. On some buses, there is a bell that you can press to let the driver know you want to get off at the next stop.
If there is no bell, you will need to call out to the driver. You can either say, “Durakta,” (doo-rack-ta) or, “Inecek var” (in-ee-jeck var).
Durakta means ‘at the stop.’ Inecek var can be interpreted in English as ‘someone wants to get off.”
If you are a regular visitor to the area, it’s worth you buying a Muğla Kent Kart (Muğla City Card).
They only cost a few Turkish Lira and you then top the card up with money. The Kent Kart also comes with the benefit of discounted travel.
You use your Muğla Kent Kart to pay for the dolmuş in Fethiye and throughout the whole Muğla Province.
When you get on the bus, tell the driver where you are going and he will set the correct fare. Then it’s simply a case of placing your card against the card reader when you step onto the bus.
The fare will be deducted from your card.
If you have a contactless bank card, you can also use these to pay for the dolmuş. We know of people who have used foreign cards but we don’t know if all foreign cards work.
Also, remember you will be at the mercy of the exchange rates if you pay with a foreign card, along with any charges your bank/card company may or may not add.
You can buy the cards from bus stations and top them up there as well. Look out for the signs.
At some bus stations, the cards are sold via freestanding machine. And you can pay by card or cash to purchase and load your Kent Kart.
Alternatively, you can use the enormously useful Muğla Kart app (see below).
And, if you would much rather deal with a human being and also pay in cash, there are selected small grocery shops and stores around the Fethiye area where you can purchase and top up your card.
You’ll see the Kent Kart sign outside the shop.
If you don’t have enough cash on your card to pay for your fare then, at the time of writing (2023), the drivers are still accepting cash.
Pay your fee to the driver and he will pass you a card to place on the payment reader before handing it back to the driver.
Popular Fethiye Dolmuş Routes For Travellers
We’re not going to go into every single dolmuş route in the area.
But, if you are staying here for a while, here are some of the different routes you are most likely to use.
All routes start from Fethiye and go to and from:
- Ölüdeniz – this route also goes via the resorts of Ovacık and Hisarönü and passes the otogar (the main intercity bus station) and the famous Fethiye Tuesday market. The driver will tell you where to get off.
- Kayaköy – Aka the Ghost Village. The route passes the otogar and goes via Ovacık and Hisarönü.
- Kabak – Same route as the Ölüdeniz route before continuing up the mountain road to the end of the route. If you want to reach the beach from here, you can either hike down or take the genuine shared taxi dolmuş (it’s hairy). It will set off once there are enough passengers and your fee is determined by how many people are on the dolmuş. NB: You will need to pay cash on the bus down to the beach.
- Çalış Beach – there are two set routes to and from Çalış. The ‘Sahilden’ dolmuş is the quickest. You can also take the Günlükbaşı dolmuş between the two. Useful if you’re staying in that area. On Sundays, the Çalış dolmuş will also stop off at the Sunday market. If you’re heading between Fethiye and Çalış, don’t forget you can also take the Çalış water taxi in summer (this is a different cooperative service where you will need to pay separately).
As we said, there are oodles of other routes. These are just the most common ones you are likely to use.
If you’re staying in the big all inclusive hotels in and around Çiftlik, you can take a dolmuş in that area to town.
Fethiye Dolmuş Station
Apart from the Taşyaka / Karagözler dolmuş, local buses that most of us are likely to use, leave from and arrive at the central Fethiye dolmuş stop opposite the big mosque.
And if you don’t know the centre of town, you can wonder where on earth you’ve been dropped off.
Many is the time we’ve had to show people where to go because they get off the dolmuş and just stand, hovering with blank faces.
It’s actually really easy to get to all the good bits – just not very obvious.
Most of us can use our phones these days to be guided by clear maps and directions.
- But, very simply, when you get off the bus at the dolmuş stop, stand facing downhill.
- The sea and harbour restaurants are straight ahead of you.
- Take the immediate left for the fish market (about 5 minutes walk) and Paspatur – Fethiye old town (about 10 minutes).
The more substantial part of the dolmuş station is also to the left, here.
This is where you will get off the dolmuş if you came through Günlükbaşı.
You can purchase a Muğla Kent Kart and top up.
The majority of the dolmuş services you need, however, are at the stop you can see in the photo.
- Just a note about the dolmuş from Fethiye to Üzümlü. This dolmuş leaves from the Fethiye dolmuş station in the Köprübaşı area, not from the central dolmuş stop you can see in the photo.
Explore The Muğla Province By Dolmuş
Yes, as we said above, things have moved on for the dolmuş in the Muğla Province, of which Fethiye is a part.
The province stretches from the border with Seydikemer in the east and goes all the way along the coast, westwards, up to and including the Bodrum Peninsula.
Muğla is big!
And, if you want to travel between towns, you do so by dolmuş.
From Fethiye, these comfortable air-conditioned minibuses leave from Fethiye otogar – the main intercity bus station.
This is the big bus station next to Erasta Shopping Centre.
Not to be confused with the local dolmuş station in town.
There is a comprehensive network of dolmuşes that make sure everywhere is linked throughout the province.
You get the picture. If there is a change of dolmuş involved, this is very easy and the staff at the relevant bus station will point you to the right dolmuş.
Tip: It isn’t possible to book a seat on the dolmuş so once you know the departure time of your bus, get there early and claim a seat as soon as the bus is in the station. They do get full!
Get The Muğla Kart App
If you are travelling around independently, the Muğla Kart app can prove to be really useful.
Just a few of its uses:
- Top up your Muğla Kent Kart.
- Find out how much Turkish Lira you have left on your card.
- Find out when you last used your card. This can be useful on the very rare occasion that the driver asks if you have paid (this has only happened to us once in our whole dolmuş career). You can show that your card was read.
- Access dolmuş routes – both local and throughout the whole province.
- Access dolmuş timetables.
- Locate your nearest stop for the dolmuş you need – including directions from your current location. Very useful when you’re new to somewhere.
Happy travels! İyi yolculuklar!