How (not) to buy bus tickets in Turkey

I’m not sure about the absolute best way to buy bus tickets in Turkey as it seems that I haven’t quite got it right but I can certainly give you some tips and make you aware of a few things I wish I knew before fronting up to Antalya Otogar.

Dolmus minibuses are straight forward

At Antalya bus station there are two sections – a big hall for long distance buses and a smaller one for buses and dolmus for the local area (a dolmus is a public minibus plying a set route, picking up and dropping off passengers at will). When Barry and I were travelling from Antalya to Kemer, it was really straight forward. You go to the smaller terminal, tell folk your destination, go outside, double check the destination on the boards next to the buses and get on. You pay the driver when you get off the bus later. It’s something like 8 Lira per person for the journey from Antalya to Kemer. It takes anywhere between one hour and two hours (faster to get the boat from town which I never got a chance to do)

Larger coaches going to Alanya also leave from this terminal but you buy your tickets from one of the guys at the counters. There seemed to be two companies selling tickets for Alanya and they were pretty good about sending you to the other seller if their bus was the next one leaving. Tickets from Antalya to Alanya cost 20 Lira per person. It takes about 2.5 hours.

The helpful people at the bus station are touts, not actually helpful

When you step into the main hall in Antalya you’re inundated with people wanting to ‘help’ you.

Barry and I wanted to purchase our tickets to Cappadocia in advance (it being close to Christmas and New Year, we weren’t sure what would be closed or full). We weren’t entirely sure if we would be leaving from Alanya or Antalya but decided on the latter as it’s a major hub (we also didn’t realise quite how long it would take to get between the two cities). Also, the site I was recommended did not have Alanya as a stop.

We were armed with information from our Cappadocia hotel about a direct bus that went from Antalya to Urgup with Kamil Koc (the site has an English version).

We looked around the bus hall looking a bit lost and the touts pounced. We told them we were going to Cappadocia and they led us to a desk to buy tickets. I checked my email, and informed the seller and the tout that we were going to Urgup. I looked around for the company but didn’t see it. Our ticket, from Yeni Aksaray, was the same price and the seller wrote the destination as Urgup. Result.

The cost was 55 Lira per person and many hours on the night bus.

Or so we thought. The day of our departure we got the long 2.5 hour bus from Alanya to Antalya. A few hours in the bus station waiting for the night bus at 9.30pm. We boarded our bus. Explained repeatedly to the bus driver and the attendant that we were going to Urgup. Nods, smiles, checking inside with the office ensued, and we were off.

First stop – Alanya. This company went out of it’s way to pick up passengers in Alanya before going back toward Antalya and then turning off to Konya and towards Cappadocia. Damn.

Many hours later, at 6.30am, we were thrown off the bus at Nevsehir, not Urgup. Basically, the folk in the bus station lied to us. Damn.

A man tried to sell us a tour of Cappadocia and take us to our hotel in Urgup. We declined. So we got on the local bus to go through town to get on another local bus to be finally dropped in Urgup.

Lessons:

  1. Don’t listen to touts – they’re not there to be helpful, they’re there to make money.
  2. Touts will lie if it gets them a commission.
  3. Check your information before arriving at the bus station so you can avoid said touts.
  4. Check all the stops for the company you’re buying tickets with. Try to get an official printed version.
  5. There’s no need to buy in advance in the winter, at least no more than the day before.

How I didn’t learn the lessons

When it came time to return to Alanya from Urgup, we thought it best to be with the recommended company direct from Urgup to Antalya and then an easy connection to Alanya. We based this on arrival times (hard to check into a hotel at 6.30am) and the fact that we didn’t want the waiting involved in three bus connections. We told the man we wanted tickets for either Antalya to Alanya. We booked the last two seats the day before travelling.

On the day of departure we fronted up to the tiny Urgup Otogar. The bus was late. When it arrived we found that it was a small shuttle bus that would take us to Nevsehir (stopping at many places along the way) where we would meet the coach bound for Antalya. That bus was over an hour late too.

It was a painful journey, with a few hours wasted but we made it alive.

Lessons:

  1. We should have checked if there were companies with shuttle buses to Nevsehir to connect with direct buses to Alanya. We should have talked to more people.
  2. Don’t believe the first person you speak to. Clarify all information!
  3. There’s actually a desk that says Tourist Information at Antalya bus station but by the time I noticed this (on about my 10th trip to the station) I didn’t need them so I don’t know what sort of independent advice it gives. It’s to the left of the entrance to the main hall, pretty unobtrusive and hard to see when you’re distracted by the touts.

I’m off to Pamukkale next week. I did some internet research and found that Metro buses go from Alanya direct to Denizli (the nearest town with an otogar, local dolus should take me on to Pamukkale). Let’s see if I can get it right this time!

**UPDATE**

Turns out research, and following it, helps. I got my bus at Alanya and it went to Denizli, with a few stops (including Antalya again) but no changes. Just a half hour delay, the cause of which was a dramatic incident when the bus side swiped a car. I don’t know why the bus driver thought he was allowed to run red lights and I don’t know why the car driver didn’t look to see if a bus was running a red light before driving forward on his green and slamming into the rear of the bus. Although the white sedan had a completely crumpled front end, I don’t believe anybody was hurt. The bus had barely a bump and scratch so I was perfectly fine. Thank goodness, there wasn’t much speed involved.

6 thoughts on “How (not) to buy bus tickets in Turkey

  1. Touts … The annoyance of every traveller!

    Thanks for the updated info, Simone!
    When I was in Turkey, I was told there were only a few bus companies that were good, and to use them exclusively unless there was no other choice (and they cater to western and higher end local travellers, so tend to go wherever a tourist would want to go). While my info is old, the best companies were: Ulusoy, Bosfor and Varan, with Kamile Koc and Pamukkale coming in as close seconds. I was very happy with every bus I took. They were cheap and the service was great.
    Simone, I was shocked to read the new prices for buses … No longer that cheap! But still a good way to travel short to medium distances in Turkey (as driving is dangerous (and foreigners likely to be blamed and poissibly jailed for any accident they’re involved in), and trains minimal).
    I also heavily relied on my hotel for their bus advice. I would get them to write down the best bus companies to my next destination (and also often got them to reserve a similar hotel too — love Turkish hospitality!). I’d ask the taxi driver to drop me near that kiosk at the bus station, or at least ask the hotel approximately where to find it. Then all but ignored all touts, saying “no, I’m taking XX bus, thank you”, if they were persistent.

    • Excellent advice that still applies! I didn’t come across Ulusoy, Bosfor or Varan, but I think the bus companies are sticking to certain regions so the best company might differ from place to place. I also wish there more train tracks in Turkey! The buses are generally nice but not as much fun as a train (though I do love the drinks and snacks they serve!). Glad you’re prepared for the prices when you next get to Turkey!

  2. Hi,
    I notice on here you have said that you got the bus to alanya from antalya airport, I am trying to do that in a few weeks but was informed the only way possible was by taxi! How regular are the buses and do you know if there is any information online for them as I arrive in the early hours of the morning.
    Thank you

    • Hi Charlotte

      We didn’t actually go all the way from Antalya airport to Alanya (we went from the otogar in town) but taxi is definitely not the only option! There are buses from Antalya Airport to the Otogar and from there you can get a coach to Alanya, similar to our journey. Anyone working at the airport can direct you where to get the city bus (a red one). I do remember seeing some buses going direct to Alanya from the airport but I don’t know if these are public or booked for tour groups. Have a look at this link, there seems to be a reasonably priced shuttle bus too – http://www.antalyaairport.co.uk/antalya-to-alanya-transfer/. Good luck and have a great time!

  3. Touts are hassle even for local Turkish people at this bus station.
    If you are traveling from one City to another CITY! you should have no problem finding the bus trip,
    However traveling from a small town (ie: Urgup, Goreme, Kas, Alanya are all small towns, not the city actually) might be a bit confusing especially for foreigner visitors.

    I would suggest to make a little research on internet and try to find the local bus company for your destination (local companies will have more shuttles or, the actual big bus might even stop by at those small towns).

    Most of the foreigners know only some good bus companies of Turkey such as Metro Turizm, Varan, Ulusoy , Kamil Koc etc. Yep they are good, and nice companies but that really totally depends on your route, even the best company might have crappy shuttle services or really uncomfortable buses depending on their frequency of journeys to those specific routes.

    Excuse my English 🙂
    Hope this helps some travelers

    • I agree, research certainly helps! A great thing about Turkey is that buses are used by so many locals and travellers that there will always be transport, if you look hard enough. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.