Monday, May 16, 2011

Bus travel in Turkey

The truth is, I don’t like bus travel. It is stressful. No flight, no train, bicycle or ferry ride can even come close.

I took mid- to long-distance bus rides in a handful of countries (e.g. the U.S., Germany, France, Czech Republic, Russia, the Ukraine) and I can’t think of a good experience. It’s always too little space, someone always snores or stinks, eats, the bus is too slow and then if it’s really long distance, bus drivers are reluctant to let you use the WC inside the bus (because they have to clean it, innit?).

My first bus ride here in Turkey was an overnight trip from Istanbul to Izmir, a total of about 9 hours and 45TL (~20EUR). Frankly, I kept complaining that it was kind of expensive for this country. Until I got on the bus, that is.

First of all, any big bus company in Turkey like Metro or Pamukkale always offers what they call servis or shuttle which means if you buy a ticket in an office right around the corner from your home, if you want, you can use the company’s free shuttle bus that takes you to the bus station of your departure. Same with your arrival, they will take you to the office closest to your actual destination.

Apart from that, the following things were also included in the bus fare:

  • enough leg space (like, really… I’m 180cm and I almost never get enough leg space, which wasn’t the case here)
  • water
  • coffee/tea and snack
  • entertainment including TV, music, some films (I had Ice Age, Iron Man, Yes Man… none of them are my choices of interest, but they may be up many people’s valley) and radio
  • also a USB port so that you can charge your MP3 player.

In general it's not too easy if you don't speak Turkish, but sometimes an  English-speaking gentleman or lady will appear to help you in the most unexpected of places.

Also, the weird thing was, they didn’t check my ticket both times (I took the same bus back a few days later). Just like Deutsche Bahn around Christmas time.

I have a problem falling asleep anywhere that isn’t a couch or a bed, so I tend to be all zombie after buses, flights and sometimes trains, but on my outgoing trip I actually managed to fall asleep several times and arrived in Izmir all perky and ready to explore. That wasn’t the case on my way back as I was feeling quite hyper due to (perhaps) all the carbs consumed during the day and didn’t get to sleep, but it wasn’t the bus company’s problem.

The one truly negative thing I can say about Turkish bus companies is their stupid, dumbass websites. You get a small discount if you purchase a ticket online and everyone knows it’s just more convenient, but good luck in accomplishing that as most Turkish websites are a complete nightmare. I suspect that even I could’ve written a better code, because those pages just refuse to load ,thus Metro’s website won’t let you buy a ticket. Also, most sites will offer a non-existing English version. The state train company says you have to register before you can even look up the timetable, but of course it won’t let you register.

But once you have a ticket and are all set to go, it's not so bad.

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