Turkey is a beautiful country that sits beside the Mediterranean. Having traveled to over 20 countries, I still see Turkey as one of my favorite destinations. I spent two months volunteering in the beach city of Antalya. Later, I bussed to the beautiful town of Alanya, backpacked towards the famous hot air balloon destination of Cappadocia, west to Denizli, and north into Izmir and Istanbul.
I fell in love with Turkey’s history, its culture, the warm-hearted people, and the delicious cuisine. As such, I hope my tips and guides from 4 months in the country will help your travel to Turkey!!
Traveling within the City
Buses and Subway
There are a few different types of buses in the city. The two most distinct ones are minivan-buses and city shuttles.
Minibuses are in a range of colors, which usually differs based on the city they are in. They are not the easiest to spot but generally appear in the form of a large van. To stop a minibus, stand on the sidewalk where the buses have a clear view of you. If they don’t stop, you can wave it down. There are virtually no bus stops for minibusses, so nonverbal communication in a 10-second framework between the driver and you is key.
Unlike minibusses, city shuttles are your average-Joe buses that operate in larger cities. While these buses stop at standard stops in a metropolitan like Istanbul and Izmir, it was harder to spot them in areas with fewer tourists. As such, tactics used to stop minibusses shall be pulled out here. If you stand on a sidewalk that can be easily seen by the driver, they will most likely stop. NOTE!!: City buses don’t usually operate in remote areas. Familiarize yourself with minibusses if you want to include more deserted travel destinations in your itinerary.
Don’t mind me repeating ‘bus’ two dozens times. These are the only viable means of public transportation since only 5 cities in Turkey (Istanbul, Izmir, Ankara, Adana, and Bursa) have subway systems.
There are virtually no taxis in smaller cities. Taxis in bigger cities, like other tourist prone destinations in the world, sometimes are set out to profit from tourist ineptitude. Beware of taxis taking a long, unnecessary detour, and generally, have an estimate of the trip cost by asking locals.
Uber works in a similar fashion. They operate in larger cities but often forgo the less touristy ones.
As such, I often opt for buses or hitchhiking. It’s really easy to hitch a ride in Turkey since people are all around nice, nice and nice. There are definitely safety concerns as with hitchhiking elsewhere, but I found all my rides to be incredibly friendly.
Traveling between Cities
The biggest bus companies in Turkey are Metro, Pammukale, Kamil Koc, Ulusoy. Not all buses will go to your destination, make sure to check online, or at the office! (Offices are located at the city’s central bus station. Most speak English)
Buses are significantly cheaper than other means of transportation. They generally range between 30 and 65 lira (US $8-16). NOTE!!: Bus prices don’t change, so if you don’t have a set travel plan, feel free to buy tickets a day beforehand. But make sure that they don’t sell out!
Other Methods of Transportation and Blabla Car
Planes are generally twice or thrice more expensive than buses so I am not a big fan. As noted, I thought hitchhiking to be quite safe as well. I’ve only hitched rides around Alanya but hear a lot of backpackers do it with little difficulty.
My favorite form of transportation around Europe and Turkey was Blabla Car. I used the app four times in Turkey, and two out of the four times, the drivers wouldn’t let me pay because I was a foreigner! In one of the cases, We ended up becoming good friends and I stayed at their beach house in Izmir for a night, but that’s another story.
What to Wear
Safety varied between cities. Turkey is a lot more open-minded than I expected. However, definitely dress more formal if you don’t want to invite stares. As a solo female traveler, I always take some caution when I’m in a different country.
In Turkey, I wore skirts and shorts throughout my trip and felt pretty safe. But then again, I was usually with friends. Short shorts and tank tops can be seen in major cities, especially tourist zones such as Alanya, where a bulk of the tourists walked around the streets in their bikinis 😀
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Have been backpacking for some months now, but this is definitely one of the most breathtaking things I've experienced. Hustling onto a shuttle at 4 in the morning, running around on the hills like a maniac. Being forgotten by the bus and hitchhiking at 7 back to town. My life is full of unfortunate events
Clubs and Bars
Turkish clubs are very interesting, especially down south. They are dominated by mainstream music with occasional Turkish songs. The dance floor is pretty small, usually with hired girls on a stage in the middle. Tables and chairs surround the dance floor, with well-dressed clubbers standing around them. Drinks are very expensive, ranging from 15-20 lira for a beer
Clubs in Istanbul (Taksim district) are completed like those in Europe, deep-house, small, chills.
I felt very safe in Turkey despite recent events (Asians being attacked in Istanbul and the conflict at the Syrian-Turkish border). Since I was there before the bombing of both Istanbul and Ankara, I didn’t have a sense of distress or urgency. To be fair, I didn’t travel too far east so I definitely wouldn’t know or recommend anyone to visit the borders. In terms of the 9 cities I visited, I loved all and felt really safe!
Remember to always ASK ASK ASK
Although a lot of Turkish people aren’t fluent in English, especially down south. They are very friendly, and will do all they can to help!
Happy Travels xx
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