Turkish long-distance buses are modern, comfortable, and air-conditioned. Some buses (called teknobus), even have wireless internet and entertainment systems so you can watch a small selection of Turkish television shows and movies on a screen mounted on the back of the seat in front of you (earphones provided). A steward will also serve you snacks, tea, coffee and soft drinks.
There are no toilets, and smoking is not allowed. But the trips allow for a ten-minute break, called a mola, approximately every 40 minutes, with longer breaks for meals at designated rest stops along the way. The food at these rest stops is usually excellent.
Trips lasting ten hours or more are usually done at night, or twice per day. These long trips can really wear you out. By flying, you can get the trip over with more quickly and not be as tired on arrival as you would after a long bus journey. Flights within Turkey are also reasonably priced, so unless you don't mind sleeping in a bus seat, at least check the airline ticket price and consider it as an option. Another option is to break up the bus trip into two parts, see another city on the way, and get a good night's sleep in between.
If there is train service to your destination, you can also get a couchette, or sleeping compartment, on a train where you can get a night's sleep and arrive well-rested the next day.
How to Use Buses and Car Rentals
Renting a car and driving long distances is expensive, since petrol prices in Turkey are some of the highest in the world. A better option is to take a long-distance bus to your destination, then rent a car there. Once you've seen the local sights, you can take the bus back to your city of origin or to the next city you want to visit.
How to Buy a Bus Ticket in Turkey
At the Bus Station
If you are going from one major city to another, you can usually just go to the bus station, buy a ticket, and wait for the next bus. When you enter the bus station, a tout will usually approach you to see where you're going and take you to his company's ticket desk. You can go with him, or walk along the rows of ticket desks looking for your preferred company or destination. Each company will have signs displaying the destinations they service. The ticket clerks will usually speak enough English to help you with any questions.
At a Bus Company Office
You can also visit a bus company office in city center and buy a ticket, then take a courtesy bus to the bus station. Ask the clerk when the courtesy bus will be departing, since the time on your ticket refers to the departure time of the bus from the bus station, not the departure of the courtesy bus from the bus company office. The departure time (saat or haraket saati), and the departure gate will be written on your ticket. The major companies will also have a courtesy bus at the bus station at your destination, that will take you to their office downtown. Ask about this when you book your ticket, then again when you arrive, since you will need to find out where to go to connect with the courtesy bus.
At Your Hotel
You can also have the hotel clerk book your bus ticket for you. Have them call and reserve a seat, then just go to the bus company office and get your ticket.
If you want a window seat, ask for a pencere koltuğu (pen-jeh-reh kol-too-oo). For an aisle seat, ask for a koridor koltuğu. (kor-ee-dor kol-too-oo). You can also ask to see the seating plan and point to the seat you want. The most comfortable seats are those in the middle of the bus.
Bus Ticket Prices
Bus ticket prices vary according to company and the type of bus used. There are discounts for round-trip tickets, and for children. You can check prices on the various bus company websites here.
Bus Travel During Turkish Holidays
During Turkish national and Muslim holidays, buses fill to capacity, and the roads are busy with travelers. This also causes higher accident rates than other days of the year. It is safest to avoid travel during these times, but if you must, make your reservation at least one day in advance, earlier if possible.
Short-haul Inter-city Buses
These short routes are usually run by smaller local companies or by cooperatives between nearby towns. They may also go to nearby popular sights, running at least hourly every day during daylight hours. They are certainly a more affordable alternative to renting a car. You can take one of these buses to, for example, a nearby ancient site or beach, stay as long as you want, then take the same bus back. Be sure to ask when the last bus returns.
Turkish for Bus Travel: Basic Turkish you should know when using the long-distance bus system in Turkey.
Short-haul Inter-city Bus Travel
City Buses in Turkey: A guide to traveling by municipal bus.
The Dolmuş: A guide to using privately owned mini-buses, or jitneys.