Turkey Rail Passes and Train Tips

By Rick Steves

Are rail passes a good value for Turkey?

Since point-to-point train tickets in Turkey are cheap to buy as you go (and because most people use plenty of non-train transportation — buses, ferries, even flights — to get around Turkey), a rail pass isn't likely to save you money for a Turkey-only trip. But if you're ending (or beginning) a longer European train journey in Turkey, you might want to allot a day or two on your pass for getting to, or across, Turkey — just be aware of the limited international connections.

How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?

Train, Bus & Boat Fares: Turkey

Map shows approximate costs, in $US, for one-way, second-class tickets. For first-class fares, add 50 percent.

Use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. Dotted lines (such as Istanbul–Bandırma) show ferry routes, and dashed lines show bus routes, neither of which are covered by rail passes. "(N)" indicates that a route has only an overnight train connection.

Also, follow the links below for:

More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
The basics on choosing among rail passes
More tips on how to save money by fine-tuning your rail pass
Advice on deciding between first and second class
Fare-estimate maps outside Turkey
Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions

What are my options for rail passes that cover Turkey?

Turkey Eurail Pass

Balkan Pass (8 countries) → key details

Eurail Global Pass (31 countries) → read more about this pass

Rail Europe shopping cart: Have an order underway? Review and complete it here.

Do I need to make seat reservations on trains in Turkey?

Seat reservations are never required on Turkish trains.

You do need to pay extra for a couchette berth or sleeper compartment on overnight trains, which run between İzmir and Eskişehir (to connect to/from Istanbul), Ankara, and Konya; and between Ankara and eastern Turkey (it takes about 24 hours to get to the border by train).

What's the best way reach Turkey from elsewhere in Europe?

Flying is the best way to connect Turkey with Europe, as the only cross-border train is currently the overnight train between Istanbul and Sofia, Bulgaria (which includes a wake-up call at the 2 a.m. border crossing, plus likely construction interruptions in 2019). No trains currently connect Turkey with Greece, although Greek trains do now link Athens and Thessaloniki with Alexandroupolis and Kastanies (a.k.a. "Kastanee/Καστανιές" on Greek schedules), which is within taxi/bus reach of the Turkish border (via Edirne).

Long-distance buses are another option, but of course take much longer to connect major cities.

Ferries connect some coastal Turkish cities to nearby Greek islands; the only connection to Athens is the Aegean Seaways ferry connecting Çeşme (near İzmir) and Lavrio (near Athens).

None of these options are covered by rail passes.

Any tips for getting around Turkey?

Istanbul's main station, Sirkeci, is currently being remodeled; in the mean time trains between Istanbul and Asian Turkey are served by Söğütlüçeşme Station, in the Kadıköy district (across the Bosphorus from the city center), and trains to/from the west and north are served by the suburban station of Halkalı (west of the city center). The Marmaray light-rail line now connects both Halkalı and Söğütlüçeşme with central Istanbul.

High-speed trains branded as "YHT" run several times daily betwen Istanbul (Söğütlüçeşme Station), Ankara, and Konya. YHT tickets are available online, in stations, and at some local agencies, but can't be purchased more than 10 days ahead of travel.

Another handy route is the train service connecting İzmir airport and Selçuk/Ephesus. But for most other connections within Turkey, bus service is faster and more frequent than the train. And flights connecting farther-afield cities within Turkey are usually affordable.


What if I need help with my Rail Europe order?

All orders for passes and tickets are fulfilled by Rail Europe (not by Rick Steves' Europe). For customer-service questions, contact them online (or call 800-622-8600, but expect long waits and periods of unavailability at the call desk) — and keep in mind that refund options are fairly limited.


Balkan rail pass: Key details

Covers trains in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey; also covers some ferry travel in Greece. Read ahead before getting this pass — your guidebook may recommend travel by bus instead of train. Note: This is not a Eurail-brand pass, so overnight trains are counted according to the "7 p.m. rule," and special Eurail promotional deals don't apply to this pass. Travelers age 26 or 27 should also note that the Balkan Pass's youth cutoff is 26 (unlike with Eurail-brand passes, which grant discounts to all travelers under 28). Kids age 4–12 pay half price with this pass.