Buses form Turkey's most widespread and popular means all transport. Virtually every first time travelers to the country comments on the excellence of the bus system compared with that in their home country. The buses are well-kept and comfortable too and you will be treated to snacks and tea along the journey, plus liberal sprinklings of the Turks beloved kolonya (lemon cologne).
Most Turkish cities and towns have a central bus station generally called the otogar, garaj or terminal. Besides intercity buses the handles dolmuses ( minibuses that follow prescribed routes) to outlying districts or villages. Most bus stations have an emanetci (left luggage) room, which you can use for a nominal fee.
Bus fares are subject to fierce competition between companies and sometimes you can bargain them down by claiming poverty student status etc. However this does not always work. Prices also reflect what the market will bear,so that the fare from Rich City X to Poor Village Y to Rich City X.
We give sample fares from old Turkey's main bus stations under Getting There & Away in the individual place entries. Typically a bus ticket from Istanbul to Canakkale costs €9 from Istanbul to Ankara around €22, and from Istanbul to Goreme (Cappadocia) €27 to €22.
Although you can usually walk into an otogar and buy a ticket for the next bus, it's wise to plan ahead for public holidays at weekends and during the school-holiday period from mid-June to early September.You can reserve seats over the web on most of the bus company.
When you enter an otogar prepare for an onslaught of touts, all offering verses to the destination of your choice. How do you choose which company to go with? It is usually a good idea to stick to to the reputable big name companies. You may pay a bit more but at least you can be more confident the bus has been well-maintained will run on time and that there will be a backup driver on really long hauls. For shorter trips you will find other bus companies have big localised city networks; for example Truva serves the area around Canakkale and Uludag covers destinations around Bursa.
After buying a ticket getting a refund can be difficult; exchanging it for another tickets with the same company is easier.
All seats are reservable and your ticket will bear a specific seat number. The ticket agent will have a chart of the seats with those already sold crossed off. Look at the chart and indicate your seating preference avoiding those right at the back of the bus (which can get stuffy) or immediately over the wheels (which can get bumpy!). On night buses you may also want to avoid the front row of seats behind the driver which have little legroom (you may have to inhale to listen to him chatting to his conductor into the early hours). The seats immediately in front of and behind the middle door are also a bad choice; those in front don't recline and those behind have no leg room.
While it obviously makes sense from a town planning point of view to move the otogars all of the town centers, what this tends to mean is that real journey times are becoming a bit how-long-is-a-piece-of-stringish. The timings we give are from otogar to otogar, but you may need to add up to an hour in either direction for getting to and from the otogars. This is especially true if you are using a servis (shuttle minibus) to get there. As otogars move further out of town, so most bus companies provide a servis bus to take passengers to and from the City centre. When buying a ticket ask whether there is a servis and when it leaves for the otogar. On arrival, say 'servis var mi?' to find out whether there's a servis into town. Rare cities there are no servises include Bursa, Konya and Safranbolu.
Servis drivers like to allow plenty of time for getting to the otogar, which means that in Goreme, for example, you must usually be at the pick up point for transfer to Nevsehir a good 45 minutes before the bus is scheduled to leave even though it is just a 15 minute drive.
While these services are free they do have some snags. You may find yourself waiting around interminably for another busload of passengers to arrive or for your driver to be dragged away from the TV to run his . Even when he shows up the journey can still be protracted as he drops each and every passenger off at their doorstep( well perhaps not literally). If time is more important then money, then forget it and jump into a taxi.
Also beware pensham owners who lead you to believe that the private minibus to their pension is the bus company servis. This certainly happens at Nevsehir otogar and probably at other places too