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TRAIN

Turkish State Railways (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları, TCDD; www.tcdd.gov.tr ) runs services across the country. Lines laid out during late Ottoman era rarely follow the shortest route, tough a few newer, more direct lines have since been laid, shortening travel times on the best express trains. However, with three nasty train crashes in the space of a few weeks in 2004 including one on the newly inaugurated high-speed Istanbul - Ankara run, some contest that the network needs a complete overhaul. Certainly the government is throwing money at the system, hoping to build a fast-rail network throughout the country. Fast-rail links between Istanbul and Ankara ( anew line), Ankara and Konya,Sivas and Kars and Edirne and Kars have started or are  on the drawing board.

The train network covers central and eastern Turkey fairly well but doesn't go along the coastlines at all, apart from a short stretch between Izmir and Selcuk. For the Aegean and Mediterranean Coasts you could go by train to either Izmir or Konya, and take the bus from there. 

In terms of what to expect, train travel through Turkey has a growing number of fans embracing the no-rush travel experience: stunning scenery rolling by picture windows, the rhythmic clickity-clacks through a comfy slumber and the immersion with friendly locals.  The occasional unannounced hold up and public toilets gone feral by the end of the long journey are all part of the adventure. And if you are on a budget, an overnight train journey is a great way to save accommodation costs. 

The key to enjoying train travel in Turkey is to plan stops en route for long-haul trips and to know what to expect in terms of how long a journey will take. For example, the Vangölü Ekspresi from Istanbul to Lake Van (Tatvan),.1900 km trip, takes over 40 hours- and that's an express! The bus takes less than 24 hours, the plane less than 2 hours. Popular train trips include Istanbul to Ankara and the overnight trains between Istanbul and Konya, Istanbul and Tehran (Iran) and Istanbul and Aleppo (Syria). Make sure you double-check all train departure times. check out the trains timetables and coasts

Classes & Costs

Turkish trains have several seating and sleeping options. Most of the trains have comfortable reclining Pullman seat carriages. Some also have European-style compartments with six seats, usually divided into 1st- and 2nd- class coaches. Sometimes seats can be booked in these compartments, sometimes they're 'first come, best seated'

There are 3 types of sleeper. A küşetli (couchette) wagon has shared four-or sometimes six-person compartments with seats that fold down into shelf-like beds. Bedding is not provided for these wagons unless it's an örtülü küşetli or' covered' couchette. A yataklı wagon has private European-style sleeping compartments with wash basin and all bedding provided, capable of sleeping one to three people-these are the best option for women travelling on their own on overnight trips.

There is usually a mix of these options on the same service. The Dogu Express from Istanbul to Kars, for example, has two Pullman carriages, two covered couchettes, two unreserved seating compartments and a sleeper.

Train tickets are usually about half the price of bus tickets. Children, students, seniors the disabled and return tickets get a 20% discount.

 

Inter-Rail, Balkan Flexipass and Eurodomino passes are valid on the Turkish railway network; Eurail passes are not.

Reservations

Most seats and all sleepers on the best trains must be reserved. As the yataklı (sleeping-car) wagons are very popular, you should make your reservation as far in advance as possible, especially if a religious or public holiday is looming. Weekend trains tend to be busiest.

You can book and pay for tickets online at www.tcdd.gov.tr