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Visit some of the most famous and historical areas that Turkey has to offer to its visitors on one of our Turkey Travel Packages and Turkey Tours.

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Getting there & around

Travel documents

Make sure your passport will still have at least three months’ life in it after you enter Turkey.

Car ferry services operate between Italian and Greek ports and several Turkish ports, but not to İstanbul. There are also a handful of routes over the Black Sea. Ferrylines (www.ferrylines.com) is a good starting point for information about ferry travel in the region.

Private ferries link Turkey’s Aegean coast and the Greek islands, which are in turn linked by air or boat to Athens. Services are usually daily in summer, several times a week in spring and autumn, and perhaps just once a week in winter.

Marmara Lines (www.marmaralines.com) ferries connect Brindisi and Ancona in Italy with Çeşme. Turkish Maritime Lines (www.tdi.com.tr in Turkish) also operates twice-weekly ferries between Brindisi and Çeşme.

Northern Cyprus
The main crossing point between northern Cyprus and Turkey is between Taşucu (near Silifke) and Girne on the northern coast of northern Cyprus. Akgünler Denizcilik (www.akgunler.com.tr) makes this journey. You can also travel between Alanya and Girne with Fergün Denizcilik (www.fergun.net). Finally, you can travel between Mersin and Gazimağusa (Famagusta) on the east coast of Northern Cyprus, with Turkish Maritime Lines (231 2688, 237 0726 in Mersin).

Ferries travel between Trabzon and Sochi in Russia three times a week.

UKR Ferry (www.ukrferry.com) has a comfortable 36-odd hour (each way) weekly service crossing the Black Sea between Odessa and İstanbul from €105 per person (one way).

Another weekly service runs between Sevastopol and İstanbul, departing Sevastopol at 6pm Sunday (arriving at İstanbul 8am Tuesday) for €120 per person in a shared three-bed room, or €400 per person in a private luxury double. Departures from İstanbul are on Thursday nights at 10pm (arriving 8am Saturday). Ferries travel between İstanbul and Yalta too. Ring in Ukraine 0654-323 064 for more information or email the folk at www.aroundcrimea.com.

If you are planning to travel overland, you’ll be spoilt for choice since Turkey has land borders with eight countries. Bear in mind, however, that Turkey’s relationships with most of its neighbours tend to be tense, which can affect the availability of visas and when and where you can cross. Always check with the relevant embassy for the most up-to-date information before leaving home.

Border crossings
Crossing land borders by bus and train is fairly straightforward, but expect delays of between one and three hours. You’ll usually have to get off the bus or train and endure a paperwork and baggage check of all travellers on both sides of the border. This is a relatively quick process if you’re on a bus, but naturally takes a longer when there’s a trainload of passengers. Before you ditch the idea of trains, however, be aware that delays can be caused by the long line of trucks and cars banked up at some borders – especially at the Reyhanlı–Bab al-Hawa border between Turkey and Syria – not the number of fellow passengers.

Crossing the border with your own vehicle should be fairly straightforward. No special documents are required to import a car for up to six months, but be sure to take it out again before the six months is up. If you overstay your permit, you may have to pay customs duty equal to the full retail value of the car! If you want to leave your car in Turkey and return to collect it later, the car must be put under a customs seal, which is a tedious process.

For more on each country’s border crossings, see the relevant country headings following.

At the time of writing, the Turkish–Armenian border was closed to travellers. The situation could always change so it’s worth checking (the Russian embassy handles Armenian diplomatic interests in Turkey).

If you want to travel from Turkey to Armenia (or vice versa) you can fly or travel by bus via Georgia. At least three buses weekly depart from Trabzon’s otogar heading for Yerevan.

Azerbaijan (Nakhichevan)
At least two daily buses depart from Trabzon’s otogar heading for Tbilisi, where you can change for a bus to Baku.

You can also cross from Turkey to the Azerbaijani enclave of Nakhichevan via the remote Borualan–Sadarak border post, east of Iğdır. From there you’ll need to fly across Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh to reach the rest of Azerbaijan and Baku.

Bulgaria & Eastern Europe
It’s fairly easy to get to İstanbul by direct train or bus from many points in Europe via Bulgaria. There are three border crossings between Bulgaria and Turkey. The main border crossing is the busy Kapitan–Andreevo/Kapıkule, 18km west of Edirne on the E5. The closest town on the Bulgarian side is Svilengrad, some 10km from the border. You have to hitch a lift or hire a taxi rather than walk between the Greek–Turkish border posts. Petrol, foreign-exchange facilities, restaurants and accommodation are available at this crossing, which is open 24 hours daily. There is a second, newly opened, crossing at Lesovo–Hamzabeyli, some 25km north of Edirne; it’s a quieter option during the busy summer months than Kapitan-Andreevo/Kapıkule, but takes a little longer to get to and there’s no public transport. The third crossing is at Malko Târnovo–Kırıkkale, some 70km northeast of Edirne and 92km south of Burgas.

There are several departures daily to Sofia, and the coastal cities of Varna and Burgas in Bulgaria from İstanbul’s otogar – at least six companies offer services. There are also daily departures to Skopje, Tetovo and Gostivar in Macedonia, and to Constanta and Bucharest in Romania. The following companies run serves from İstanbul’s otogar.

Drina Trans (0212-658 1851; ticket office 88) Daily departures for Skopje, Macedonia (€30, 14 hours)

Metro Turizm (0212-658 3232; www.metroturizm.com.tr; ticket office 107) Daily departures to Sofia (€20, nine hours), Varna and Burgas in Bulgaria.

Öz Batu (0212-658 0255; ticket office 149) Daily departures for Sofia, Bulgaria (€17, nine hours) and Skopje, Macedonia (€32, 14 hours).

Özlem (0212-658 1344; ticket office 97) Daily departures for Constanta (€35; eight hours) and Bucharest (€35; eight hours), Romania.

The Bosphorus Express leaves İstanbul daily and runs to Bucsharest, from where you can travel onwards by train to Chişinău (Moldova) and Budapest (Hungary). You can also catch the Bosphorus Express as far as Dimitrovgrad (Bulgaria) from where you can travel onwards to Sofia (Bulgaria) and on to Belgrade (Serbia).

Essentially the Bosphorus Express leaves İstanbul with a line of carriages. There are separate carriages for passengers heading to Budapest, to Sofia and Belgrade, and to Chişinãu. The carriages are switched to local trains at either Bucharest or Dimitrovgrad, depending on where you’re heading. Confused? Don’t worry; bookings are simply from A to B, though there will be some delay as carriages are transferred.

You’ll need to take your own food and drinks as there are no restaurant cars on these trains. Note also that the Turkey–Bulgaria border crossing is in the early hours of the morning and you need to leave the train to get your passport stamped – the holdup takes about two hours. We’ve heard stories of harassment, especially of women, at the border, so lone women may be best taking an alternative route. Travelling in the sleeper cars is always the safest and most comfortable option.

The main border crossing is at Sarp on the Black Sea coast, between Hopa (Turkey) and Batum (Georgia). You can also cross inland at the Türkgözü border crossing near Posof, north of Kars (Turkey) and southwest of Akhaltsikhe (Georgia). The Sarp border crossing is open 24 hours a day; Türkgözü is open from 8am to 8pm, though in winter you might want to double-check it’s open at all.

Göktaş Ardahan (in İstabul 0212-658 3476; ticket office 10) runs direct buses between Tiflis and the otogar in İstanbul for €43. The journey takes around 26 hours. At least two daily buses depart from Trabzon’s otogar heading for Tbilisi.

If you’re heading to the Türkgözü border from the Turkish side, a convenient starting point is Kars. You need to get to Posof first, then hire a taxi or minibus to take you to the border post (16km, €20). From the border, hire another taxi to take you to the Georgian town of Akhaltsikhe (€15; two hours), from where regular buses head to Tbilisi (which can take up to seven hours).

Greece & Western Europe
An alternative to getting to Turkey from ­Europe is to make your way to Alexandroupolis in Greece and cross at Kipi–İpsala, 43km northeast of Alexandroupolis, or Kastanies–Pazarkule, 139km northeast, near the Turkish city of Edirne. Both borders are open 24 hours.

To cross at Kipi–İpsala take a bus service from Alexandroupolis to the Greek border point of Kipi, then hitch to the border. From there you can get a taxi (€8.50) to the bus station in İpsala and an onward bus to İstanbul.

If you’re crossing from Turkey into Greece, do so as soon after 9am as possible in order to catch one of the few trains or buses from Kastanies south to Alexandroupolis, where there are better connections. Alternatively, take a bus from Edirne to Keşan, then to İpsala and cross to Kipi.

Bus services to İstanbul run only from Germany, Italy, Austria and Greece, so if you’re travelling from other European cities, you’d need to catch a connecting bus. Two of the best Turkish companies – Ulusoy (0212-444 1888 in Turkey; www.ulusoy.com.tr) and Varan Turizm (0212-658 0270 in Turkey; www.varan.com.tr) – operate big Mercedes buses on these routes. Sample one-way fares to İstanbul are: Frankfurt €130 (45 hours), Munich €110 (42 hours), Vienna €105 (36 hours), and Athens €68 (20 hours).

Car & motorcycle
The E80 highway makes its way through the Balkans to Edirne and İstanbul, then on to Ankara. Using the car ferries from Italy and Greece can shorten driving time from Western Europe considerably, but at a price.

From Alexandroupolis in Greece, the main road goes to the most convenient crossing (Kipi–İpsala) then to Keşan and east to İstanbul or south to Gallipoli, Çanakkale and the Aegean.

There are two border crossings between Iran and Turkey, the busier Gürbulak–Bazargan, near Doğubayazıt (Turkey) and Şahabat (Iran); and the Esendere–Sero border crossing, southeast of Van (Turkey). Gürbulak–Bazargan is open 24 hours. Esendere–Sero is open from 8am until midnight, but double-check in winter as the border might be closed. Travellers are increasingly using this second crossing into Iran, which has the added bonus of taking you through the breathtaking scenery of far Southeastern Anatolia. And to make things easy, there is a direct bus running between Van (Turkey) and Orumiyeh (Iran).

There are regular buses from İstanbul and Ankara to Tabriz and Tehran. From İstanbul otogar, try Best Van Tur (0212-444 0065; otogar ticket office 147) with daily departures (€55, 35 hours). From Ankara, they leave from the AŞTİ bus terminal.

You may also want to consider taking a dolmuş from Doğubayazıt 35km east to the border at Gürbulak, for about €2, and then walking across the border. The crossing might take up to an hour. From Bazargan there are onward buses to Tabriz; from Sero there are buses to Orumiyeh. You can catch buses to Iran from Van.

The Trans-Asya Ekspresi runs between Teh­ran and İstanbul, travelling via Tabriz, Van and Tatvan. Expect a comfortable journey on connecting Turkish and Iranian trains, a ferry ride across Lake Van, and no showers. See the Iranian Railways site, RAJA Passenger Train Co (www.rajatrains.com), for more information.

There’s a weekly train service between Teh­ran (Iran) and Damascus, running through the Turkish cities of Van and Malatya. See www.tcdd.gov.tr for more information.

Although we obviously don’t suggest that travelling to wider Iraq is at all advisable, a handful of hardy travellers have been travelling into northern Iraq via the Habur–Ibrahim al-Khalil border post. It’s near Cizre and Silopi, on the Turkish side; Zakho is the closest town to the border on Iraqi side. There’s no town or village at the border crossing and you can’t walk across it. A taxi from Silopi to Zakho costs around €20, from Cizre to Zakho US$30.

Travellers report having to give a photocopy of their passport at the Turkish side, and being given a week-long entry stamp (not a visa) on the Iraqi side, as well as having to get a health certificate for a nominal fee. Travelling across the border into Turkey your bags will probably be searched – don’t carry patriotic Kurdish items. Check the local situation before crossing into Iraq.

There are eight border posts between Syria and Turkey, but the border at Reyhanlı–Bab al-Hawa is by far the most convenient, and therefore the busiest. Daily buses link Antakya in Turkey with the Syrian cities of Aleppo (Halab; €3, four hours, 105km) and Damascus (Şam; €5.50, eight hours, 465km). Also close to Antakya is the border post at Yayladağı. Other popular crossings to Syria include via Kilis, 65km south of Gaziantep, the Akçakale border, 54km south of Şanlıurfa and the Nusaybin–Qamishle border 75km east of Mardin.

It’s possible to buy bus tickets direct from İstanbul to Aleppo or Damascus. Hatay Pan Turizm (0212-658 3911; otogar ticket office 23) has a daily service leaving İstanbul otogar at 6am and arriving in Damascus (€27) at 3am the next morning. Urfa Seyahat (0212-444 6363; otogar ticket office 10) has departures for Aleppo at 1.30pm daily.

The very comfortable Toros Express train runs between İstanbul and Aleppo (and not all the way to Damascus as it says in the official timetables). Bring your own food and drinks as there is no restaurant car. Several comfortable trains link Aleppo and Damascus daily.

There’s a weekly train service between Teh­ran (Iran) and Damascus, running through the Turkish cities of Van and Malatya. See www.tcdd.gov.tr for more information.

Entering the destination
Entering the country
Generally speaking, entering Turkey by air is pretty painless. The only snag to be aware of is that most people need a ‘visa’ which is really just a stamp in their passport issued at the point of entry. If you fly into the country you must first join the queue to pay for the stamp in your passport before joining the queue for immigration. Rarely do customs officers stop you to check your bags at airports.

Entering the country by land can be more trying. Getting a visa is the same deal, but sometimes you can pay for the visa only in euros or US dollars. And at many of the land border crossings there are no facilities for changing money nor ATMs, so make sure you bring enough to pay for your visa. You may also want to consider having some Yeni Türk Lirası (YTL) on you before you get to the border.

Security on borders with countries to the east (Georgia, Iran, Iraq or Syria) is generally tight, so customs officers may want to see what you are bringing in. If you’re travelling by train or bus expect to be held up at the border for two to three hours – or even longer if your fellow passengers don’t have their paperwork in order.

Airports & airlines
Turkey’s busiest international airport is İstanbul’s Atatürk International Airport (code IST; 0212-465 3000; www.dhmiata.gov.tr), 23km west of Sultanahmet (the heart of Old İstanbul). The international (dış hatlar) and domestic terminals (iç hatlar) are side by side. İstanbul also has a smaller airport, Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (code SAW; 0216-585 5000; www.sgairport.com), some 50km east of Sultanahmet and Taksim Sq on the Asian side of the city. Sabiha Gökçen mainly services cheap flights from Europe, particularly Germany, and some domestic routes.

Throughout the year, but especially during the busy summer months, you can also catch international flights to/from Antalya (AYT; 0242-330 3221; www.aytport.com), Bodrum (BJV; 0252-523 0101), Dalaman (DLM; 0252-692 5899) and the rapidly expandingİzmir (ADB; 0232-274 2424). From Turkey’s other airports, including Ankara, you usually have to transit İstanbul.

Turkey’s national carrier is Turkish Airlines, which has direct flights from İstanbul to most capital cities around the world. It has a reasonable safety record, and service is usually pretty good too.


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