Up until January 2001, the majority of flights into Turkey arrived in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport which lies about 15 km west of the city centre. Sabiha Gokcen which lies about 25km east of Istanbul city centre is now the country’s busiest airport, however, and like Ataturk offers flights to all of the other airports in Turkey. There are also international terminals at Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Bodrum, Dalaman, Izmir and Trabzon.
The country’s international carrier is Turkish Airlines or THY operates direct flights from Istanbul to New York, Miami, Chicago and several destinations in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. From the US and Canada, Delta Airlines is the only other airline which offers a direct non-stop service to Istanbul flying from Atlanta and New York. Other than this, however, a huge number of airlines offer indirect flights from one country to the other.
In Europe, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Sabena and Swiss Airway operate direct services to Istanbul. In addition, Lufthansa flies to both Ankara and Antalya, Austrian Airlines flies to Ankara and Swissair flies to Ankara and Iamir.
Finally, if you wish to fly from Australia or New Zealand several airlines work in partnership with Turkish Airlines including Alitalia, British Airways, Lufthansa Olympic Airways, Qantas and Singapore Airlines offering flights to Istanbul with connections to the rest of the country’s main international airports.
Another popular alternative for entry into turkey is via ferry. The country’s major ports are Antalya, Bandirma, Istanbul, Izmir, Marmaris, Mersin and Turkish Maritime Lines (TML), and Turkey’s national shipping organisation operates the majority of the sailings to and from the country. As well as this, however, numerous cruise ships now operate in the Mediterranean including Costa, CTC, Epirotiki, Golden Sun Cruises, Linblad Expeditions, Norwegian and Sun Line. The main sea connections are with Greece and Italy but there are also several services which travel to Cyprus. Furthermore, as well as the main cruise ships, several foreign shipping companies are now offering regular services to Alanya, Antalya, Bodrum, Cesme, Dikih, Iskenderun, Istanbul, Izmir, Kusadasi, Marmaris, Mersin, Samsun and Trabzon.
A final alternative for travel to Turkey is by bus or rail. Turkey has regular bus services to and from Austria, France, Germany, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland and Syria. Or if you wish to travel by rail, Istanbul has connections with Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Georgia, Yugoslavia and the UK.
For those of you who can afford it, Turkish Airlines operate a series of internal flights from Adana, Ankara, Antalaya, Dalaman, Istanbul, Izmir and Trabzan to all the other major Turkish cities. It is also helpful to know that holders of an International Student Identity Card or ISIC are entitled to a 10% discount when booking.
Despite this, however, the reality is that the majority of you travelling internally while you are in Turkey will probably avail of the bus or rail service in the country. If you choose to avail of the former service, numerous private tour companies provide frequent day and night services to and from all the major cities in the country. Quite often these connections are faster than the rail service, they travel to more destinations and thanks to healthy competition between companies, fares are considerably lower. If you wish to purchase a ticket for a particular coach service you need to go to the company’s branch office which you will find at the bus station or in city centre. And, when you know there’s competition between companies when it comes to price, you should also know that it’s a good idea to shop around before choosing on a company.
The rail network of Turkish State Railways (TCDD) now connects to most major cities and when compared to the rest of the continent, rail fares are quite reasonable. Most trains have couchettes, sleeping cars, restaurants and lounge cars offering both a first and second class service but none are air-conditioned. Express trains are more expensive even though they can be quite slow and usually offer indirect services. Tickets for all services can be purchased in TCDD offices at all railway stations or at TCDD appointed agents and again, if you are an ISIC holder you are entitled to a 20% discount.