Welcome to this guide on how to interrail in Turkey! We hope you find the information here useful for your trip(s)!
All intercity trains in Turkey are operated by the state operator, TCDD Taşımacılık.
Intercity and international services are divided into 4 tiers. These tiers will determine everything about a given service. The tiers are:
- Regional trains (Bölgesel trenler)
- Mainline trains (Anahat trenleri)
- High-speed trains (YHT)
- International trains (Uluslararası trenler — classified as Mainline but with separate ticketing)
In addition to these, commuter/suburban services (akin to S-Bahn systems in German-speaking countries) also exist. These cannot be used with Interrail.
These systems and the tickets accepted are:
– Marmaray in Istanbul and Kocaeli – istanbulkart
– İZBAN in Izmir – izmirimkart OR contactless
– GaziRay in Gaziantep – Gaziantep Kart
– Başkentray in Ankara – Ankara Kart
Regional trains are often the most overlooked when traveling by rail in Turkey. These trains travel within the same TCDD administrative region, which means there might be no regional trains between cities that are next to each other.
A map can be found below:
Regional trains are ticketed only on travel day, and only from stations on said route. Online or over-the-phone ticketing is not possible.
The cars are “unnumbered”, which means that there are no seat reservations, just sit wherever. Trains often have very little in the way of amenities, a toilet is always available. Power outlets may be available, but are not guaranteed.
As regional trains (especially those in Region 3, the region around İzmir) can sell out and even be overbooked, it is advisable to get to your station a good 20-30m before departure time if departing from a terminus. Forget about sitting if you’re boarding later along the route unless traveling during really off-peak hours.
Regional train routes are not available on the Interrail planner or any other booking service, as they’re not bookable online. To reach the complete set of routes and schedules, click here
Mainline trains are arguably the most known out of them all. All the famous routes you’ve heard of are mainline trains. Doğu Ekspresi, Pamukkale Ekspresi, İzmir Mavi Treni… They are all mainline services.
Mainline services generally travel between different regions, though sometimes regional routes can be made into mainline when there’s enough demand. (eg. Basmane-Denizli route)
Mainline trains always offer standard seats, and sometimes offer sleeping cabins (max. 2 people) and/or couchette cabins (max. 4 people)
Mainline trains can be booked online through the TCDD website or through e-Devlet (only for those with TR citizenship or residence). Over-the-phone booking is also available should you want to go that route.
Seat reservations on mainline trains vary by route. Night trains will usually require a reservation, and a reservation is always required for couchettes or cabins. Standard seating may or may not be subject to reservation depending on the train. Online/over-the-phone tickets are only sold for the numbered sections of a given train. Tickets for the unnumbered (no reservation) cars can only be booked at ticket offices. It is advisable to check with TCDD.
Most mainline train routes also aren’t available on the Interrail planner, but they can be booked online through the TCDD site. A full listing of routes and their respective schedules can be found here.
High-speed trains are particularly new in Turkey, only serving a limited number of cities.
High speed trains can be booked in the same fashion as mainline trains. THERE ARE NO UNNUMBERED CARS ON HIGH-SPEED TRAINS. RESERVATIONS ARE ALWAYS MANDATORY
In addition to this, YHT services depart from separate platforms, and an airport-style luggage x-ray is mandatory. Arrive a good 20m beforehand to the station.
Business and Economy classes are offered on YHT services. There are also cabins on the newer Velaro units that can be booked for an extra fee.
Some YHT services are visible on the Interrail planner, and the services can be booked online. You can click here for a listing of all routes and their respective schedules.
Tickets and Interrail Validity
The Interrail QR code, by itself, is generally not valid.
You need to consult the ticket office at the station and get a paper ticket by showing your Interrail pass. This ticket is free unless upgrading to a couchette/sleeper.
With this in mind, I personally wouldn’t recommend an Interrail pass within Turkey. Getting individual tickets will be cheaper and more convenient, as most ticket staff cannot speak English.
Tickets, on the other hand, are convenient to get. For mainline and high-speed trains, you can simply go to: https://bilet.tcdd.gov.tr/. Regional train tickets can be obtained from a station on said route on travel day.
You do not need to print out your ticket. You can show the QR code provided in the PDF to the controller, or you can provide your name and surname along with a valid passport, which will be used to match your name and surname with the ticket. You are required to provide an ID number or Passport number while booking online.
Specifics and Particulars
There are some particulars to Turkish rail travel that you might want to know beforehand.
- The gender rule: Passengers whose official documents say male cannot buy tickets next to passengers whose documents say female, and vice-versa. This rule applies to all numbered cars and all types of seating (standard seats, couchettes). Seats next to each other can be booked only when the tickets are bought together, within the same transaction.
- ID/Passport is mandatory when buying tickets. You must show these to the controllers when asked. Any discrepancy with the ticket will result in your ticket being invalid.
- Restaurant cars do not serve hot food, they only sell a very limited selection of beverages and small snacks. Bring your own food, but nothing smelly, please.
EDIT as of 18/06/2023: a TCDD employee confirmed that as of March 2023, full catering with hot food options have been restarted on services to/from Ankara
- Catering on the Izmir Mavi has been tested and confirmed, with card payment possible as of June 2023
1. Under 6 travel free on unnumbered cars, and free with the condition that they don’t have their own seat for other trains.
2. 7-12 travels with a 50% discount.
3. 13-26 travels with a 15% discount.
4. 60-64 also gets a 15% discount
4. Anyone above 65 gets 50%.
Beyond the rails: How to coach bus?
Turkey sadly is still behind on basic rail connections, but fear not! You can travel by train as far as you can and then take a coach bus. How do I manage this magic, you might ask. Well, here’s how:
First, let’s get up to speed on some vocabulary. Gar means train station, and Otogar means coach terminal.
Once you disembark from your train, go on Google Maps or any other map app and search for “city name + otogar”. This place will be the coach bus station for that city. Once you arrive at the local otogar, you can buy a ticket from any bus company by simply walking up to their ticket office. If you would rather buy all your tickets in advance just to be sure (because bus tickets can and WILL run out), you can use either the site of your favorite bus operator or obilet, basically a Turkish search engine for bus tickets, among other things.
You can reach this wonderous site here: https://www.obilet.com/en
(You can do this in reverse too, go your first leg with a bus and then transfer to a train!)
I personally recommend Pamukkale or Kamil Koç (FlixBus Turkey) as they offer the best service. Do not, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, use Metro (the bus company). All other companies are pretty “meh”.
Pro tip: The train station will sometimes be far away from the “Otogar”. In this case, you can take a taxi or just take public transport! Train stations will generally have a public transport card sale point not too far away, and İzmir allows you to use a contactless card too!
Denizli is a good transfer point for going onwards to Antalya/Mugla. The otogar is just across the road from the train station, no complicated overpasses or anything. Just wait for the light and cross!
Websites and Apps to Plan Your Journey!
There is no single link I can post that’ll show all info, so here are some definitely useful sites to use when planning your trip!
– TCDD Taşımacılık website: You can view individual routes and their itinerary. Routes will be listed in different parts of the website depending on their type (regional, mainline, high-speed)
– TCDD Taşımacılık mobile app: Ticketing for mainline and high-speed trains, viewing departure times and stations (itinerary) for regional trains. Can also be used to see the trains stopping at any given station and their complete schedules
– bilet.tcdd.gov.tr: Same with the mobile app, but no English language option yet.
Here are the links: TCDD Taşımacılık Regional Routes Homepage: https://www.tcddtasimacilik.gov.tr/tr/bolgesel_trenler
TCDD Taşımacılık Mainline Routes Homepage: https://www.tcddtasimacilik.gov.tr/tr/ana_hat_trenleri
TCDD Taşımacılık High-Speed Routes Homepage: https://www.tcddtasimacilik.gov.tr/tr/yuksek_hizli_tren
Station Search: https://bilet.tcdd.gov.tr/train-information
The mobile app is named “TCDD Taşımacılık Eybis”.