Turkey and surrounding countries
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Nov 5, 2012 8:25 AM Last Post By: iviehoff
Oct 26, 2012 5:41 PM
Turkey and surrounding countriesI'm planning a solo bike trip to Turkey next year and I'm wondering about visiting other nearby countries as well. I would love some advice on the pros and cons of combining the trip with any of the following:- Greece, Italy, Iran, Bulgaria, Romania or Cyprus. I'm interested in scenery, costs, friendliness of people and ease of travel for an older woman cyclist. I mean, if I can't cope how easy is it to put the bike on a bus and how safe do people feel wild camping?
Oct 27, 2012 4:30 AM
Oct 28, 2012 9:29 AM
2I am currently in eastern Turkey and came here from the UK by bicycle. So, in answer to your question, here goes.
Both Romania (except along the Danube) and Bulgaria are very hilly. traffic is generally light and camping fairly easy and safe. The people are friendly, probably moreso for a single woman. Turkey is much the same, the only flat land is the very south, bordering Iraq and Syria, the rest is mountainous. The scenery is tremendous and the cities/towns are interesting. Travel here for a single woman maybe more difficult, because it a muslim country, and the male is not used to seeing a woman on a bike, particularly if you are wearing lycras! The further east you go, the more of a problem this is likely to be. Having said that, the people are remarkably friendly and generous, although few speak English.
As for putting your bike on a bus, I haven't done this, but I think it might be a problem because space underneath seems to be limited. Is it a standard full-size bike? Taking it on a train would be less of a problem, but at the moment there are no trains between Istanbul and Ankara, because they are building a high-speed rail link.
Turkish drivers, particularly in and around Istanbul are not the best. I would strongly recommend you have a rear view mirror. Again, the further east one goes, the less traffic there is.
Be aware that in the summer months it can be incredibly hot and many roads have little or no shade. Getting water is generally not a problem from roadside springs, and it is good to drink.
Turkey is a very big country on a bike. I have been here for three months and ridden some 3000kms., only in Turkey, so plan your route well.
Any further help I can give you, please just ask.
Oct 28, 2012 9:37 AM
3As for Iran, it is a fabulous country on a bike. The people are so hospitable and the traffic, outside the cities very light.
The biggest problem you will have, depending upon which country you come from, will be getting a visa. It is expensive, up to 200 Euros for a UK citizen, and can take ages to get. It is easier to go through an agency, rather than approach the embassy direct. You need to research this.
I did meet a Spanish guy that got his visa in one day, from Trabzon in northern Turkey. This was only a few weeks ago. In 2009, it took me almost three months, I am from the UK.
If you were to decide on Iran it is worth the trouble, although I have heard that for a lone woman it can be a nightmare. Strict muslim dress code, male narrow mindedness etc. etc.
Oct 29, 2012 8:03 AM
My wife and I have just come through from London to Georgia on a tandem. Italy was fabulous - the welcome to cyclists, the food etc. Ditto going down the coast of Croatia. Bulgaria was a fantastic surprise - we went from Sofia south into the mountains, then to Plovdiv and again south into the Rodopi mountains. Quiet roads, wooded dramatic hills and wild camping where it wasn't too steep. Turkey has been good, but as mentioned by others Istanbul is not good for cycling and the centre of Anatolia is rural and Islamic, meaning that you do not see women on the streets, although everybody is most welcoming. Buses in Turkey are fine for bikes: turn up early at the terminus to be the first to get your luggage on, then load the bike vertically and bungee it to the internal framework of the bus luggage area. Again, wild camping has been fine. Currently in Georgia but the driving of the locals is seriously worrying.
Oct 30, 2012 8:35 AM
5If you're interested in Turkey/Iran, consider going via Kurdish Iraq. It's an interesting, safe place, the locals are extremely friendly and there are no tourists. There's also no chance of you ending up anywhere dangerous - it's simply impossible to exit the Kurdish part (which is safe apart from Mosul) and enter the suicidally dangerous Arab part.
The biggest problem is route finding - there are no decent maps and the main roads have too much traffic. Also you need to avoid Mosul - and according to the maps that's not possible, although in reality there are lots of alternatives. I figured out a route by peering at the Google Earth satellite images - you could just copy my route which is detailed on my crazyguy write-up:
Oct 30, 2012 9:08 AM
Oct 30, 2012 9:53 AM
7I live in Turkey and often bike around the country. It is easy to put your bike on a bus and I've never been charged for it, although one time a company did want to charge and I went with another company instead.
As the poster above said, though, bikes do take a lot of space up under the bus. Technically there are limits on what you can take and you'll be fine if there is room, but if the bus is full, YOU will be the one to be refused space. For this reason, you should be flexible about travelling, always ready to take a bus the next day. Also try to avoid travelling into major cities on Friday nights and out on Sundays - ditto to-from major tourist resorts in the summer.
I find that Turkish drivers are actually better than eastern european drivers outside the cities. They are used to seeing strange things on the roads on less developed roads so they are more careful. Be careful of minor roads that are treated as major ones, though - there are quite a lot of those.
Nov 3, 2012 8:38 PM
8I rode around that area for a few months about two years ago. http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=6601&v=8Q
I can confirm that it is easy to put your bike on (under) a bus. Of the neighbouring countries you mentioned I would highlight Cyprus as being great to travel to. There are two different ports in Southern Turkey to two different cities in Turkish Cyprus. Syria was also good to travel to but you might want to refrain from that for now. I didn't make it to Iran but heard great things. But it will be hot during Summer so plan accordingly. Greek islands are great to travel to but not so much the Greek mainland IMHO. I loved Bulgaria but hated Romania. It might be better to take the bus from Istanbul to Varna rather than try to ride it. I did this and loved Varna by the way. I loved cycling Italy but hated the constant struggle to not be ripped off.
Nov 5, 2012 8:25 AM
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