It's a good idea to book flights months in advance if you plan to arrive in Turkey any time from April until late August. If you plan to visit a resort, check with travel agents for flight and accommodation deals. Sometimes you can find cheap flights with Turkish carriers and smaller airlines.
Airports & Airlines
The main international airports are in western Turkey.
Atatürk International Airport The city's main airport, Atatürk International Airport, is located in Yeşilköy, 23km west of Sultanahmet. The international terminal (Dış Hatlar) and domestic terminal (İç Hatlar) operate at or close to capacity, which has prompted the Turkish Government to announce construction of a new, much larger, airport 50km north of the city centre. The first stage of the new airport's construction is due to be completed by 2018 but the facility won't be fully operational until 2025.
Sabiha Gökçen International Airport This airport on İstanbul's Asian side is popular with low-cost European airlines, but is not as conveniently located as Atatürk.
Antalya International Airport Receives flights from across Turkey and Europe.
Adnan Menderes Airport There are many flights to İzmir’s Adnan Menderes Airport from European destinations.
Milas-Bodrum Airport Receives flights from all over Europe, mostly with charters and budget airlines in summer, and from İstanbul and Ankara with the Turkish airlines.
Dalaman International Airport Seasonal flights from many European cities, and year-round from İstanbul.
Esenboğa Airport Numerous international and domestic connections from Ankara, although İstanbul's airports offer more choice.
Turkish Airlines, the national carrier, has extensive international and domestic networks, including budget subsidiaries Sun Express and Anadolu Jet. It is generally considered a safe airline, and its operational safety is certified by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Australia & New Zealand
You can fly from the main cities in Australia and New Zealand to İstanbul, normally via Dubai (or elsewhere in the Middle East), Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.
You can often get affordable flights with European airlines, if you're prepared to change flights again in Europe.
There's not much variation in fares from one European airport to another; with the exception of Germany, which has the biggest Turkish community outside Turkey, enabling some great deals.
Most European national carriers fly direct to İstanbul. Cheaper indirect flights can be found, for example changing in Frankfurt or Munich en route from Amsterdam to İstanbul.
Budget and charter airlines fly between several European cities and the major western Turkish airports.
AtlasGlobal flies between İstanbul and Yerevan (Armenia) twice weekly. The flights don’t appear on the airline's website but tickets can be purchased from agents in both cities.
Middle East & Asia
From Central Asia and the Middle East, you can usually pick up flights with Turkish Airlines or the country's national carrier.
Affordable flights from further afield normally travel to İstanbul via Dubai, Kuala Lumpur or Singapore.
UK & Ireland
Flights are available with European and Turkish carriers via continental Europe. With major airlines such as British Airways and Turkish Airlines, the cheapest flights are normally in and out of London airports.
Charter flights are a good option, particularly at the beginning and end of the peak summer holiday season.
USA & Canada
Most flights connect with İstanbul-bound flights in the UK or continental Europe, so it's worth looking at European and British airlines in addition to North American airlines.
Another option is to cross the Atlantic to, say, London or Paris, and continue on a separate ticket with a budget carrier.
Departure tax is included in the price of a ticket.
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. You'll usually have to disembark and endure paperwork and baggage checks on both sides of the border. Security at the crossings to/from countries to the east and southeast (Georgia, Azerbaijan/Nahçıvan, Iran and Iraq) is tightest. The process is elongated by a trainload of passengers or the long lines of trucks and cars that build up at some crossings.
Turkey's relationships with most of its neighbours tend to be tense, which can affect when and where you can cross. Check for the most up-to-date information; sources of information include Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree forum (www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree), your embassy in Turkey and the Turkish embassy in your country.
Crossing the border into Turkey with your own vehicle should be fairly straightforward, providing your paperwork is in order.
- Ferries Popular in İstanbul and İzmir.
- Funiculars and antique tram, İstanbul Novel ways to climb Beyoğlu's hills.
- Teleferik, Bursa The world's longest cable car climbs 8.2km up Uludağ (Great Mountain; 2543m).
- Carriage rides, Princes' Islands Fayton (horse-drawn carriage) rides and bikes are offered on İstanbul's islands.
At the time of writing, the Turkey–Armenia border was closed.
Buses run to Tbilisi (Georgia), with connections to Armenia. There is also a Yerevan–İstanbul service once a week.
Crossing from Turkey to Georgia via the Türkgözü and Aktaş borders, the only minibus services onward to Armenia from the towns on the Georgian side are in the morning.
The remote Borualan–Sadarak crossing, east of Iğdır (Turkey), leads to the Azerbaijani enclave of Nahçıvan (Naxçivan). Nahçıvan is separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region and the only way to get from Nahçıvan to the rest of Azerbaijan is to fly.
Buses run from İstanbul and Trabzon to Baku and to Tbilisi (Georgia), with onward connections to Baku. Many use İstanbul's Emniyet Garajı, rather than the main bus station. There are also daily buses from Iğdır to Nakhichevan. The following serve the İstanbul–Baku route:
Ortadoğu Turizm (www.ortadogutur.com.tr)
Perla Trans (www.perlatrans.com.ro)
Bulgaria & Eastern Europe
Bulgarian border guards only occasionally allow pedestrians to cross the frontier; take a bus or hitch a lift with a cooperative motorist. There are three border crossings:
Kapitan Andreevo–Kapıkule This 24-hour post is the main crossing – and the world's second busiest land border crossing. Located 18km northwest of Edirne (Turkey) on the E80 and 9km from Svilengrad (Bulgaria).
Lesovo–Hamzabeyli Some 25km northeast of Edirne, this is favoured by big trucks and should be avoided.
Malko Tǎrnovo–Aziziye Some 70km northeast of Edirne via Kırklareli and 92km south of Burgas (Bulgaria), this is only useful for those heading to Bulgaria's Black Sea resorts.
The nightly İstanbul–Sofia Expressi departs Halkali station at 10.40pm daily; ticket prices start at ₺120. A transfer bus to Halkali departs from Sirkeci Station at 9.30pm; the fare is included in the İstanbul–Sofia ticket. You can change in Sofia for Belgrade.
Sarp The main 24-hour crossing, on the Black Sea coast between Hopa (Turkey) and Batumi (Georgia).
Türkgözü Near Posof (Turkey), north of Kars and southwest of Akhaltsikhe (Georgia). The border should be open 24 hours.
Aktaş South of Türkgözü, this new crossing between Ardahan and Ahalkalaki (Georgia) reduces the driving time to Armenia. It should also be open 24 hours.
Several bus companies depart from İstanbul, Ankara and other cities to Batumi, Kutaisi and Tbilisi. Many use İstanbul's Emniyet Garajı, rather than the main bus station.
Closer to Georgia, buses and minibuses run from Trabzon via Rize, Pazar, Hopa and Sarp to Batumi (and vice versa).
There's one daily bus each way between Ardahan (Turkey) and Akhaltsikhe (Georgia) via Türkgözü. In theory it continues to/from Tbilisi, but it doesn't always do so.
Three daily minibuses connect Ardahan and Akhalkalaki (Georgia) via Aktaş, stopping at Çıldır between Ardahan and the border.
Crossing the border by bus or minibus normally takes about an hour, and the passengers generally walk across and wait for the vehicle. It is thus usually quicker to catch a bus to the border, walk through and pick up another on the far side.
Greece & Western Europe
Greek and Turkish border guards allow you to cross the frontier on foot. The following are open 24 hours.
Kastanies–Pazarkule About 9km southwest of Edirne.
Kipi–İpsala Located 29km northeast of Alexandroupolis (Greece) and 35km west of Keşan (Turkey).
Germany, Austria and Greece have most direct buses to İstanbul, so if you're travelling from other European countries, you'll likely have to catch a connecting bus. Several companies have daily departures for Greece and beyond.
Derya Tur Serves Athens (Greece).
Metro Turizm Serves Greece and Germany.
Ulusoy Serves Germany and Austria.
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 times from Western Europe, but at a price.
From Alexandroupolis, the main road leads to Kipi-İpsala, then to Keşan and east to İstanbul or south to Gallipoli, Çanakkale and the Aegean.
From Western Europe, you will come via Eastern Europe. A suggested route from London to İstanbul is the three-night journey via Paris, Munich, Zagreb, Belgrade and Sofia (or four nights via Paris, Munich, Budapest and Bucharest); see www.seat61.com/turkey for more information.
Gürbulak–Bazargan This busy post, 35km southeast of Doğubayazıt (Turkey), is open 24 hours.
Esendere–Sero Southeast of Van, this road crossing was not recommended for security reasons at the time of research.
There are regular buses from İstanbul and Ankara. Thor Tourism (www.thortourism.com) offers three buses a week from Ankara to Tabriz and Tehran.
From Doğubayazıt Catch a dolmuş to Gürbulak, then walk or catch a shared taxi across the border. It's Iran's busiest border crossing, and Turkey's second busiest. The crossing might take up to an hour, although tourists are normally waved through without much fuss. Change any unused Turkish lira in Bazargan, as it's harder to do so in Tabriz and Tehran. There are onward buses from Bazargan.
From Van There are direct buses to Orumiyeh (Iran).
For more information visit www.tcdd.gov.tr and www.seat61.com/iran.
Trans-Asya Ekspresi The İstanbul–Tehran service had been indefinitely suspended at the time of writing.
Van–Tabriz Also suspended at the time of writing.
Between Silopi (Turkey) and Zahko (Kurdish Iraq), there's no town or village at the Habur–Ibrahim al-Khalil crossing and you can't walk across it. Not recommended for security reasons at the time of writing, when Western governments advised against travelling in southeastern Anatolia and crossing the Iraqi border. This situation is unlikely to change in the near future.
There are direct daily buses from Diyarbakır to Dohuk (₺50, six hours) or Erbil (₺60, nine hours) in Kurdish Iraq, and from Cizre.
More hassle than the bus, a taxi from Silopi to Zakho costs between US$50 and US$70. Your driver will manoeuvre through a maze of checkpoints and handle the paperwork. On the return journey, watch out for taxi drivers slipping contraband into your bag.
At the time of writing, advisories warned against all travel to Syria due to the civil war there. Advisories also warned against travel to the area of Turkey near the Syrian border. Check government travel advice and www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree for updates.
Departure times change between seasons, with fewer ferries running in the winter. The routes available also change from year to year. A good starting point for information is Ferrylines (www.ferrylines.com).
From the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, day trips on ferries to Greece are popular. Remember to take your passport, and check you have a multiple-entry Turkish visa so you can get back into the country at the end of the day. (Tourist visas issued on arrival in Turkey normally allow multiple entries.)
Ayvalık–Lesvos (Midilli), Greece (www.erturk.com.tr/en, www.jaletour.com)
Bodrum–Kalymnos, Kos, Rhodes and Symi, Greece (www.bodrumexpresslines.com, www.bodrumferryboat.com, www.erturk.com.tr/en, www.rhodesferry.com)
Çeşme–Chios, Greece (www.erturk.com.tr/en)
İstanbul–Chornomorsk (Odessa), Ukraine (www.sealines.com.tr, www.ukrferry.com/eng)
Kaş–Meis (Kastellorizo), Greece (www.erturk.com.tr/en, www.meisexpress.com)
Kuşadası–Samos, Greece (www.bareltravel.com, www.meandertravel.com)
Marmaris–Rhodes (www.marmarisferry.com, www.rhodesferry.com)
Turgetreis–Kalymnos and Kos (www.bodrumexpresslines.com, www.bodrumferryboat.com)