Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bus trippin' in Turkey: Istanbul to Bodrum

Once again, it was time to head off on an overnight bus.
Yup, we're in Turkey!!

We had researched the Turkish domestic flights and given that they were about 50% more expensive than the bus tickets, plus we'd have another night of accommodation to worry about, we decided to use the bus.

After all, it was only 12 hours, and overnight, too!

No problem!
It was a bit of a pain to try to sort out where to get the bus tickets, there's not much specific information available online.
We found out that there are several bus companies that go Istanbul - Bodrum, so the bigger challenge was to find their ticket office.

I'd seen some indications of ticket offices on Google Maps, but wasn't sure if that was an office or a bus stop or what..
We had been on the Hop On, Hop Off bus, and spotted two ticket offices along the way!
One was near Taksim Square, and matched up with one of the hits on Google Maps, so we decided to go visit it.
Combined Ulusoy and Varan ticket office

For anyone wanting to follow in our footsteps, here's the ticket office location:

So we bought the tickets and got the meetup time - there's a shuttle bus from the ticket office to the big bus terminal outside the city.

The travel day arrived all too soon (We really like Istanbul!) and we packed all our stuff, for the umpteenth time with many to follow, and headed outside to search for a cab.

We had been told a cab to Taksim should cost about 10 TL, but we searched in vain. The one that was empty (and heading in the direction of Taksim!) scoffed at us when we told him our destination, and left us standing there.

There were a bunch of police officers and (un-erected) barricades on the nearby street.
As the next day was May 1st, we knew there was going to be some protests with the police blocking off Taksim square, so we were worried that they had already started to do so.

So I asked one. He didn't really speak English, so they called for another guy, who understood/spoke enough that we were informed that the barricades would start the next morning at 6am. So that taxi driver was just being an ass.

Time for plan B!

We walked about 100m down two streets from the apartment, to the subway station. Not as convenient as a cab, but it won't leave you standing there like the cab..
The subway is cheap - it appears you pay a flat fee of 3 TL to get a token, then you can ride anywhere!
We only needed to go one stop, but approx AU$1.50/person is a good deal, especially given the Istanbul traffic!

We rode the subway, and found our exit (near the Cultural museum) and got to the bus office with plenty of time to spare. Of course, the shuttle was late, so we had even more time.
Luckily, there were two cats visiting the office, so we had entertainment and company.
Playful cat
Snuggle cat
The shuttle arrived, and we rode it to the bus terminal, where we quickly found the right bus (by following some other shuttle passengers and asking staff to be 100% sure).
We got in and it had in-seat entertainment units!
Good bus
Awesome, time to watch some movies...

Many language choices..
...or not..
Terrible selection...
The selection was at least 4 years old (or older) and only crap movies.
Naomi started to watch the least crap one she could find, but the sound track was in Turkish... and although we selected the interface language to be English, the options screen for the movie itself gave options only in Turkish.
After some quick experimentation, the movie watching was abandoned.

Happily, there was USB power available, so it was time to play games on the mobile (without running out of battery) !



Making use of USB power!

USB power also meant we could keep an eye on the GPS and see where we were going.

At one point (surprise!!) we were on a ferry!
We all stayed on the bus during the ferry ride, which surprised me - I thought that for safety, everyone usually get out of vehicles whilst the ferry is moving.
Not in Turkey, I guess..


We stopped several times for toilet / food breaks.
The announcements were all in Turkish, so we had no idea what was going on, and we made sure that one of us was on or next to the bus if the other went to the toilet.

In the morning, we got a bread roll for breakfast.
We ate it immediately, then realised, as the attendant came around again, that there was jam and butter available.
Too late, it was gone!

Tasty, tasty breakfast..
Speaking of food, we'd received a choice of two tasty snacks when we got on the bus..
Snacks!
Since there's two of us, we got one of each. The muffin was quite good, and the crackers were cracker-y.. so all good there.

They also served drinks - not the complimentary champagne we're accustomed to, but soft drinks and hot tea / coffee. Not bad for a bus, actually.

Eventually, the GPS told us we were close to our stop, the closest one to the resort (we didn't want to repeat our trick of overshooting / backtracking, that we did in Goa). We had also told the bus staff where we wanted to get off, but being paranoid, we kept our eyes on things!

We got off the bus, gathered our bags and got a cab to the resort we're renting an apartment in..
Not too shabby..