Our journey in Turkey lasted just 10 days, from 9th to 19th of August and this is how it was structured:
We took a train from Sofia to Istanbul and we arrived at 9am. The train arrived at Halkali train station; from there a free transfer offered by the Turkish train company brought us to the city centre, at Sirkeci train station.
Istanbul (3 days/2 nights)
We stayed at Suktan hostel & guesthouse and we payed 180 TL for a double room.
Pros: the location is very central, the room was decently clean, breakfast is included
Cons: no common areas, no possibility to use the kitchen, no laundry service (the closest one charges you 60TL!)…in one word, it’s not a hostel!
In Istanbul the public transport is quite efficient and cheap. You need to buy the Istanbul card (cost 6 TL) and you can use it both on buses/tram and metro. The card is not nominal so you can use it for more than one person. The cost of a single journey is always the same for buses/tram/metro; different story for the Marmara Line and the metrobus where you pay according to the length of your journey so it’s important you tap the card when you go out to be refunded of part of the cost of the ticket.
We then took a bus from Istanbul to Nevşehir (12hrs) for 70TL each. The journey is long but not too bad, we managed to sleep all the way through! You can take the bus at the Otogar (there is a metro station) as we did, or in another station but we don’t know the name of it. At the otogar there is no screen indicating the platform where the bus will departure; on the ticket, there is only a range of platform numbers as well as the number (a code of 6/7 numbers) of the bus. The situation is very confusing, find someone going to the same place and follow them, that’s what we recommend!
Between Nevşehir and Göreme there are several buses (you will find timetables at the bus stations) that stop at towns on the way. The prices range from 3TL (Göreme-Uçhisar) to 7TL (Göreme-Nevşehir bus station; the one for Nevşehir city centre cost just 4TL). In Göreme you can easily walk around.
Göreme (3 days/3 nights)
We stayed at Kamelya cave hostel paying roughly 50TL per night per person in a dorm (we couldn’t find an affordable private room and we recommend to book in advance your accommodation in cappadocia).
Pros: clean, friendly staff, friendly environment, massive breakfast included
Cons: it’s not possible to use the kitchen, there are just 3 toilets for the all dorm room
You can take a local bus from the bus station in the city centre of Nevşehir to Derinkuyu or Kaymakli. The cost is 10 and 5TL respectively one way. Again, you will find the timetable there but they are quite frequent. On the way back, hitching may be an option.
Nevşehir—> Aksaray—>Selime monastery—> Nevşehir
For better information about this trip have a look at our article about Cappadocia. We took a bus at 3pm from Nevşehir to Aksaray and we payed 25TL; on the way back we took the bus at 7pm paying 20TL. Both the buses arrived and departed from the main bus stations; they told us there are minibuses that arrives in city centres but we couldn’t find them. From Aksaray to Selime and the way back we hitched so we don’t have any information about buses but we know there are buses from the city centre of Aksaray…where exactly? We don’t know!
We took a bus from Nevşehir to Ankara that departed at 10am with the bus company Öncü (Metro and Nevşehir buses depart at 9am) and we payed 70TL. There are several buses during the day between the two cities and the prices is always around 70TL.
Ankara (2 days/1 night)
We stayed at Deeps hostel paying 90 TL for a double room.
Pros: location is very central, nice garden/common area, you can use the kitchen
Cons: the kitchen was right in front of our room and people started cooking (and making noise) in the middle of the night
In Ankara, as in Istanbul, you can buy the Ankara card (7TL) and use it on the metro (3TL per journey). As in Istanbul, you can use the same card for more than one person. We didn’t take buses so we don’t have any information about them.
In Ankara we went to (and we recommend) Tarihi Karacabey Hamami. There, the price for the Hamam is affordable (55 TL all included), the place is clean, the people are locals and the staff is really friendly and helpful.
Dogu Express (24hrs)
For better information about the dogu express have a look at our article. We payed 62TL and it departs every day at 6pm.
Kars (2 days/2 nights) + Kars—>Ani ruins
We did couchsurfing in Kars but we know there are few affordable sleeping options.
There are two daily buses from the city centre of Kars (ask local people to indicate you where exactly) to Ani ruins (1h 30 min). The first bus departs at 9am from Kars and at 1pm from Ani; the second one departs at 11am and come back at 3pm. Bear in mind that you can decide to remain in Ani and take the following bus but the place on it is NOT guaranteed so you may be stuck in Ani and your only option to go back to Kars would be the taxi.
There are several buses from Kars to Ardahan (1h 30min). We took the one at 9am (and we would suggest you to do the same if you want to cross the border to Georgia) and we payed 10TL. From there, we had to change the bus station (ask local people, they will be more than keen to indicate you where to go) and wait until 12:30 for the direct bus from Ardahan to the Georgian border (35TL; 1h 30 min). For the hour and a half of waiting in Ardahan we suggest you the bar next to the bus station; very friendly people, who offered us tea, cheese, other local food and wanted to take several pictures with us!