Turkey’s primary international gateway by air is Istanbul’s Atatürk International Airport. Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport handles a comparatively limited selection of international flights, and there are also direct charters to Mediterranean resort hot spots like Antalya in the peak summer and winter seasons. In 2005 customs at Istanbul international airport was rearranged to the effect that one is now required to go through customs and “enter the country” there, rather than first travel to a regional destination and pass customs there. Luggage will generally travel to the final destination without further ado, but on occasion you may have to point it out to be sure it will be transported on. The information given by flight attendants in the incoming flight may not be adequate so until the procedure is changed (it is supposed to be only temporary) it is wise to inquire on Istanbul airport. Since one must pass security again for any inland flight, it is advisable to hurry and not spend too much time in transit. There are also some other regional airports which receive a limited number of flights from abroad, especially from Europe and especially during the high season (Jun-Sep).
Sabiha Gökçen Airport (SAW)
Of special interest to those travelling on low-cost carriers, this airport is situated some 50 km east of Istanbul’s Taksim Square on the Asian side of Istanbul. Airlines servicing this airport include EasyJet, Germanwings, Condor, THY (Turkish Airlines) and many more. It may be interesting to point out that there is the possibility of catching a plane from Emirates’ budget carrier Air Arabia to Sharjah in the [United Arab Emirates]] and from there to India for a very competitive price. All those low-cost options though, entail departure and arrival times in the middle of the night.
You can still travel from Europe to Turkey by train, although these days this is more of historical or perhaps even romantic interest than fast or practical. The famed Orient Express from London now travels no further than Vienna, but you can take the daily TransBalkan from Budapest (Hungary) via Bucharest (Romania), a two-night journey with a scheduled 3-hour stop in Bucharest. 1st/2nd class sleepers and couchettes are available, but the train lacks a restaurant car so stock up on supplies. From/to Greek stations there are two daily services, from Istanbul to the border station of Pythion every morning and from Istanbul to Thessaloniki every night. (Due to budget cuts by the Greek government, the services to/from Greece has been suspended indefinitely since 13th February 2011.) There are also daily trains to Istanbul from Sofia (Bulgaria).
From Middle East, there are also once-weekly services from Tabriz and Tehran in Iran to Van and Istanbul, via Ankara. (Due to railtrack renovations, for at least two years from February 2012 on, Istanbul’s Asian station will receive no services. As such, the western terminus of Trans-Asia Express, which provides service between Iran and Turkey, has now been shifted to Ankara.) While direct Istanbul-Damascus service has been discontinued for some time now, there are still once or twice weekly trains between southern cities of Mersin, Adana, and Gaziantep and the Syrian city of Aleppo. There had also been a train connecting Gaziantep with Mosul in Iraq, but it was suspended shortly after it was inaugurated and does not seem to come back into service, at least not in the foreseeable future.
A cheap way of traveling to or from Turkey might be the Balkan Flexipass.
From Central Europe, getting to Turkey is not too difficult. In any case you’ll need your International Insurance Card (Green Card). Pay attention to “TR” not being canceled and be sure your insurance is valid for the Asian part of Turkey, too. Otherwise you will have to buy Turkish car insurance separately. In any case, Turkish customs will make an entry into your passport stating when the car (and thus you) have to leave Turkey again.
A carnet de passage is not necessary unless you intend to move on to Iran, which requires you to have a carnet de passage.
National driving licences from some of the European countries are accepted. If you are not sure about your situation, obtain an international driving licence beforehand.
Major roads from Europe are:
E80 enters Turkey at Kapıkule border gate (NW of Edirne, SE of Svilengrad) from Bulgaria
E87 enters Turkey at Dereköy border gate (north of Kırklareli, south of Tirnovo) from Bulgaria
E90 enters Turkey at İpsala border gate (west of Keşan, east of Alexandroupolis) from Greece
A convenient connection from Western Europe, especially if you want to avoid narrow and perhaps poorly maintained highways of the Balkans, is to take the weekly motorail trains run by EuroTurk Express , which depart from Bonn-Beuel station (Germany) every Saturday at noon, arriving two nights later during the afternoon in Çerkezköy, about 100 km northwest of Istanbul or an hour’s drive through a high-standard motorway. Fares start at €139 for passengers, cars at €279.
Major roads from Middle East enter Turkey at numerous border gates around Antakya (Antioch), from Syrian cities such as Aleppo and Latakia, Habur border gate (south of Silopi, north of Zakho) from Iraq, and Dogubeyazit border gate (near Ararat) from Iran.
Major roads from Caucasia enter Turkey at Sarp/Sarpi border gate from Georgia (south of Batumi) and Türkgözü border gate south of Akhaltsikhe (this is the nearest border gate from Tbilisi but the last few kilometres on the Georgian side were really bad as of summer 2009). The border with Armenia is currently closed, thus impassable by car.
There are also other border gates (unlisted here), from all the countries Turkey has a common land border with (except Armenia), leading to secondary roads passable with a car.
From Bucharest there is a daily bus to Istanbul at 4PM for 125 Lei. There are also several daily buses from Constanta, Romania and from Sofia, Bulgaria and from there you can get connections to the major cities of Europe. Another possibility is the bus from Athens in Greece via Thessaloniki. You may also find smaller bus companies offering connections to other countries in the Balkans.
There is a direct bus to Istanbul from Teheran in Iran which takes approx 48hrs and costs US$ 35.00 for a one-way ticket between Istanbul or Ankara and Tehran.
Dogubeyazit/Bazerghan This Turkey/Iran border crossing is easily (and fast) done by public transport. Take a bus to Bazerghan and a shared taxi to the border (ca. 2-3$). Cross the border stretch per pedes and catch a a frequent minibus (ca. 5 TL, 15 minutes) to Dogubeyazit. Check the security situation in the region, due to the unsolved PKK conflict.
There are also buses from Van to Urmia crossing the Turkey/Iran border at Esendere/Sero. The buses cost app. €13 and it takes more than 6 hr to finish the 300 km path. That’s because of the poor roads, harsh snowy conditions during the winter and also many military checkpoints because of security reasons concerning the P.K.K..
This southern route is less frequent than the northern Dogubeyazit/Bazerghan, as it is much slower but therefor a scenic mountainous route. Make sure you get a clear idea about exchange rates if you want to change TL or Rial as the official bank at the border does not exchange these currencies and you have to deal with the plentiful black market.
From Aleppo in Syria a 3hr bus to Antakya costs S£250 departing at 5AM. There is also a minibus service at 3PM for S£350. From Antakya you can get connecting buses to almost anywhere in Turkey, however initial prices may be overinflated and often inconvenient times. If travelling through to Istanbul, there are bus services from Damascus with bus changes along the way at Antakya. Purchasing a bus ticket in Damascus will be significantly cheaper than in Aleppo or Antakya. If travelling from Syria it is worthwhile to purchase additional supplies of snacks and drinks before leaving the country – these are significantly more expensive at bus stations in Turkey.
Many people arrive in Bodrum on one of the hydro-foils or ferries that run from most of the close Greek islands into the port. A fairly pretty way to arrive. While many of the lines that originate and terminate in Istanbul have recently been discontinued (due to bankruptcy), there are still summer departures direct to Eastern Italy.
Other main towns on the Aegean coast have ferry connections with the nearest Greek islands as well. Trabzon, a major city on the eastern Black Sea coast has a regular line from/to Sochi on the Russian Black Sea coast. Mersin, Taşucu, and Alanya on the Mediterranean coast has ferry links with either Famagusta (with Mersin) or Kyrenia (with others) in Northern Cyprus.