Red Turkish locomotive and passenger train, Denizli; Turkish train placard; Turkish passenger train, İstanbul / Haydarpaşa

Traveling by Train in Turkey

Turkish Train Travel

Overnight trains are a fantastic means of transport across Turkey. The Turkish railroad is operated (and heavily subsidized) by the national government. A private first-class sleeper compartment for one or two on routes joining major tourist destinations provides Orient Express luxury for about US$ 30-40.

In order to get a sleeping compartment and not the cheaper seat in coach, make sure to ask for it by name, yataklı vagon.

Turkish train sleeper compartment
Turkish train sleeper compartment
Turkish train sleeper compartment
Turkish train sleeper compartment
Turkish train sleeper compartment

Especially useful routes include İstanbul—Ankara, İstanbul—Denizli (and thus Pamukkale, Heiropolis, Aphrodisias, and Laodykia), İstanbul—Konya, Ankara—İzmir, and Ankara—Adana.

Yes, a train takes 12 hours to cover a distance that an express bus covers in 8, but you got a night's lodging and didn't waste a day jammed in a crowded bus. And don't even think about overnight buses! Buses are fine for a hop of a few hours, but if you have a long distance to travel, look into a train!

The National Railways of the Republic of Turkey, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryollari, or TCDD, has a web site. Great stuff — schedules, complete route map, etc. — but unfortunately it seems to be only available in Turkish. The only English section is about the international connections to Bulgaria, Romania, and Iran. There used to be train service between İstanbul and Greece, but in 2011 Greece shut down all international rail connections despite having an economy that depends heavily upon tourism.

You can check the TCDD schedules here. My tables below only show the stops in larger cities, and the schedules might change. And here are some crucial Turkish words for understanding those schedules:

Schedule words

Turkish English
tarife schedule
varış or simply V. arrival
kalkış or simply K. departure
istasyon station
saat time

Ticket Types

Turkish English
pulman "Pullman", seats that recline only slightly
kuşetli "Couchette", shared cabins with 4-6 bunks
yataklı "Sleeper", private compartments

Days of the week

Turkish English
her gün every day
Pazartesi Monday
Salı Tuesday
Çarşamba Wednesday
Perşembe Thursday
Cuma Friday
Cumartesi Saturday
Pazar günü Sunday

Surprising Station Names

Be aware that some cities are listed on Turkish schedules by the name of the station rather than the name of the city!

İstanbul has two train stations. Sirkeci is next to the Golden Horn on the European side of the Bosphorus, with international connections through Bulgaria to Romania and beyond, plus commuter service to İstanbul suburbs.

Haydarpaşa is on the Asian side, with many more trains per day to destinations throughout Turkey.

İstanbul is commonly listed as Haydarpaşa or just H'paşa at Turkish train stations.

Similarly, İzmir is listed as Alsancak and possibly as Basmane and Eskişehir is listed as Enveriye. This is as if Amtrak service to New York listed its destination as Pennsylvania Station, which it is, without mentioning that it's the Pennsylvania Station that happens to be in New York City.

Map Showing Turkish Rail Lines

This U.S. Government map shows most of the cities mentioned in the below schedules, and it shows rail lines in black. For more detailed railway maps of Turkey and many other countries, see the Railways Through Europe site.

US Government map of Turkey.

İstanbul — Ankara

Lots of trains run about eight hours overnight between İstanbul and Anaka plus express daytime trains. The Ankara Ekspresi is one of the nicest overnight trains in the world. It has brand-new sleeper cars, they even have showers! It costs a little more, but is worth it - about US$ 40 for a compartment to yourself, or US$ 65 for two people.

Traveling from İstanbul to Cappadocia, you might take an overnight train to Ankara, see a few sights there in the morning, then continue by bus to Cappadocia.

With kuşetli (couchette berths in shared cabin) and yataklı (private cabins)
Anadolu Ekspresi
İstanbul 2200 0715
Ankara 0712 2200
Has couchette berths.
Ankara Ekspresi
İstanbul 2230 0800
Ankara 0804 2230
Sleeper berths only.
Pulman (seats) only
Fatih Ekspresi
İstanbul 2330 0730
Ankara 0720 2330
Başkent Ekspresi
İstanbul 1000 1640
Ankara 1630 1020
Boğaziçi Ekspresi
İstanbul 1330 1647
Ankara 2227 0800
Cumhuriyet Ekspresi
İstanbul 1430 2134
Ankara 2121 1430

İstanbul — Ankara — and points east

All of these have kuşetli (couchette berths in shared cabin) and yataklı (private cabins).

Doğu Ekspresi
İstanbul 0835 2145
Ankara 1725 1138
Kırıkkale 2008 0921
Kayseri 0117 0345
Sivas 0520 2322
Erzincan 1229 1619
Erzerum 1704 1150
Kars 2200 0710
Vangölü Ekspresi
İstanbul 2005 2300
Ankara 0550 1240
Kırıkkale 0856 1018
Kayseri 1433 0423
Sivas 1856 2347
Malatya 0104 1739
Elazığ 0434 1400
Muş 1107 0856
Tatvan 1309 0720
Güney Ekspresi
İstanbul 2005 2300
Ankara 0550 1240
Kırıkkale 0856 1018
Kayseri 1433 0423
Sivas 1856 2347
Malatya 0104 1739
Diyarbakır 0740 1121
Batman 0933 0930
Kurtulan 1052 0815

Ankara — İzmir

İzmir Mavi Treni
Ankara 1810 0820
İzmir 0752 1815
Private cabins
9 Eylül Ekspresi
Ankara 2000 0925
İzmir 0906 2000
Couchette berths
and private cabins
Karesi Ekspresi
Ankara 1910 1033
İzmir 1012 1855
Couchette berths

Ankara to eastern Turkey

Erzerum Ekspresi
Ankara 1330 1105
Kırıkkale 1520 0902
Kayseri 2005 0404
Sivas 2359 0018
Erzincan 0630 1737
Erzerum 1049 1325
Kars 1539 0900
Couchette berths
and private cabins
4 Eylül Mavi Tren
Ankara 1930 0920
Kırıkkale 2118 0723
Kayseri 0215 0225
Sivas 0601 2219
Malatya 1116 1715
Coach seats only

Ankara — Kayseri — Adana

Çukurova Mavi Treni
Ankara 2015 0805
Kırıkkale 2205 0602
Boğazköprü 0239 0122
Niğde 0427 2327
Adana 0805 1930
Couchette berths
and private cabins.
Boğazköprü is
12 km outside Kayseri
Erciyes Ekspresi
Kayseri 0430 2400
Niğde 0638 2148
Adana 1035 1730
Coach seats only

İstanbul — Denizli

Denizli is 15 minutes by dolmuş from Pamukkale, and about 2-3 hours by bus from Ephesus. This is especially good for the north-bound route, as otherwise you spend all day on a bus only to arrive in İstanbul at rush hour!

This has couchette berths and private cabins in addition to coach seats.

Pamukkale Ekspresi
İstanbul 1735 0834
Denizli 0820 1700

İstanbul — Konya — Adana — Gaziantep

These have couchette berths and private cabins in addition to coach seats.

Toros Ekspresi
İstanbul 0855 1755
Eskişehir 1419 1144
Afyon 1749 0811
Konya 2201 0350
Karaman 2348 0221
Adana 0438 2044
Osmaniye 0628 1919
Gaziantep 1135 1430
Içanadolu Ekspresi
İstanbul 2350 0909
Eskişehir 0452 0415
Afyon 0812 0056
Konya 1215 2058
Karaman 1352 1923
Adana 1835 1410
Meram Ekspresi
İstanbul 1920 0630
Eskişehir 0032 0122
Afyon 0414 2140
Konya 0821 1750

Adana — Malatya — Elaziğ

Possibly of interest for the Adana-Malatya segment, a long day on a train versus a long day on buses.

Firat Ekspresi
Adana 0840 1835
Malatya 1720 1020
Elaziğ 2015 0730

Ankara — Çankırı — Karabük — Zonguldak

Pullman coach seats only.

Karaelmas Ekspresi
Ankara 2250 0730
Çankırı 0207 0400
Karabük 0541 0018
Zonguldak 0817 2145

ASIN: 0062693662

ASIN: B0771Y8B94

İstanbul - Damascus

Allegedly there was a train once a week, leaving İstanbul on Saturdays at 0825, and taking at least 25 hours to reach Damascus. But that was before the Syrian civil war broke out...

Agatha Christie fans would know this as the setting for very first part of Murder on the Orient Express, as Poirot first makes his way from Aleppo to İstanbul by train, crosses the Bosphorus, and only then gets a ticket for the Orient Express toward central Europe.