Istanbul in a Day: A guide to taking the train to and from Istanbul
In addition to my own posting on the trip, I have asked the students accompanying me to put together their own reflections and observations. Here is the first in a series, by UMass Lowell Marketing major Chris Foster.
During our stay here in Ankara, it became apparent after speaking with everyone, that visiting Istanbul was a must when coming to Turkey. The problem that arose however, was when were we going to be able to go to Istanbul? We only had one free day in this two week period, in this case it was Sunday. According to most of the teachers here at Bilkent “there is no way to do Istanbul in one day, your crazy.” But being a traveler and the adventurer I am, I decided to look into it. So after hitting a few bars on Saturday night, I convinced one of my friends on the trip, Steve, to come along with me. Armed with nothing but a hand drawn map I had drawn earlier in the week in class, the clothing on our backs, and some information that I had researched online, we set out.
The way to do Istanbul in a day and not be completely exhausted when you get there is to take the overnight sleeping train. Chances are at least one of the people you buy tickets from will speak English, just in case it is good to know that you want the “Yatakli”(sleeper train) to “Istanbul,” if you say those two things they can work with you. Make sure to show your student ID when you buy tickets because you can save a few dollars. Also, it is very important to buy your return ticket at this time! Trains do get sold out and you want to make sure you are able to get back to Ankara, and in our case back to class on time on Monday morning.
In Ankara it is fairly easy to find your train, look on the itinerary board and look for the “Yatakli to Istanbul” and find out what platform it is on (there are only about 4 platforms so its pretty easy not to get lost) on the trains they have little wooden signs on each car, saying where the trains starting and ending, make sure its Istanbul! If you have any trouble finding the train, or once you’re on the train finding, what room your supposed to be in, just ask one of the people on the platform that works for the train station, from our experience they don’t understand English, but if you hand them your ticket they will direct you accordingly.
Ankara Train Station
Our Train Tickets
The overnight train we took to Istanbul left Ankara at 10:00PM (22:00) and arrived in Istanbul at 8:00AM at the Haydarpasa Train Station. On the way over the double bedrooms were booked, so we took a quad, which after student discount was 30TL a person (about $25 USD) luckily we did not have any roommates, but being only two people in a quad room it is possible that you will if the train is busy.
Quad Sleeper Room
It's now 8:00AM the next morning, you get off at the “Haydarpasa” train station in Istanbul. The train stops in several places in and around Istanbul. To avoid confusion, look at the name of the stations. The easy way to do this is to remember that Haydarpasa is the last stop the train makes and is the end of the line, so just ride it to there.
Haydarpasa Train Station in Istanbul
The Haydarpasa train station is on the Asian side of Istanbul so you must take the ferry to the European side (that’s were all the famous tourist places are, along with all the shopping). After exiting the train proceed through the train station, walk out the front doors, and turn left and on the water you will see at booth selling ferry tickets for 1.75TL (about $1.50 USD).
Ferry Station at Haydarpasa
Go to the ferry booth and get a ticket to “Eminonu,” the ferry runs about every half hour. It is important at this time to make sure the boat you get on says “Eminonu” on it, it will probably also have names of other places as well (this is ok). The boat ride is about 20 minutes and it can make other stops, so it is important to make sure you get off at the “Eminonu” station and not another one.” This area is where most of the historic stuff is in Istanbul.
Our return trip left Haydarpasa at 10:30PM (22:30); I suggest that you leave “Eminonu” around 8:30 to ensure that you have enough time to catch the train. This is because you may have to wait up to 30 minutes to get the ferry, the ride is about 20 minutes, and its good to get to the station a little early. At the Eminonu ferry station, it is a little more confusing returning to the train station, due to the fact that there are 4 different ferries you can take, make sure you take the one that says “Haydarpasa.”
Dual Sleeper to Ankara
Our return sleeping train left Istanbul at 10:30PM and was scheduled to arrive
at 7:07AM. This time we had a double bed room. Much nicer then the quad, this one has its own sink and table inside. Unfortunately we ran into some trouble with the train on the way home. In Turkey the trains are not perfect they do get delayed, and they do periodically stop in the middle of nowhere. Our train was delayed an hour and half, so we arrived in Ankara at 8:35AM instead of the intended 7:07AM. Class started for us at 9:00AM, so we jumped in a cab and asked to go back to “Bilkent University.” We ended up being 20 minutes late for class due to the fact we had to shower and change. I recommend that you have your professor’s number with you, and a way to call him, even if it’s a pay phone, so you can inform him of what’s going on, and he will be more understanding. Overall though the trip was highly worth it, we were able to see all the major sites in the time allotted. I recommend this trip to anyone who visits Ankara and Bilkent University.
Chris Foster, UMass Lowell Marketing, Class of 2011
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