by Tom Brosnahan
Travel Info Exchange
A bus station in
a harem? Not
The section of Istanbul named Harem (hah-REHM)
is on the Asian side of the Bosphorus,
south of Üsküdar and
north of Haydarpaşa,
the terminus for Anatolian trains (map).
Istanbul's main bus terminal is the Istanbul
International Bus Terminal (Büyük
Otogar), 10 km (6
miles) west of Sultanahmet,
but many of the buses that originate
there stop to pick up passengers
at Harem Otogar—and
this can save you time.
If you're traveling to Thrace or
the north Aegean coast
(ie, west of Istanbul), go straight
to the Büyük
Otogar for your bus. But
if you're traveling to Anatolia (ie,
most of Turkey, east and south of Istanbul),
then consider boarding your bus at Harem.
to go from Istanbul to Cappadocia.
to buy bus tickets in Turkey.
Bus 139 goes from
Harem to Şile (SHEE-leh),
resort on the Black
Bus 139A goes to both
Şile and Ağva,
another Black Sea beach
It may take you 35 to 50 minutes to
reach the Büyük
Otogar from Sultanahmet or Taksim
Square. If a bus departs the Büyük
Otogar at 12 noon, it
will be almost 1 pm by the time it
circumnavigates the city, crosses the Bosphorus and
arrives at the Harem Otogar to
pick up more passengers. So after nearly
two hours of travel, you're still in
But if you just go down the hill to Sirkeci (just
east of Eminönü;
map) and climb aboard the car
cruises across the Bosphorus to Harem,
it will take you less than an hour,
be more pleasant, and you'll cut an
hour off your Anatolian bus
Not all buses starting from the Büyük
Otogar stop at Harem,
and some arrive at Harem with
no empty seats. But you can reserve
a seat in advance by telephone,
and your seat should be available
for you at Harem.
If your destination is a popular one,
like Ankara or Antalya,
just go to Harem,
stroll through the bus station, and
in less than an hour you should be
on your way, no reservation needed
(except on holidays).
This usually works with most destinations,
although you may have to wait a bit
longer for your departure if you're
going to a less popular place.
If you travel without a reservation
(as many people do), it's best to get
to the bus station in the morning (after breakfast is
fine) to give yourself the best chance
of getting a seat quickly.
car ferry dock, with
the Harem Otogar just
behind it and the Selimiye
Barracks looming above.
of bus companies have offices
at Harem Otogar,
including many of the top