I love Turkish trains and
have ridden them happily for nearly 50 years.
The Turkish State Railways (TCDD) is great at running trains, but not so great at communicating train information to the world.
State Railways (TCDD) website is much inferior to simple 19th-century printed train schedules. It is possible to extract certain bits of information from the website, but only from the Turkish-language section.
(The English-language section is essentially useless to travelers, with very little domestic train information provided, and much of that in Turkish).
Make a Reservation—or Not
Making a reservation or purchasing a ticket on the website using the EYBIS computerized system is pretty much impossible unless you already have a good knowledge of the railroad.
1. You go to the EYBIS main page, and if it is not in English, click on the British-flag button in the upper right-hand corner.
2. Select the Ticket tab, click the Sales or Reservation button, and the Single (One-way) or return (Round-trip) button, then fill in the From and To fields.
But guess what—you can only put in station names, not city or town names. In some cases in Turkey the station name and the city or town name are the same (as for Ankara), and then it will work. But you can't put in İzmir, for example, because İzmir has two stations. You must put in either Alsancak or Basmane.
Otherwise an alert message will glide into the upper right-hand corner reading Biniş İstasyonu Seçiniz (in Turkish only). Helpfully, this cryptic message appears written twice, as though repeating it would help a non-Turkish speaker to understand. Translated, it is "Select a Departure Station." That is, if you know the official TCDD station name.
3. So let's say you write Ankara in the From field and Basmane (that is, İzmir) in the To field. Click in the Departure Date field, and a calendar will drop down...in Turkish. Do you know the Turkish Days of the Week and Months of the Year? If not, you can learn them here.
Choose a date, click Continue and...guess what! An alert will glide into the upper right-hand corner reading İsteğinize Uygun Sefer Bulunmamaktadır, or "No Train Suitable to Your Request Has Been Found."
What? Is there no train between Ankara and İzmir on that day? Of course there is. There are daily trains...to Alsancak station! So start again, this time filling in Alsancak instead of İzmir or Basmane.
Note: some trains do not run daily, and for those trips you must guess date after date until, like the lottery, you win the prize. Or, if there really are no trains between the stations you choose, you give up after 15 minutes of guessing.
(You see why I say that a simple one-page 19th-century printed train schedule would be easier to use?)
4. So if you've gotten this far, a page will appear showing the train(s) operating on the day you've chosen. Most of the information is in English, some is in Turkish, including the sort of coach you must choose, and the class of service. You really can't proceed without knowing these Turkish terms.
A fare is given, but it is only for basic transport. If you want a sleeping compartment, you won't know the price until much later in the process...but you must make the choice of seat or sleeping compartment now, without knowing the price....
5. Click Select then Continue, and a diagram of the actual railroad coach appears. Now you get to choose your seat or couchette or berth. Crucial information is in Turkish.
When you click on a choice, a tiny window labeled Select Gender will appear. Turkish tradition dictates that unaccompanied females not be seated next to unknown males, so the computer will try to sort this out for you.
6. After you select your gender, an alert will appear in the upper-right-hand corner reading something like 1. yolcu için İZMİR MAVİ TRENİ treninde koltuk seçimi yapılmıştır. Got it?
Farther down on the page you'll finally see the total price of your ticket. If you don't like it, you've got to start over from the very beginning to get any other option.
You're supposed to fill in your name, and your Turkish Republic Citizen Number. Got one? Probably not, neither do I.... Click Continue and...you're back at the homepage!
All that work disappeared. Utter failure....
Here's How to Actually Buy a Ticket
So the thing to do is to contact my friends at Efendi Travel in Istanbul who will be happy to make the train reservation for you, and for any other travel services you may need. More...
How to Use the Website
Here's what you need to know in order
to read the Turkish
State Railways (TCDD) website's more useful Turkish
ANAHAT TREN SAATLERİ = Main Line Train
BÖLGESEL TREN SAATLERİ = Regional
BANLİYÖ TRENLERİ = Suburban Trains
Trains to/from Europe
YÖNLÜ TRENLERİ = Trains to/from the
VAGONLAR = Train car/coach types
YÜKSEK HIZLI TREN =
HAREKET SAATLERİ =
K: = Kalkış (Departure;
times are 24-hour clock)
V: = Varış (Arrival)
MESAFE = Distance
BU TRENLERDEKİ VAGON TİPİ =
Types of cars [services] on this train
Pullman car (seats in rows, as on a
Kuşet = Couchettes
Kuşet = Couchettes with
Yemekli = Dining
Remember, schedules are by station,
not by city. Therefore, trains for İzmir's Basmane
station are marked Basmane,
not İzmir, and for its Alsancak station, Alsancak, not İzmir.
For those traveling to or from rail
destinations outside of Turkey, schedules
and fares for trains to foreign destinations have
maintained HTML simplicity:
to/from Europe (Bulgaria, Romania)
İyi yolculuklar! (Have
a good trip!)