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Overland Through Turkey with BusAbout

The Turkey Adventure

When I was planning my trip for this season, I knew I wanted to go to Turkey but didn’t know how to go about it. This was another trip where I felt more comfortable joining a tour rather than traveling alone. Once I saw that BusAbout, one of my favorite tour companies, offered a new overland Turkey Adventure tour, I knew I wanted to try it out. The trip was in its first season this year, so some kinks are still being worked out for the 2014 season, but I will be discussing my thoughts about the tour and offering suggestions.

A few tour companies go through Istanbul, but few go in-depth in Turkey for the 18-35 budget market. BusAbout has created a network throughout Europe and North Africa that makes it easy for travelers to add onto existing trips with their “Adventures” and “Festivals” packages. The Turkey trips are another example of this, as the Turkey Adventure (renamed the Turkey Aegean Adventure for 2014) can connect with the Eastern European Trek trips, which end in Istanbul.

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ANZAC Cove

Unlike some of the other Adventures, namely Croatia Sail and the Greek Islands, BusAbout contracts out to a local tour company instead of hiring their own guides. They also do this on their Egypt and Morocco trips. This creates a different experience as you will be led around the country by a local who speaks the language. But at the same time, sometimes the details are lost in translation. For example, the Turkey Adventure was run by Fez Travel, a Turkey-based tour company. My guide spoke English, but it took us a while to understand certain words she was saying. She was, however, very knowledgable and overall a lovely person.

The trip started early one morning in Istanbul, followed by a four hour drive to the Gallipoli Peninsula. My tour group was mostly Australian, so we spent a good amount of time at this location. After a night in a small town and an early morning ferry, we went to Troy and Pergamum, where we spent less time since we were going to Ephesus later in the trip. The Ephesus trip was an optional excursion that a few members of the group abstained from. I feel like it should have been included, as it’s one of the most famous sites in Turkey. The next day we stopped at Pamukkale before continuing to Saklikent Gorge. From there we went back to Fethiye, where the tour ended and where the Sail Turkey trips left a few days later.

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Atop Pergamum

I definitely enjoyed myself on this trip. I met some great people and saw some amazing things I might not have seen if I had planned the trip on my own. But there are a few things I would change to make the trip even better. Firstly, there was some miscommunication about the schedule, exclusions and optional excursions. Most of us were under the impression that lunches were included when only breakfast was included. This would be fine if there had been cheap dining options, but we were always taken to a lunch buffet in a small town where there wasn’t a second choice. We were told about optional excursions on the first day early in the morning, but most of us forgot about them. If you want to do an excursion, like paragliding or tubing, you have to be diligent and remind your guide. A printed itinerary with stops and excursion prices would greatly improve this trip.

Some members of my group complained that they could do this trip independently or that they wished they had more time in certain places over others. Unfortunately, a tour group is not really a democracy, particularly when you have to arrange entry fees and hotels. And could you do this trip on your own? Absolutely. The bus system in Turkey is cheap, clean and efficient. There are plenty of hostels in the well-tread path from Istanbul down the Aegean. But if you want to learn about the history behind all of the ruins you’re seeing, it’s best to go with a guide. Otherwise it’s just another pile of rocks, not the remains of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

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Pamukkale

The drives were at least four hours every day, which took its toll, but the bus driver was great about stopping every two hours so we could take a break for tea. I wish we’d had a group dinner on the last night, as it would have capped off our experience well. Instead, we all had an informal evening drinking at our hotel. The accommodation was great on this trip and I can recommend all of the places we stayed. I recommend doing as many optional excursions as possible, even if it costs a little more. Bring along an extra 100 lira ($50 USD) per day. The tubing at Saklikent Gorge in particular was one of my favorite activities of the trip, as was our night out at a nightclub in Izmir.

The Turkey Aegean Adventure is certainly more educational than the BusAbout loops and travelers should know that going into it. It’s not party central like other trips, but there’s certainly an opportunity for it should you so desire. If you’re interested in meeting your fellow travelers before the tour starts, I recommend staying at the hostel where the tour picks up from in Istanbul.

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Tubing in Saklikent Gorge

BusAbout has expanded their Turkey tours for 2014, bringing back both Sail Turkey and this trip, the Turkey Aegean Adventure. They’ve also introduced the Cappadocia trip, which connects from Fethiye to Kas, Olympos, Konya, Cappadocia and Ankara before returning to Istanbul.

I received a discounted rate for my BusAbout Turkey Adventure tour, but all opinions are my own.

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4 Responses to Overland Through Turkey with BusAbout

  1. memographer October 25, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Seems like a wonderful experience, Caroline! I should try BUSABOUT for my European trips.
    Love the Pamukkale!
    memographer recently posted..Bride Walking on Railroad Track PhotoMy Profile

  2. Victoria October 30, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Hi Caroline,

    Thank you for your blog and features.

    I have been reading but I never made a comment! This trip does sound good. I would love to get a good chunk of Turkey. I’ve only been to Istanbul (on my way to India) but I was nevertheless impressed.

    I live in Germany and beach trips to Turkey are all the range here but I don’t want to do that. I’d like to see the “real” Turkey or at least get an Impression of it.

    A side question Caroline: would you know if younger teenagers are welcome on BusAbout?

  3. Sky November 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    Sounds like an awesome trip – Turkey is a place that I’m definitely interested in visiting but I’m not sure I’d want to go on my own. I’ll be looking into the BusAbout tours for next year.
    Sky recently posted..October Faves and November IntentionsMy Profile

  4. Andrew November 19, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    Love your photos from your trip around Turkey. I live and write for a travel agency in Antalya, Turkey and loved the short term visitor to Turkey perspective you brought out in your article with your experience with Busabout. Our company offers mostly private and custom tours, although most of my travel around the country would fall under the do It yourself category. Busabout sounds like a good option and I’ve definitely encountered Fez Travel. I can identify with your issue not having a travel guide that spoke fluent English. I can assure you there are many knowledgeable guides who speak English well too. Anyway, thanks for the article I’ll be posting your link to our twitter and facebook accounts so our followers can read your account as a visitor to Turkey. Thanks
    Andrew recently posted..Unforgettable Morning Experiences in TurkeyMy Profile

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