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How to ride the dolmuş (from start to finish)

A dolmuş (pronounced dole-mush), or minibus, is the best form of public transportation for getting around from town to town in Turkey. The word dolmuş means “stuffed” and gives you an idea of how crowded they can sometimes get. From early morning until the evening, they plow the same set route back and forth, making them the ideal transportation option for day trips. They only run on shorter routes, and therefore are not used for long trips between major cities. For those you will have to take a bigger bus.

WHERE & HOW TO CATCH A DOLMUŞ

It’s safe to say that you can always catch a dolmuş at the main bus station. BUT if you’re starting point is somewhere different, this section is for you!

A dolmuş will stop to pick you up from basically anywhere that it’s safe for them to pull over. But your safest bet is to wait at a dolmuş stop, notated by the square sign with the big “D” on it (see in photo below).

You will hail a dolmuş the same way you hail a cab. Just stick your arm out or wave your hand a bit so it knows to stop.

*Photo by ahenobarbus [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE TO WAIT?

Dolmuşes are frequent for most routes so you will never have to wait too long. But it is always good to ask the driver how often they go and return, or check inside the dolmuş to see if there is a timetable – especially if you are on a day trip. They can be as frequent as ten minutes on popular routes or as infrequent as every half-hour/hour.

IF YOU HAVE LUGGAGE

If you have luggage or a backpack, it will be stored safely in the back of the dolmuş. Even though the storage space is small, rest assured that your luggage will fit! I’ve seen many things stuffed in there from backpacks and big suitcases to cardboard boxes and barrels of olive oil.

DID YOU GET ON THE RIGHT DOLMUŞ?

Check the front window of the dolmuş for the destination sign to make sure you are getting on the right one.

*Photo by Ad Meskens (Cropped from File:Bodrum dolmus terminus.JPG) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

The driver switches out the sign based on the direction he is going in. You can also look on the side where other main points on the route will sometimes be listed, such as beaches, water parks, shopping malls and even big hotel/resort names. When in doubt, confirm with the driver before you get on if he will be going to your destination.

HOW MUCH TO PAY FOR YOUR RIDE

Price lists for the routes are posted inside the dolmuş. Alternatively, you can also tell the driver where you’re going and ask, “how much?” Most drivers will speak at least a little bit of English. However, if you want to go native, instead ask, “Ne kadar?” (meaning “how much?”). Just make sure you’ve studied your Turkish numbers from one to ten, because that’s how he will respond!

HOW TO PAY FOR YOUR RIDE

Paying for your ride depends on where you alight. If you get on a parked dolmuş, meaning the first point from which it begins its route, you can pay the driver upfront. If you get on anywhere in the middle of the route, you will either pass your money through the other passengers up to the driver who will then pass your change back, or wait and pay at the end when you arrive at your destination. I have seen others try to unsuccessfully pull a swift one by getting out at the end of the route and trying to walk away without paying, only to realize that the drivers have some kind of special power bestowed upon them where they always know exactly who has and who has not paid for their ride.

INDIE TIP: Use your small bills and coins to pay for your ride. Some drivers don’t like it when you hand over big bills and expect them to break it for a 1,50TL ride!

WHERE TO SIT ON A DOLMUŞ

On bigger intercity buses, girls and women who are traveling alone are seated next to each other when seats are assigned. This, however, goes out the window on a dolmuş. Because they can get very crowded and there aren’t many seats, you can just sit wherever there is a seat available. Even on the floor if necessary!

INDIE TIP: Not all seats have windows that open. Be aware of this when it’s very hot out, because there is no air conditioning either, and sit accordingly. I always bring something to fan myself with because it can get really hot in there, especially when you’re getting on at the terminal and the dolmuş has been sitting. I’ve been on dolmuşes where the driver drives with the door open just to get some air in.  (But don’t worry – they don’t go too fast).

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHERE TO GET OFF?

If you want to get off somewhere other than the end of the line, you can tell the driver where you are going. Usually it’s best to give a landmark like “Pazar” (market) or “Centrum” meaning “the center” or “in town”. If you have an address you are trying to get too, like a hostel or pansiyon and don’t know where to get off, have the name and address written down, so you can show the driver when you get on. They will then let you know when to get off. Sometimes they can drop you off right in front of the place you are staying, if it is directly on the route.

 

HOW TO LET THE DRIVER KNOW YOU WANT TO GET OFF

There are no buttons to press when you’re stop is coming up. You will have to verbally let the driver know. If you are shy, like me, this can be a little intimidating if you are in a dolmuş packed with people and you’re the only foreigner, so I’m going to make it painless for you!

There are a few ways you can let the driver know that you want to get off:

  • You can say “inecek var” (een-a-jeck var) meaning “someone wants to get off”
  • Or try the more challenging “müsait bir yerde” (moo-sight beer yerde) meaning “at the next convenient location”
  • Or the easiest way is to simply say “stop”

EXITING THE DOLMUŞ

When you get off, don’t forget to say, “Teşekkür ederim!” (tesh-a-koor eder-reem) to thank the driver. Or, again, go native and try saying one of my favorite Turkish phrases, “Görüşürüz!” (gur-roosh-shoe-rooz”) which means, “See you!” and will usually impress the locals!

There you have it! Now you’ll be hopping on and off the dolmus with such ease that no one will even guess that you are just visiting! And that’s what going indie is all about.

 

*featured image by Ad Meskens, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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