In the winter, Antalya is the main airport for direct travel between the Mediterranean coast of Turkey and the UK. Unfortunately, when compared to Dalaman, it is approximately twice the distance from Kalkan being about 240km by the coast road. This usually means an expensive transfer taxi ride with little opportunity for sharing. However there is an alternative which will take a bit longer but will save you lots of money and give you another experience of Turkey.
As long as we have been coming to Kalkan, Bati Antalya has provided a regular bus service via Kas, Finike and Kemer. Over the years we have used it in both directions and enjoyed the exposure to another side of Turkish life. For a start there are seldom any other foreigners on the bus and you get treated more as curiosities but with great respect. The bus stops literally anywhere to let down or pick up passengers with their assorted bags and bundles including lots of tomatoes, potatoes, etc, being taken as gifts to friends and relatives or to a local market along the road. You also meet interesting people. For example on one occasion we were sitting across the aisle from a retired Turkish couple on holiday from Istanbul. Our only common language was French and in the course of the journey we learnt about a recent visit they had made to the UK to visit their son who was in the Turkish navy and stationed at Kettering in Northamptonshire! We never did find out why the Turkish navy is operating in the middle of England.
In early November 2011, we were booked on an overnight flight to the UK for a short trip back home. Having read on KTLN about the new service being operated by major Turkish bus company Metro, the Metro Mini, we decided to give it a go. Amongst the attractions were seat-back TV screens and wifi. We found out, as the journey progressed, that the TV only works when there is reception and that is for less than half of the journey, and the wifi didn’t work at all. A fellow Turkish passenger asked the driver about the wifi and the response was basically a shrug, as if to say ‘don’t ask me’.
However, going back to the start of the journey, the tickets purchased at the Metro office in the Kalkan Otogar, cost the princely sum of 20TL (approx £7) each – a bargain. As we were leaving on the 14.30 bus, we decided to have lunch with our friend Bill in Ayse’s Kitchen at the bus station, great food at great prices. If you let the bus operator know that you are there they will come and get you when the bus is ready for boarding – first class service. Seats are not pre-allocated but there were only three other people on the bus and we got the front seats which have good legroom and the best view. As soon as we left Kalkan drinks, in the form of plastic cups of coca cola, were brought round. We then settled back and enjoyed the views along the ‘Turkish Corniche’ to Kas.
A couple of weeks ago we reported on an incident in Kas Otogar, also experienced by others we later discovered, where bus station staff decide (literally with menaces) which bus you may use. These guys were in evidence when we arrived there and we observed small amounts of money being handed over by the bus driver. Did this represent legitimate charges or back-handers for putting passengers on the bus? Will we ever find out? Leaving Kas the number of passengers had increased to about eight on the 27 seater bus. Once again drinks were brought round, fizzy orange this time but it turned out to be the last time for complimentary drinks.
At Demre, which is approximately halfway between Fethiye, the start point of the route, and Antalya, the crew swapped roles with the conductor cum steward, becoming the driver and vice versa. From our vantage point we were able to observe the high-quality of driving skills and the road safety standards of both drivers. They even passed, with justification, comment on the poor quality of driving of other road users. Very refreshing to know that Turkish drivers do understand good driving and definitely a plus for Metro’s selection of their drivers.
A typical Turkish incident along the way happened at Demre. Metro has their own little bus station at a petrol station on the main road. When we arrived there was what appeared to be a grandmother and grandfather seeing off their grandson of about twenty who was dressed in smart clothes and carrying a laptop. There were the usual rounds of hugs and kisses then suddenly the grandparents said something to the bus driver, got into a car and sped off down the road. A few minutes later the bus left and drove about 1km before stopping at a cottage at the roadside. Here was the grandmother again wrapping a big box of tomatoes in blue polythene. The grandson appeared again, still carrying his laptop, and got on to the bus along with the grandmother having stowed the tomatoes safely in one of the luggage compartments of the bus. After about another kilometre the bus stopped again and the grandmother got off. A very personal service. Such events add immeasurably to the interest of the journey but also add to the overall journey time.
Each time the bus stopped in a town there was time to stretch your legs, buy drinks and snacks and to use the restrooms and, if you are a Turkish man, time for a fag break. On the route between Demre and Finike there was a magnificent sunset over the Kekova Islands. One of the scenic marvels of Turkey.
Following a stop at Finike and another at Kumluca, the bus was now full and stayed that way for the rest of the journey. The last stop was at a cafe near Mt Olympus. During the final section of the journey there was a typical Turkish downpour. Once again the driver demonstrated excellent skills by reducing the speed to under 40 kph – very safe – on potentially skiddy roads. The bus pulled into the modern Antalya Otogar at 19.40 some 5 hours and 10 minutes after leaving Kalkan.
As our plane was not leaving until the early hours of the next morning, we took the local bus into the city centre for the princely sum of 1.75TL each. This bus has a large on-board monitor screen that displays a map of Antalya with the position of the bus high-lighted so, as a relative stranger, it was very easy to know when we had reached the part of the Old Town where we had decided to have a relaxing meal. Why don’t other buses in other cities have these?
If you are going directly to the airport from the otogar there is a regular(ish) bus service. Alternatively if you go into town, a taxi to the airport from the City Centre cost us 35TL on a meter and took about 15 mins. Allow a bit longer in the daytime when the city roads can be very busy.
And finally, when you get to the airport, there is a full security screening to enter the terminal but, and this is a big but, liquids are allowed through so you can take your own drinks. In the main hall probably 500 metres long and shared with domestic passengers, there are adequate eating facilities and seating. Prices are high with an Americano, for example, costing 10TL. After checking-in you can stay in this hall until nearer to flight departure time. Screening for liquids only happens after check-in when you go through to the departure gates. Much more civilised than Dalaman used to be. [Note : Dalaman now allows drinks into the check-in hall]
In summary, it is a relatively long journey but very comfortable on reclining seats. Definitely worth consideration by anyone with plenty of time to spend and on a budget and wanting to get to Antalya.
[Note : There are three bus services from Kalkan to Antalya. Apart from the Metro Mini described above, the other two are both operated by Bati Antalya and cost the same price of 20 TL one way. One route goes along the coast whilst the other goes through the mountains. The coastal bus is a 27 seater whilst the mountain bus is a large dolmus that technically seats 17 but in practice well over 20 can be squeezed in. You certainly come into close contact with a lot of Turkish rural life and its people on this route.]