Turkey, travel by bus with coronavirus

Coronavirus skyrockets bus ticket prices

Turkish citizens who want to return home face a triple problem: they must apply for a permit, there are fewer buses, and ticket prices have almost tripled.

Taking a bus is becoming a challenge for many Turks and an option only available to those who have enough money, because ticket prices for travels between cities – which are only possible with the authorisation of the provincial governor- have skyrocketed since the confinement measures against the coronavirus were declared.

Last week the Turkish government banned bus or train travel between cities to stop the spread of COVID-19, and limited domestic flights (international flights are still suspended). Now those who wish to travel must submit an application to the Travel Permit Commission, linked to the office of the governor of each province, and wait for authorisation.

The problem is not only that travelling is more difficult, but once the authorisation is received, the second great obstacle comes: it’s getting a ticket, since the price has more than doubled due to the virus.

A ticket that previously cost no more than 90 liras, now costs at least 200

This is what happens for example in provinces like Erzurum, where Ömer Ayhan, a student at Atatürk University, paid 29 liras – about 4 euros – for a train ticket to go to Erzurum; now, to be able to return to his home in the province of Kayseri – more than 600 kilometres away – the cheapest bus ticket he has found costs him 200 liras (almost 28 euros).

“Five days before the outbreak of the virus, the highest price for a bus ticket was 90 liras,” Ayhan explains, accusing bus companies of taking advantage of this situation to sell the tickets at totally abusive prices. His case is not the most serious: a ticket from Erzurum to Konya – more than 900 km – costs about 300 liras, while travelling to Istanbul – more than 1,200 km away – means paying 400 euros or more for a single ticket.

The fact is that many Turks are returning to their homes in other provinces due to the closure of workplaces or universities because of the coronavirus; since bus companies have also reduced the number of services, this has created a “perfect storm” in which demand soars at a time when supply has been limited, driving prices to levels never seen before.