Meet the Turkish Dolmuş

Getting around Fethiye (and other parts of coastal Turkey) has been incredibly easy with the dolmuş buses.

The dolmuş (pronounced “dole-moosh”) is a cross between a public bus and private taxi. Like a bus, it travels a regular route (posted on a sign in the front window) and the fees are set—no bargaining, thank god, or I’d be paying triple. Here in Fethiye the cost is 1.5 TL, or about $0.75. Like a taxi, you can get on or off anywhere along the route.

No formal bus stops, no timetables. There’s no stressing out about “missing the bus,” because dolmuşes come along every five or ten minutes, sometimes one right after the other.

Here’s how they work.

When you want to get on, just wave one down wherever you are. The same applies when it’s time to get off. Just ask the driver to stop and he’ll pull over practically anywhere. The drivers are always scanning for fares, so if you’re walking along a street hoping to catch a dolmuş, you don’t need to keep looking back over your shoulder. The driver will tap his horn as he approaches, and you just stick out your hand. Easy.

Once you’re on board, you can either head to the front and pay the driver or just go sit down and hand your money to person ahead of you. It will be passed from person to person up to the driver; your change will come back the reverse route. You can also wait and pay when you get off.

Sometimes, especially after school gets out, the dolmuşes are packed. I have no clue how the driver keeps track of who’s paid and who hasn’t. Once Mark saw a driver chastise a woman who’d just gotten off without paying. (She came back and paid). Another time, as I was about to get off, a driver accused me of only paying for myself but not Scout. He was wrong. I’d given him 3TL, so we argued back and forth for a minute until he gave up with a shrug of his shoulders, and Scout and I left the bus.

Dolmuşes in Fethiye are clean and fairly comfortable (depending how fast your driver flies over the speed bumps.). They are privately owned, so each one is decorated differently. On our route (Tasyaka-Karagözler), my favorite dolmuş has an East Indian flair, with dayglo-orange shag carpeting all over the front dash, glitzy bling all over that, and psychedelic lavender lights blasting out from under the bus. Whenever I’m in it I feel like I’m traveling in two countries at once.

For us, the best part is that Archie is allowed on the dolmuş. This is huge for us. It’s super easy to bring him downtown or on a hike. Turks on the bus are nervous around him (and all dogs), so I avoid bringing him when it’s crowded.

We’ve ridden shared taxis all over the world, from Thai songthaws to Costa Rican chicken buses. But I have to say, dolmuşes are now our favorites!

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