Eastern Express Train Turkey: Ankara, Erzurum, Kars Travel
The Eastern Express is a very different experience. You should definitely experience it as soon as possible. It is a wonderful feeling to observe the geography changing step by step, passing through canyons and villages. The most extraordinary journey in Turkey. We were sure it would be one of the most enjoyable journeys we would ever make, and it was. Here is an Eastern Express travel guide for you. Everything you need to know about the Eastern Express.
- What is the Eastern Express?
- Eastern Express train departure times, from where and when does it depart?
- What are the wagon types on the Orient Express?
- How much are the ticket prices for the Eastern Express?
- How to buy an Eastern Express train ticket?
- What is the route of the Eastern Express?
- Frequently asked questions about the Eastern Express
- When to do the Eastern Express?
- Are there any other train journeys similar to the Eastern Express?
What is the Eastern Express?
Let’s give a brief information about the Eastern Express. This train is a means of transportation that starts from Ankara and goes all the way to Kars. But for people who love to travel and think like us, the Eastern Express is not a means of transportation, but the journey itself. The length of the Eastern Express is 1080km and this journey allows us to spend a journey through Central and Eastern Anatolia with wonderful views. It is the journey to the destination that is fun. Adventure for some, experience for others.
Of course, when the Eastern Express is so busy, TCDD introduces a different train called the Touristic Eastern Express. The days, hours, wagons, stops and duration of this train are slightly different from the original, but the route is the same.
Eastern Express train departure times, from where and when does it depart?
One of the things you need to know about the Eastern Express is its timetable. The Eastern Express used to depart from Ankara Station at 18:00. Due to the Başkentray arrangement that started in July 2016 and will last for 18 months, Eastern Express trains now depart from Irmak Train Station (Kırıkkale) at 19:20. Transportation to Irmak Station is provided by free of charge buses departing from Ankara Station at 18:00. You can reach these buses right in front of the Ankara Station building. You will already see dozens of people waiting to get on the bus. The buses to Irmak Train Station leave from 17:30 until 18:00 as they fill up. Try to get on in between, don’t wait for the last bus. The distance between Ankara and Irmak is 70 km and it takes about 50 minutes.
For those who want to use Eastern Express Kars Ankara direction. Eastern Express departure time from Kars station is 08:00 and of course the train can reach Irmak station.
What are the wagon types on the Orient Express?
Let’s talk about the wagon types on the Eastern Express. There are three different wagon options on the Eastern Express train.
Pulman Wagon: Pulman wagon has seats all facing the direction of departure. Since the seats are arranged in 2+1 order in the wagon, it is referred to as 2+1 Pulman. This wagon type, which is mostly preferred for short-term travels, feels like traveling on a bus. It is not comfortable enough to be preferred for long trips. The seats recline very little, but the seat spacing is wide enough to make especially tall people comfortable.
Covered Couchette Wagon: Rooms in sleeper cars on trains are called couchette. The rooms in these wagons are for 4 people. In these rooms where 4 people can sit facing each other with 2 people facing each other, the seats can be beds. Thanks to the beds that can be opened on the upper parts of these beds, 4 people can stay in one room. Just like a hostel, you may have to share a room with people you don’t know. If you are 4 friends, it makes sense, but if you are a couple and there is no room left in the carriage with two beds, you can close the room by booking a child ticket for the other 2 beds and you will have your very own cot. If you have a lot of stuff, let’s say that you don’t have much space to put things.
Twin Carriage: The size of the twin compartments is the same as that of the overcoat compartments. But because it sleeps two, you have more space to use. Especially the best choice for couples. The rooms in the twin carriages have an extra desk, a refrigerator, a sink with hot running water and plenty of space to store your belongings. Apart from its size, it is not much different from a hotel room.
Preparing for the Orient Express…
If we know the Orient Express well enough, we can now move on to the ticket part of the business. First of all, we set a date for the Eastern Express tour and since we live in Istanbul, we look for a flight ticket to Ankara.
Flight Ticket: We find suitable flight tickets for 2 people from THY and Anadolujet for departure from Istanbul to Ankara on Friday morning and return from Kars to Istanbul on Sunday evening. The part of buying a plane ticket without buying a train ticket, that is, the risk part is up to you. We wanted to buy cheap flight tickets first because train ticket prices are already fixed.
Accommodation in Kars: The best plan for the train journey is to stay in a hotel on Saturday night. You don’t really have any other choice. For accommodation in Kars, we make a cancelable reservation through booking and its derivatives.
Eastern Express train ticket: After buying the plane ticket and booking the hotel, the next step is to buy a train ticket. So how to buy an Eastern Express train ticket? The fastest method for this is of course to buy online. Although it is said that the seats for Eastern Express tickets are usually opened 15 days in advance, we were able to buy the ticket 25 days in advance and when we checked, we could buy tickets until exactly one month later. It is useful to check every once in a while whether your travel date is open or not. In some cases, the full sailings are due to the fact that the tours book the tickets in advance. Also, keep in mind that flights opened on public holidays and semester holidays can fill up very quickly.
How much are the ticket prices for the Eastern Express?
Tickets vary according to the stop you will get on and the stop you will get off. Prices are constantly updated, so it is best to check the prices and current timetables on TCDD’s website.
How to buy an Eastern Express train ticket?
To buy an Eastern Express train ticket, let’s first enter EYBIS. Enter the place, date and number of passengers and click the Search button. On the page that appears, select the appropriate wagon type for you, click the Select button in the Selection column on the right and click Continue. (If you get a message that the service is not found, the tickets are not yet on sale.)
On the Seat Selection page, select your seat number and enter the passenger information. When you click the Continue button, you will see the payment screen. You complete your payment by filling in the card information.
Before the Eastern Express…
Before traveling on the Eastern Express, a good shopping trip is a must. There is Migros in the shopping center located at the back of Ankara Station. Buy all your needs here. You can buy snacks, canned food, drinks, nuts and fruits according to your taste. Buy plenty, don’t buy less. People eat a lot on the train and want to eat all the time. Oh, also take ayran. You can drink a lot of it with cağ kebab. We had a couple of wraps made from the restaurants in the shopping mall to eat as dinner on the train.
If you have bags, if they are heavy, if you don’t want to carry them with you / on your back until the bus, there are lockers similar to the logic in Europe where you can put your bags in the area where the toilets are located on the right side inside the Ankara Train Station building.
Make yourself a good playlist. A small, electrically powered, portable speaker would be a great thing to take with you before traveling on the Orient Express, I highly recommend it. Comfortable clothes and slippers are a must. There is soap in your room. There is also garbage, but make sure you have a garbage bag.
What is the route of the Eastern Express?
Starting from Irmak at 19:20, the Eastern Express route runs from Kayseri (00:53), Sivas (04:30), Erzincan (10:40), Erzurum (14:46) and ends in Kars (18:56). Timetables are mostly accurate. The train also departs from Kars and arrives in Aşkale. You can check all timetables on the Eastern Express train departure times page.
The Eastern Express adventure begins.
We get on one of the buses coming in front of Ankara Station that will take us to Irmak Train Station and we get off the bus before 1 hour. A few minutes later we get on the train where we will travel in exactly 1 day. We find our room and unpack our belongings. We take out our food and put it in the closet. After adjusting our clothes, the train starts to move slowly. The compartment attendant Veysel Abi comes and checks the tickets, and then TCDD’s little gesture to the passengers in the sleeper car, such as chocolates, water and fruit juice, are pleasant details of the journey. Veysel Abi brings the towels and the journey begins in earnest.
The first impression in the room is that the bed linen is very clean. In the sleeper car, bed linen and sheets are changed with clean ones even before the start of the journey. The beds are locked and the conductor unlocks the beds when the new owner of the room arrives. It becomes impossible for anyone other than you to sit or lie down.
There is one power socket in the covered wagons and two in the double sleeper wagons. Take a replicator socket with you. We took a quadruple replicator to plug in our phone chargers and laptop. The replicators do not cause any trouble. But if you plug a kettle into the sockets, you might blow the fuse of your room, at least this was the case for us. Fortunately, the conductor Veysel Abi came to our aid and changed the fuse. If you have a device that won’t blow a fuse, you can provide yourself with hot water and free tea and coffee throughout the day.
If you don’t have a crazy plan for an evening train ride, you can sleep. But set your watch for sunrise. Experience train travel at sunrise. Witness the sun rising. Where will you give birth to the sun on the train again? For those traveling from Ankara to Kars, the sun rises around Sivas.
The most beautiful scenery continues with the landscapes in İliç on the borders of Erzincan. When we enter İliç in Erzincan, the series of landscapes starts with Bağıştaş Dam Lake around 08:30. You can see the canyon, the Euphrates River, and the snowy mountains that have not melted yet and probably will not melt. At 10:00, the snow-capped Munzur Mountains, on Kemah’s border with Tunceli, come into view. These mountains adorn the photographs on the south side for kilometers and make you admire them.
Beautiful landscapes continue until Kars. Therefore, Ankara Kars or Kars Ankara journeys are no different. The train departing from Kars also passes through these points during daylight hours. Which one you should prefer depends entirely on your previous or future plans.
Cağ Kebab in Erzurum: The ideal way to have lunch is to order cağ kebab before your Eastern Express train approaches Erzurum. We ordered it from Gel Gör Kebap and the taste stayed in our mouths. Gel Gör Kebap is a famous cağ kebab shop in Erzurum. The arrival time of the train to Erzurum is 14:46. Therefore, you will be around Kandilli an hour before. You can order from Kandilli or Ilıca.
The staff know what time the train will be in Erzurum, so they rush it. There is a phone signal at these stops, call and place your order. In Erzurum, the guy who brought the food was at the station on time. Of course, he had a big bag in his hand to keep the temperature. Most of the travelers on the train had already ordered. The train stops at this stop enough. This situation has become commonplace now. We paid with a credit card, no problem. We had already bought our ayran from the market. The smell of cağ kebab fills the wagons. I can say that it was an exquisite feast without exaggeration. Erzurum Gel Göl Cağ Kebapçısı phone number: (0442) 234 21 22
Frequently asked questions about the Eastern Express
Is there internet on the Eastern Express train? There is no wifi on the Eastern Express, you need to use the internet on your cell phone. Cell phones do not work everywhere, only in central train stations.
Can the temperature inside the train be adjusted? The train has air conditioning and you can adjust the room temperature up to 27 degrees. The best thing about traveling in winter is that it can be warm inside. In the summer season, you can also adjust the temperature for a cooler journey.
How long does the train stop at the stations? Eastern Express train departs after loading and unloading passengers at intermediate stops, it does not wait. At the main stations, it waits for about 5 minutes, during which time you can go out, walk around and take photos. As you approach the stations, you can see the children who live there, some of them prefer to wave and some think stoning the train is a game.
Do the doors of the rooms lock? When you close the doors in the sleeping cars you are cut off from the outside, there is no glass in the doors and the doors can be locked from the inside, but not from the outside. You can close your door and leave because no one is in your room. The doors of the covered couchette are glazed. They are closed by means of a curtain, and when they are closed properly, you cannot see in. We usually stuck with the door open, because we could see both views of the train. We didn’t feel cramped in the room.
Can my pet come with us? You can get a 50% discount for your pet, provided that it travels only in the pulman car.
Is there a restaurant on board? There is a dining car inside the train where you can meet your food needs and it is actively working. Here you can find simple breakfast and meals in packages. Drinks such as tea, cola and hot water are also available here. The food wagon closes at 01:00 at night. Alcoholic drinks are not sold inside. But don’t think that you can buy everything here. There are only the basic necessities, for pleasure needs and more, do your shopping from a market as mentioned above.
Are the toilets clean? There are two toilets in the sleeper car that only the people in that car can use. The toilet in the front is alafranga and the one in the back is alaturka. People in other cars cannot use these toilets and are not even allowed to enter these cars. The toilets are clean and hot water flows. There is toilet paper but it is better to have one with you.
Is smoking allowed in the rooms? Smoking is forbidden, but of course there are smokers. If you are a non-smoker like us, you can understand that there is smoking from the smells coming from the smokers’ rooms. We recommend you not to smoke.
When to do the Eastern Express?
Eastern Express is nice to do in all seasons. In winter, Anatolia is covered with snow. If you love snow, you will encounter magnificent views. The rooms are not cold but it gets very cold outside. You need to dress very well. On spring trips, you will see children running around in the villages, horses and sheep in the pastures, long plains, white snow on the mountains and wonderful landscapes. In fact, both seasons should be experienced. The Orient Express has a continuous service. If you are a working person, you can take Friday off and make this trip with the weekend. After reaching Kars, you will definitely want to visit the city of Kars. Check out our Kars Travel Guide page we have prepared for this.
Are there any other train journeys similar to the Eastern Express?
If you like the Eastern Express, you may want to try other train journeys. Van Lake Express between Ankara and Tatvan is one of the recommended train journeys. There are only 2 departures from Ankara, on Tuesday and Sunday, 2 days a week. It does not keep the weekend like the Eastern Express. Güney Kurtalan, which runs 5 days a week and runs between Ankara and Kurtalan, and Toros Express, which runs between Adana and Konya, are among the recommended ones. It is a personal expert recommendation.