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The Dogu Express, Turkey

Updated: Jan 23

I’m not exactly sure why it’s called the ‘Express’ as this option takes twice as long as the coach to travel the 1310km east across Turkey. You leave Ankara at 6pm and arrive at Kars for 6.15pm the following day.

AN ODE TO THE DOGU EXPRESS


Dogu Dogu Express train,

Wish I had taken the plane.


Eight hundred miles east you go,

Why on earth are you so slow?

Pulman class is for the poor,

Your legs do ache, your neck is sore,

But your seat costs just 8 quid

(right behind the crying kid).

Oh happy days! The trolley’s here!

Then you notice there’s no beer.


The toilet hole is in the ground,

Loo roll is nowhere to be found,

To the floor your feet do stick,

And in the sink someone’s been sick.

The lights stay on, the phones still ring,

Lack of sleep makes your eyes sting.

Someone’s farted! Hold your breath!

Pray that sleep comes before death.


Dogu Dogu Express train,

Wish I had taken the plane.

Pulman Seats

Unfortunately, all the sleeper cabins were full so we were in Pulman seats which cost only 58TL (£8) for the 24 hour journey.


The seats have more legroom than an average plane, the tops of the chairs are curved to catch your lolling head and you can even recline a few degrees.


Scenery

The first 12 hours were in darkness but the second half of the journey varied between tracks cut into snow-topped mountainsides, beautiful rivers and small villages surrounded by winter trees.


Health & Safety

The internal carriage doors aren’t sensored so they smash you into the wall if you don’t time it just right when walking through them.


The external exit doors don’t always close so you have to be careful not to fall out of the moving train and die when coming out of the toilet.


Toilets

Most of the toilets on board are the Eastern hole-in-the-ground job. There are some Western-style toilets but these are often very dirty and it’s much more difficult to squat over them.

'Clean' at the start of the journey...

Unwisely, I didn’t check properly and pressed the wrong flush button on my first visit. This resulted in the bum hose squirting at me instead.


Eventually, I found the toilet flush button but forgot to step away so everything splashed up onto my foot.


But there was soap. Small mercies.


Food options

There’s a trolley which comes through very regularly – 5TL for coffee (70p) and 3TL for tea (40p).

The dining compartment is a nice area and has a few food options, in Turkish. It’s a dry-train although the waiter did let us drink our beer as long as we faced it towards the wall.

Woken by an old person shouting at their mobile phone in the middle of the night, I turned to find The Boyfriend looking extremely pale and shivering.


He’d been waiting for me to wake up as I was in the aisle seat. With incredible speed for 4am, he raced past me to the loo and threw up the dirty doner we ate for supper.

Dirty Dogu Doner

Conclusion: bring your own food and snacks on the Dogu Express.


Or just don’t order the microwaved doner meal.


How to get a good night’s sleep in a Pulman seat

Firstly, accept that this is impossible unless you’re a local – they have secret magic powers which allow them to sleep soundly despite the train feeling as if it’s coming off the track every time it arrives at a station.


Whilst at each stop the foreigner is jolted wildly out of whatever slumber they have finally achieved, not so the local who is sensically oblivious to the outside world.


With that in mind…


Tip 1: When booking your tickets, choose seats in the middle of the carriage so you’re away from the noisy slamming doors and toilet/cigarette smells.


Tip 2: Also try and avoid booking into Carriage 3 as this seems to be the transit compartment. By contrast, Carriage 4 was very warm with lights dimmed, and fewer people getting on and off all night.


Tip 3: Layer up as it gets cold, especially if you’re in the window seat. Thermals, socks, blanket, hat etc.


Tip 4: Ear plugs, a blow-up neck pillow and an eye mask will marginally improve your discomfort. As a last resort, I tied a pair of leggings around my face to block out the phosphorescent light.


Tip 5: You can turn the chairs, with a bit of difficulty, by kicking up the switch underneath. But if someone has reserved those seats you’ll then be awkwardly facing them.

But most of all, enjoy the experience – you’ll be able to laugh about it after:-)

Book your tickets online or visit Ankara train station and book in-person (20min walk from town). The sleeper cabin tickets were 300TL (~£42) which, if you’re a light sleeper, are probably worth every lira.


Next post (Eating my way across Turkey)

Previous post (The Bulgarian bootleg bus to Istanbul)

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· a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single gear change ·

About Kelly

Kelly lives by the philosophy of:

'You're more likely to regret the things you didn't do than the things you did do'.

Which is a good way to giggle about the ridiculous situations she often finds herself in...

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