A bus station in a harem? Not really.
Istanbul’s main bus terminal is the Istanbul International Bus Terminal (Büyük Otogar), 10 km (6 miles) west of Sultanahmet, but many of the buses that originate there stop to pick up passengers at Harem Otogar—and this can save you time.
If you’re traveling to Thrace or the north Aegean coast (ie, west of Istanbul), go straight to the Büyük Otogarfor your bus. But if you’re traveling to Anatolia (ie, most of Turkey, east and south of Istanbul), then consider boarding your bus at Harem.
It may take you 35 to 50 minutes to reach the Büyük Otogar from Sultanahmet or Taksim Square. If a bus departs the Büyük Otogar at 12 noon, it will be almost 1 pm by the time it circumnavigates the city, crosses the Bosphorus and arrives at the Harem Otogar to pick up more passengers. So after nearly two hours of travel, you’re still in Istanbul!
But if you just go down the hill to Sirkeci (just east of Eminönü; map) and climb aboard the car ferry that cruises across the Bosphorus to Harem, it will take you less than an hour, be more pleasant, and you’ll cut an hour off your Anatolian bus trip.
Not all buses starting from the Büyük Otogar stop at Harem, and some arrive at Harem with no empty seats. But you can reserve a seat in advance by telephone, and your seat should be available for you at Harem.
If your destination is a popular one, like Ankara or Antalya, just go to Harem, stroll through the bus station, and in less than an hour you should be on your way, no reservation needed (except on holidays). This usually works with most destinations, although you may have to wait a bit longer for your departure if you’re going to a less popular place.
If you travel without a reservation (as many people do), it’s best to get to the bus station in the morning(after breakfast is fine) to give yourself the best chance of getting a seat quickly.