A Turkish dolmuş (DOHL-moosh) is a jitney, a shared taxi or minibus running a pre-determined route, with each passenger paying only a portion of the normal fare.
(Sometimes I spell it “dolmush” to remind you that the final ‘ş’ is an ‘s-cedilla’ in Turkish, equivalent to ‘sh’ in English. See my Turkish Language Guide for details on Turkish pronunciation.)
Dolmus means “filled:” the car or minibus waits at the beginning of its route until most or all of its seats are filled.
Passengers can get out anywhere along the route, or ride to the end, for a single set fare that’s the same for all passengers no matter what their destination.
Although their use is declining, dolmushes still operate within cities, and between cities and nearby towns and villages—in short, anywhere where small-vehicle shared transport makes sense. You may find them operating from suburbs into the city for big football (soccer) matches, or from a railroad station to a nearby beach.
Small cities and country towns may have a dolmuş/minibus terminal as well as an inter-city bus terminal. Sometimes they’re in the same place, sometimes not. Larger cities may have several dolmush terminals in different parts of the city.
Fares vary depending on location, but typically cost the same as a one-way fare on other forms of transportation (bus, metro, tram, etc.) City-to-village routes, which tend to be longer, may have higher fares but still far less than a private taxi (though usually a bit more than city bus fare.)
In city centers, there may be legally designated dolmush stops, usually marked by blue signs bearing a big white “D”, and dolmushes may be forbidden to stop anywhere else to let passengers in or out. On the outskirts and in less heavily trafficked locations, you may stop a dolmush wherever you like.
In big cities, dolmush route systems tend to be many and varied, and meaningful only to local residents. Signboards in the front window of the car or minibus, or atop the vehicle, indicate the destination and usually a few of the major points along the route.
Although most dolmush routes are of little use to the visitor, some can be very handy. You can often save time and money by using dolmushes on routes that fit your travel plans. For example, in many beach resorts, dolmush minibuses are the most common way to go between hotel, beach, and town center: just wander out to the main road, read the front-window signboards as they come along, and wave to the driver of one that’s going your way.
Get in and take a seat. The driver collects fares and makes change as he drives, which often makes for a thrilling ride. If you’re not near enough to hand the fare to him, hand it to someone in front of you and they’ll hand it up to the driver.
If you don’t know the fare, watch what others pay and pay the same; or give the driver a note and you’ll get change. Or, as a last resort, ask Bilet ne kadar? (“How much is a ticket?”) and someone will help you.
Try not to give a high-value note (worth more than 50TL) as this makes life more difficult for the driver. But if you must, you must….
When you want to get out, say Inecek var! (een-eh-JEHK vahr, “Someone wants to get out!”) You’ll hear other passengers saying Müsait bir yer… which means “At a permitted place…[I want to get out],” which comes to the same thing but is more difficult for non-Turkish speakers to pronounce.
Try it! The first time you ride in a dolmush you’ll be filled with trepidation, but after the first time it’ll all be quite easy, I assure you!