Independent transportation to Ephesus from Izmir wasn’t very clear when I first researched my trip. This is likely because many Izmir trains and routes are brand new (so no help from Google maps). And also because many who visit Ephesus, arrive by tour buses or car rentals. So if you’re a solo and/or more budget-conscious traveler, you’re probably scratching your head wondering exactly how to get to Ephesus by train or bus. Moreover, since English isn’t as widely spoken throughout Turkey, it can be difficult to communicate with train attendees or fellow passengers to figure out exactly which train to take and where to take the dolmus (bus) transfer. The good news is that I JUST came back from a successful and easy train + bus solo trip to Ephesus. And since I didn’t find anything on Google, I’ve decided to put together a quick step-by-step guide to help others travel to Ephesus from Izmir.
Oh, and the best part? It costs 11 liras each way! Which is less than $2 USD.
Related Blog Post: 22 Things to Know Before You Travel to Turkey
Step 1: Train to Ephesus / Selcuk
First, head to the Basmane train railway station located in central downtown Izmir. Here, you’re going to take the Basmane-Denizili train to the town of Selcuk, which is just 4 km (2.5 miles) from Ephesus. You’ll see different trains (including the underground metro) but the one to Selcuk is the railway trains that are above ground. Don’t go down any steps and you’ll easily find it.
Approach the main wooden booth and ask the representative for “train to Selcuk” (pronounced sell-chook). They likely will not speak much English but will understand “sell-chook” and will tell you next time it departs.
2021 UPDATED Schedule: When I went in 2019, the trains departed from Izmir to Ephesus approximately every hour; and I was not able to find an exact schedule posted anywhere. However, our reader Will Hooton was kind enough to send us an updated 2021 schedule (thank you)! It is now much more limited and could change again due to the pandemic restrictions. So try to get there early to be sure you’re getting on the right train and to snag a good seat! If you have to wait a while for the next train, you can always grab some orange juice, baklava, or even a nice plate of food. Prices are very reasonable in the many establishments located just seconds away.
Cost: 7.50 lira – They accept cash and credit cards.
Which Train: Since these trains are new, they are not on Google Maps yet. There is also no sign that says which of the 3-ish trains sitting outside goes where. So what I did was ask about 7 different people beforehand to be certain. I pointed to the train and asked “sell-chook?” to which everyone nodded and repeated “sell-chook!”
Important Turkish words to know: Evet = yes; Yok hayir = no
Step 2: Enjoy the Beautiful & Local Train Ride
The train stops maybe 5 times before arriving at Selcuk. It’s relatively express and skips over many train stations. The views are stunning, reminiscent of Tuscany or the wine country in the south of France. You can grab a seat with a table and enjoy the gorgeous sights of olive-green rolling hills and valleys.
Culture: You’ll have the opportunity to people watch and take in the local culture. Turkish families and friends hop on and off. People were very friendly and helpful. You’ll even get the chance to try a Turkish bagel or yogurt from a local vendor who passes through selling each for less than 20 US cents (1.5 lira each).
Duration: The train took about 80 minutes to arrive. It left at exactly 1:42 PM and arrived close to 2:00 PM.
Bathroom: There is a bathroom on board between carts. It was clean and had TP!
Quality: The train is spotlessly clean, modern, and efficient.
Step 3: Walk to the Selcuk Bus Station
A dolmus in Turkey is a shared minivan or minibus taxi that picks up and drops off people along a certain route. The dolmus/bus station in Selcuk is located about 5 minutes walking from the train station. Download maps.me to have an offline map of Selcuk, so that you can easily walk there. Or ask someone to point you towards the Ephesus (or Efes) dolmus/bus. If they don’t speak English ask: “Efes dolmus?” They refer to Ephesus as “Efes” here.
Related Blog Post: Top 9 Istanbul Highlight Experiences & 2 Things to Skip.
Step 4: Take the Bus from Selcuk to Ephesus aka Efes
Once you arrive at the bus station, pay the attendee 3.5 liras and wait for your bus to arrive/fill up to leave. The bus ride is less than 5 minutes long. You’ll know it’s your stop because the bus driver should yell “EFES”. Otherwise, look out for the first stop at a big parking lot full of tourists.
Et voila, just like that you’re at the entrance of Ephesus!
Now you know how to get from Izmir to Ephesus! When you arrive at Selcuk train station, ask the train station booth operator for the train times. She wrote down the rest of day’s the time schedule on a post-it note for me.
Total time: about 2 hours to arrive. If you want to save about 20-30 minutes, you can always just grab a taxi directly from the train station.
Note: There are two entrances to Ephesus. The one the dolmus/bus drops you off at is the one closest to the two major attractions: the library and the grand theatre.