Dogu Express and Vangolu Express are the two most popular overnight train routes of Turkey, thus it’s very hard to find ticket.
Here are some clues:
Seat is easy to find
Both Dogu Express and Vangolu Express have three “pulman” coaches. It’s even possible to find seats in last minute. Seats are in 2+1 design, have enough space, comfortable. However note that travel time is 24 hours and coaches may be a little noisy.
Very hard to find sleepers and couchettes
You have to be very quick to find couchettes (4 berths) or sleepers (2 berths) in Dogu Express or Vangolu Express. Tickets are on sale 30 days prior to departure and sold out in seconds. Dogu Express has 2 couchettes and 4 sleepers (160 berths in total) and Vangolu Express has 1 couchette and 2 sleepers (80 berths).
Get ready at midnight
The tickets of trains of 30 days later is on sale after midnight. No specific time. Thus you need to open website of TCDD Tasimacilik and query the tickets until they are on sale.
You can check the tickets for both directions, Ankara-Kars and Kars-Ankara. By checking both directions using different PCs, you may have more chance.
Assume that you see available tickets. Until you enter the information needed and push the “continue” button, you will not be able to reserve it. Thus, you better check the reservation screen and find ways to enter the information very fast.
Maybe you aim sleepers. If you see available couchette, do not miss it. You’ll miss some luxuries like refrigerator and sink, but couchettes have some other advantages.
Do not quit
You followed all above, but it seems many others did as well and got message of “no tickets available”. Sleep well that night and continue to check availability for next 30 days. There may be cancellations, though not many.
If you can organize abig group, you can get in contact with TCDD Tasimacilik and rent a private wagon. Sleepers have 20 and couchettes have 40 berths. It’s more expensive, but may be worth travelling in a wagon full of friends.
Cover photo: Jeff Hawken ©