Tips for Driving in Turkey

Six weeks after having left Istanbul, we reluctantly returned from our six thousand kilometre road trip through Turkey. We’ll long remember the warmth and friendliness of the Turkish people, the stunning scenery and of course, the delicious food. What did we learn?

Our tips for driving in Turkey….

Be Flexible
Flexibility is the key! As we hadn’t booked any accommodation before setting out, we had the freedom to make unplanned stops, to turn left instead of right, to enjoy a long lunch or to stop and chat to the villagers at the markets. Sometimes this meant that we had to change our itinerary on the way but this was ok…it was all part of the fun!

Driving in Turkey- Road side stalls in Turkey

Road side stalls are great stops to buy fresh fruit, dried apricots and figs or to just mix with the Turkish people.

 

Roads
The roads in Turkey are fantastic. They are far better than in Australia. Most of the time we were the only car driving on four or six lane highways. The road from Asmara to Sinop along the Black Sea coast is still being worked on but after the first part of the road that winds around the hills you arrive in Inebolu and from there it is an easy drive as it follows the coast. Turkey is not Italy or France where you want to get off the main road all the time but you certainly have to pick the roads you take for they can lead you nowhere!

Driving in Turkey-Great Roads

Often we were the only car on the road!

 

Stop often
Some of the drives can be quite long and even though the driving is easy, it’s always a good idea to stop and stretch the legs…and have a chat with the men at the cafes on the way!

Local tea house in Turkey

One of the road side cafes we stopped at.

 

Navigation
I love maps but on this occasion, we used both the Tom Tom navigation system and the Ipad.
The Tom Tom was the winner…taking us on the major roads instead of small dirt tracks that seemed to be the best way to go according to the Ipad. I found it was easier to use the Ipad in a town when we were trying to find our way to a hotel.

Driving in Turkey- cows on the road

Traffic congestion on the road!

 

Sign posts
Road signage is excellent in Turkey. There are large signs on highways and major roads to indicate the next town and the turn you have to make. Signs follow the international colours of blue for towns and brown for tourist attractions. There are also many signs on the smaller roads.

Driving in Turkey-sights to see

 

Police
The police are active on the roads with radar guns checking that speed limits are being adhered to. They also like to randomly stop you to check your car papers so make sure they are handy.

 

Drivers
Turkish drivers are, on the whole good but you do have to be aware of the erratic few who like to pass on a bend or feel they can make a new lane.

Driving in Istanbul is not as bad as some wish to portray….we picked up our car near the airport and followed the ring road out of the city and over the bridge virtually staying in the one lane the whole way!

Driving into Istanbul

Heading back into Istanbul at the end of our road trip!

 

Toll charge cards
There are not as many toll roads as you might expect considering the high quality and condition of the roads.
Check with your rental company to see if you have a HGS or OGS card that automatically charges you as you go through tolls. We paid 20euro to the car company to keep their card valid for the time of the hire. As you go through the toll gates, you choose the lane for the company your card is. Easy!

 

Parking
When you park in the street, you will be greeted by a parking attendant who will put a ticket on the windscreen stating the time you parked. Somehow he always seems to know when you are coming back…he will be waiting for you with the bill!

The parking attendant in Kahramanmaraş was so excited by the fact that he was speaking to tourists that he rang his friend and asked us to speak to him as well!

 

Fuel
Both petrol and diesel are expensive. It became a bit of game for my husband who would get excited when he saw a station offering cheap prices. Prices varied from 3.77TL to 4. 50TL a litre for diesel which is what most cars use!

The toilets in the larger chain service stations are very clean. Look for an Opet or Petrol Ofisi station.

Driving in Turkey- opet petrol station

 

Costs
We booked our car through cartrawler. You do not find out the name of company you have booked with until after the booking has been confirmed. We were happy to do this as the cost was nearly half that quoted by Avis. 

Our initial car hire for 35 days cost 852E for a compact, category C car. The Fiat Linea, a basic car from Circular Car Hire was perfect for the job! Extending your car hire does not seem to be problem. Our rental company was happy to do this and I’ve heard that others do the same. They even picked the car up from our apartment in Istanbul at the end of the trip!

We calculated that it cost $US50 per day for the car hire including fuel. We love the freedom that hiring a car gives us and would not do it any other way however this does not suit everyone’s lifestyle or budget.

There are other options. Turkey has a great bus service. The buses that travel from town to town are air conditioned, some have wifi and others even have a bus boy who serves coffee and snacks! Whilst you may not be able to get off the beaten track or stop on the way between villages, it certainly is easier on the pocket!

Train travel is becoming increasingly popular as new routes for the high speed train are being built. Currently Ankara, Eskisehir and Istanbul are connected with the line to Konya the next to open.

Driving in Turkey- girls in a small vilage

Being able to stop in small villages is one of the highlights of driving in Turkey.

 

Speaking Turkish
Life will be a lot easier if you learn a few Turkish words. Some of the basic words you need to know for on the road include:
Mortorin…..Diesel
Benzine…petrol
Sehir merkazi….the centre of town
Yavas…….slow
Çıkış…exit
Girilmez…no entry
Tekyön…one way
Kapalıd…closed

Learn a few more Turkish words at An Introduction to Istanbul for the First Time Visitor

 

Driving in Turkey- sights you see

We often saw more donkeys than cars on the road!

Happy driving…have fun!

 

 

Related Articles
The Best Icecream in Turkey
The Headless Gods of Mt Nemrut
Capture the Colour in Turkey
Food and Photography in Turkey

 

 

 

 

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30 Responses to Tips for Driving in Turkey

  1. Krista March 11, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    Driving a rental car through any country I visit is my very favorite way to travel too, Jenny. 🙂 I love your photos and your fantastic tips. 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman March 11, 2014 at 3:18 pm #

      Thanks Krista. Driving certainly gives you a lot of freedom to go wherever you want to and stop all the time for those photos!

  2. Agness March 11, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    Great tips! I would stop often to take photos, talk to locals and dig into some local dishes. Turkey is on my bucket list, can’t wait to make it there soon!

    • Jenny Freedman March 11, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

      Thanks Agnes. A lot of people are uncertain about driving in Turkey so I wanted to let everyone know its easy and a great way to travel! Hope you get to visit soon!

  3. budget jan March 11, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    What a great post. It makes me want to fly immediately to Istanbul and jump in a car. You could never (well it would take years) to see all of Turkey. The people are so wonderful and the roads too! I will look at Cartrawler next time and compare rates to EconomyCar.

    • Jenny Freedman March 11, 2014 at 11:21 pm #

      Thanks Jan. You’re an expert after your travels! Wouldn’t it be fabulous to travel for a year through Turkey..what a great idea!

      • budget jan March 14, 2014 at 7:17 am #

        I can’t imagine what that would be like, but it would be amazing to find out!

  4. Johanna March 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm #

    Just awesome info Jenny and the real nitty gritty required to put one’s mind at rest about driving in Turkey. Thanks for the down to earth and relevant tips 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman March 12, 2014 at 4:17 pm #

      Pleasure Jo! I hope I have helped you to decide to drive in Turkey. It really is the best way to see the country.

  5. Margaret | Destination Here&Now March 12, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    We had exactly the same experience Jenny. The rental car turned out to be cheaper than the petrol! I think that’s part of the reason there’s not a lot of traffic on the roads. And the other thing that stuck out for me was the petrol stations. Very clean as you say but also very ornately decorated. We were under the impression there was some national competition for them. Some were totally over the top. But fun.

    • Jenny Freedman March 12, 2014 at 5:09 pm #

      You could be right Margaret about the cost of petrol being the reason that there are not a lot of cars on the road.I still find it the best way to see as much as you can when you are out in the countryside. We must have missed the ornate petrol stations…the ones we saw were clean but very simply decorated! I’ll keep an eye out for them next time!

  6. Karen (Back Road Journal) March 13, 2014 at 1:49 am #

    Each and every one of your posts are so interesting and helpful for anyone wishing to travel. When ever we travel in Europe, we always rent a car. There are so many people that travel by rail but they miss so much of the countryside and all that it has to offer.

    • Jenny Freedman March 14, 2014 at 11:44 am #

      Thanks Karen. I agree that you miss a lot if you don’t travel by car. Even avid car travellers are wary of driving in Turkey so I just wanted to let people know it’s easy and still the best way to see the countryside.

  7. Jess @UsedYorkCity March 14, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    Love the tip on stopping often! When in Turkey it seems only appropriate to enjoy some Turkish delight and coffee/tea they are so well known for as often as possible!:-) So excited to visit here one day!

    • Jenny Freedman March 14, 2014 at 9:45 pm #

      So true. I think our trip took a bit longer because of all the stops I asked my husband to make! He kept wondering just how many road side stalls we were going to stop at!

  8. Muza-chan March 14, 2014 at 7:43 pm #

    Interesting, thank you 🙂

    • Jenny Freedman March 14, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

      Thanks Lili. Would you like to visit Turkey?

  9. Corinne March 25, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

    Jenny, This is definitely an informative post and I agree driving through Turkey is the best way to see it.

    • Jenny Freedman March 26, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

      We loved our road trip! Being able to get off the beaten track and stop and explore whenever we wanted to enabled us to see so much more. Thanks for stopping by Corinne.

  10. Nicole Stanley March 28, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    Fantastic country to visit and driving along rural roads is a great way to explore the sights and scenery.Your post reminded me of our road trip in East Turkey!

    • Jenny Freedman March 28, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

      I agree Nicole. For us it is the only way to explore the country. I’ve just written about the places we visited on our road trip…I wonder if you went to some of them. Thanks for visiting.

  11. Mike April 1, 2014 at 7:20 pm #

    This has remind me of my last year visit to Corinaldo, Italy. Thanks for sharing the tips in such an interesting way, great pictures you have shared here. Thanks a lot.

    • Jenny Freedman April 1, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

      I had to check where Corinaldo was on the map! I’ve been to Ancona but not inland. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Mike. Turkey is a wonderful country and driving there rally is very easy.

  12. Kristen Ellen August 20, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

    Long time reader of your blog and wanted to say thanks for all the great info on Turkey and Istanbul in particular.

    We’re in Istanbul now and headed to the Black Sea and SE and E Anatolia region. We had planned on taking local transport but after reading your posts we changed our minds and have hired a car. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

    Kristen

    • Jenny Freedman August 29, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

      Thanks Kristen. I’m so glad the blog was able to help you. I don’t think you’ll be sorry that you have taken a car. I look forward to reading about your road trip!

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