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….
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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:
Sehir merkazi….the centre of town
Learn a few more Turkish words at An Introduction to Istanbul for the First Time Visitor
Happy driving…have fun!
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