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Tips for Driving in Turkey

By: Norman Thomson - Updated: 28 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Driving Turkey Speeding Overtaking

Turkey is where eastern and western cultures come together, resulting in a fantastic blend of traditions and festivities. Not only that, Turkey is a diverse country, with spectacular mountain ranges, golden beaches, cities with wonderful sightseeing opportunities, and idyllic rural villages to explore. Such diversity can only truly be explored by the independent traveller, and driving is a great way to go about this.

Driving in Turkey is not too different from driving in any other European country. However, there are some important points to consider before embarking on a journey.

Roads in Turkey

Firstly, there are the roads to think about. The main highways, such as the route between Ankara and Istanbul are excellent, although they tend to be only two lanes, which often causes the foreign tourist some concern. These main roads are generally much wider than other rural roads, but overtaking should be carried out with great care. It is not unusual to find traffic two abreast – on a single lane! Heavy traffic is usual on the main roads. Trucks, lorries, coaches and other commercial vehicles use these roads frequently, so again care is essential.

On quieter rural roads, it is most unusual to see heavy vehicles, making them idea for the tourist. Driving on these less well-maintained roads is not only fun, but it is here that you will find the most picturesque villages, with few of them frequented by the mass tourist trade. Here you can find true Turkish life, and all visitors are made very welcome.

Speed Limits

The speed limit on most roads in Turkey is 90km/h. In cities and on some rural roads, the speed limit is usually 50km/h. However, a word of caution is necessary. Although speeding laws do exist, and if caught severe penalties may be handed out, driving over the speed limit will almost certainly be encountered. Local people in towns, on rural roads, and on the highways tend to go as fast as they possibly can!

Caution is absolutely essential, especially when trying to overtake. Be aware of oncoming traffic, which will most likely be coming at you at high speeds.

Car Hire

Hiring a car in Turkey is not any different from hiring a car in most other countries, especially if an international hire company is used. The main thing to check with any rental agreement is whether mileage is included. It is not uncommon for a hire deal to end up double the original cost, because the driver was charged a mileage fee – check the small print and always look for unlimited mileage deals.

The minimum age for hiring a car in Turkey is 19, providing the car is quite standard. Specialist cars can be hired, but the minimum age jumps to around 27. Don’t be put off if the company asks for a large deposit, which is quite usual in Turkey. However, again it is a good idea to select an international company, as these will often waive the deposit, providing of course that a credit card is used.

Customs and Habits

When driving on the right, as most European countries do, it is frowned upon, and illegal, to pass on the right. In Turkey, this rule is the most flaunted. Don’t be surprised to find that drivers will, at the first opportunity, try to pass your vehicle on the right. In towns, on rural roads and on highways, if you leave a space between your car and the verge on the right, you can be certain that someone will try to squeeze through the gap.

For some reason, drivers in Turkey don’t mind stopping in unexpected places. Perhaps to pick up or drop off a passenger, or simply to stop for something to eat, drivers may pull over suddenly without indicating their intentions. This happens a lot in towns and cities, but it is not unusual for this to happen on main roads and even on highways.

In contrast to pulling over and stopping suddenly, you are also likely to experience drivers changing lanes without warning. Although this is most prevalent in cities, on highways it can happen without warning and without any justifiable reason for doing so. Taxis and mini buses are notorious in Turkey for changing lanes without warning.

Other things to look out for are cars and other vehicles at night. Even on some of the busiest roads, it is common for vehicles to be found without lights, especially slow moving vehicles such as tractors or other farm equipment. Talking about farms, on rural roads it is likely that sheep and cows will be found walking across, or along, roads.

Finally, pay particular attention to intersections. Primary roads will always have right of way, but often these junctions are not marked with stop or give-way signs. The best tactic here is caution. Approach junctions slowly and take a little longer to check out the traffic before moving off. And remember, if you see a car approaching, don’t be surprised if suddenly you see a car overtaking on the left, and one overtaking on the right!

A Rewarding Experience

Like any country, driving in Turkey can be hazardous. However, with a little preparation and a lot of care and attention to other road users, driving in this beautiful country can be rewarding and a lot of fun. The most stressful journey will usually be rewarded when you turn a corner on a rural road, only to find the most picturesque village that you have ever seen. And the hospitality offered by the locals will almost certainly ensure that the stresses of driving are completely forgotten.

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