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2024 In-depth Car Rental Istanbul Airport Guide for Stress-Free Travel

Looking for a car rental Istanbul airport guide? Here we go!

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Living in Istanbul means I have traveled through the IST airport so many times. Whether it is heading on a vacation out of the country or a domestic flight, I know it well.

As an experienced traveler and resident of Istanbul, I have some thoughts and experiences to share with you as you consider a rental car in Istanbul.

Perhaps you’re wondering about one of these questions:

  • Do I need a rental car in Istanbul?
  • Where can I rent a car in Istanbul?
  • What do I need to bring with me for a car rental?
  • What do I need to know that I don’t know?

If you want to make your car renting experience hassle-free even before you step out of the airport, this guide will help you! Let’s jump in.

car rental istanbul airport can be parked streetside like this one with a graffiti wall in the background.

Overview: Rental Car at IST Airport

Renting a car at an Istanbul Airport is an incredibly efficient and convenient way to start your journey through the city.

The IST airport has a wide variety of car rental services, each offering a variety of options tailored to cater to the needs of every traveler.

There are also popular rental companies like Enterprise, Avis, and Green Motion.

They provide an extensive range of vehicles from compact economy cars perfect for solo travelers or small groups.

You can find a luxury sedan for small groups or an SUV that is better suited for larger groups or a preference for more room.

Each company wants to ensure the process is as straightforward as possible for you, from booking to pickup.

Online reservation platforms are available as you are looking for car rentals before you come.

While the on-site booking option is also ready for those who prefer making last-minute reservations, I don’t recommend this but I’ll explain why later.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of

Benefits of Car rental locations

A rental car at Istanbul airport

In Istanbul, the best place to rent a car for people who plan to leave Istanbul or will not be in the city center is at the airport.

Variety of Cars

One of the best features of IST Airport is that it houses many top-tier car rental companies that operate throughout the day, providing a huge range of options to suit your needs, all in one location.

Whether you’re traveling solo and prefer a compact, fuel-efficient car, or you’re with your family and need a spacious minivan, you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Competitive Prices

Price is another key feature. Because it is a competitive market, you’ll be able to find a car rental package that coincides with your budget.

Cheap car rentals are also available for those looking to save a bit more, but make sure you pick a legitimate company or you could be hurting later.

This doesn’t mean compromising on the quality of the vehicle – you can get a reliable, comfortable car at very competitive prices.

Moreover, most car rental services also offer unlimited mileage, allowing you to explore Istanbul freely without worrying about racking up excess mileage.

Rental Time Frame

The flexibility in rental duration is also a distinguishing feature. Travelers have the option to rent cars on a daily, weekly, or even monthly basis.

This allows you to take control and plan your journey in a way that works for you and your itinerary. Monthly packages are also much cheaper when considering the day rate available.

Additional Options

Many companies offer additional options that you can choose from to further enhance your car rental experience.

Many offer convenient a meet and greet service where they meet you at the gate and take you to their office, making your journey hassle-free and efficient.

You could opt for added features like a GPS navigation system to aid in your exploration of the city, baby seats if you’re traveling with a little one or even extra insurance coverage for better protection.

However, in my opinion, if you have purchased a local SIM card or an e-SIM, Google Maps works great. Perhaps that is just me as I find a GPS quite cumbersome.

Pro Tip: If you do use a phone, make sure you get a phone holder so you don’t get in trouble for having your phone in your hand.

Taking a rented car from the airport is quite affordable and most importantly, it saves valuable vacation time.

Instead of waiting for a taxi or figuring out how public transportation works after a long flight, you simply walk to the car rental counter, get your keys, and start your exploration of the city immediately.

booking a rental car In the city

Another option, that might be better for you depending on what you hope to do, is renting a vehicle in the neighborhood where you’re staying.

Since I live here this is what I typically do unless I am headed to another city like Fethiye where I definitely recommend renting a car.

If you plan to stay mostly in Istanbul, especially the city center, and most of the places you plan to see are easily accessible with public transportation or walking, I recommend not getting a car at the airport.

If this is the case, you don’t really need a car. Istanbul’s public transportation is pretty great! And where it is lacking, a taxi will be sufficient.

But say one day you want to take a day trip to Edirne or out to Polonezköy then having a car would be really helpful.

Either way, I recommend DiscoverCars as they will help you find locations close to you plus you can find better car rental deals there.

They work with reputable companies and sometimes even though they are smaller, local companies, because they are part of DiscoverCars, there is an umbrella of protection over you.

At DiscoverCars, you can find companies like Avec car rental, Alamo, Sixt, Enterprise, and the one I always use Green Motion.

Getting Around Istanbul With a Car Rental

While you may think that with a car rental from Istanbul Airport, getting around the streets of Turkey’s historic and busy city will become a lot easier and more comfortable, you may be surprised.

Of course, hiring a car right from the moment you land at İstanbul Airport holds several impressive benefits you will soon come to appreciate.

There are also, however, some drawbacks. Let’s take a look at a few of them.

Benefits of Using a Car in the City

  • Flexibility and independence: Having a car allows you to explore the city at your own pace and visit places that are not easily accessible by public transport.
  • Convenience: Especially for families with young children or people with mobility issues, driving can be a convenient option to avoid crowded public transportation.
  • Time-saving: During rush hour or when traveling long distances within the city, driving can be faster than using public transport (but definitely not when compared to the metro).
  • Comfort: You can enjoy the comfort of your own car, with your preferred music and temperature control.
  • Larger luggage capacity: If you have a lot of luggage or need to transport bulky items, driving is the most convenient option.

Drawbacks of Using a Car in Istanbul

  • Traffic congestion: Istanbul is known for its intense traffic, especially during rush hour and on weekends. This can make driving a frustrating and time-consuming experience. Just avoid it to make your time happier here!
  • Parking difficulties: Finding parking can be difficult and expensive in many parts of the city. Public parking lots are often full, and street parking is limited and often requires payment.
  • Driving stress: The combination of heavy traffic, aggressive drivers, and narrow streets can make driving in Istanbul stressful. Plus drivers here don’t follow the rules like they do in America. It’s a whole different ball game.
  • Expensive: Renting and driving a car can be expensive due to fuel costs, insurance, parking fees, and tolls.
  • Limited access to certain areas: Some areas of the city, such as the historic Sultanahmet district, have restricted access to private vehicles.
  • Pollution: Driving contributes to air pollution in the city.

Overall, the decision of whether or not to drive a car in Istanbul depends on your individual needs and priorities.

If you value flexibility and convenience and are willing to deal with the challenges of traffic and parking, then driving might be a good option for you.

However, if you are on a budget, are concerned about the environment, or prefer to avoid the stress of driving, then using public transportation is likely a better choice.

Tips for renting a car in

Yes, here are some tips for vehicle rentals in Istanbul:

  • Book in advance: Especially during peak season, it is advisable to book your rental car in advance to ensure availability and secure the best rates.
  • Compare prices: Use online comparison websites to compare prices from different rental companies and find the best deal.
  • Choose the right type of car: Consider the size of your group, the luggage you will be carrying, and what type of driving you will be doing. For example, if you will be driving mostly in the city, a small car will be more suitable. Trust me you don’t want a big van while in Istanbul.
  • Read the rental agreement carefully: Before you sign the rental agreement, make sure you understand all of the terms and conditions, including the insurance coverage, fuel policy, and cancellation policy.
  • Ask about border crossings: If you plan to cross the border into any of the neighboring countries, make sure that you have the proper insurance and permission. It is often not allowed.
  • Inspect the car before you drive it: Of course, they walk with you to check the car for damage and make sure everything is working properly but I always take a video as we walk so I have it documented. They love it.
  • Be aware of the local traffic laws: Familiarize yourself with the local traffic laws before you start driving. Some common traffic violations in Istanbul include speeding, running red lights, and using a mobile phone while driving. I have an entire article on how to drive in Turkey.
  • Use Google Maps: Traffic in Istanbul can be congested and confusing, so it is helpful to use Google Maps or Waze to navigate the city.
  • Be prepared for tolls: There are several toll roads in Istanbul, so be sure to have cash or a HGS (Hızlı Geçiş Sistemi) tag to pay the tolls. They will tell you which lane to go through when you rent your car. They will deduct your tolls from your deposit so it is usually quite easy to handle.
  • Find parking in advance: Parking can be difficult in Istanbul, so it is a good idea to find parking in advance, especially if you are visiting popular tourist attractions.
  • Return the car on time: Be sure to return the car by the agreed-upon time to avoid late fees.
car rental in the countryside
Make sure you see the snow-covered Kaçar Mountains and the ancient buildings of Kastamonu if you take a drive to the Black Sea Region.

If all that sounds overwhelming, which is completely legitimate, here are a few additional tips that may be helpful:

  • If you are not comfortable driving in Istanbul, consider hiring a car with a driver. This will allow you to relax and enjoy the ride while someone else handles the traffic.
  • If you are planning to drive outside of Istanbul, be sure to check the road conditions and weather forecast before you go.
  • There is also now “car share” available in Turkey. I haven’t used it yet as it is quite new but I am looking forward to it!
  • Be aware of the local customs and etiquette when driving in Turkey. For example, below is an excerpt of my friend who drives in Turkey and her learned experience of what honking the horn means….it’s quite accurate.

A quick dictionary of horn-honking in Istanbul traffic:

one short blast (“beep”): hey there, neighbor. Maybe you didn’t see me here, but uh, you’re kinda in my lane, buddy! Why dontcha scoot on over and we’ll both be on our way? ?

two short blasts (“bee-beep”): heh heh maybe you didn’t notice but, um, the light is GREEN NOW and it’s time for us to MOVE, PAL! C’mon, I’m late and I’m out of cigarettes! ?

one long blast (“hoooonk”): look at you, causing gridlock, sitting in the intersection when it’s my turn to go. You thought you could get away with it, sneaking past on a red light. Well, I see you, sir, and you disgust me. ?

multiple long blasts (“hooooooooonk! hooooo-hooooo-hooooo-hooooooooonk!”): shame on you, shame on your family, shame on your ancestors AND your children… I spit on your mothers shadow, and I dance on your grandfather’s grave! ?

– Amber, American Expat driving in Istanbul

I hope these tips help you have a safe and enjoyable driving experience in Istanbul.

What do I need for a car rental in Istanbul

There are a few things you have to have with you to rent a car as well as when you are driving around the city.

To Rent a car:

  • You have to have a credit card in the name of the person who will be renting/driving it.
  • Valid driver’s license
  • Passport with a stamp less than 6 months old
  • Not required but can be helpful – International Driver’s Permit. If you do not have a Latin-based alphabet, you should definitely have it translated and notarized.

When driving around the city:

  • Passport – even if you are a resident, they will want to see when you last entered the country. Make sure it is always on you.
  • Vehicle Registration – From the rental car company
  • Valid Driving License
  • Insurance paperwork – – From the rental car company or DiscoverCars
  • Car Rental paperwork – From the rental car company
Me outside an all inclusive in Abant

FAQs about renting a car in IST airport

What options do I have for car rentals at Istanbul Airport?

There is a wide array of car rental options available at Istanbul Airport. You can choose from different car models and packages according to your specific needs, preferences, and budget.

How cost-effective is renting a car at Istanbul Airport?

Renting a car at Istanbul Airport is quite cost-effective, especially when compared to relying on other modes of transportation for the entire trip. The final cost would depend on factors like the model of the car, duration of the rental, and any additional services opted for.

What makes car rental at IST Airport a convenient choice?

Car rental at the Istanbul Airport offers a level of convenience that few other transportation options can match. Having your own car provides you the freedom to travel at your own pace and schedule, eliminating the need to rely on public transportation or taxis.

How does the customer service of car rental companies at Istanbul Airport compare?

The customer service at rental car companies at Istanbul Airport is generally excellent. They strive to ensure a smooth rental experience for their customers, offering comprehensive support before, during, and after the rental period. However, individual experiences may vary based on the company chosen.

Final thoughts on cheap car rental deals in İstanbul

If you’re planning to travel outside of Istanbul or even just outside of Istanbul’s city center then renting a car from the airport is probably perfect for you.

Renting a car at the airport will give you a wide range of car models to choose from as well as companies to rent from.

But we also talked about why this might not be the best option for you.

As always, make sure you’re prepared before you go. Have all the necessary documents for a smooth rental process.

Ready to make a choice that combines comfort and freedom? Consider opting for an Istanbul airport car rental.

Check prices and availability with DiscoverCars

Read more:

Turkey vacation basics

When I plan a trip these are the websites I use. Hope they help you plan your next adventure as well!

FLIGHTS: I am a huge fan of Skyscanner and WayAway.

VISAS: You can use the free e-visa portal here but for a few extra dollars you can use iVisa and someone else will handle any issues that may come up.

E-SIM: When I traveled to SE Asia I discovered e-sims and I’m never going back. Airalo has been easy and cheap!

TRAVEL INSURANCE: I use TravelInsurance.com for my trips abroad.

CAR RENTAL: I have loved working with Discover Cars when I rent cars in country.

AIRPORT TRANSFERS: I have used these transfers many times and they are always great. If you’d like more options, I also recommend GetTransfers.com as they allow you to compare companies.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Turkey hotel deals on Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: You can browse GetYourGuide’s website to find just the tour you’re looking for!

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