Istanbul Sign - Driving in Turkey

Driving in Turkey: 9 things you should know

Driving in Turkey can be a new experience for you depending on what you think of driving.

Sometimes taking a drive means relaxation. A drive through the country or a lazy drive with the windows down. A time to relax and just breath.

For others it could mean stress and traffic. Having to plan a hour to go 11 miles. It could mean headaches and wasted time.

And yet still for others it is whatever. There isn’t a strong pull to or push away from it. It is meaningless. It is something one does to get from A to B.

Driving in Turkey

Driving here in Turkey, specifically Istanbul, is akin to driving in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago. So much traffic. Horns a blazing. Sometimes you could even walk faster than you can drive.

BUT not all driving in Turkey is like that. Some driving is quite relaxing or at least it can be when yo know these 9 tips below. These will help you enjoy your drive through Turkey.

I don’t recommend a car in the big cities. They simply aren’t needed and are more of a hassle than they are worth for such a short stay. For road trips or flying to an another area and driving around, however, they are completely worth it!

So let’s get into it. See how these 9 tips will make it a much more enjoyable trip!

1. Stop Lights

In Turkey, the stop lights are a bit different than they are in the states.

They are usually on poles to the side of you instead of above and out in front of you. If you get too close to them they will be really hard to see. I made this mistake way too many times. Luckily I had someone else in the car that could see them.

Another interesting thing is that they often turn from red to yellow to green so you know to get ready. If you’re not going on green people will be honking at you. Don’t let it stress you out though. Just go with it.

Mini street library
Loved checking out this mini library on my travels.

2. Speed Limits

This was one of the hardest adjustments. There are not always signs as you’re driving. One minute you see a sign for 110 kmph then all of a sudden there is a speed trap for 70 kmph but you never saw another sign.

One app that was really helpful was RadarBot. This app gives you alerts when you’re approaching a speed trap. You can also follow the lead of others….but if you’re alone on the road, this app comes in handy.

The standard speeds for your information. Obviously certain roads will have signs posted that will be different but these are general standard.

  • Towns & Cities – 50 kmph (31 mph)
  • Open Roads – 90 kmph (55 mph)
  • Divided Roads – 110 kmph (68 mph)
  • Highways – 120 kmph (74 mph)

3. They aren’t Roundabouts

There are “roundabouts” in intersections but they aren’t your standard roundabouts.

If you are wanting to turn left, you turn and stop at the light. Sometimes it will be green and they allow traffic around the circle in order but often it is green for the parallel life rows of traffic. Then you will turn next time.

Driving in Turkey - Pinterest

4. Google Maps

I am a huge fan of Google Maps in Turkey. When I take a road trip in Turkey, I use it to get myself around the country. You can even download maps if you will be going somewhere that might not have service.

To download the map, click on your face/account and then “offline maps”. It will open up a screen and you can select your own map. It will open a screen and you can select what you need to download. Once it is downloaded, it will be available in your “offline maps” section. Just name it whatever you want to name it and you’re good to go!

But my other favorite feature is even if you don’t have internet and there is service available, you can look at the map. Even if it is on airplane mode I have looked at the map. With this case, it doesn’t allow you to pull up directions or anything like that but you can see where you are and figure out how to get where you want to be.

5. Gas Stations

In Turkey, you don’t pump your own gas. So when you go to a gas station, just pull up on the side you need to be. If it is diesel you can say that but they will likely see that when they go to pump it. You can just tell them “full” and they will fill it up for you.

While you’re there, make sure you use the bathroom and get your snacks. They are the best places to use the bathroom.

6. Dealing with the police

Something you should know so you don’t get freaked out is there are a lot of police road blocks. In the event that you have to stop at one or that you are pulled over make sure that you speak ENGLISH.

English will be your best friend. If you try your hand at Turkish here, you will likely run into more problems than if you speak Turkish.

You should also be aware that they have cut outs of Turkish Police Cars strategically placed. They aren’t real but when you see it for the first time it may make you mess yourself if you’re speeding.

Well that was my experience anyway. I nearly had a heart attack cause I had no idea what the speed limit was. They generally don’t really care about tourists. Speak English, give them your passport and unless you have done something seriously wrong, you shouldn’t have an issue.

That being said make sure you have your paperwork ready to go. You should have 5 things on you while in the car:

  1. Passport – even if you are a resident, they will want to see when you last entered the country.
  2. Driver’s License – Make sure you have a translation if it isn’t in Latin letters or an IDP
  3. Vehicle Registration – the following are usually best kept in the glove box
  4. Insurance paperwork
  5. Car Rental paperwork

7. Tolls in Turkey

They have upgraded the system in Turkey for toll roads. Most are a fairly low fee though a few are much higher. I won’t say how much because things around money change here often.

They will all be automatically added to your car rental and you will be charged them after turning in the car. They just use the card on file. Generally speaking its not a terribly high price more for you to have a heads up.

There are two separate types of systems HGS and OGS. They are switching all OGS over to HGS. Depending on when you drive and where, you may still see the older but they will tell you which system you should go through.

Make sure you know which one you should use before going through the tollways. They will tell you when you get the car.

8. Parking

At Otoparks (parking garage) they have you leave your keys with them. While in America this would probably freak us out think of it more like valet. They pack the cars in like sardines and move them around accordingly so they need the keys to move them when necessary.

Sometimes street side parking can be hard to find but you can usually find a spot at an otopark. Fees vary widely based on where you are so there is no set fee. This is similar to America in that it is more expensive to park in downtown Seattle than out and about in Tacoma.

9. Small towns

Got to meet this sweet woman as I stopped on a trip to Selçuk to do some wine tasting.

Lastly, make sure you slow down in small towns. Often there aren’t cops but the pace of life different. There are a few things you should be aware of.

You will likely see people driving tractors or other slow moving equipment. If no cars are oncoming, you can pass them and is even expected.

You will see people carrying large bundles of wood or products needed for the farms. Make sure you show some respect to the people by giving way.

The roads are also more narrow there. Given that in Turkey people park wherever there is an open space as long as it doesn’t block an entrance/exit, you may find people double parked on the street. If you’re going to fast, you may not notice until it is too late.

But also take time to look at the beauty. I remember driving through a small town up by the Black Sea and they had the most beautiful roses. There were so many colors. They were so full and bright. I wish I could have smelled them all!

Don’t forget to enjoy the beauty along the way.

A few Tips to make driving in Turkey a little better

Have all documents on you

  • Passport – even if you are a resident, they will want to see when you last entered the country.
  • Driver’s License
  • Vehicle Registration
  • Insurance paperwork
  • Car Rental paperwork

Renting a Car

  • 2 good places to rent a car
    1. – if you’re not getting it from the airport
    2. – if you’re getting it from airport – usually cheaper
  • Insurance – Definitely recommend buying insurance
  • Use a reputable company – think Enterprise, Sixt, etc.
  • Know what you’re paying for – you will be offered many different upgrades but make sure

Take a breath and enjoy

Obviously make sure all your t’s are crossed and your i’s are dotted but in the end, just enjoy yourself!

Turkey has so much to see. There are 7 amazing regions in Turkey and they each have something to offer. If you are just here on Holiday, don’t try to take it all in one go. It’s like trying to see all of the US in a setting.

While Turkey is not nearly the size of the US, there is still great diversity in culture, landscape and experiences. Regardless of what you’re looking for, I am sure Turkey has something that would suit your desires.

If this looks delicious you should also check out 5 foods you should eat and 5 desserts you should try.

I am so excited for you to get to explore this beautiful country. There is so much to see and explore. Whether you want mountains or beaches or ancient archeological sites or good food you will surely find it.

Not to mention some of the nicest people and some of the best hospitality.

Taking into account these 9 tips for your drive in Turkey will ensure you have a great time!

Where are you most excited to go exploring?
– Kimberly

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What should I do in case of an emergency in Turkey?

112 – This is the main emergency number
155 – is the police number
156 – if you’re in rural area, you can use this number to reach the gendarme

If it is an accident, call your insurance/car company what you should do next.

Do I need a GPS when driving in Turkey?

NO. Just make sure you get a SIM card and you won’t be WIFI dependent.

Should I drive in Turkey?

If you want to stay in the big cities, it isn’t necessary and will probably be even more stressful if you go that way. If you are wanting to see the country more then of course you can use a car. It will be a great option for that.

Can tourists drive in Turkey?

Yes! While the driving minimum age is 18, in order to rent a car one has to be 21.

If your license isn’t in latin letters (Mandarin, Korean, Arabic, etc) or you have a British license, then you should have an international driving permit (IDP). If you’re from the US and have entered Turkey within 6 months, you don’t need an IDP.

What side of the road do you drive on in Turkey?

The right side of the road. Always the right.

What is the drinking driving limit in Turkey?

Turkey is one of the only countries that the limit is 0. If you will be driving, you should by no means do any driving.

Can I use the phone while I am driving?

Only a hands free phone. That means you should definitely invest in one these great cell phone holders. While you can get one in the states from Amazon, you can also get one here. They will be about the same price. I do recommend the one that goes on the windshield though.

If you get one that attaches to the dashboard via suction cup, sometimes the material prevents it. If you get one that goes in the vent, if you’re using your AC in the summer it will block it and the heater in the winter will make the phone too hot.

Where should I stop for a toilet when doing a road trip in Turkey?

Stop and a good looking gas station. Places like OPET, Shell and BP are good bets. While you will find other stations, the nicer ones will have nicer food and cleaner toilets generally.

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