Driving in Turkey: Are You Up For the Challenge?
In recent years, self-drive holidays have increased in popularity. The concept of hiring a car and driving where the road takes you is liberating for families, group of friends or even solo travellers. It is an adventure in unknown lands and the lure of getting off the beaten track and following your own itinerary can be more enthralling than a two-week package holiday in a beachside hotel.
Turkey has caught onto the concept and is promoting self-drive holidays within the worldwide tourism industry. It has every right to do so. In the last ten years, the Turkish government has ploughed millions into improving the infrastructure and conditions of roads. In some places, new roads were built, therefore reducing journey times by half and in other places, old and uneven dirt tracks were replaced by tarmac and smooth roads.
Especially in the Aegean and Mediterranean areas as well as large cities like Istanbul, Ankara or Izmir, it is safe to say that the road conditions rival that of western countries. However, depending on who you talk to, it is not the roads that are the problem. It is the other drivers!
Hair-raising Turkish Drivers
We don’t want to stereotype but Turkish drivers generally have a reputation for reckless driving. Running through red lights, not using indicators, paying no attention to speed limits and even putting three or more people on a moped have all been witnessed by members of our team, that are on the ground in all major destinations of Turkey. So it is not a regional craziness, but a countrywide one!
Don’t believe us?
Even the US Embassy in Ankara give a strict warning.
Quote “The cardinal rules of safety while driving in Turkey are: drive very defensively, avoid driving at night, and keep your emotions in check.”
Now, many people might tell you, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” This is bad advice since Turkish police are now making huge crackdowns on the style of driving that has earned Turkey a notorious reputation.
Also driving erratically and ignoring safety rules is usually a highly intense and nerving experience for anyone from western countries who wants to drive by the rules. Therefore, we have formulated our own list of hints and tips to help you navigate the madness of Turkish drivers.
3 Tips to Driving in Turkey
Don’t be Intimidated
Imagine this. You are first in line at the traffic lights and waiting for them to turn green. As soon as they have turned orange, drivers behind you start beeping their horns. This baffled me when I first arrived in the country and I felt like other drivers were questioning my road skills. Maybe they wanted to check if I had fallen asleep or it just gave them a power rush to beep a horn for no reason whatsoever! Anyway, this bizarre custom highly intimated me but then I simply adopted the attitude of blanking it out. I can’t make the car more enough faster than science intended it to, so they will just have to wait that extra 3 seconds.
Don’t Give into Road Rage
To have a car suddenly swerve in front of you without use of indicators is a common occurrence. Naturally anyone who views safety seriously will be angry. After all, these drivers put the lives of everyone in both cars in jeopardy. The reality is that it is not worth getting angry about because nine times out of ten, the other driver probably has no idea of the stupidity of what they have just done.
Be Alert at all Times
So carrying on from the above topic, the answer to the stupidity of other drivers is simply be alert and pride yourself on being a good driver instead. Being alert also applies to moped drivers, who swerve in and out of traffic without checking mirrors or using indicators. They also place themselves at a higher risk because most do not use helmets.
What Else Do you need to know about Driving in Turkey
Avoid Big Cities
We freely admit that we are too scared to drive in big cities of Turkey such as Istanbul, Ankara or Izmir. Navigating the four-lane traffic can only be done by a highly skilled driver with nerves of steel and quick reaction times! Since everyone is in a rush, the pressure is on and tempers often fray, even with experienced taxi drivers who have used the roads all of their working lives. Instead we use the local tram or bus networks.
Be Careful about Getting off the Beaten Track
Getting off the beaten track is exciting until you drive down one of the potholes, so often seen on country roads. These are in effect dirt tracks and in the middle of no-where so help is unlikely to come quickly. If you do drive away from built up areas, don’t assume the serenity and quietness gives you a licence to put your foot down. Drive slowly, avoid the potholes and never use these roads at night because street lights will probably be non-existent or not working
Our Last Words: The Dreaded Roundabout!
In the UK, we didn’t see anything wrong with the system where drivers coming from the left had priority on a roundabout. Upon our first arrival in Turkey, it took us many days to adjust because everyone seemed to claim right of way for themselves!
Later, a friendly local explained in his best English that drivers coming onto the roundabout were given priority, hence the need for traffic lights situated on the roundabout itself. We don’t like the system since it all it would take is an unusual amount of traffic to bring it to a standstill but 9 times out of ten, it does work.