Driving around Turkey gives you unparalleled freedom to explore the marvellous countryside and coastline, and to follow back roads to hidden villages and obscure ruins.
Bear in mind that Turkey is a huge country and covering long distances by car will eat up your time and money. Consider planes, trains and buses for long journeys, and cars for localised travel.
Public transport is a much easier and less stressful way of getting around the traffic-clogged cities.
Turkey's main motoring organisation is the Türkiye Turing ve Otomobil Kurumu (Turkish Touring & Automobile Club; www.turing.org.tr).
Motorcyclist website Horizons Unlimited (www.horizonsunlimited.com/country/turkey) also has Turkey-related information and contacts.
Motorcyclists may want to check out One More Mile Riders Turkey (www.ommriders.com), a community resource for riding in Turkey.
You can bring your vehicle into Turkey for six months without charge. Ensure you have your car's registration papers, tax number and insurance policy with you. The fact that you brought a vehicle to Turkey will be marked in your passport to ensure you take it back out again.
Roadblocks are common in eastern Turkey, with police checking vehicles and paperwork are in order. In southeastern Anatolia you may encounter military roadblocks, and roads are sometimes closed completely if there is trouble ahead.
Drivers must have a valid driving licence. Your own national licence should be sufficient, but an international driving permit (IDP) may be useful if your licence is from a country likely to seem obscure to a Turkish police officer.
You may be stopped by blue-uniformed trafik polis, who can fine you on the spot for speeding. If you know you have done nothing wrong and the police appear to be asking for money, play dumb. You'll probably have to pay up if they persist, but insisting on proof of payment may dissuade them from extracting a fine destined only for their pocket. If they don't ask for on-the-spot payment, contact your car-rental company (or mention the incident when you return the vehicle), as it can pay the fine and take the money from your card. Do the same in the case of fines for other offences, such as not paying a motorway toll.
Turkey has the world's second-highest petrol prices. Petrol/diesel cost about ₺5.30 per litre. Petrol stations are widespread in western Turkey, and many are mega enterprises with service staff who pump your petrol and clean your windscreen for a tip of ₺5. In the vast empty spaces of central and eastern Anatolia, it's a good idea to have a full tank when you start out in the morning.
Yedek parçaları (spare parts) are readily available in the major cities, especially for European models. Elsewhere, you may have to wait a day or two for parts to be ordered and delivered. Ingenious Turkish mechanics can contrive to keep some US models in service. The sanayi bölgesi (industrial zone) on the outskirts of every town generally has a repair shop; for tyre repairs find an oto lastikçi (tyre repairer).
Spare motorcycle parts may be hard to come by everywhere except major cities.
You need to be at least 21 years old, with a year's driving experience, to hire a car in Turkey. Most car-hire companies require a credit card. Most hire cars have standard (manual) transmission; you'll pay more for automatic. The majority of the big-name companies charge hefty one-way fees, starting at around ₺150 and climbing to hundreds of euros for longer distances.
The big international companies – including Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, National and Sixt – operate in the main cities and towns, and most airports. Particularly in eastern Anatolia, stick to the major companies, as the local agencies often do not have insurance. Even some of the major operations are actually franchises in the east, so check the contract carefully; particularly the section relating to insurance. Ask for a copy in English.
If your car incurs any accident damage, or if you cause any, do not move the car before finding a police officer and obtaining a kaza raporu (accident report). Contact your car-rental company as soon as possible. In the case of an accident, your hire-car insurance may be void if it can be shown you were operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, were speeding, or if you did not submit the required accident report within 48 hours to the rental company.
You must have international insurance, covering third-party damage, if you are bringing your own car into the country (further information is available at www.turing.org.tr/international-traffic-insurance-greencard/). Buying it at the border is a straightforward process (one month car/motorcycle €65.62/52.50).
When hiring a car, 100%, no-excess insurance is increasingly the only option on offer. If this is not the only option, the basic, mandatory insurance package should cover damage to the vehicle and theft protection – with an excess, which you can reduce or waive for an extra payment.
As in other countries, insurance generally does not cover windows and tyres. You will likely be offered cover for an extra few euros a day.
Road surfaces and signage are generally good – on the main roads, at least. There are good otoyols (motorways) from the Bulgarian border near Edirne to İstanbul and Ankara, and from İzmir around the coast to Antalya.
Elsewhere, roads are being steadily upgraded, although they still tend to be worst in the east, where severe winters play havoc with the surfaces. In northeastern Anatolia, road conditions change from year to year; seek local advice before setting off on secondary roads. There are frequent roadworks in the northeast; even on main roads traffic can crawl along at 30km/h. Dam building and associated road construction in the Artvin/Yusufeli area can cause waits of up to half an hour on some roads. Ask locally about the timing of your journey; on some roads, traffic flows according to a regular timetable, posted at the roadside.
In winter, be careful of icy roads. In bad winters, you will need chains on your wheels almost everywhere except along the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. The police may stop you in more remote areas to check you're properly prepared for emergencies. In mountainous areas such as northeastern Anatolia, landslides and rockfalls are a danger, caused by wet weather and snow-melt in spring. Between İstanbul and Ankara, be aware of the fog belt around Bolu that can seriously reduce visibility, even in summer.
In theory, Turks drive on the right and yield to traffic approaching from the right. In practice, they often drive in the middle and yield to no one. Maximum speed limits, unless otherwise posted, are 50km/h in towns, 90km/h on highways and 120km/h on otoyols.
Turkey's roads are not particularly safe, and claim about 10,000 lives a year. Turkish drivers can be impatient and incautious, rarely use their indicators and pay little attention to anyone else's, drive too fast both on the open road and through towns, and have an irrepressible urge to overtake – including on blind corners.
To survive on Turkey's roads:
Turkey has a motorway toll system, known as HGS (Hızlı Geçiş Sistemi – 'fast transit system'). Paying tolls should be automatic if you hire a car in Turkey; the vehicle should be equipped with an electronic-chip sticker or a small plastic toll transponder. You simply pay the rental company a flat fee of about €10 for unlimited use of the otoyols. Confirm that the car is equipped with a device, which should be located in the top centre of the windscreen. If it is not, you will likely end up with a fine.
If you are driving your own car, you must register the vehicle and buy credit at the earliest opportunity in a branch of the PTT (post office).