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Driving in Turkey

Ken Grubb

Turkish drivers drive on a highway in Turkey.When you first start driving in Turkey, it can be a little scary, especially if you are from Europe, the UK, or the USA, where traffic laws are more closely followed and more strictly enforced. It might take you a few days to get used to it. Here's some useful information to help you get to that point.

Driving in Turkey with a Foreign Driving License

You can drive in Turkey on a foreign license for up to six months. So if you are in Turkey on holiday, and want to rent a car, your foreign license is fine. But if you live in Turkey, once you reach six months of residence, you must get a Turkish driving license.

If you drive with a foreign license after being a resident of Turkey for six months, you can not only expect to be fined for doing so, but if you have an accident, your insurance company won't pay out. And most reputable car rental companies won't rent a car to foreigners who have had a residence permit for more than six months but don't have a Turkish driving license.

What You Must Have In Your Car

You must have a first aid kit and a reflective warning triangle in your car. If you are renting a car, these should be provided. A fire extinguisher is not mandatory, but a very good idea, as is a tow rope or cable, jumper cable, and snow chains if you are in an area subject to snowfall. You can get these kinds of accessories in kits at most petrol stations and home improvement stores.

Speed Limits in Turkey

Speed limits are in kilometers per hour. They are not always posted-you are usually expected to know the speed limit according to where you are. They are as follows:

120 KPH: Major highways and toll roads. You will see this posted when you enter a major highway.
90 KPH: On normal highways and secondary roads outside of city or town limits.
50 KPH: Within city or town limits. You will know when you are in a town when you see a blue sign with white letters with the name of the town on it. Reduce your speed to 50 KPH. When you leave the town, you will see the same sign with a red slash across it. At this point you may increase your speed to 90 KPH.

You will see speed limit signs posted in areas where reduced speed is required because of a curve, grade, road construction or other special circumstance.

Tips for Safer Driving in Turkey

Many Turks drive with the "nose-in" rule. That is, if they can get the front of their car in ahead of yours, they have the right of way. This is not literally true, but the driving reflects the philosophy. Here are some tips for safe driving:

  • Expect the unexpected.
  • Don't assume other drivers will act or react the way a reasonably intelligent person would.
  • Drive defensively
  • Wear safety belts
  • Put children in the back seat, in child safety seats if appropriate
  • Use your signals, but don't expect others to use them, or heed them.
  • Use your horn and lights to alert other motorists and pedestrians of your approach.
  • If you are in the back of a traffic slow-down or traffic jam, turn on your emergency flashers to warn drivers approaching from behind.
  • Keep your car, including lights, turn signals, and horn, in good working condition.
  • Avoid driving in rain, snow, or at night. If you must do so, be extra alert.
  • If confronted by another driver with "road rage," lock your doors, roll up your windows, and get away if you can. Call the police when you can do so safely.
  • Watch your rear-view mirrors, especially the right one. Double check with a glance.
  • Watch for vehicles in your blind spot, Turkish drivers seldom avoid them.
  • Don't expect other drivers, especially those driving trucks or buses, to give you the right of way, even if you are supposed to have it.

What You Can Expect

  • Passing on the right.
  • Passing on the left, even when you are signalling and preparing to make a left turn.
  • Passing on blind curves.
  • Passing you when you are passing someone else.
  • Sudden stops, without pulling off the roadway, by drivers unloading cargo or passengers.
  • Sudden turns without signalling.
  • Sudden lane changes.
  • Left turns from the right lane and right turns from the left lane.
  • Inattentive drivers in a hurry, especially during rush hour.
  • Inattentive (even oblivious) pedestrians running or walking into traffic.
  • Drivers using their horn or lights. It usually means "I'm coming through, or "get out of my way!"
  • Vehicles parked on the road lights off.
  • Vehicles with no lights at night.
  • Slow-moving tractors or horse-drawn carriages without reflectors or lights at night.
  • Inattentive or unskilled drivers.
  • Rocks or tree branches in the road. In rural areas these are used as a substitute for a reflective warning triangle.
  • Smooth pavement with little traction, especially when raining or snowing.
  • Vehicles traveling in reverse, especially on exit ramps.
  • Vehicles driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • Flashing of high-beams at oncoming traffic or leaving high-beams on.
  • Vehicles following too close, flashing headlights and sounding of the horn when you are in the left lane of a highway.
  • Unregulated intersections. As a general rule, the larger street has the right of way, or is supposed to anyway.

Emergency Telephone Numbers

Ambulance: 112
Traffic Police: 154
Police: 155
Jandarma: 156

What To Do In Case of an Accident

If you have a traffic accident in the city, call the traffic police. If you are in a rural area, call the Jandarma. Call an ambulance if there are any injuries.

Don't move your vehicle. This can be interpreted as tampering with the accident scene, or even fleeing. Aid the injured, warn oncoming traffic, and wait for the police.

Car Repairs

In cities, the car repair shops are in an industrial area on the outskirts of the city, called a sanayı (sah-nah-yuh), or industrial zone. In these areas you will have many car repair shops to choose from.

Driving During Turkish Holidays

During Ramazan (Ramadan), most Turks fast from dawn till dusk. They do not eat, drink (even water), or smoke. This lack of food, caffeine, and nicotine can make for very inattentive driving and short tempers, especially at the end of the day.

Şeker Bayram (Sugar Holiday) is a week of eating, drinking, and visiting family which comes just after the end of Ramazan. Accident rates during this time are much higher than the rest of the year, because of the number of vehicles on the road. Other major holiday periods are also more dangerous times to drive.

See Also

Turkish for Driving: Basic Turkish words and phrases which can help you while you're on the road.
Cars, Car Insurance, and Driving in Turkey Forum: If you have a question about driving in Turkey, please ask it in the forum.

Ken Grubb, author.

As a special investigator for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and teacher for the University of Maryland, Ken Grubb has lived and worked in Turkey since 1997. He now lives in Antalya, where he researches and writes guides to help others live skillfully in Turkey.


Recommended Comments

Absolutely insist on a police report. I had an accident. A policeman appeared on foot. He said no one was at fault. We should just go to my insurance agency. (I am a long time resident of Turkey) But they declared me at fault and I had to pay for the repairs to my car. I have Cosco insurance - comprehensive. A policeman friend of mine told me I should have been paid. The insurance agent backpedalled quite quickly when my friend sent the chief of the traffic dept. to give him the what for... 

bottom line.. do not move the car or let the other people move until the police or jandarma make a report for your insurance. If you are in a rental car. Call the people who rented it to you immediately. "And do not move the car."

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