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Driving in Turkey

I bought Rick's Turkey guide and haven't even gone to read what he has to say yet, but I am interested in anyone's experiences of driving in Turkey. We hope to go in September. Just got back from driving the wild roads in Guatemala.

Posted by
990 posts

Roads in Western Turkey are mainly fine and pretty well sign posted. Don't even think about driving in Istanbul, though. It'll make you wish you were driving in Rome!

Posted by
71 posts

yeah - no way would I brave the big cities. And even though we avoided Rome and Florence, I just yesterday received one of the dreaded Italian traffic tickets from something we did in September. We tried to be sooooo careful, never drove into any restricted town, have no idea what we did.

Any recommendations for where to go in Turkey? We love wild steep country, poor back roads, swimming, markets and small villages with no claim to fame.

Posted by
3258 posts

Hi Carole,
I've found Turkey to be a challenging country to plan an itinerary for because the size of the country and the distances between the major sites (and lack of Rick Steves guidebook for the areas outside of Istanbul.) What you decide to do depends on what you want to see and how much time you have. I've used the Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, the Trip Advisor Turkey forum, Turkey Travel Planner, and this forum to help me "tweek" an itinerary for 16 days. I'd start by deciding what you want to see, determining what's "doable" based on distances between sites, and then sketch out an itinerary.

Posted by
990 posts

It sounds like you like touring outside of typical tourist destinations (though it would be a shame to miss touristed highlights such as Ephesus, Cappadocia, and the Mediterranean coast, in my opinion.) One thing to keep in mind if you are interested in small village Turkey is that English is not widely spoken in such places. If you plan to stray off the tourist itinerary route, you will need at least a basic working knowledge of Turkish. I don't speak Turkish well, but I can tell you that, when we've been off the beaten track, it really comes in handy. If something goes wrong with your car, if you wonder where you can get something to eat, if you need to negotiate over a room--well, you get the picture.

German is a good backup language, since in many villages there is someone who is a former German 'guest worker' and who speaks some German.

Posted by
990 posts

Incidentally, you will love Turkey! The mountains are stunning, and the mountain villages fascinating. I remember one village where there were carpets all over the road--getting made into 'antiques' by people driving over them! As for poor roads, I'm less enamored of them than you might be :-). We lost a hubcab on our rental car on one unpaved mountain road taking a shortcut--the rental car company rep just shrugged when we reported the damage. We were never charged a thing for it. (Imagine that with an Avis or Hertz rental!)

Posted by
79 posts

I agree with what Sharon said about trip planning as we leave in 3 weeks and have found those resources
very helpful

we are also using DK Top Ten Istanbul

we will be in Istanbul for a week and then Cappadocia for 2 full days, but we are flying not driving.

Posted by
8293 posts

We had a great driving vacation in Turkey about 10 years ago. We used the Lonely Planet as out guide book and I remember reading that we should take the most detailed road maps with us that we could find because these are hard to come by in Turkey. Whether this is still the case, I don't know.

We had a German-speaking friend with us which eased the communication difficulties sometimes. But once, in Cappadoccia, it was French that helped us out. We were looking for a small, well-hidden ancient cave-church mentioned in the LP book and couldn't find it. We came to a crossroads on the backroad we were on and there was a small shop, there in the middle of nowhere. As usual, I was delegated to go in and inquire. Of course, the shopkeeper spoke no English but he did speak French (How? Why? Who knows.) And guess what. There was another man in the shop who not only knew exactly where the church was but he had a key to let us in. So he accompanied us and acted as our guide, a very sweet and gentle man.

I have very good memories of the country and its people. They are flooding back as I write this !

Posted by
71 posts

So far Cappadocia sounds the most interesting (after Istanbul). What is the difference between the Black Sea coast and the Mediterranean coast? For swimming, beaches, prices, culture, flavor.

German?? Yikes. I speak Spanish, I can get by pretty well in Italian and French. I can say Merhaba in Turkish. I better start practicing my sign language.

Posted by
990 posts

Completely different experiences. The Mediterranean Coast is warmer, sunnier, and has a robust tourist infrastructure. English will do just fine for basic tourist needs here (though of course you will meet many Turks with no English.) The water is warm enough for swimming, though many of the beaches are pebbly or rocky rather than sandy. (Patara is an exception--a golden sand beach between Fethiye and Antalya.) The word 'turquoise' comes from the fact that the Mediterranean Turkish coastal water is that intensely blue-green color.

The Black Sea is cooler, much wetter, and almost completely ignored by Western tourists (though not by Turks, Russians, and Bulgarians). The water is too cold for comfortable swimming, though hardier folks might beg to differ. No English-language tourist infrastructure to speak of here at all. Stunning vistas of mountains, tea plantations, cherry orchards, and hazelnut trees. Very much more off the beaten track than the Mediterranean coast. Here Russian would be your best back up language to Turkish. Accommodations will be cheaper here than on the Med. coast, but most are geared to the needs of traveling Turkish men. I would strongly recommend picking up some basic Turkish if you plan a visit to the Black Sea coast, especially if you want to get an exposure to Turkish culture. Sign language may get you fed and a basic bed here, but any meaningful interaction with the locals will have to be in Turkish.

Posted by
71 posts

You must have spent alot of time there, Jer. Thanx! Went to a beginning Turkish class yesterday. I can now say hello and welcome. Hmmm - I may need to focus a bit more before September.

I want at least two of the four weeks away from any beaten paths, something outside of my comfort zone and preferably rural, so we will be sure to head east.