Driving in Turkey

Driving in Turkey is pretty simple - especially if you come from a country where they drive on the right-hand side of the road. Simple, but not unexciting.

Introduction

Turks tend to drive very quickly, usually weaving through traffic and often whilst speaking on their mobile phone. Too frequently (though less often than before), they do this after consuming alcohol.

Turkey’s traffic laws are similar to those in most European countries, as are the rules about who can drive.

There are lots of police checkpoints, looking for drunk drivers, drivers with no licence or insurance and vehicles that are dangerous. They are also looking out for general criminality, wanted people and so on. If you are stopped and your paperwork is not in order, it can become very tedious.

The two things that make driving in Turkey a little more complicated – and off-putting to some people – are the poor secondary and local roads found in most of the country and the foolhardy courage of some Turkish drivers: no gap is too small, no straight too short to overtake and no speed quite high enough! However, this stereotype of the Turkish driver is getting a little out of date and standards have improved enormously over the last few years.

This guide covers driving licences, the rules of the road, parking, fuel and driving crimes.

Video guide to driving in Turkey

You can get a quick overview of driving in Turkey by watching this video interview (below) with Turkish lawyer Başak Yıldız Orkun. Learn more by scrolling down and reading the detailed guide she has written with us.

Driving licences in Turkey

Driving in Turkey can be complicated not only because of the roads and the traffic but also because of the complexities surrounding driving licences.

Using your ‘home’ driving licence

Turkey has agreements with 50 countries (see www.trafik.gov.tr) permitting visitors to use their home licence providing it includes a photograph during visits of up to six months. If your licence does not have a photograph, it cannot legally be used in Turkey.

The period for which you can use a foreign licence depends upon the country you are from. The periods for each country are listed on the website. It is available only in Turkish, but translates quite well using Google Translate.

It covers most countries from which visitors are likely to come to Turkey.

For countries not on this list, or if your licence does not bear a photograph, you can only use your home licence in conjunction with an International Driving Permit (IDP).

An IDP is, as the name suggests, recognised internationally. This includes in Turkey.

There are two types of International Driving Permits. These are based on the two conventions under which various countries agreed to adopt them. Turkey requires what is known as a ‘1949 Convention IDP’. The people who issue the permit will know this, but it’s worth reminding them. The agency that issues IDPs is usually the main motoring association in your country. A Google search will reveal where you need to apply in your country.

The cost of obtaining an IDP varies from country to country but is typically about €20.

Note that an IDP is not the same as an international driving licence. An IDP is not a legally recognised document giving you the right to drive. It is, rather, evidence that you possess such a licence in your own country.

An application for an IDP cannot be made more than three months before the date when you intend to use it. It is valid for 12 months. It must be used in conjunction with and presented with your own national driving licence.

Although the IDP document is valid for a period of 12 months, it can only be used in Turkey at any one time for a period of six months. So, for example, you could go to Turkey in January and remain there until April (four months) and then return in September and stay until the end of October (two months) using the same IDP as the total time spent in Turkey in the calendar year is no more than six months.

The important thing is that you do not spend more than six months in the calendar year in Turkey driving on your combined ‘home’ driving licence and IDP.

Converting your licence

After that, you must convert your licence and validate it for use in Turkey. This will usually apply to people who are resident in Turkey.

This is bureaucratic but relatively simple. You do it at the local traffic department. There is no driving test or health check.

You need to produce:

  • Your existing driving licence
  • An official translation of the licence
  • Two approved biometric photographs. Get these taken by a local photographer. They will know what is required
  • Your residency permit
  • A health certificate, valid for one year. This can be obtained either from a state hospital or a private hospital
  • A certificate showing your level of education (in Turkey only people educated to at least primary school level are allowed to have a licence)
  • A certificate showing your blood group

You also have to pay a fee.

Once you have obtained a licence, there is no expiry date.

Driving a car that you have temporarily brought to Turkey

If you have brought your foreign-registered car or vehicle to Turkey on a temporary basis, you are allowed to drive it in Turkey on the basis set out above. You must be able to produce proof of ownership of the car.

This right is a strictly personal right. Only you, your spouse or your children may drive the car. It may not be used for commercial purposes.

These rules are a result more of the restrictions on importing vehicles than they are the law relating to driving licences.

Things you must carry with you when driving in Turkey

When driving in Turkey you must (by law, though many people don’t) carry with you:

  • Your passport
  • Your driving licence
  • Your vehicle registration document
  • Your vehicle insurance document (usually a ‘Green Card’ is needed)
  • Headlight converters, if your vehicle is normally driven on the left hand side of the road
  • A first aid kit
  • A fire extinguisher
  • A tow rope
  • A vehicle jack and tyre changing kit
  • A portable hazard lamp
  • Two European-style warning triangles, which must be placed at least 50 metres in front of and behind the vehicle if you break down
  • In parts of Turkey, during the winter, snow chains
  • If you’re driving a foreign car you must display the internationally recognised plate showing the vehicle’s country of registration.

Insuring your vehicle in Turkey

See our Guide to Car Insurance in Turkey.

Vehicle safety tests in Turkey

There is no annual vehicle safety test.

Basic rules of the road in Turkey

In Turkey, they drive on the right-hand side. Most of the time!

Generally, the speed limit in towns is 50kph. In some places it is 30kph

The speed limit on all other roads except motorways (freeways) and two-lane highways (dual carriageways) is 90kph.

On two-lane highways: 110kph.

On motorways (freeways): 120kph

There is a general tolerance of 10% over these limits.

There are a few exceptions (for example, near schools) but these will be clearly signposted.

There are a growing number of speed cameras – and lots of cows around blind bends!

The permitted blood alcohol level is low (but the same as in many European countries): 50mg of alcohol in every 100ml of blood. Breaking this law will result in losing your driving licence for six months.

Pedestrians have an absolute right of way on pedestrian crossings – in theory. You must stop if you see a pedestrian on the crossing or about to step on the crossing. If you are a pedestrian, don’t rely on this happening!

You and your passengers (front and back) must always wear seatbelts if your vehicle is fitted with them.

Children under less than 1.35m (about 4’6”) tall or under 36kg in weight must be restrained in proper child seats.

Car parks are marked with the internationally recognised ‘P’ symbol or “Otopark”.

The road signs are, in the main, the conventional European road signs. For details of the rules covering driving in Turkey, see the Traffic Sign Handbook.

Parking in Turkey

In Turkey, parking is a cross between an art form and a type of warfare. In the towns, and in many of the developments by the sea, parking is in short supply. Finding and occupying a parking space can, therefore, be challenging and – once he’s found one – any local Turkish driver would feel that he had failed miserably if he did not seize it and, somehow, squeeze his car into it.

If the space is a little too small for the car, this process can involve him gently (or not so gently) pushing the cars in front and behind out of the way.

Having said all that, there are various types of parking available:

On-street parking

In small towns, unless the road is labelled to say that parking is restricted in some way, there is no need for any permit to park on any street in Turkey. Nor is there any charge for such on-street parking.

However, in the major towns and cities, in most streets parking is restricted in some way. This is often by the presence of a parking warden, who will charge you the appropriate parking fee.

Off-street parking

Most towns and villages have off-street parking.

Some of it is privately owned and cannot be used by the general public.

Some of it (such as supermarket car parks) is privately owned but can be used by the general public upon the terms stated. These are, normally, that it can only be used by customers and only for a maximum of two hours.

Some is publicly owned and can be used by anybody upon payment. Proof of payment is almost always by displaying a voucher in your car.

The cost of parking and the length of time for which you park varies from place to place.

Fuel in Turkey

Fuel is widely available. In the last few years, thousands of large new fuel stations have opened. You will seldom be more than a few kilometres from a place where you can buy fuel.

Prices vary from place to place. Typically (March 2017):

  • Petrol/gasoline (benzin) – TRY5.16 (£1.14/€1.30/US$1.46) per litre
  • Diesel/gazoil (dizel) – 50 (£0.99/€1.14/US$1.27) per litre
  • Autogas/Gas (LPG) – TRY3.11 (£0.68/€0.78/US$0.87) per litre

In rural areas, tax-free diesel is also often available. It is cheaper. It may only be used in agricultural vehicles. If you’re found using it illegally, you will be subject to a large fine and your vehicle will be seized and not returned to you.

Things to know
Bear these facts in mind...
You will have to pay tolls for some motorways. They can only be paid using a tag/transponder (HGS). You can’t pay by cash or credit card
The speed limit is between 30kph to 70kph in built-up areas, 110kph on open roads and 120kph on motorways
If you're caught committing a driving offence, you'll be given a fine. The fine can be paid to the tax offices and some banks. You cannot pay in cash to the police officer
The drink driving limit is zero for commercial drivers and 50mg/100ml for other drivers. It is best if there is no alcohol in your blood when driving. The penalties are stiff and could see you held in a Turkish jail or ordered to carry out community service in Turkey
You must use dipped headlights during the day when the weather is obscuring your view
You shouldn't use your horn except in cases of extreme danger. This is much ignored
Children under the age of ten can't sit in the front of your car
Petrol, diesel and LPG are readily available
If you're driving at night, or in rural areas, watch out for livestock, unlit farm vehicles and drunk drivers
If you have an accident, you will need to fill in an accident report and may need to call the police

Motoring offences in Turkey

There are many, the main ones being:

Driving dangerously

Dangerous driving is very broadly defined and very subjective. It can cover driving too quickly, driving too close to another vehicle, overtaking on bends, passing when not permitted, using your mobile phone whilst driving and all sorts of things pretty much at the discretion of the police officer who stops you. If you disagree with their assessment you can, of course, try to persuade the judge that what you were doing was not dangerous.

In most circumstances these are treated as administrative offences (and fined as such) rather than full criminal cases. Each offence has a different penalty. Typical penalties are a fine of TRY100-200. There is usually no loss of your licence.

However, if you put the public in serious danger you can be taken before the full criminal courts and punished more heavily.

Driving whilst drunk

The permitted blood alcohol level is (as of January 2013) 50mg/100ml of blood (0.5 grams per litre) for cars and 0mg/100ml for commercial drivers or those towing.

If you are stopped, breath-tested and fail the test your licence will be suspended immediately for at least six months, the vehicle will be banned from the road and there will be an administrative penalty. On a first offence the penalty is TRY876 (£193/€221/US$247).

On a second offence, the penalty is TRY1,098 (£241/€277/US$310) and the licence will be taken for two years.

On a third offence, the penalty is TRY1,763 (£388/€455/US$498), plus at least six months in jail and the licence will be taken for five years. You will also have to take a fresh test at the end of the five years.

You can refuse a breath test. If you do you will be taken to a hospital for a blood test.

Driving without insurance

As in most countries, it is a criminal offence to drive without valid insurance.

In Turkey, the fine is usually a modest TRY95 (£21/€24/US$27) but your car will be impounded until you produce proof of insurance.

See our Guide to Car Insurance in Turkey.

Accidents

If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a road accident in Turkey, you should read our guides to accidents in Turkey.

The police in Turkey

There is a heavy police presence on the roads in Turkey and they routinely stop drivers to check on their insurance and other driving documents.

Random stops are permitted.

The police officers are invariably courteous, but they are also invariably strict. If they discover that you have committed any offence or that your car is in any way defective you can expect a fine or a summons to attend court.

Despite what many people believe, the fines levied by the police do not go into their pockets!

If your vehicle fails a safety check for anything other than the most trivial of reasons (for example, a failed stop lamp bulb) it will usually be impounded and then taken away by the police to a vehicle storage centre where it can only be recovered by an officially approved garage who will then carry out the necessary repairs to it. The fee for releasing your vehicle varies from place to place.

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