You will probably want to take advantage of your expatriation to discover different regions of Turkey, a vast country offering varied landscapes and attractions. Driving may sometimes be the most comfortable transportation option to travel around. Turks generally enjoy driving, and the country boasts an extensive network of good quality roads. You should simply heed the local regulation, notably regarding the acquisition of a valid driver’s licence.
A driver’s licence (surucu ehliyeti) issued in your home country will allow you to drive within Turkey for your first 6 months in the country.
Afterwards, you will simply be asked for a notarised and certified translation of your driver's license — no driving test involved.
After a year of stay you will be requested to convert your foreign licence into a Turkish one — it will also allow you to benefit from cheaper car insurance premiums. Reach out to your local Transport Registration Department with a residence permit and a medical certificate including an eyesight check and a mention of your blood type. Here again, no driving test.
The driving test is only mandatory if you are applying for your very first driver’s licence. In this case, you have to pass both a theoretical test and a practical test, after 12 hours of practical training, 10 hours of first-aid classes and 8 hours of traffic awareness classes provided by a certified driving school.
Turkish licences are European Union-compatible.
Turkey has a quite straightforward traffic regulation, in line with international standards. Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road.
Here are some of the most important rules about driver behaviour:
- Speed limit is set at 50 km/h in built-up areas, at 90 km/h on two-lane roads and at 120 km/h on highways (otoyol).
- It is compulsory to wear a seat belt and illegal to use a mobile phone while driving, except with a hands-free device.
- Driving under the influence is prohibited (for alcohol, the limit is fixed at 0.5 grams of alcohol per litre of blood).
- A valid driver’s licence, the registration licence of the vehicle and a proof of insurance must be carried in the vehicle at all times.
The traffic police is empowered to carry out random checks. In case of infringement, you may be charged a fine or be applied penalty points (for example driving without a seat belt will cost you 15 points). You can be disqualified from driving if you build up 100 penalty points within the same year.
As in other Mediterranean countries, some drivers in Turkey have a somewhat energetic driving style; you are advised to drive carefully and try to avoid altercations.
Roads and traffic
Most roads in Turkey, whether in urban or rural regions, are in fairly good condition, although you should beware of the landslides and rockfalls that may occur in eastern Anatolia after snowy winters.
Note that traffic jams are quite frequent in the outskirts of large cities — Istanbul in particular is infamous for its bottlenecks. For short daily trips, resorting to the public transports network may often prove faster.
Be careful: The tolls levied on entering major highways and bridges in Turkey can not be paid using cash or credit card. You must beforehand have enrolled in the automatic toll system (HGS) and purchased prepaid toll credit, available at post offices (PTT).