Before getting into the nitty gritty of driving in Turkey, let me share with you the one golden rule I’ve gleaned for (particularly) Americans who are preparing themselves for navigating the roads of Turkey.
Find another way. Any other way than driving yourself. It is just…it’s not okay. My American heart cannot handle being a passenger in Turkey, let alone a driver. I have navigated the nonstop traffic of Atlanta, GA., drove from SC to Washington DC, and I have never seen madness like driving in Turkey. If you want to have the experience for yourself…here are some tips that have for you.
One of the things I actually do like about the roads in Turkey are the traffic lights. In America we are familiar with the (usually overhead) lights that show up as green for go, changes to yellow as a warning, then red for stop. In Turkey, however, things are a bit different. Here, you get yellow on both changes. For example, the light will be green. That green will then begin to blink when it is about to change. That blinking green will then hold and the yellow light will light up simultaneously. Both will turn off when red lights up. When the red is about to change, it will also light up yellow simultaneously then go to green. I actually really like this system because I have a phobia of traffic lights. I can never be sure of my “point of no return”, and sometimes I will end up hard breaking at a yellow or running a red. So this idea of dual, long warnings is really quite pleasant.
Do not be confused. The red hexagonal signs that say “DUR” do not mean “Do whatever you like”. They actually mean stop. However, these road signs are predominantly used for decoration and you can feel free to ignore them. Everyone else does.
The pretty white lines on the pavement are also for decoration. These do not signify lane rules, per se, more like lane suggestions. If you want to drive down the center of the road- straddling the nice white line- feel free to do so. The traffic police won’t stop you. In fact, if you want the full Turkish driving experience, I strongly suggest you do so.
One way/ multi way roads
There are one way roads in Turkey, as there are in most places. However, these one way roads used to be two way roads, until people decided to park along both sides of it. Now it is a one way road, and that way is whichever way the bigger car is going at the time. Feel like playing chicken with a truck? Be my guest! There are also one way roads that are indicated as such by signs…Im still not sure if those are decoration or not. Also, feel free to stop on the side of a busy street for no good reason. That also seems to be ok. Just drive over the line decoration in the middle of the road to get around them at your leisure.
Sidewalks are differently paved roads for both cars and pedestrians. Speaking of which…
Pedestrians simultaneously have the right of way all of the time, and none of the time. If you try to cross the street, people will try and run you over- regardless of if you have the walk sign or not. If you are trying to drive down a four lane road- someone is going to try to walk in front of you.
Finally, something similar to the US. Speed limits, similarly, are treated as speed suggestions. However, it appears that the traffic police are okay with that in some places. We’ve even sped around the traffic police themselves and were not stopped.
So that is Turkish Traffic School as I know it. There are no rules, basically, just do whatever you feel like. Honestly, in America we follow most traffic rules very strictly and they are also very much enforced. In Turkey, it seems, that no rules are followed and no one cares. There must be a middle ground somewhere…maybe Switzerland.