Written by: Omar Rachid
Driving in Turkey is something you may never experience anywhere else in the world. Coming from a country like the United States, where driving laws and traffic regulations are obeyed mostly because the fines for violations are costly. This is certainly NOT the case in Turkey!
Turkey’s road signs and driving patterns are the same as the United States and consistent with international standards. What isn’t similar is the BEHAVIOR of the DRIVERS!
UNUSUAL DRIVING BEHAVIOR
Common sense or courtesy aren’t exercised in Turkey when it comes to driving. Although the first chapter of the “driving license book” is all about courtesy, politeness, and selflessness…. And I swear, they must’ve not read this chapter AT ALL!
Typically, turning left or right is done from the appropriate lane; however, in Turkey, you should expect a left turn to be made from the far-right lane or a right turn from the far-left lane… all the while the drivers giving you the evil eye if you were to honk for their illegal and often time near-accident turn.
When stopped at a RED light but the cross-traffic is void of cars, Turkish drivers will just drive through the red light. Scooter and Motorcycle drivers never comply with any traffic regulations simply because they don’t think they apply to them. In fact, Scooter and Motorcycle drivers will drive on the sidewalk just to avoid traffic lights or jams.
Speed limits are marked on the highways, freeways, and within the city, but the drivers here discard all of them completely… Turkish drivers are always in a hurry, but ironically, they hurry up only to come to a stop and wait at the next light.
Pedestrian Crossing signs and lanes are clearly marked but are not respected. Turkish drivers seem to think pedestrians are a bothersome factor to their driving… If you wish to stop for pedestrians to cross, you must make sure there’s a reasonable distance between you and the driver behind and be sure to turn on your flashers to let trailing drivers know that you’re stopping. However, expect to be honked at for stopping.
REQUIREMENTS OF FOREIGNERS TO DRIVE
Foreigners in Turkey are allowed to drive on their foreign license for up to six months from their date of entry into the country. When the six-month period has expired, foreigners who have a Turkish Residence Permit must obtain a Turkish license to continue driving legally and be covered by their car insurance in the event of an accident. Here are the two paths for foreigners to obtain a Turkish Driving License:
- convert their home-country license; if eligible
- apply to obtain a Turkish driver’s license from scratch, whether you have a license or wish to obtain a license for the first time.
If your driver’s license is from one of the countries eligible for conversion to a Turkish license, then converting it can be handled by the population office, in Turkish “Nüfus Müdürlüğü,” by either walking in or by appointment, which can be made online.
To convert your license, you must submit the following documents:
- ORIGINAL High School or University Diploma – Must be translated into Turkish and Notarized.
- Medical clearance with a Blood Type card – obtained from your neighborhood clinic or any hospital. If you are older than 60 years of age, an Eye Exam is also required.
- Proof of address – provide a copy of your Rental or Ownership agreement.
- Clear Criminal Report (obtained by the local court or via Turkey’s online public services platform e-Devlet)
NOTE: Please be aware that when you opt to convert your foreign driver’s license to a Turkish license, you will be asked to relinquish your foreign license, which is returned to the issuing country. This, in my opinion, is a major downside to this conversion process, as one might still go back to their home country and have the need to drive there.
UNITED STATES AND AUSTRALIA ARE NOT CONVERTABLE
A major point when converting a foreign driver’s license is that NOT ALL countries are included in the U.N. Convention granting authority to convert licenses, and thus some countries’ licenses, such as those issued in the United States or Australia, are simply unconvertible. Therefore, if you are a citizen of those countries and want to live in Turkey for longer than six months and want to drive, then you must obtain a brand-new license in Turkey. This involves taking a theoretical driving course, lasting approximately three weeks.
Once you successfully pass the theoretical driver’s Exam, you take a few weeks’ worth of driving lessons. Once you have successfully passed all exams (theoretical and practical exams), you will earn a Turkish license!
HOW TO OBTAIN A TURKISH DRIVER LICENSE
Now, if you are like me, you are from the U.S. or one of the other countries not eligible for the conversion option, or although your license is convertible, you don’t want to relinquish it, then you must go through the process of obtaining the license from scratch, which; as I have learned, is a very daunting process and will cause you to scratch your head and say few cuss words, but it is the right thing to do and to give yourself peace of mind, not only to avoid traffic fines but also to make sure your auto insurance covers you in case of an accident.
1. REQUIRED DOCUMENTS
The first step to applying for a Turkish driver license is to find a driving school to handle your paperwork.
- TIP: You might want to check two or three schools as some may require unnecessary documents. The first school I went to asked that I submit a translated and notarized copy of my passport.
The second school I visited was satisfied with only my Turkish Residency Permit… and that’s the school with which I signed up and submitted the following required documents:
- ORIGINAL University Diploma –translated into Turkish and Notarized.
- Medical clearance with a Blood Type card
- Eye Exam – because I’m over the age of 60
- Proof of address – provided a copy of my rental agreement.
- Clear Criminal Report – the school, helped me obtain it from e-Devlet.
- 2,400 Turkish Lira – this is paid to the school for their fees
- 100 Turkish Lira – for an English copy of the driving rules
2. THEORETICAL LESSONS & EXAM
Since I have been driving for over 40 years and didn’t speak nor comprehend Turkish, I chose not to attend any “theoretical” classes. Instead, I decided to study the book to familiarize myself with Turkey’s driving laws and regulations.
- TIP: I quickly realized that the English book I was given was worthless because the translation was horrendous. However, to prepare for the Theoretical Exam, I had to rely solely on my knowledge and experience from my years of driving.
One month from the date I signed up with the driving school, I was asked to pay 130TL, which allowed me to take the theoretical Exam (in English) held at the Exam Center. The theoretical Exam consisted of 50 questions on various subjects: First Aid, Traffic Regulations, Signs, and Traffic Etiquette. To pass the exam, a score of 75 must be attained. My score was 90… I PASSED the first hurdle, and what a relief it was!
3. PRACTICE DRIVING LESSONS
Once I passed the theoretical Exam, I was then scheduled to perform a few PRACTICE DRIVING lessons with Ugur; an instructor who spoke some English, whom I found friendly and proficient. He did his best to prepare me for the Driving Exam. The practice consisted of doing several maneuvers:
- changing lanes properly, which means giving a signal before making the lane change.
- Using the signal 150 meters before making a turn to indicate such.
- Parallel parking with the right signal on
- Going out of parallel parking with the left signal on and then an immediate right signal (to allow for the examiner to get back in the car)
- Ordered to make a Sudden Stop while going 30 K.M. per hour, then a left signal to pull to the left to make a turn at the roundabout.
- Driving in reverse for 50 meters in a straight line while the right signal is on
- “L” Parking while the right signal is on and then pulling out with the left signal on
- Stopping at Uphill with the right signal on and then taking off with the left signal on
- Pulling to the right with the right signal on at a designated “finish” line.
- In addition to the maneuvers mentioned above, I had to memorize this specific route without being prompted by my instructor because I’m expected to do all of these on my own on exam day.
Exactly one month from passing the Theoretical Exam, I was asked to pay 170TL to be allowed to take the Practical Driving Exam.
4. PRACTICAL DRIVING EXAM #1
On that dreaded Exam Day, I was met with two examiners. One of the first things the examiner asked me to do was open the hood and was asked to identify the engine, windshield washer, brake oil, etc. Then he asked me to open the trunk and was asked to identify the jack, the spare tire, etc. After this exercise, I was told to get in the car to begin the “driving” part of the Exam. One examiner sat in the front passenger seat, and the other examiner sat in the back with Ugur, my instructor, who wasn’t allowed to speak.
I started good, doing all the right things arriving at the designated area for parallel parking, and stopping to allow one of the examiners to step out of the car to monitor my parallel parking, which I performed flawlessly. I then proceeded to steer left out of parallel parking and then to the right to stop to allow the examiner to get back in the car. However, he informed the examiner sitting beside me that I failed to turn my left signal on when steering left out of the parallel parking. They argued a bit because I turned the left signal on, and then I immediately switched it to the right because I needed to pull to the right and stop to allow the examiner to get back in the car. However, he insisted that I didn’t turn it on, which meant I FAILED my Exam. To make me feel even worse, the examiner asked me to come out of the driver’s seat to sit in the back so that the instructor would drive us back to the designated start/finish line.
I can’t tell you how upset I was because I know I’m a good, cautious, and courteous driver and have been driving in Turkey for almost two years, and so to fail because of a left signal didn’t seem right… I mean, Turkish drivers don’t ever or very seldom use signals.
I was unhappy about this ordeal for several days because it simply didn’t make sense (to me) to be given the thumbs down (this is how the examiner indicated that I had failed).
Mehmet, the driving school owner, informed me that I would be scheduled for my second attempt one month from the date I failed the first exam, but the cost for this second attempt is 460TL.
5. PRACTICAL DRIVING EXAM #2
To prepare for the second attempt of my Practical Exam, I did one practice drive with my instructor Ugur, but I can honestly say that having failed the first Exam, I doubted whether I would be able to pass this second time around.
My second attempt was scheduled for Sunday, March 20, 2022, at 9:40 am. I was ready for the challenge, and I say challenge because of the constant signaling, left and right, that I must remember. Just like my first attempt, there were two different examiners, but likewise, one of the examiners asked me to go through the same things with the hood and trunk, and after this exercise, I was instructed to get in the car to start driving.
I started a bit nervous, but reciting (silently) a few verses from the Quran calmed me down. I drove as I knew how and remembered all the signals I needed to make, arriving at the spot for the Parallel Parking, which I performed “successfully” because I was told to continue driving to the area of “fast breaking,” which was easy to perform. The next task was to drive in “reverse” in a straight line for 50 meters. This too was an easy task.
The next task was to perform “L” Parking, probably the most challenging task to perform. In my opinion, it is more difficult than parallel parking. There are three designated spots for this maneuver, and I have practiced them all. I was asked to perform this maneuver at spot number one. I performed it successfully, and by this time, I knew I would PASS the Exam because the remaining maneuvers were the simplest part of the Exam.
Arriving at the designated finish line, I was relieved to learn from the Examiners that I had passed the practical and final portion of the Exam and was on my way to obtaining my Turkish Driving License.
Two days later, Mehmet at the driving school texted me to inform me that my “completion” certificate was ready for me to pick up, which I needed to take to “Nüfus Müdürlüğü” along with my original diploma and the original translated/notarized copy of it. The fee for the driver license is 1,462TL, which must be paid in advance of making an appointment with the “Nüfus Müdürlüğü.” I paid the fees to Mehmet to forward it on my behalf, which enabled him to make me an appointment suitable for my schedule.
I’M AN OFFICIAL TURKISH DRIVER
The next day, Wednesday, March 23, 2022, I arrived at my appointment with the required documents to give to the agent. The process was efficient, after which I was given a temporary license while waiting for the permanent license to arrive by mail. Surprisingly, it arrived two days later. Whoohoo! I’m now a “legal” driver in Turkey