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Why rent a car in Istanbul?
Istanbul is a great place to experience by car. Having your own wheels will let you explore this vast and fascinating city by visiting both its European and Asian sides, as well as to travel to Black Sea beaches and other Turkish cities nearby.
Top ways to enter Istanbul
- Istanbul Airport: With plans to become the largest and the busiest in the world, the new Istanbul Airport, a hub for Turkish Airlines, opened in 2019. It hosts flights to and from all parts of the world. The airport is located near the Black Sea, just north of the city center.
- Istanbul Ataturk Airport: 10th busiest airport in the world until the opening of the new Istanbul Airport, Ataturk Airport is located about 24 km (15 mi) from the city center.
- Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport: The smaller of the three airports in Istanbul is named after Sabiha Gokcen, the first female pilot in the world. It is a hub for Pegasus Airlines and also hosts flights by a number of other airlines.
Useful city facts
- Istanbul enjoys a warm Mediterranean climate, although the city is not as hot as many other Turkish cities on the Mediterranean Coast. The average temperature in August is 24 °C (75 °F) and the average temperature in January and February is 6 °C (43 °F). Winters are much more humid than summers.
- With more than 15 million inhabitants, Istanbul is the largest city in Europe and the fourth largest in the world by population within city limits . Nearly every fifth inhabitant on Turkey lives here.
Top destinations and activities
- Theodosian Walls. First built 1600 years ago, the Theodosian Walls got their name from Theodosius II, the emperor of Eastern Roman Empire. The walls that have protected Istanbul from a number of sieges are still in a great shape and tell the story of the city’s diverse history.
- Visiting a hamam. A spot of cultural importance as much as a place of relaxation, each neighborhood’s Turkish bath is a fascinating place to visit. Visit some of the most famous ones like Kılıç Ali Paşa hamam or Cemberlitas hamam, places as famous for their main purpose as they are for their architectural beauty.
- Grand Bazaar. It might be an overused phrase, but a visit to Istanbul is truly not complete without exploring its wonderful market at least once. Observe the wonderful crafts, fabrics, and carpets, bargain for spices, and learn about its great historic importance in one of the oldest and largest bazaars of the Eastern world.
Traffic and parking tips
- Unless specifically indicated otherwise, the speed limits are 120 km/h (74.5 mph) on highways, 90 km/h (55.9 mph) on two-lane roads, and 50 km/h (31 mph) in populated and built-up areas.
- It is illegal to use the mobile phone while driving.
- On regional roads there might be fewer gas stations than on the national highways. Never stay too low on gas and always set out your route in advance to know the location of the next gas station.
- Due to high taxes, Turkey has a very expensive petrol, with prices higher than even in the most EU countries. Keep that in mind when setting out a route ahead!
- Turkey is overall a warm country, but during winter roads can be covered with ice, especially in mountainous regions. Do ask your car rental provider in advance if your vehicle’s tires will be equipped for to the season.
- Occasionally you might encounter police roadblocks and even military checkpoints, especially in Southeastern Turkey. They are there for your own safety, and on most cases they will only check your license and warn you about any potential danger that might lie ahead.
- The legal alcohol limit is 0.05% if you’re driving alone and 0.00%. Exceeding the limit can lead to large fines and a licence ban.
- The insurance and car documentation needs to be in the car whenever you’re driving.
- If you’re the driver, you need to have your passport or ID card with you at all times.
- The general emergency number is in 112. The police number is 155, the fire brigade number is 110, and the forest fire number is 177.
Driving on most national motorways, as well as some bridges and tunnels in Turkey require a toll payment, including many motorways in Istanbul area and in the wider Northwestern Turkey region.
Most Turkish toll roads only permit an electronic, contactless payment from an electronic toll-payment transponder that’s in a car or by an electronic chip-sticker that’s on a car. This means that you cannot pay either by cash or credit card for most toll roads (only a handful newer ones will permit that).
All rental cars have to be equipped either with a toll-payment transponder or with a toll-payment sticker. Some rental car providers might charge an extra fee for this service. Do contact your rental car provided in advance to find out more.
The toll roads in Turkey are divided in HGS, the High-Speed Passage System (Hızlı Geçiş Sistemi in Turkish) and OGS (Otomatik Geçiş Sistemi in Turkish). On HGS roads, you can pass through the toll area at a higher speed. On OGS roads, you need to slow down as you go through a toll gate and the toll payment is registered through the electronic transponder that’s in a car. The exact amount you’ll have to pay will depend on the specific road you drive on and on the distance of your travels.
Find out more about the toll roads in Turkey on the European toll road website.
Ideas for a day-trip
- Çilingoz Nature Park. About two hours northwest of Istanbul, Çilingoz is a perfect, serene place for escaping the hectic tempo of the big city. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to spot eagle-owls, roe deer, tortoises, porcupines, or some of the other wildlife that live here in the forests and the beaches.
- Edirne. The largest Turkish city that’s fully located in Europe, Edirne is a fascinating city to visit thanks to its history and grand architecture. Near the former Ottoman capital is the ancient village of Medea that still retains some of its architecture and traditions, see a monastery carved in the cliffs, and explore an impressive fortress. Edirne is about three hours drive west of Istanbul.
- Bursa. A bit more than two hours drive south of Istanbul, the city of Bursa might not seem spectacular at the first sight, but you’ll change your mind when you’ll get to see Ulucami, or the Great Mosque, and Yesil Camii or Green Mosque. More calm and traditional than Istanbul, in Bursa you can also visit the Archaeology Museum and the Islamic Art Museum.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular car type in Turkey is economy, but travelers also pick compact and mini a lot. The most popular rental cars are the Hyundai i20, the Ford Fiesta and the Opel Corsa. Most national highways are in good shape, but if you plan to travel to rural areas or mountains, renting a power vehicle might be a good idea.
- Cappadocia. Located in the region of Central Anatolia, Cappadocia might just be Turkey’s number one attraction. Its landscapes make you feel like you’re on another planet, and the underground cities, cave churches, and buildings carved in rock make it even more strange and impressive. About 740 km (460 mi) east Istanbul, it’s a long way to get there, but in this case the long drive is really worth it.
- Bulgaria. Although still flying under the radar of many international travelers, Bulgaria is a truly fascinating place to explore. Come for historic Plovdiv and busy Sofia, for golden beaches in Burgas and Varna, and for trekking or snowboarding in its spectacular mountains in the southern part of the country. The border between Turkey and Bulgaria is just four hours drive west of Istanbul. You will be crossing a national border and entering the European Union (EU), so first ask your rental car provider if they permit it. Also, make sure that your entry documents for Bulgaria are in order.
- Thessaloniki. About seven hours drive west of Istanbul, Greece’s second city is one of the most interesting places in the region. Come here for ancient sites, beautiful crescent-like beaches, and unique rituals like night masses during Easter. You will be crossing a national border and entering the European Union (EU) and the Schengen Area, so first ask your rental car provider if they permit it. Also, make sure that your entry documents for Schengen Area are in order.
How can I save money on my rental car?
These are some of the tricks that can land you a cheap rental car in Istanbul:
- Compare rates of different rental car providers
- Book your rental car well in advance
- Plan your route before you go
- Know your fuel and mileage requirements
- Visit on the month when the rental prices are the cheapest. According to our data, visiting Istanbul is the cheapest in September when renting a car is about 64% cheaper than the yearly average. Come visit this city in early autumn!
Which is the cheapest month to rent a car in Istanbul?
What’s the usual rental length in Istanbul?
What's the most popular month to rent a car in Istanbul?
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