Driving in Istanbul is no easy feat… Imagine roaring buses, honking cars, swerving taxis, speeding scooters and erratic drivers. In this colossal city of 12+ million, the traffic would otherwise come to a complete standstill.
The road rules themselves are similar to any western country, with defined speed limits (110km/hour on divided speedways and 50km/hour in residential areas for cars), generally clear signage and traffic lights in all major centers. Driving in Turkey is done on the right hand side in line with most of Europe and the Americas. Multi-laned highways run throughout the city, though Istanbul‘s backstreets tend to be a maze of narrow, one-way streets and due to the rapidly expanding nature of it, street names tend to change quickly.
Pedestrians tend to be of minimal concern to drivers in Istanbul and should exercise extreme caution when crossing streets. The only time drivers are required to stop for pedestrians is at traffic lights where there are pedestrian signals, and even then this is sometimes disobeyed.
Honking is not considered ‘rude’ in Turkey and is done liberally, to signal passing, to indicate free space (in a taxi, minibus or Dolmuş/shared taxi) or simply to vent frustration at slow moving traffic.
Traffic jams are commonplace during rush hours (early morning and evening), especially at major points such as bridges and entrances to highways. During these times, it is advised to try to avoid driving or to make the most of Istanbul‘s car ferry system if you are planning to cross continents.
Parking in Istanbul varies hugely, from covered parking buildings to open air carparks and streetside spots. In areas like Sultanahmet, parking tends to be free (but difficult to find), while in the business and entertainment districts like Taksim, Beşiktaş, Nişantaşı, Mecidiyeköy etc. there are many different options at a variety of prices. The cost of parking in Istanbul is generally considerably lower than in many western countries, averaging around 5tl/hour with discounted pricing for longer stays.
Although driving in Istanbul may seem like a major headache, with a little patience, insight and attention it can be a fantastic way to get around the city.