Turkey has an impressive selection of roads ranging from the super-modern to non-existent. We’ll do our best to break them down for you here.
Toll Roads (and how to pay!)
The first we knew of the Turkish toll roads was when we set off the alarm at the gates to the E80. Here’s what we found after a googlea-thon and by talking to other travellers we met along the way:
- You can’t pay cash at any ‘motorway’ toll in Turkey – they all run off of a vehicle identification system (HGS) that automatically takes the fees from a prepaid account.
- Some smaller roads do have cash tolls. Generally if you hold up the traffic for long enough looking for your last 2 Lira they wave you through.
- OGS and HGS are essentially the same thing but OGS is being phased out. We found the easiest way to sign up was at a Shell petrol station (we looked for a post office for two days but saw many Shell garages in that time).
- You get 7 days from when you set off your first alarm to sign up for the scheme. It costs 10TL plus a minimum of 30TL credit and we needed our passports and vehicle registration documents to complete the process. If you leave it longer than 7 days, or roll three doubles in a row, the fine is 10 times the unpaid tolls and you go directly to jail, don’t pass go and don’t collect 200TL. Bummer.
- It doesn’t matter which way round you stick the sticker! We kept setting off alarms for about 48hours after signing up and started to question ourselves when we realised it was definitely a windscreen sticker for the inside of a car and that ours were probably facing the wrong way round. But, eventually, the alarms did stop and we looked a bit more like we knew what we were doing! We put it down to a bit of lag from us filling in the forms to actually being added to the system.
For some more in-depth info see this site, it was very useful.
Most of Turkey’s Trans-European Road Network is up to a very high standard, way better than Bulgaria or Romania anyway. On the O-21, for example, we had three lanes to ourselves and didn’t see a vehicle in either direction for about 40 miles. Okay, they hadn’t built the petrol stations yet but this just gave us a chance to see how far we could really go on one tank of fuel! It was especially fun as they had built the signs advertising fuel, and you could clearly see where they were intending to build the services, but each time our optimism and our average speed were slashed.
The O-20 around Ankara was another funny one – it’s a bit like the M25 except the city inside the ring hasn’t really been built yet. There’s a patch of houses here and a skyscraper there and then desert and rock in-between. You can’t fault the road though, it was 4 lanes, high on speed and low on traffic.
Getting off the main roads is great too. You may have seen our Short Ride Through Cappadocia video but all over Turkey were sandy tracks and rocky trails that were open for business. We were able to take advantage of some of them but we also met a few other riders from the UK who, on different bikes, were really making the most of what they could find. And it wasn’t difficult to pick out an off road section in any part of the country either.
One of our favourite rides was the unnamed roads between Akyaka and Bodrum. 50 miles as the crow flies but we did more like 120. It had it all: windy coastal roads on red cliff edges over aquamarine water (colours reminiscent of Broome, Australia), mountain passes packed with s-bends and hairpins, dirt roads through a working quarry with some very interesting machinery and sheer drops with no barriers and a variety of scenic deaths awaiting you if you went over the edge. Throw into the mix an excellent beach we stopped at for a swim, a very friendly Turkish-Albanian family (who live in Brighton and shared their lunch with us) and a gozleme stand every 5 miles and you’ve got yourself one hell of a drive!
We also liked the D400 between Antalya and Dalyan, not least because it led us to Olympos (you can read about it here) but also because of it’s stunning views of the Mediterranean coast line and the way you can really let loose on a motorbike! As always its a maximum of 30 minutes ride between each beach so if you need to stop for a refreshing dip thats always an option. We’re not sure how much longer this will be an enjoyable ride though as along the whole of the D400 we saw new tunnels being built and sections of the older windier road being closed, eventually it will become just another straight run through the mountains rather that up, over and around them.
In general though, the roads of Turkey were very good. They have something to offer everyone and they do it to a high standard too. We had planned to be in the country for 4 or 5 days at the beginning of the trip and three weeks in we were still enjoying it. I think a large part of it was down to the roads but I suppose we should also acknowledge the wonderful Turkish hospitality, excellent sights, and incredible activities we did along the way. Just not in this post!