Hitch-hiking in Turkey: advantages and disadvantages

The ruins of temple columns - Ani, Turkey

Advantages

Hitch-hiking in Turkey is like a hitch-hiker’s heaven. Not only is sticking your thumb out in the hope of a free lift possible, it’s also pleasant. The concept is widely known, so the sight of a Westerner standing by the side of the road with their thumb up doesn’t surprise anyone. Getting a lift wouldn’t take you more than 30 min. There aren’t that many motorways, which generally makes your life easier in terms of finding the ideal hitch-hiking spot. What’s more, the roads are empty, so you can be sure to get to your destination relatively fast. But what’s the most important thing is the fact that Turkish people are hospitable and curious, which, from a hitch-hiker’s perspective, is probably the best host mentality combination. What I’m saying is that very often getting a lift would be just the beginning of a pleasant day, during which you might be invited for tea, dinner or even shown around by your driver.

Kind people we met while hitchhiking - On the road, Turkey, Hitch-hiking in Turkey

Disadvantages

Although hitch-hiking in Turkey is a piece of cake, crossing Turkish borders on foot, without a car or without being on a coach or train is rather tricky. Read our story “A Tale of Two Border Crossings” to mentally prepare yourself for this hell on earth ;-)

Turks are usually very positively disposed towards Westerners and the lack of a language in common (since very few Turkish people speak English, especially in the east of the country) is not a (heavy) downside. But by smiling and pointing you will usually get by.

The ruins of temple columns - Ani, Turkey, Hitch-hiking in Turkey

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Our Experience

We have visited Turkey twice. Once, just after we’d met in 2007, we stayed in Istanbul for a week. The second time, in 2011 we hitch-hiked across Turkey as a part of our ‘Caucasus-Turkey-Greece’ trip. We entered the country crossing the Georgian-Turkish border in Sarp (Northeastern Anatolia) and left it, crossing the Greek-Turkish border in Ipsala.

Travelling across Turkey took us around a month and we covered 4233 km by hitch-hiking. We didn’t spend a penny on accommodation either thanks to the widespread use of Couchsurfing.

This was our route:

written by: Ania

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5 comments

  • Absolutely impressive! I’ve done some hitch-hiking in France and in my home country of Mexico but it would have never ocurred to me to do it in a country where I’m entirely unfamiliar with the language! This post really inspires me to give it a go next time I visit Istanbul :D

    • Thanks a lot for stopping by and reading our post, Raphael. You definitely should try, Turkey is such a great country, full of wonderful people and it’s really easy to hitchhike there, so why bother with paying for transport? ;)

  • I would add that hitchhiking alone in Turkey means being ready to decline surprisingly casual sexual offers and clarifying that no sex will be involved. This is just as true for men as for women and also happened to couples I know. I wouldn’t recommend hitchhiking in Turkey for beginners. People often talk about Pippa Bacca (Italian artist raped and murdered in Gebze) and want to protect hitchhikers, but I also heard of a few assaults from primary sources and had to get out of two vehicules on my two first days hitchhiking there. Safety is an issue and should be taken lightly. Not to sound alarmist – Turkey is my favorite country and 9 drivers out of 10 are outstandingly kind !

    • You are right. Sadly, many Turkish drivers seem to associate hitchhiking with sex more than in any other country. I was speaking to a Turkish girl a couple of days ago and she only confirmed what we’d thought before, that since for many Turkish people sex is still a taboo topic, they tend to think about it a lot.
      During our hitchhiking career we have been asked for sex only twice (I guess if you HH alone it must happen more often). And it was in Turkey when a man drove us to a forest and asked (quite politely) if we would like to have sex in front of him :D
      We declined, he drove off (leaving us in the forest), but no hard feelings. In the end it is a funny story to tell and we never felt intimidated in Turkey. On the whole, a great country to hitchhike!!

      • Well, in my case, as a solo woman and with about 140 000 km under my belt, sexual offers are fairly common (once per week, let’s say), but usualy non threatening and easy to handle. In Turkey, it was less forward, more sneaky, trying to trick me into saying yes, inventing stories and finally losing their pants or trying to force me to kiss them. I rarely felt threatened in Turkey, but I felt I had to be more aware of that reality and quicker to react, which can be difficult when one doesn’t know enough of the language.

        And as you say, quite a pity considering how great that country generally is for hitchhiking. People are used to seeing intra-city hitchhikers as it is common practice for students to hitchhike to their uni. Intercity is less common, and there are a lot of female prositution on the axis between Istanbul and Ankara, though it’s much less common and open than in Bulgaria.