THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO HITCHHIKING IN TURKEY
Turkey is a very hitchhiking-friendly country. I say it because I have traveled the whole huge country by hitchhiking. My first hitchhiking experience in Turkey happened in Autumn 2018. I hitchhiked from Istanbul to Batumi, Georgia. Then I hitchhiked from Batumi to the South of Turkey. My experience was amazing. I never had to wait for cars for too long.
Nowadays, everything has changed. Hitchhiking in Turkey isn't as good as it used to be. In some regions of Turkey, hitchhiking is weak, and in some parts, it is dead. At the same time, there are regions and cities in Turkey, where hitchhiking works like a charm. In this post, I will provide you with all the necessary knowledge and information regarding hitchhiking in Turkey, and also I will give you the best tips on how to hitchhike in Turkey with maximum efficiency.
HITCHHIKING IN TURKEY IS FREE
While hitchhiking in different countries, sometimes, you need to make sure that a driver is willing to give you a ride for free. Otherwise, you would get an unpleasant surprise by the end of your trip.
In Turkey, hitchhiking is absolutely free. I hitchhiked hundreds of cars, minivans, and trucks in Turkey none of them gave me even a light hint regarding the payment. In Turkey, if a driver stops for you, it means he is willing to give you a ride unconditionally for absolutely free. You shouldn't even discuss it. What is more, most of the drivers will also buy you some food or invite you for a meal. This is just a simple gesture of hospitality.
HITCHHIKING IN TURKEY DEPENDS ON THE REGION
As you know, Turkey is a huge country. Turkey covers an area of 783,562 km²; the country is more than twice the size of Germany or slightly smaller than the U.S. states of Texas and Louisiana. In big countries, you should expect dozens of different nationalities, national mentalities, languages, dialects, and climates. A huge country is like several small countries.
While traveling across the country, I experienced a lot of diversity. Especially, when you travel in the South of Turkey in such cities as Van, Diyarbakir, Batman, Sanliurfa, Midyat, Mardin, etc. There are Kurds, Arabs, Azeris, and many other nationalities and ethnicities living in that region.
All nationalities and places have specific worldviews, customs, and traditions. These are the most important things that impact the efficiency of hitchhiking in any country in the world. Now, let me explain the situation with hitchhiking in Turkey region by region.
HITCHHIKING IN NORTHERN TURKEY
Northern Turkey has a relatively good hitchhiking potential. This region includes such cities as Istanbul, Izmit, Bolu, Duzce, Sakarya, Gebze, Ordu, Samsun, Giresun, Trabzon, Rize, Artvin. Even though hitchhiking weakened in Turkey in recent years, you can still successfully hitchhike in the above-mentioned cities.
Hitchhiking in Northern Turkey has one big advantage. During summer, it is never hot in the region. Southern Turkey is a mountainous region. It is situated at a slight elevation above the sea. Therefore, the climate there is pleasant during summer and early autumn. In spring it might be very rainy, and you do not want to soak in rain. In late autumn, the weather might get cold, it will rainy and it may even snow in the region. However, I wouldn't recommend hitchhiking or traveling in Norther Turkey in winter and early spring. The weather during this time is really unpredictable. It can be very rainy and sometimes it snows.
Usually, hitchhiking becomes unbearable during scorching hot and cold weather. During these times, you even start regretting your journeys. Traveling is a very good activity. However, most of us want some level of comfort while traveling and backpacking. Traveling in very hot and cold weather is suffering. This is why I recommend avoiding traveling in Southern Turkey in early spring when it is very rainy, late autumn, and winter.
HITCHHIKING IN CENTRAL TURKEY
Hitchhiking in Central Turkey (Central Anatolia) is easy and very comfortable. Central Turkey comprises such cities as Ankara, Aksaray, Cankiri, Karaman, Kayseri, Kirikkale, Kirsehir, Konya, Nevsehir, Nigde, Sivas, Yozgat, and other towns.
In major cities of Central Turkey, you won't have difficulties while hitchhiking. People in these places are very friendly and open-minded. The only thing that usually prevents Turkish drivers from taking hitchhikers is a fear of Jandarma (Turkish police).
HITCHHIKING IN AKSARAY AND NEVSEHIR
Aksaray and Nevsehir are one of the most popular cities in Cappadocia. This means that the region is filled with tourists. Touristy places are more convenient for hitchhiking because travelers and backpackers look less suspicious in these areas. When a solo backpacker is hitchhiking in a weird place (a place untapped by tourists), this person will usually attract suspicions. On the other hand, a hitchhiker in a touristy place looks normal. When a driver sees a backpacker in a touristy place, he instinctively thinks that this person is a traveler who is visiting touristic attractions in the region.
Tourists coming to Aksaray and Nevsehir will usually rent a car for their short trip. There is also a chance of catching a tourist's car while hitchhiking in Cappadocia. Most of these people are helpful.
HITCHHIKING IN ANKARA AND ITS DISTRICTS
Ankara is the capital city of Turkey. Ankara is huge and it is the second biggest city in Turkey after Istanbul. Ankara doesn't resemble other cities in Turkey. Security measures in the capital city are very high. Travelers, tourists, and backpackers are often questioned and checked by police in Ankara. During my short transit visits to Ankara, I wasn't able to avoid meeting the Turkish police. They questioned me and made a photo of my passport and phone number. You can read about it in detail in this blog post "Backpackers Should Avoid Visiting Ankara."
I don't like Ankara and I don't recommend anyone hitchhiking in the capital city of Turkey. While recently hitchhiking in Ankara, I found hitchhiking almost dead. Drivers don't stop in Ankara because of the TV propaganda that brainwashes Turkish citizens with constant talks about terrorism, ISIS (which was officially defeated in 2019), murderers on the road, and other stuff. Plus, Turkish police forbids drivers from taking hitchhikers.
Thus, before stopping to pick you up, a driver would have a variety of thoughts and fears. Some of these fears are: "What if this person is a fugitive?", "What if he is a member of a terrorist group?", "What if this person police stops my car and this man doesn't have a passport?" These are some of the paranoid thoughts most Turkish drivers have in their minds.
Hitchhiking in Ankara is challenging because security measures in the capital city are much higher than in other cities in Turkey. While hitchhiking in Ankara, I was asking drivers about the causes of such weak hitchhiking in the capital of the country. One of the drivers told me that Ankara is a capital city and the police even close big roads when some important members of the Turkish government drive in the city.
To move your hitchhiking progress in Ankara, you will need to get out of the capital and its provinces. The city is huge and you will need to pass several hundreds of kilometers to finally get out of the borders of Ankara. As soon as you are out of Ankara, hitchhiking will become easier and much quicker.
HITCHHIKING IN SOUTHEASTERN TURKEY
Southeastern Turkey (Southeastern Anatolia) is the best region to hitchhike in Turkey. The main cities of Southeastern Turkey are Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Van, Batman, Cizre, Midyat, Mardin, Siirt, Sanliurfa, Adiyaman, etc. The area might be even one of the best regions in the world for efficient hitchhiking. Hitchhiking in Southeastern Turkey is very effective because it is inhabited by Kurds, an ancient nation with strong hospitality traditions.
Even though there are loads of factors impacting the efficiency of hitchhiking in different countries around the world, the national mentality, and traditions of locals are some of the main things that make the strongest impact on hitchhiking in a particular region. People with strong traditions and religious beliefs are more helpful than nations that embrace materialism.
If you are hitchhiking in Southeastern Turkey, you shouldn't be worried about wasting time on the roads. Your average wait time will be a few minutes. What is more, most Kurdish drivers will also buy you food, invite you to have lunch or dinner with them, invite you to their homes, and show other signs of hospitality.
Hitchhiking in Southeastern Turkey is awesome because, in most cases, you will get an all-in-one package: a free ride, a free meal, and a free stay in some of the Kurdish homes. Yes, you heard it right. Kurds love guests very much. They will feed you, wash your clothes, and you will become lifelong friends with your hosts.
While most Turks in modern cities are Western-oriented and embrace individualism, Kurds still strongly cling to their old traditions and Islamic values. Islam commands people to show hospitality towards guests and travelers. What is more, the national traditions of Kurds give a strong priority and respect to guests.
Hitchhiking in Southern Turkey is pure pleasure. Sometimes, you just walk on the streets, and people who are sitting in cafes invite you to share their meal. I think only in a few places around the world, you can see such great hospitality.
HITCHHIKING IN MEDITERRANEAN TURKEY
Mediterranean Turkey is surely the most beautiful part of Turkey. It is also my most favorite place in Turkey for traveling, hitchhiking, swimming, hiking, and camping. Mediterranean Turkey consists of such cities as Antalya, Kemer, Mugla, Kumluca, Alanya, Antakya, Manavgat, Fethiye, Kaş, Mersin, Silifke, and other towns. This region has everything a backpacker would like to see in a perfect landscape: palms, sea, mountains and caves, forests, and hiking trails. The famous Lycian way is also situated in Mediterranean Turkey.
Hitchhiking in Mediterranean Turkey is very easy. In cities like Antalya, Kemer, Alanya, Manavgat, Mersin, Fethiye, and other towns of Mediterranean Turkey, hitchhiking is still strong. It isn't better than hitchhiking in Kurdish cities, but it is surely more efficient than hitchhiking in Northern and Central Anatolia. You won't spend too much time waiting for cars in this region.
One of the best things about hitchhiking in The Antalya region is that the aura of this area is very touristy and relaxed. It is always sunny in Antalya. Even during winters and early spring, it is still sunny in this wonderful place. Also, the region is stunningly beautiful. This is why the general aura of Mediterranean Turkey is very friendly and welcoming. We always feel good and more joyous while either living or being in beautiful places. On the other hand, gloomy cities make us gloomy.
HITCHHIKING GUIDE TO VEHICLES IN TURKEY
If you are a beginning or an experienced hitchhiker, you already know that some types of vehicles are more ready to stop for you while other cars don't even pay attention to you. The same situation is in Turkey. In this section, I will provide you with all the necessary information regarding some types of vehicles and their drivers.
HITCHHIKING TRUCKS IN TURKEY
If you plan to cross long distances by hitchhiking, catching a truck is a good thing to do. Trucks always cross long distances. You can even cross the country from its eastern point to the western end only in one truck. I have crossed thousands of kilometers with the help of trucks.
IT IS HARD TO STOP A TRUCK
Hitchhiking trucks in Turkey is definitely more advantageous than catching a small car that will go only a few dozens of kilometers. Catching a truck will save your time and energy. On the other hand, stopping a truck is very difficult due to the laws of physics. For a truck driver, stopping for you means spending more fuel. One of the truck drivers told me that stopping and starting a truck requires more fuel than just simply driving the vehicle. This is one of the reasons why trucks don't stop for hitchhikers as frequently as small cars.
TURKISH POLICE FORBID TRUCK DRIVERS FROM TAKING HITCHHIKERS
While hitchhiking in Turkey a few months ago, only three truck drivers stopped for me. Two of them were very good people. The third truck driver was very reluctant to take me, but finally, he gave up after I showed him my passport.
Truck drivers say that the Turkish police forbid them from taking hitchhikers. The reason for this is that most travelers and backpackers don't have insurance and if something happens on the road (an accident, or anything else), a truck driver will be responsible for everything that will happen to a traveler he picked up on the road.
In Turkey, there is a criminal penalty for taking a traveler without a passport. Thus, if a truck driver picks up a person who doesn't have a passport and the police stop him, the truck driver will be arrested and punished accordingly. Hence, when you stand on a road trying to stop a truck, all the above-mentioned factors make truck drivers completely unstoppable. Most of them don't even look at you. No matter how rainy, snowy, or cold it is on the roads, humanity melts down when drivers acknowledge all the problems and troubles they can face while picking up a wrong hitchhiker.
Finally, regardless of all the obstacles to hitchhiking trucks in Turkey, you might catch a long-distance truck that will bring you to your distance. At the same time, you shouldn't ignore small cars because most of the time they will be the only vehicles that will stop for you.
HITCHHIKING CARS AND MINIVANS IN TURKEY
Minivan cars are the most frequent vehicles that stop for hitchhikers in Turkey. While hitchhiking in Turkey, you will see loads of cars and white minivans. These minivans are cargo vehicles that carry some light items. Minivans aren't super long-distance. Nonetheless, you can still go a few hundred kilometers in these vehicles.
Though trucks are considered long-distance vehicles that can bring you from one country to the borders of another state, loads of cars also travel long distances. If you are lucky enough, you will catch a car that will directly bring you to your destination point. Some cars go even further distances than trucks. Thus, ignore stereotypes while hitchhiking.
There aren't any specific rules on how to stop cars and minivans in Turkey. Stay at the right place, raise your hand, and hope that a vehicle will stop for you. This is what I do when I hitchhike around the world.
SAFETY TIPS FOR HITCHHIKING IN TURKEY
Hitchhiking in Turkey is very safe. Anything can happen anywhere in the world. Even in the safest countries, bad things happen. Generally, hitchhiking in Turkey is safe. At the same time, you will need to take some precautions.
DON'T HITCHHIKE IN THE EVENINGS AND NIGHTS
In Turkey, it is useless to hitchhike in the evenings and nights. People are very suspicious of hitchhikers trying to stop a car during a dark period of time. Would you stop for a hitchhiker at night? I wouldn't do it. During dark periods of day, it is easy to attack, strangle and kill people. This is why I wouldn't stop for a hitchhiker at night. What if he is a murderer, a fugitive, a professional robber, or another type of bad guy?! At night, there is more impunity since the visibility is very poor. These are the thoughts of drivers who see hitchhikers at night.
Don't hitchhike at night because it can be dangerous for you. You are safe on the roads during the mornings and afternoons. When it is dark outside, the level of safety will go slightly down.
INFORM YOUR RELATIVES OR FRIENDS OF YOUR WHEREABOUTS
Stay in touch with your friends and relatives. Constantly inform some of the closest people of your whereabouts. In case of an emergency, this will help you.
CARRY A KNIFE IN YOUR POCKET
Self-defense is an absolute must in case you are being attacked by humans or animals. Since anything can happen to anyone anywhere around the world, it is a good habit to be prepared for everything. Theoretically, a knife in your pocket would act like an effective self-defense tool in case a bad driver either attacks or tries to kill you. You can use your knife to defend yourself. If this situation happens to you, don't be shy to protect yourself from attacks.
I believe in destiny and I believe that if everything was meant to happen to you, it will happen. This is why I keep all the paranoid thoughts away from my mind. If every single fear prevents you from activities, then, the best thing is just to sit at home and do nothing. Life itself is dangerous!
This is all the information you need to successfully hitchhike in Turkey. Before going to the country, make some inquiries into the present situation and make sure you aren't traveling during turbulent times. Believe me, your hitchhiking experience in Turkey will be amazing.
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