Istanbul

By | 16th January 2018

Should you rent a car in Istanbul?

Do you need a car in Istanbul > Should you rent a car in Istanbul Turkey > Istanbul ( IST ) Do you need a car in Istanbul? Is it worth hiring a car in Istanbul? Should you rent a car in Istanbul?

Istanbul Car hire summary


Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]

10%

  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Istanbul but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
  • Cost factors include - price of car hire (peak and off peak season), car hire extras, fuel, tolls and parking costs.
  • Quality factors include - scenic drives, road quality and upkeep, general safety and congestion levels.
  • A complete index of all 10 factors will be uploaded shortly.

Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]

€120

 #136/300

  • This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in Istanbul during the quiet season.
  • You will almost always end up paying more than this figure, but any extra costs or supplementary charges are usually determined by the renter, so we cannot easily compare like with like.
  • In many cases, rental companies will offer a cheap rental and then expect you to take out expensive insurance waivers. There are always ways to avoid this!

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]

 €165

102/300

  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "why not" section for more suggestions.
  • For most featured destinations, the peak season will be during the summer, typically July and August for northern hemisphere destinations. However, peak demand might occur at different times, for example in some ski resorts or winter sun destinations etc.


Free parking score

Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 1937 - of which 531 have free parking. [full notes - parking]

27%

#216/300

  • Free hotel parking is very useful to have when you are hiring a car, and it's always worth checking ahead beforehand.
  • If free hotel parking is not available, you might want to consider renting a car for a single day, rather than for your whole trip.
  • The availability (or lack of) free hotel parking can be a really important factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Istanbul, as it can be a significant extra daily cost which you won't usually be paying at home!
  • Parking costs play a very major part in our consideration of whether or not it's worth hiring a car in each destination.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

Istanbul public transport quick facts

Train score

Higher scores go to the systems which don't just take you to the most amazing places, but also to the ones which are easy to use, fast, reliable and frequent. A good train system on its own is usually enough to determine that you don't need to hire a car in many destinations.

60%

  • [full notes trains]
  • Trains include all kinds of urban rail system from trams up to metro and suburban networks.
  • Trains also include mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Generally, places with a good rail network will automatically mean that you don't "need" to hire a car, but you can still might find that on balance you are better off by having one.

Water travel score

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in Istanbul

100%

  • [full notes - water score]
  • The water score looks at means of transport on water - it does not consider water based activities like surfing or kayaking.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel, and also including ferries and other boat services, where they are part of the public transport network.

50%

  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Istanbul good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?
  • Even if public transport is cheap and reliable, you might still feel that you should hire a car in Istanbul because it will still give you more flexibility to reach out-of-the-way places, especially in rural areas.

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Istanbul. It includes factors such as the quality of the street environment, and whether you are likely to feel safe walking or cycling, together with the availability of bicycle hire and the ease of linking walking or cycling routes with public transport.

40%

  • [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city /  country).
  • A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in Istanbul, because you can see everything you need to see using a combination of your own two feet and the public transport system.

Car rental in - Istanbul Need v worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Istanbul", "is it worth hiring a car in Istanbul", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme. Here we break each one down according to the criteria we use for each question. This is a weighted score based on the values above. These are explained further in the text which follows - [#why] [#whynot]. Do you need a car in Istanbul?

Do you need a car in Istanbul?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city. For the lowest "need" score, the destination should have a combination of excellent all-round public transport, great opportunities for walking and cycling, together with poor value car hire or generally poor quality roads. 
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "do I need a car in  Istanbul " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in Istanbul?

Is it worth hiring a car in Istanbul?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares? This question mainly looks at issues of cost and practicality.
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "is it worth hiring a car in  Istanbul" will swing towards whichever option offers the lowest overall cost for a group of 2-4 people travelling together.
Should you rent a car in Istanbul?

Should you rent a car in Istanbul?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
  • The final "carometer" swing is much more opinion based, and it takes into account which options will give you the truly best travel experience (n our humble opinion of course). Where a destination offers an excellent score with or without a car, the swing will go towards whichever option we feel gives the most truly unforgettable experience.
  • Ultimately, it's your choice whether or not you rent a car here. We're trying to give you something that's sufficiently far enough away from a "maybe" to help you make that choice. Ultimately, people only come to us because they are uncertain, but we don't really know what each person's preferences are. Whether we say you should or you shouldn't rent a car in  Istanbul, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Istanbul compares with other destinations in  Turkey or  Europe.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.


What does everyone else do?

Do most people hire a car in Istanbul?

This is based on our observations of (a) car rental facilities and (b) what we think most people will do here. It's not an exact figure, just an estimate of how likely people are to get hold of a rental car here.
  • his is based on the percentage of people "in the market" who we think are likely to hire a car. This includes anyone arriving on holiday here who would usually hire a car on their travels, so it doesn't include people who don't usually drive (or don't drive), people staying with friends etc.

70%

Visitors per year (million)

  • Cities with more visitors are more likely to have more complex airport car rental arrangements, and generally they will also have better public transport, but this is not always the case, especially in North America.

0.5

  • [full notes - do as everyone else does?]
  • You may wish to go with the flow, or you might prefer to avoid doing the most popular or obvious option. This will vary according to the range of choice available. This tends to be much higher in destinations which are closer to the middle of the car or no car scale.

Who is travelling?

Your group size and travel budget has a major impact on whether or not getting a rental car is good value compared to using public transport as your main means of getting around. Ultimately, these are all "worth" questions:

Is it worth renting a car in Istanbul if I am a solo / budget traveller?

Generally, hiring a car is not good value for solo travellers for multiple reasons, especially as most of the costs of renting apply to the car, not the occupants. With public transport, the reverse is usually true! However, there are always some places where you will need a car, simply because they are almost impossible to reach using public transport.

Is it worth renting a car in Istanbul for 2 people travelling together?

A rental car can be good value for couples or for friends travelling together, but since most cars come with at least four seats, it's often still better value to use public transport. However, if you prefer to keep yourselves to yourselves, then you might still want to rent.

Is it worth renting a car in Istanbul for families?

Families of groups of 3-4 people travelling together will always get the best value from a rental car. However, you may also be burdened with extra costs for car seat hire, and you well also prefer to use local trains and buses, if they are quicker than getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Where are you staying?

The place you are staying, together with the sort of places you want to see, will have a large impact on whether or not you "need" to rent a car:

Do you need a car in Istanbul if we are staying in the city centre / main resort area?

Most large towns or purpose built holiday resorts will have some kind of public transport, whereas parking provision will vary greatly from one place to the next. 

Do you need a car in Istanbul if we are staying on the edge of the urban area?

Typically you may be staying in an apartment or hmall house on the edge of a resort or urban area. These places usually have some level of public transport, but not as much as city / resort centres.

Do you need a car in Istanbul if we are staying in a rural area?

Rural proprties might include larger villas or apartments, but they can still be within a short walk of a bus stop or local railway station, and the opportunities for hiking and cycling might also be substantial, depending on the destination.

What is your attitude towards driving?

We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to Istanbul, but ultimately your decision is also going to be influenced by whether or not you ususally prefer to hire a car in the first place.

Should I hire a car in Istanbul if I prefer not to drive?

This is especially the case when there is only one main driver in the group, and it's based on the attitude of the driver rather than their passengers! The main driver may also simply prefer to use public transport, or they may prefer to take scenic train journeys where available.

Should we rent a car in Istanbul if we are easy either way?

This is more aimed at the typical visitor who isn't that bothered about how they get around, as long as it is the most convenient / best value option.

Should I rent a car in Istanbul if I prefer to drive?

For people who usually prefer the freedom and flexibility of having a hire car. Is it still best to rent a car in Istanbul, or are there good reasons not to?

Do you need a car in Istanbul? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Istanbul?", this often breaks down to two key questions:
  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in Istanbul? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?
Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in Istanbul as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Istanbul?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Istanbul is certainly the largest and most famous city to straddle two continents. Whichever side of the Bosphorus you are on, this city of over 10 million people really does just go on and on.

So where would we even start with whether you’d even want to consider hiring a car here? Well, the easy bit is that if you really are just here to appreciate the city of Istanbul itself, as most visitors do, then of course there’s no need to hire a car. A car in Istanbul is just going to be a complete hindrance.

Why should you rent a car in [table “1” does not have that cell /]
?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip? In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in [table “1” does not have that cell /]
?
  • Istanbul road trips – It might make sense to get a hire car if you are flying in from further afield and using Istanbul as a gateway for a Turkish road trip. However,  it makes more sense to start such a trip on the southern Turkish coast.

Why not? Visiting Istanbul without a car

What is public transport like in Istanbul? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in 0?
  • Day trips – We don’t really suggest Istanbul car hire for day trips out of the city, because the other places of real interest in Turkey are much further away than this.
  • Major attractions – although Istanbul is spread across the different sides of the Bosphorus, most of the places that you are going to want to be visiting, such as the Grand Bazaar, Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia are all within a relatively short walking distance of each other (these are also all on the European side).
  • Walking cityRegardless of when you visit, the historic areas are most typically situated on pedestrianised streets, which are reasonably well enclosed with older buildings which are tall enough to provide a decent amount of shade. You should find that although the traffic can be a nightmare in places, walking around Istanbul is unlikely to be a problem due to the climate – although steep climbs are another matter!
  • Taksim Square – Across from the Golden Horn, , streets tend to be a bit more generously planned, with Taksim Square being particularly open, but you are still unlikely to need to walk a particularly long distances.
  • Public transport – shared taxis (dolmuses), buses and metro services are widely available.
  • Intercontinental tunnel – The first part of the sleek new Marmaray project which provides a regional railway service linking between the two sides of the city opened late in 2013.
  • Hire cost – generally, car hire in Istanbul will cost around 20% more than in other Turkish locations during the off-peak season. During the summer, costs are similar.
  • Fuel cost – generally, fuel in Turkey will cost you around the same as it does in Northern Europe. This makes petrol very expensive when compared to other travel costs in Turkey. In particular, it makes driving poor value when compared to travelling by bus.

Beyond the city

James says - a few trip notes:


When I visited in 1995, a group of us took a day trip to Bursa, which was easy enough to do by bus (and should still be possible from less than €10 each way). From there, we took the cable car up to the ski resort of Uludag – all of this was easy enough to do using local public transport services, which are relatively well integrated in terms of service patterns, even if they are still independently operated.


Journey times between Istanbul and the capital Ankara have been slightly reduced with the start of a high-speed rail service, taking the previous journey time of around 8 or 9 hours down to just over 6, but you will still need to take local services as far as Pendik, and continue from there.

What about road trips from Istanbul?

The biggest reason for hiring a car in Istanbul would be because you wanted to use Turkey’s largest city as the starting point for a road trip around the country.

Getting a hire car in Istanbul might then enable you to set off in a loop which would include all of Turkey’s most famous attractions, from the cave dwellings in Cappadocia through to the hot springs in Pammukalle, and then perhaps heading back to Istanbul via the ancient city of Troy.

This kind of Istanbul road trip could include a lot of the amazing Turkish Riviera along the southern Mediterranean court coast between Izmir and Antalya

It would be fair enough to say that this kind of trip would make a lot of sense for a group of 3 or 4 people to fill a car (5 of you if you get on really well!). Even if you are travelling as a couple, then a road trip of this nature might be a lot more convenient than having to plan your travels around a load of complicated rail and bus schedules, although it would be unlikely to be better value outright, as rail travel in Turkey is generally good value – and coach travel even more so.

Although Turkey does have a good network of private intercity bus routes, the rail network is really much more focused around the main cities of Istanbul and Ankara, and it’s of no use at all if you’re trying to head along the Turkish Mediterranean coast.

But what we might suggest is that Istanbul isn’t necessarily the best place from which to start a Turkish road trip. Other than the city of Istanbul itself, and then to a lesser extent the capital city of Ankara, all of the best known tourist attractions in Turkey are actually going to be found either along or near the Mediterranean coast, or a relatively short drive inland from it.

Just taking Capadoccia as one example, this is somewhere that you can reach within a 5 to 6 hour drive of Antalya, so it somewhere that is entirely reasonable within a day trip from there, whereas it’s an 8-10 hour drive from Istanbul (and we think that’s being optimistic, but this is the quoted time using google maps), without any particularly great places to see on the way, other than perhaps a short detour into some of the monuments of Ankara.

So a Turkish road trip really makes a lot more sense if you are going to do it along the Mediterranean coast, and perhaps to either start in Antalya and then drop the car off in Izmir, if you can get a suitable one-way deal, or simply to do a circuit that involves driving from Antalya to Izmir and then looping back. Adding Istanbul onto this road trip or even starting from here doesn’t really make a huge amount of sense if you don’t need to.

Of course, this is largely going to depend on how you are getting to Turkey in the first place. If you are travelling in from further afield, then the chances are that you are taking a long haul flight into Istanbul anyway. It might be worth looking at taking a short internal hop to Antalya or Izmir, and then picking up a rental car there.

Naturally, this is all going to depend on the deal that you can get at the time, but we’ve tended to find that car hire deals in Turkey are much better value on the Mediterranean coast, where there’s a much bigger holiday market. If you do pick up a rental car at Istanbul Ataturk airport or even at the low cost Sabiha Gokcen airport, you are still paying big-city prices for the privilege, whereas if you pick up a rental car on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, and drop it off in Istanbul, then any one-way rental fees might still be reasonable.

Ratings

Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Verdict

What is our final score for Istanbul on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.

1


Should you rent a car in Istanbul? No!

Would you hire a car in Istanbul?

Have you driven in Istanbul? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Istanbul}? Do you need a car in Istanbul? For some or all of the time? Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

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