Thursday, August 2, 2012

6 reasons to travel by hitchhiking in Turkey

Joanna with Kinga
On the road
My friend Joanna traveled a lot during her one semester stay in Turkey. It seemed that she was more time travelling than in Ankara. Luckily I got to know her in the short time she spent in Ankara. I think traveling around by hitchhiking Turkey was brave and impressive so I asked her to write a story about her interesting experience. Read on to find out how she survived.

Enter Joanna
We are on our way from Mardin to Diyarbakır. Of course by hitchhiking. Two middle-aged Turks stop for us. We drink tea and eat ice cream together in a nice café situated in a small forest. Of course they do not want to let us pay. It is turkish hospitality.

Few days later we are in Adana (the last place we went to by hitchhiking in Turkey reading a piece of news: “Two british tourists were kidnapped on the way from Mardin to Diyarbakır. As far as the police knows terrorists hid them in the mountains.” When we realise that it happened exactly the same day when we were there, our hearts stopped beating for a moment. It could have been us…

My travelling group was every time a bit different. In a trip to Eastern Turkey we were three – two polish girls and one slovak guy. So three of us were travelling together only while this trip, which lasted for nearly two weeks. This one was supposed to be the most exciting, and on the other hand – the most dangerous. If you ask me why, the answer is above. Eastern Turkey can be unpredictible, and you have to be careful, especially when you choose hitchhiking as your transportation.

do not get me wrong – to be honest, Turkey is a perfect country for hitchhikers. It might sound ridiculous after the scary story about kidnapped tourist, but it is the truth. Here 6 reasons to travel by hitchhiking in Turkey.

1. You do not have to wait for a car longer than 10 minutes. 
To give an example of hitchhiking to the Nemrut Mountain which is over 2000 meters high: People said it is impossible to get there by hitchhiking, but nothing further from the truth. We caught a pick up car, rode on the back side feeling the wind and passing the most beautiful landscape you can imagine. The second part of the way we travelled with the Turkish military police (jandarma). Boys (soldiers, but perhaps younger than me) were really excited of the opportunity to meet blonde tourists, so they took a picture with us, and we took one with them as well.

2. Drivers always offer you something to drink, very often including sweets or a meal.
The most generous are the truck drivers, contrary to popular opinion. You ride in a truck like a Turkish princess, laying on the bed, listening to an interesting stories he has to share (if you are lucky to know Turkish or to be with someone who can be a translator, because they mostly do not speak English). It is a rule that they have to stop from time to time to rest, so they always invite you to drink a tea, eat fruits, an ice cream or a dinner.

3. Turks are friendly and solicitous – if you enter their car once, they feel responsible of you all along the way. 
I will never forget the way from Tatvan to Batman: The man who stopped in Tatvan could give us a ride only to Bitlis, but he did not leave us alone (because he felt that he was responsible of us), so he stopped in a police station and asked a policeman for a help. The Policeman with no hesitations came out to the road and stopped the first car. Firstly - routine control, then - order (not question – order) to take this three strangers (us) and drop them in Batman. The driver could not say no. So for the first 50 km the driver was in shock, he did not ask even a single question. We were surprised as well, but after a while the atmosphere got better and at the end we were taking pictures together in the lakeside.

4. It is safe. 
There is always someone who stops and tells “I stopped, because around is too many bad people”. The point is we have never met these bad ones. Ironically the story about two British tourists happened in a public bus.

5. You meet wonderful people who give up their own plans, just to bring you safely to the place you want or to show you some nice spots on the way there.
Like the man who took us from Batman to Mardin, but he had to stay in Midyat, extremely beautiful town situated half way to Mardin. Even if we could not understand eachother very well (language barrier), he showed us this amazing place, and invited us for a delicious simple breakfast to a local restaurant. Or another time, on the way from Gaziantep to Sanliurfa, when we could not catch a car in short time (about 15 minutes), three young guys from Gaziantep offered to take us to Sanliurfa even they were not planning to go there. They were just afraid that someone not friendly can take us instead.

6. You can learn Turkish.
I have learned basics of the language because I had to speak with the drivers. It is not polite to sit in the silence and treat the person that took you to his car like a personal driver. They want to hear your story, they want you to say what you think about their country, and often they have a lot of stories to tell too. Do not forget to ask when they stop: “Nereye gidiyorsun?” (“Where are you going?”).

I travelled in Turkey by hitchhiking around 7000 km. I still did not have enough. I still want to see more, discover different places. It is like an addiction. Once you begin with hitch-hiking, you will not stop. The only important things you have to take with you for the trip are: rationality, smile, good humor and a map.


  1. Diyarbakir is a nice and beautiful place to visit with a touring guide

    1. Local people were friendly that we didn't have to hire a guide. They were so happy show us places that they called us to meet next day for city tour.