Getting Around

Ankara streets are laid out like a [INSERT TEXT HERE].

No, that wasn’t a mistake.  The street map is so crazy, I couldn’t think of anything to write!  So feel free to comment with your suggestions!

It’s amazing to me sometimes that anyone finds anything.  And yet, we do!

This is my version of how a Turk gets directions:

Driver:  How do I get to point x?

1:  blows Driver off with one short sentence.

D:  Pretends he understands and drives for 2 minutes.  Sees another person.  Asks for directions.

2:  Gives really lengthy directions, doesn’t mention any street names.

D:  Pretends to understand.  Drives away.

This goes on for some time until the driver miraculously stumbles into the correct neighborhood.  He goes to a taxi stand and asks again.

Taxi:  You just passed it.

I really don’t know how Turks do it!  But I just love to see it done!

Now here’s how we foreigners do it:

1- We ask beforehand, what’s the address?

2- We plug it into our GPS.

3- We get nothing, so we pull up Google Maps online.

4- We get nothing.  So we reach out to other expats.  We get tons of answers, many that may as well be in another language.

5 – Finally, we decide to go to some other place we already know instead.

I truly admire the Turks ability to get around this city.  Honestly, I’m not afraid to get out there, and get lost, either.  I do rely on my GPS quite a bit.  When I bought maps for Turkey, three years ago, they only covered about 60% of the roads.  But that’s not so bad especially in the big cities.

There are a few problems for us foreigners when it comes to Turkish addresses.  First, there’s not really a standard method of writing an address here.  It’s pretty willy-nilly, sometimes getting names of apartment buildings, sometimes neighborhoods, etc.

But even more so, many streets in neighborhoods are numbered.  Numbered with 4 digits!!  And they often have an old number and a new number.  So your Turkish friend may give you the old street number, because that’s what everyone does, when in fact your navigation device is using the new number.  Or vice versa.

Americans are not much better in this area.  We say things like “turn left where the old Mobil Station used to be.”  Hmmmm.  If it’s not there anymore, how would I know where to turn?

Another issue is we often will see two street names listed together as an address.  We have no idea what that means.  So we assume the first street is the address.  Wrong!  The first street is the cross street (or the main road nearby).  The second street listing is actually the address.

And here’s my biggest problem.  Friends and family who speak a little English will always give you the Turkish street name followed by the English word “Street”.  That just doesn’t work if I want to look up the directions.  Think about it, in English we have street, avenue, boulevard, pike, alley, highway, route . . . and more.  Turkish is no different.  So if you tell me it’s 1521 Street, I’m going to type in 1521 Sokak.  I may or may not end up at the right place.  It’s possible that I end up many miles away because I actually needed 1521 Cad.  (This is a true story although the number is not accurate.)

One is a little luckier in an area like GOP if you are looking for Uğur Mumcu.  The Sokak lays right behind the Cad.  But don’t try telling your cab driver you want Uğur Mumcu Sokak.  He will surely think you have no idea what you want and take you to the Cad. instead.  It happens to me every week!

Finally, if using a GPS, BEWARE!  When they tell you that you still need to obey traffic rules, you do!  It may seem like the Turkish traffic police never pull anyone over.  But if there are three of them, and they are already out of the car, and they aren’t on a tea break, and you make an illegal turn on Ataturk Bulvari, they will pull you over!  And don’t think those dreamy light blue eyes are going to get you out of a ticket either!  Believe me, it’s been tested!  (Perhaps they will in a less populated area though).

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17 thoughts on “Getting Around

  1. Human google: ask five people for directions and average their response. It’s how I negotiated Turkey. Cops won’t pull you over in Istanbul, but they certainly will on the road from Efes to Pamukkale if your husband is speeding while you’re napping in the front seat. Not that I know or anything. 😉

  2. This is a really interesting post and one that I can whole heartedly agree with based on my experiences in Istanbul. It’s interesting that you have these thoughts about Ankara. I just started Andrew Finkel’s “What Everyone Needs to Know about Turkey”. He talks about the differences between Istanbul and Ankara and says that because of a city ordinance culs-de-sac were forbidden. There are “no back alleys” and instead they tried to create “European-style boulevards.”

    I haven’t spent too much time in the city but from being there my experience would be that even if that is what the city planners were doing it certainly didn’t make the navigation of those “European-style boulevards” any easier!

    • Ahahaha! European boulevards? Riiiiiight. Perhaps small European streets (alley-like), you know, those that are thousands of years old? We have new streets going in that you can barely get a car down. Parking on the sidewalks.

  3. Oh yes, finding a place and directions in Turkey. I’ve been through the same here in Istanbul. Ask a Turk and they may or may not know, but will still proceed to give you directions. “Uc yuz metre sonra.” Ha! 😉 What I really like is when a Turk will walk with me the whole way and help me find the place. My google maps on my Android cell phone is pretty good and I use it all the time. Also, when taxis or my husband go down the wrong way on a one-way street, I don’t even mind anymore. Burası Türkiye!

    • Hi Joy! You brought up a very good point. It is a rare occurrence that someone will admit to not knowing the directions. We have had that happen too. They just give bogus directions. The biggest problem I have found with Google maps is between cities. They often send you to the old route instead of the new highways, so you have to watch the signs. Of course, I prefer the back road route.

  4. . . road maps are on a war-footing in Turkey – there are roads shown where none exist and where they do they don’t (if you get my point). I’m surprised there are direction signs at all what with the risk of invasion tomorrow – ‘aiding the enemy’ don’t you know!

  5. I have always thought that Ankara was one of the easiest, but a week ago, a friend of mine who lives in İzmir told me that it was impossible for him to find his way in Ankara because roads did not reach sea, and I said “yes, but the sea is in our heart and this is how we find our way” 🙂

    How long have you been here? The reason why I am asking is because we have the same problem with the numbers given to the streets (and ‘new’ names) too, which is caused by the municipality for several reasons (it might be the one that has affected us the least though). We didn’t have that problem before. Now, we have two addresses for example and never know which one to use.

    Great topic by the way, there is a lot to say about this.

    • That’s a great story about the sea. I like the idea that I use Atakule to find home. But in reality, I can’t find it most of the time because of the hills. I used to pride myself on having a great sense of direction, but I’m confused here in Ankara. I have been here 3 years. I am just starting to get that “sense” back without aids. I assume I know about the old/new streets because people often still use the old number and I’ve seen where websites will list both. I also believe Google may have still been capturing the old numbers three years ago. I don’t remember anymore.

  6. The old name of Uğur Mumcu Cad. was Köroğlu… now the Köroğlu Cad. is somewhere in the same area… Its simply ridiculous. Just make sure you have the name of the street and of the area it is located, that makes things a lot easier 🙂 .

    • I agree. Neighborhood and the name of the street “in Turkish”. We have the same at hope. Street names are changed to honor someone. Even more confusing is when a street name changes as you drive along, like Eskişehir Yolu is also İnönü Caddesi and Dumlupınar Bul. We have that in the State as well. But it’s just confusing!

  7. Hi Terry! Back in Ankara..and now, with a car, I am challenged to find anything that is not METU or Bilkent…Where did you find that great map that is on your post? I’d love to connect with you again!

    • Viviana! Hos Geldin! Glad to hear from you. i believe that map came from one of the hotels. I got it from someone who was leaving. I’m sure I have other maps as well. My schedule has changed. My phone has not. Give a holler when you are in the neighborhood!

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