Friday, September 23, 2011

Driving Rental Cars In Turkey

Driving in foreign countries can be enjoyable, interesting, challenging, and, we wonder, whether it can lead to an Interpol arrest warrant.

We've twice rented a car so far on this visit in Turkey. The rental process, itself, differed greatly from what we experience in U.S. airports. Both times, a person met us as we walked out of the terminal with the car. One time, we dropped the guy off. This second time, we drove to the cramped manufactured structure several kilometers away at a big gas station where we had to conduct business outside because there was no room inside.

Almira rentals provided us a car that is kind of a beater. Well, it IS a beater: worn seats, not the best tires, and a chipped windshield. When it rained, we learned that the windshield wipers need replacing. Although we had a pre-arranged deal, it was in Euros. But they could not take a credit card for Euros and wanted to charge us in Turkish Lira at an exchange rate that we questioned. Eventually, we negotiated a cash dollar exchange rate we liked better.

We've noticed that some of the street signs seem to be aspirational. People sometimes roll right through stop signs or turn right against the no right turn sign. In fact the right turn violation we witnessed occurred directly in front of a “Polis” car, which ignored it. A couple of times, on not-busy divided highways, we've seen people drive against the traffic on the shoulder, saving miles and gas compared to if they actually drove the correct direction and made a u-turn.

Driving is a great way to get off the beaten path and see great expanses of the country. Turkey has very diverse lands. Today, we drove through broad valleys with high hillsides covered in olive trees and conifers. Yesterday, we stayed at a place that looked like it was set in the Tuscany hillsides, with terraced hillsides covered with fruit and olive orchards.

Unfortunately, we do not always comprehend the local practices. In the little town of Urgup, we parked near the main square. When we returned, we had a slip that looked like a parking charge or ticket for 13.00 TL, about $9. When we turned the car in, we asked the guy about it, and he seemed to indicate it was no problem. (Although we're not always sure that those with whom we speak fully comprehend what we are asking.) Yesterday, when we approached the toll road on ramp, we took the side that, APPEARED to have a booth. But it was just a machine for people who had the frequent use cards, which we did not have. We figured we'd have some explaining to do when it was time to exit. When we reached the next big toll area, again, there was no obvious place to go and no people in booths. After slowing down to try to figure out best option, and hoping no truck would slam into our beatermobile, we went through the place with no wooden barrier. The siren shot off, but only momentarily. Dutifully, we pulled off to see if someone would approach so we could start our explaining. When no one appeared, we drove off. We'll see if a camera got the license and will trace to us. Fortunately, we did not pay by credit card, so, perhaps, the crappy rental car business will not be able to charge us.

I assume Interpol does not deal with parking violations and stealing a few miles on a toll road. So, we can focus, instead, on dealing with the traffic and the side streets. One narrow lane last evening provided some entertainment. It was very steep and paved with slate. Allyson got about half way up when gravity exerted more force than beatermobile, with its tires could counter, kind of like trying to climb an icy hill. But we survived that and a later place where she did about a 10-point turn to get on our way.

Part of the fun of traveling are the little unexpected adventures in between the hoped-for highlights.

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