In many parts in Europe you can find Turkish truckers, who might be heading to Istanbul. Watch out for Turkish number plates beginning with 34, the city code for Istanbul, however a high proportion of all trucks heading for the Asian side of Turkey still have to go through Istanbul.
From the west
Trucks are banned from entering the city during rush hours (morning: ?, evening: about 17:00-22:00), and even when they can proceed through the city, there are few places to stop. Therefore it is highly likely that your driver will let you out at the Mahmutbey toll booths. There are two ways to the centre from here. Note that there are no ATMs on the outskirts of Istanbul. If you have no Turkish money, the driver may let you travel for free, or a friendly local may pay for you; arrive with some Turkish lira in your pocket to not be reliant on the kindness of strangers.
One option is to walk to the side road to the right of the motorway, then turn to the first or second street to your right (the wide one). From the bus stop about 200 m down that street, take bus 89M "Zeytinburnu Metro", which will cost around 2 Turkish lira (~ €0.80) (see section below on Public transport). From Zeytinburnu there is an extensive choice of public transportation into the city such as trams to Sultanahmet, buses to Taksim/Beyoğlu (93C), or the Metrobüs heading for the Asian side across the Bosphorus.
Another option, from close to the motorway toll booth, are the frequent minibuses to Topkapı or Yenibosna, from which you can find transportation further into the centre.
A third option is possible if your driver is going to the Asian side of Istanbul. If he will cross the bridge Fatih Sultan Mehmet kuprusu. ask him to drop you at the last exit before the bridge's toll booth, which is right after you pass the new stadium. if you walk/hitch down that road, very soon you will arrive at a metro station, which will take you directly to Taksim.
Generally, you can just start hitching anywhere in the city center. Just walk to the nearest highway and stick your thumb out. It might need a few lifts until you get out of the border, but given that you hardly ever wait more than 10 minutes for a lift, it can be faster than public transport.
Taksim Square in the center of the European part of Istanbul is chosen as a starting point for the upcoming description due to the fact that there the most bus lines of the European side start and end.
There are several ways to get out of the city centre and onto the main highway. If you stop a car that is not going a long distance, then it is best to aim for the Mahmutbey toll booths in the northwest of Istanbul where the E80 really begins. From here, it is possible to stop long-distance cars and trucks. Strictly speaking, pedestrians are not permitted here; if a bored traffic police officer asks you to leave, but ignore him and feign misunderstanding, and walk a few metres away and thumb.
You can take bus 83O* from Taksim Square to the big bus station Bayrampaşa Otogar on the European side, which is just along the motorway to Edirne / Bulgaria. Take the bus to the last stop, get off and walk back to the entrance. From there, you'll be hitching directly along the motorway. A sign works well here, and there is plenty of space for drivers to pull over since a lot of buses and minibuses stop for passengers just outside). While exiting, you'll notice a petrol station to your right that is a possible alternative starting point where you can ask drivers for lifts (or just use the toilet).
Hitchhikers experience: we don't understand what means when you write "last stop". And turkish people didn't understand when you try to explain them that you whant to get out of the city to highway. They offer to you their buses. It's easier to take bus from this bus station to the nearest village Catalca, get out before bus turn to Catalca.
Get into the metro at Taksim Square and take a train towards Atatürk Oto Sanayi. This is currently the last station for the trains departing from Taksim. One ticket costs 2,00 TL (~0,80 Euro), or 1.75 TL with an prepay "akbil". At the Sanayi Mahallesi station (not to be confused with Atatürk Oto Sanayi which is the last station en route), get out of the Metro. You will find yourself along the Büyükdere Caddesi avenue. Walk along the main street direction north (watch out for big signs that are leading drivers to the motorway to Edirne. After 3-4 min and passing a military camp you'll see the on-ramp. Unfortunately, there is no way to cross the street from right to left then by attempting suicide, because the main street is mostly full of fast traffic. If you are not brave enough to do so, walk another 10 min further and cross the street over a bridge and walk back the way along the other side.
Or better, you may get off the metro at İTÜ-Ayazağa station (the first one after Sanayi Mahallesi), cross the street on an pedestrian overpass close to that station's exit and then walk south for about 10 min to get to the on ramp to the motorway. You will have to walk past the military park on the right side of the road, and then you will see the big motorway below.
Go somewhat down the ramp and you can find a good spot to stand and stop cars. Also try to get short lifts (even some kilometres can help in Istanbul).
Other buses pass the toll booth. One is 98H from Bakırköy, a suburb in the west.
From Yenikapı, near Sultanahmet, one can take bus 146T and get off at the stop just after the bus turns north into the suburb Başakşehir. From the bus stop, you can walk a couple of hundred metres down to the toll booth (there is a handy gap in the fence).
Take the suburban train (banliyö treni) from the very city center (Sirkeci) towards Halkali. It's only 2.00 lira. Get off at Küçükçekmece. If the train station is 6 o'clock, walk in the direction of 12 o'clock in order to find the on ramp towards Tekirdag. This is the same road that will take you directly to Greece, although you will still be well within the congested motorways of suburban Istanbul. Be aware that you cannot cross this border walking! You have to find somebody to take you across. Knowing German will help you a lot to explain that you need help to cross the border due to many drivers with a Turkish-German background.
- Hitchhikers experience: I took the train to Küçükçekmece like I read on here, and found the highway. To my dismay it was impossible to hitch. After walking 2 miles, hoping there would be a spot for people to pull off, there was nothing. I noticed these buses that road in the middle of the highway, and decided to take one down the road. After two stops, it was the end of the line. Fortunately, there was a huge spot to hitchhike. For anyone who goes this way, I highly recommend taking the bus the whole way instead of trying to walk like I did. Or, use another method to hitch. - Jon
Another way to get to city's western outskirts is to take the metro from Aksaray close to Sultanahmet in the old city centre, and ride it till Yenibosna station (2.0 TL pp, roughly €0.80). Then, take the public bus #448 (Yenibosna Metro-Mimarsinan; an extra 2.00 TL pp), which departs from the stops right next to metro station. You will ride this bus for a long time, roughly an hour, until where it quits the motorway west and turns to right in a cloverleaf interchange near the village of Mimarsinan, where the bus eventually heads. Get off at the stop right at the very location bus turns right, this is where as much west as you can get on Istanbul's public transportation. Then walk a bit further from the junction, and start thumbing. Hitchhiker Vidimian tried this route in 2002 or 2003, when he wasn't very experienced at hitchhiking. The first lift offer arrived so late (after about 2 hours of thumbing) and the following lifts were so short (and, again, late) that he could make it to Tekirdağ, a mere 120 km away from this hitching spot, after the night falls, despite starting early in the morning.
For those who rather not try hitchhiking through the overgrown western suburbs of the city, a slightly more expensive but a lot easier way to follow this westbound route to Greece may be to take the morning train to Muratlı from Sirkeci station in central Istanbul, and then hitch your way forward to Greece via Tekirdağ from there. See Muratlı article for full details.
Once you have passed the border, try to stay in the car which took you through, as the first 20-30 km on the Greek side is one of the worst places to hitchhike in Europe. Local people there are afraid of stories about immigrants from Iran and Afghanistan etc. so it's especially hard to get a ride. It took hitchhiker Lapulevel a full day to get out of this area—and that wasn't simply a shortage of luck as that happened twice!
East and south towards Ankara, Black Sea coast, Antalya
For going east there are different options:
- From parking on motorway O4
Take ferry to Kadıköy on Asian side. Next to the ferry terminal there is a bus terminal where you can take bus 19, 19C or 19Y. Get off at the stop Ferhatpaşa (you will see a road going in a circle like a big roundabout). From there walk northeast until you get to the motorway O4 Anadolu Otoyolu. There is a fence along the motorway but it has many holes, so getting to the other side is not difficult. Once you get to the parking area, you can ask around or make a big sign and show it at parking area's exit to the drivers passing by on the motorway, so they can stop on a merge lane. There's one small restaurant in the parking area where many drivers stop for a short break.
- From Şekerpınar close to Gebze
Get on the 111, 112 or 200 and stay on the bus almost all the way to the last stop (get off approximately two or three stops before).
You are now located a little bit south of the O4 (E80) heading East towards Ankara. You will need to walk a little bit northwards in order to reach a ramp. There is a bus stop on the on-ramp. You can hitch out from there unto the O4 (E80) going East.
Most people who will take you might just drive for another 10km or so. There are lots of petrol stations on the way in this giant suburban maze but chances are only local people stop there. You will have to go for about nearly 20 or 30 km until you will actually be out of the Istanbul metropolis.
If you want to avoid 30km of urban hitch hiking, from the last stop of 112 take bus 134BK (other 134 buses may work as well) which leaves across the road from where 112 ends. Ride until the end and transfer onto 133Ş and ride it until the last stop. You are then in Şekerpınar and can walk the 2km to the main motorway O4 Anadolu Otoyolu.
- From Bostancı Köprüsü (Bostancı Bridge)
From Taksim Square take bus 129T (Taksim - Üst Bostancı line), which, like the other transcontinental bus lines, requires two tickets (3.50 TL). Get off at the leaf-clover interchange called in Turkish Bostancı Köprüsü (literally Bostancı Bridge), close to its last stop. You can recognize the interchange by big signs saying Bostancı and İçerenköy (besides the usual İzmit and Ankara signs) there. Then, after getting off the bus, walk past the interchange until you see a safe shoulder down the road a couple hundred metres away. Start hitching there ready with a sign saying at least ‘Gebze'/'Izmit’, it’ll make you more visible and look like a total hitchhiker. Drivers around here seem to have some concerns about sharing their car with a stranger and looking like a total hitchhiker seems to somewhat ease their anxiety. However, there are also many minibuses heading for Gebze on this road, so hiding your sign when they are passing by and shaking your head both sides when its headlights flash (to ask whether you’d like a ride … for a fee) may prevent some of the unwanted attention. Expect to wait at least 30 minutes until you are offered a lift. Morning hours (approx. between 6:30-8:30) are best since the road is congested at that time and vehicles move slowly, which lets the drivers to think more about taking you in. Beware of the motorcycles by the way, which sometimes illegally drive inside the shoulder and literally skim you over.
There is a petrol station exactly 9km before Izmit where you can be dropped off. It is recognizable for its BP petrol station and Burger King restaurant. Trucks are regularly parked here and bound for all points in Turkey, while sometimes one can even find a lift all the way to neighbouring countries.
- The (free) walking option
While most people would find it more comfortable to take a bus to the outskirts and then start hitchiking there is another, slighlty more challenging, option. Generally it is actually faster to just find a good piece of highway somewhere close to where you stay (even if it's in the centre of Istanbul), get ON the highway and put your thumb up. You are unlikely to wait more than 3-5 minute before a car pulls over (many people don't really mind stopping on the highway) and the police is very unlikely to give you any trouble (they picked Theo up, gave him tea and chocolate-cookies and dropped him of 20 kilometers further down the road)
From Taksim: Walk down Cumhüriyet Caddesi for about 40-50 minutes. It's a big avenue which is easy to find (alternativvely just follow the signs on Taxim for Şisli). After 40-50 minutes you'll see Cevahir shopping center on your right side and that's about 200 meters from where you'll start hitching. If you manage to get lost (hard as it's a big avenue without any real tricky intersection or anything) you should just ask your way to Cevahir shopping center.
After the 40-50 minute walk (about the time when you pass Cevahir shopping center on your right side) you'll see the highway. This is th spot where the Mercidiköy bridge starts and about 70-80 % of the traffic is bound for the Asian side. When you get to the highway (which is actually about 10 meters over you as you are under the bridge) you'll see the Mercidiköy bustation to your left. Turn left,walk 20 meters until you see a small footpath leading up to the highway, climb up, thumb up, and smile at your audience (often about 50-60 people) who are waiting for the Metrobus to come. They might even give you an applause if you just put up a show.
Important: BE PATIENT AND DON'T JUST ACCEPT ANY RIDE. Wait for someone who's going at least past the main intersection in Atesehir (say that you want to go direction Gebze/Izmit on the autoyol). Even though almost no traffic is going far from here it is important that your first ride is gonna take you to the O4 highway after the two highways merges and that may mean declining 1, 2 or 4 rides. Ask to get dropped of at the highway and not at some on-ramp or something even more silly (this is Turkey remember). You may have to repeat it one or two more times before you get out of Istanbul just because of the city's enourmous size.
Alternatively you could wait for a ride to take you across the bridge and get dropped off at the paytolls on the Asian side and find a ride onto the 04 from there.
See Eskihisar for how to get to the ferry jetty on the route and how to get into the ferry for free.
Istanbul has an extensive public transportation system consisting of a metro, trams, buses and metrobuses (buses which run along a special lane in the middle of the road).
On the buses, payment must be made with a prepaid card called an akbil. However, if you try to give the driver money, he will probably just ask another passenger to take your money and pay with his akbil. At metro stations and tram stops, there are machines where you can pay cash to get a token.
There is a community kitchen called "Karacaahmet Sultan Dergahi" on Nuhkuyusu street in Selimiye (Üsküdar, Asian Side), some 200 meters down from Karaca Ahmet Camii (the big mosque). You can just walk in around lunch time and ask for food. They hardly speak English though so maybe you can ask someone to translate a brief note.
Sleeping on the streets of Istanbul can be dangerous acccording to locals, but luckily many people will be willing you to offer a place to sleep. User:Karol Yohan was (attempting to) sleeping in a park in Uskudar when some guys offered him to stay at their place for free. If you really want to have your own camp site, you should check the Princess Islands. The inconvinient is that you will have to pay 3.5 lira to get there (or maybe not?). There is a good beach which is deserted in Burgazada, just exit the ferry and walk to the right side. When you pass an cemetery look at the right side of the road for some stairs leading to a desert beach. The beach has very low activity and you can camp there. User:Karol Yohan stayed there for a week in October 2012. Beach is a bit poluted but has a great view.
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