I did it! – Driving to Fethiye

Having decided to settle here, and bought a property, you then think about bringing things out from UK.  I talked to several people who were less than satisfied with the shipping companies they’d employed:  items lost or broken en route; high level of import charge at Turkish Customs in Izmir; cost of transport from docks to home in Fethiye.  So in 2004 I decided to drive out with most of my worldly goods in a 1997 Suzuki Grand Vitara.  It took exactly one week and I would recommend it to anyone.  In fact I’ll be doing it again in July this year – with the rest of my belongings.

You need to check current legal requirements with regard to safety equipment in car.  Last year Turkey said you should carry a First Aid kit; two red warning triangles and a fire extinguisher – but that could have changed.  The AA website is a good source of information www.theaa.com.

Also you need Green Card Insurance to cover you for all countries you’ll pass through plus Turkey.  If your insurer won’t cover you for Turkey (mine was Tesco and they did, but apparently some won’t) you can buy the cover when you get off the ferry at Cesme near Izmir.  If you follow my route you’ll be driving through France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy – make sure you’re covered for those countries.

I spent considerable time printing off a range of routes from websites and studying them with the aid of my AA Road Atlas – Europe.  Deciding whether to take the quickest route and pay road tolls, or the scenic route saving money on tolls but spending more on fuel because the route is much longer.  I finally opted for the quick route and, in the event I needn’t have bothered with all my planning.  Shortly after landing at Calais I pulled into a motorway rest stop and met an Italian long-distance lorry driver who taught me the route – and it works.  So for Calais – Ancona (where you catch the ferry) you just follow the signs for:

Reims – Metz – Nancy – Strasbourg – Zurich – St Gotthard – Lugano – Milano – Bologna – Ancona.

Don’t panic, you are not going on a downtown tour of major European cities.  These are all motorway signs and you don’t enter any of the above places unless you want to, until you get to Ancona.  As soon as you reach the turn off for Reims you’ll see signs for Metz and so on.

The only real problem I encountered was on the first day in France.  I’d presumed all motorways were like UK and service areas more or less all had motels.  I was wrong.  I drove across northern France on a beautiful, empty road with not a motel to be found.  Hence I did go into Strasbourg to find somewhere to stay for the night, but the city was hosting a major arts festival and all the beds were booked.  A helpful receptionist sent me to a motel about 30 miles off my route just outside Baden-Baden where I stayed.  This search for accommodation made for a very long first day, almost 10 hours driving, and next time I intend to leave the motorway at Nancy and stay there on the first night.

However, that long first day meant the rest of the journey was easy.  I spent the second night on the outskirts of Milan having sailed through Switzerland and was in Ancona by early afternoon on day three.

There are Turkish-owned ferries running April – November from Ancona to Cesme near Izmir.  They sail on Saturday and Wednesday.  I took the Saturday boat which left at 10.30pm and arrived in Cesme at 6am the following Tuesday – three nights and two days on board.  However, it was definitely a mini-cruise holiday after the driving and, compared to the Dover – Calais crossing extremely good value.  Crossing to France without prior booking cost me £125.10 and took under two hours.  The Ancona – Cesme ferry was £289 but that included bed and breakfast for three nights.  I sailed at the end of May when the ferry was only about one third full so I had a 4-berth cabin, en suite, all to myself.  There are several types of accommodation down to a ‘Pullman’ (chair alternative to bed) which is much cheaper than the price I paid.  Full details of ferry timetables and costs can be found on www.ferries.itgo.com.

There is a much shorter ferry route from Brindisi to Cesme in high season which only takes around 30 hours.

The ferry I travelled on had three bars, two restaurants, cinema, hairdresser, disco and was very comfortable.  The staff were all Turkish and, when I sailed, there were only a few non-Turks on the boat. 

You book your ferry crossing at an office in Ancona harbour and even in peak season you shouldn’t have a problem getting on the ferry.  Before departure you have to go to the Passport Police in the same harbour office complex and get an exit stamp in your passport.  Ancona is a very busy port with ferries constantly coming and going to various places in Greece and countries from the former Yugoslavia.  I found it difficult to park safely while buying tickets; getting passport stamped, etc.  However, if you aren’t alone one person can stay with the vehicle while the other(s) do all the paperwork.

Be warned the loading process at Ancona was chaotic with drivers fighting to get on board which seemed especially silly when the boat was less than half booked.  I just hung back from the jam and let it go then was waved on board with no problem.  When you park on the car deck you have to surrender your car registration document, insurance and passport.  I was told this was so all formalities could be completed during the voyage to save time at Cesme.  I was a bit dubious about handing over all my precious documentation, but all paperwork was handed back on the evening before we landed with the addition of a signed and stamped triptych that gave the vehicle 180 days in Turkey.

Formalities at Cesme still took some time, an hour or so, but I was out of the harbour and on my way to Fethiye before 9am.  The Customs didn’t even look in my vehicle.  It takes about 5 – 6 hours to drive here from Cesme.

The whole journey took almost exactly one week.  I left home in Greater Manchester early Tuesday afternoon and arrived at my new home outside Fethiye the following Tuesday at 2pm.

In 2005             Ancona – Cesme ferries will run 3 April – 25 November

                        Brindisi – Cesme ferries run 28 June – 8 September.

Contributor – PT