Continuing our recent theme of posting about how we use maps we thought it might be useful to some blog readers to hear a little about our experiences using and buying maps of Turkey. If you are planning a route through Turkey by bicycle then hopefully our experiences below will convince you to pick-up a good quality map before you get to Turkey.
When we arrived in Turkey crossing the border to Edirne we followed our familiar pattern of settling in a reasonably sized town and hitting the streets to buy a map of the country before plotting our onward journey. After a few hours fruitless searching through bookstores, we got some advice from the local tourist information who told us that there would be no good quality maps available until we reached Istanbul. We decided it was worth Justin cycling back to Greece to pick up a map we remembered seeing the previous day in a gas station. At the time we thought this seemed like overkill but were also nervous of navigating without a map. The 1:800 000 Marco Polo brand map we purchased has turned out to be one of our most valuable belongings over the last couple of months in Turkey and we have often wished we purchased a few extra copies to hand out to other cycle tourists.
Our cycle trip from Edirne to Istanbul and then subsequent cycling to Cappadocia via central Anatolia was made all the more enjoyable knowing that we had a reliable and well produced map at hand. Even with the map we had we still managed to take what turned out to be a spectacular wrong turn but this is more down to our inattention to the map than any problems with its quality.
When we returned to Istanbul to spend the winter working on gear and plotting our onward route we began to host other cycle tourists and talk to them about route planning through Turkey. To date all of the cycle tourists we have met in Istanbul have been travelling with either no map or a low quality locally produced map.
We went map shopping with our first guest Mike, finally settling on a map with an 1:800 000 scale that seemed to show at least the minor white and yellow roads of our Marco Polo map. Mike has since reported that the map has not been all the great:
Mike Quinlan on November 2nd, 2010
In the digital map world, Google and Bing maps both seem fairly accurate however if you rely heavily on Google maps its worth noting that You Tube is blocked in Turkey and I have heard some reports that certain ISP’s implement the blocking in such a way that Google Maps is also affected. We had our Garmin GPS returned to us after it got broken in Serbia a few weeks back and so far our experimentation with its mapping of Istanbul has shown it to be accurate as you would expect from a mapping product with such a hefty price tag.
To our knowledge there doesn’t seem to be a good paper alternative to the low quality maps anywhere in Istanbul, but as this is of frequent frustration for cycle tourists we’d love to be proven wrong. Be in touch if you know of any secret map stashes or if you can think of a good conspiracy to explain for the poor map standards we’ve found.
We are off to Greece for a few days tomorrow (12 November 2010), so if you are a cycle tourist on your way to (or currently in) Istanbul and you need a better map please get in touch and we will see if we can pick up a few spare Turkey maps while we’re out of no-map land.