Three hours to get out the port! Had to buy Turkish car insurance – even though we were already insured, they wouldn’t accept it. This entailed entering Turkey as foot passengers, buying insurance, reentering the customs building, lots of queuing, more cash to be paid, customs checks and three hours later we finally got on the road, heading to Ankara!
Taking a Republic of Cyprus registered car from Cyprus into Turkey.
When planning our trip, we checked with our insurers that our European “green card” paperwork covered Turkey as TU was crossed out in the coverage grid. We were assured that the crossed out countries were covered but that the crossing out simply indicated third party cover only. More on this later. We planned to cross from Kyrenia (Girne) to Tasucu and booked a return trip on the only roll-on-roll-off service Akgunler.
So we set off and entered the Turkish Occupied Northern part of Cyprus, purchasing insurance for that short section of the journey at the Metahan (35°10’55.4″N 33°19’23.2″E) border crossing; there’s an office situated just before the passport control.
On arrival at the Girne harbour we followed the arrows for cars and parked just outside the passenger terminal. We found that Akgunler ticket office in a separate building to the left, upstairs. We exchanged our travel agent voucher for our outward tickets and also ensured we collected our return tickets which was a condition of our voucher.
As we had been unable to book a cabin (there are only 3 or 4) we also “upgraded” to business class for 40 Euros, don’t bother, it doesn’t seem to exist on the ferry itself! The teller then asked to see our customs papers from the Republic of Cyprus. We had no idea what she was talking about. Apparently when crossing from the Republic we should have declared that we were taking the vehicle off the Island and obtained some paperwork (apparently printed on yellow paper). Anyway, she simply photocopied our vehicle registration document and stamped it and said we needed to present that copy later, at the customs booth.
We then asked, ‘what next’ and were told that only the driver of the vehicle could be in the car to board and that passengers have to board as foot passengers. It transpired later that some people did not follow this rule. Anyway, Ann went off to the passenger terminal with her ticket and passport and Cliff drove the car towards the embarkation area.
The “queuing” for embarkation is chaotic, no marked lanes, or if there were, no one respected them. Cars were jostling along with motorcycles and heavy trucks and unless you position your vehicle within a few centimetres of the next someone will force their way through. How no damage was done is nothing short of a miracle. There were no instructions to be seen but a friendly policemen told me I had to present my passport at an office before passing through the currently closed gate.
I found a queue at a window on the opposite side of a little kiosk window. Well, more a jostling crowd than a queue. Anyway my passport was stamped and I paid 6 euros for the privilege. Make sure you have the correct change.
I then returned to my car, squeezing through the small gaps between vehicles and manoeuvred my way into my constrained and therefore partially opened driver’s door.
Eventually the gate opened and every one jostled to get through it first. This was hampered by about one third of the vehicles stopping at the gate, the driver leaving and locking his car to go and pay his 6 euros and get his passport stamped!
Once through, the customs booth is about 50 metres further on and all non-Turkish vehicles were stopping there to hand in their customs paperwork. I handed over my photocopied registration document without any problems.
There were no security checks made of my vehicle.
With no clear signage to the Ferry, I tried to follow other vehicles but they went to the other end of the ship from what I took to be the vehicle loading ramp so I went for that, showed my ticket and was directed to board. There is only one vehicle door so once boarded you have to make a 180 degree turn and are then directed to park. They get you to park the vehicles with almost no space between them, only just enough to squeeze past.
I locked the car and again with no signage and very constrained passageways, I found a small door leading to steep metal stairs and climbed two stories to the passenger area. Once there it was like going back to the 1970s ferry conditions and I went in search of Ann.
Meanwhile Ann, had waited to board in the passenger terminal. She went in to the big hall and waited. There is a café in the hall, I suggest you take advantage and get a drink while you can. After waiting around a long time, the customs and police go to the booths between the big hall and the room with the duty free kiosk.
There were some x-ray machines where people had left their luggage. Ann did not queue for these, she only had her handbag so she went and joined the queue for the passports. After a while of wondering whether she should queue for the x-ray machines or not she just decided to go through the passport booths! From there you pass through the building exit and you can see the docked ship and the open cargo door.
Not knowing if it was the way to board, Ann walked up the vehicle ramp and then up a second ramp for passengers on the left as you enter the ship itself. At the second door along the ramp Ann mounted some steps to the passenger deck. She then walked forward to the ‘TV’ lounge with reclining type seats (we never discovered whether they did actually recline!). There was open access to this area and very loud horror films were screened until 2am which is when the ship departed. We never did find anything labelled ‘business class’. Unsurprisingly considering the chaotic boarding process, we set off over 2 hours late.
Be prepared, the air-conditioning in the ship is wholly inadequate and the toilets are not brilliant (worse for the men than women I think, Cliff said they were disgusting) but there is paper for the girls at least. Take plenty of drink and some food if you want some. They do water, soft drinks, coffee and toast (toasted cheese sandwich we think) but we didn’t fancy the hygiene standards and didn’t risk eating or drinking anything except bottled water.
We slept fitfully but awoke to see a lovely sunny day as we cruised past the Turkish coastline, approaching Tasucu. We berthed at about 8.30.
Driving off the ship and up the ramp (1), in the absence of any signage we followed others to a parking area (2) to the right of the terminal building. We saw there was already a larger rabble of passengers around the passenger entrance. We walked towards that with all of our documentation. After a short time trying to work out what to do we found an office (3) right at the end of the outside of the building for “car importation”. We queued. We got to the kiosk window (right side) only to be told that window was only for Turkish papers. So we queued at the other window (left side).
Our papers we examined and we are asked for insurance. We showed our “green card” papers and they questioned the crossing out of “TU”. They would not accept our claim that it meant we had third party cover in Turkey and we were told to go and buy insurance. We asked where and they said “outside”. We worked out we had to pass through passport control inside the building as foot passengers, go to an office to buy insurance, re-enter the secure side to begin the process all over again. So we went through the passport control booths (4) and got our passports stamped. Even if we had had the insurance we would have had to pass through the passport checks and then return to get to our car.
We left the terminal building and followed others across to a small building (5) where we made out a sign saying “insurance”. Entering that building, we walked up and down a small corridor before finding a plain closed door marked “bureau”. Slowly opening this we discovered a small melee of people around a young man at his desk selling insurance. We bought 3-months insurance cover for 250 TL as we plan to return in September, this took the very last of our TL cash (cards not accepted). I think a one-month term is 180 TL. We returned to the terminal building without security checks or challenge of any kind.
We queued again for the vehicle registration kiosk and eventually got the required stamp / papers to take the vehicle into Turkey, or so we thought.
Upon returning to our car we were then challenged by a customs officer and found that we had to pay a further 40TL at yet another booth (6) for “port tax”. Having no TL we took Euros in the hope that they would be accepted. They were. They don’t take cards either.
Once again we returned to our car and then another customs officer wanted us to show him everything in our heavily packed car, checking for imported goods and “sales samples”. He rooted around all of our stuff until, satisfied, he told us we could go.
Again there is no signage but we worked out we had to leave to the right (7) of the car parking area and we followed the port perimeter to another passport check before eventually getting underway at about 11.30am. We were now well behind schedule but had just about enough time to make it to Ankara for mid-evening.
A couple of other tips. If you are planning to drive in Bulgaria, or Slovenia you will need to purchase a road tax “Vignette”. Basically sold at service stations they are stickers for your windscreen for the equivalent of a few euros. You have to buy a minimum period, either a week (Bulgaria, 8 Euros) or a month (Slovenia, 30 Euros). There are heavy penalties if you don’t have one so buy one at the first service station you come across.