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Bringing your UK vehicle into Turkey. The facts

Submitted by Bodrum Bulletin reader Tony

Of all the questions asked by those who come to settle here in Turkey, this is the one that crops up with the most frequency, often in internet forums and in my own case personally and on an almost daily basis. This is simply because I happen to have kept my trusty old UK transport here with me in Turkey for some time now.

It’s easy to see why people are so interested. As anybody who has researched the local market will tell you, used vehicles are disproportionately expensive here, particularly compared with their UK equivalents. There is a simple reason for this, annual road tax on Turkish cars is calculated on a gradually diminishing basis using a mathematical computation based on engine capacity and age, and it can be exorbitant by UK standards.

So logically, a small economical 5 year old vehicle becomes considerably cheaper to run than a new car and for this reasn, depending upon mileage and condition, retains its market value. By 10 years, the tax liability becomes a whole lot lighter and a good example of a particular marque can be so sought after that its used value often defies credibility.

Thus, the understandable default position for most of us is to consider driving ‘old faithful’ across Europe and into Turkey.

It is possible to do this but before you read any further, take the fact firmly on board that it is not straightforward. In fact in certain cases it is downright convoluted and in most cases, it’s just not a viable option. I’m not going to go into the vagaries of routes and borders here, that’s a whole other topic... but here is the bottom line if you are considering importing your car... in the vast proportion of cases, you may as well forget it.

What follows here is a quick look at the ‘unless’ factor.

I have been through this and hopefully with this article, I can put this subject to bed for you once and for all so you can happily save yourself a little mental energy which could clearly be put to better use navigating all the other bureaucratic minefields, they are in plentiful supply after all.

So, here goes. There are essentially three ways of bringing a foreign vehicle into this country. The first is the obvious one, simply stump up the duty and apply to Turkish customs to import your vehicle. I said ‘simply’, but it isn’t actually that simple at all. You will find it difficult to get a straight answer from customs and when you eventually do, you will find that the duty payable is a staggering sum (proportionate of course to the value of your car here in Turkey). So I am going to restrict this first point to a paragraph... because trust me, you will eventually obtain the figure you seek and won’t even entertain the idea unless you are either certifiably insane or your family car has the sentimental value of the Crown Jewels.

The second is a little less complicated, it’s known as the six month rule (or rather it is as I write this) and it is aimed at visitors. You are allowed to bring a foreign vehicle into this country for six months (180 days) and you are fined heavily if you overstay. Your vehicle details will be appended in thickly scrawled ink to one of the pages of your passport at whichever border checkpoint you pitch up at, the date of entry will be stamped in and the important point to remember here is that the vehicle must leave Turkey whenever you do.

This fact only becomes a problem when considered in the light of your visitors’ visa. If you can stay for six continuous months by way of your visa or residency then you don’t have a problem, if you need to be out of the country in less time than this... then you do. Placing the car on a ferry to one of the Greek islands may be an extreme option in certain cases, but as a general rule it is a prohibitively expensive one.

There is one other important caveat to remember and it is this, having left Turkey, your car must be out of the country for a full six months before you can re enter with it, and this occasion will be your last. You will not be allowed to bring the vehicle in for a third time and there are no exceptions.

Now to the third option. This is the one of which I personally availed and you will probably not be surprised to learn that this one isn’t easy either. This is my own experience of it, it isn’t intended as definitive advice and I can personally attest to the fact that the regulations surrounding it are in a constant state of flux... so you need to do your homework but depending on certain conditions, it may be a cost effective option for some.

Turkish customs regulations provide exceptions to their normal vehicle import policy for retired foreigners who are officially resident here and in receipt of a government pension. This is known as the ‘Blue Carnet’ scheme. The key word is ‘government’ here. It logically means that you need to supply details of your state pension if you have one, or if your employment pension is paid by a government department (such as, say the armed forces or civil service) then you will be eligible, but you will need a headed letter from your pension department explaining your pension entitlements in detail, I would suggest that you get them to include the statutory instrument by which your entitlement is underwritten, thus avoiding any element of doubt that the pension is government funded and thus enshrined in law. The wording of your letter is therefore crucial as it will be translated, so it is a good idea to establish a friendly rapport with somebody in your pensions department.

This part of the paperwork is handled by the Turkish Turing Department which is a little like our AA/RAC and you can find their website at http://www.turing.org.tr/eng/mavikarne.asp. I would suggest dealing with the Istanbul office via email for your initial enquiries as they do have some helpful English speaking staff. (In later practice, you will be dealing with the Izmir office but I’ll come to that presently). It is also eminently sensible to run scanned copies of any covering letters by the Istanbul Turing office for advice before you embark upon your application, you do not want to have them rejected during the final stages.

Now allow me to thrust you back into the real world. This is not for the feint hearted, it involves full translation and notarisation of all your letters and documents and the arrangement of a bank guarantee letter... the object of this being to ring fence a certain amount of money within your Turkish bank account in favour of the customs department in case you decide to sell your car here and/or skip the country (don’t ask, I didn’t make the rules).

The alternative to this is that you lodge the same amount with customs on a future refundable basis but I think most people can work out why this is not the most favourable option. Although the bank guarantee sounds difficult if you have no experience of it, it isn’t really... the amount required and the format of the letter will be notified to you by the Turing office and your bank will (quelle surprise!) make an annual charge.

The other documents you will require are listed on the Turing website, driving licence, V5 etc, you will find that the translation into English is not exactly concise but it is enough to give you the information you will need. All these documents of course need to be translated and notarised, which can be done at any of your local notary offices.

The most difficult part now involves a trip to Izmir with your paperwork. I need to make a straightforward and candid observation here and I strongly recommend that you heed it. You will absolutely not be able to manage this unless your Turkish is fluent. I’ll deal with your options and a little rationale shortly but suffice it to say that It involves being flicked like a pinball around endless offices within the Izmir Customs complex where your vehicle will be examined, documented, re examined and you will pay little sums of money at each stage without ever really knowing why. Paperwork is ultimately sent to the police in the area in which you reside... following which you test (MOT) the car, your number plates are issued and the whole ordeal is over for two years.
You are allowed to stay on these ‘visitors plates’ for two years or until your residency permit expires, whichever is the sooner, following which you must return to Izmir to renew it... there is a charge (currently 500TL for 2 years), and I must say that the renewal part is a much more straightforward process... so the trick obviously lies in getting through the initial application.

I completed the initial part some five years ago and at the time could only manage to locate a translator/agent from Istanbul who operated in both Izmir and Istanbul. I can tell you that even with his assistance the experience was something of an ordeal and the truth is that his services were not that impressive (although I freely confess that I could not have done it without him) and were very expensive.

It is therefore probably worth mentioning that on the last occasion of my renewal, I was put in touch with another gentleman among whose numerous advantages were the following a) He is a native of Izmir b) He knows Bodrum well and frequently visits c) He has lived in the UK for over 20 years and so his English is excellent d) He has experience working in the shipping industry in Izmir and a working knowledge of customs procedure and most importantly e)He was very reasonably priced and helpful, particularly since some of the initial paperwork can now be sent to him in Izmir by courier. This man’s name is Berkan, I found him very pleasant to deal with and you can contact him if you need to on 05301143084. There may be other individuals specialising in this area but I do not know of them.

Your other option may simply be to bring a Turkish speaking friend with you, I personally think that this option would very much depend on the friend and his or her experience and aptitude at dealing with this particular type of officialdom and bureaucracy, it is difficult to exaggerate what a character building experience this really is.

So why do it? Well, my own rationale worked like this. Granted, you have one, perhaps two days if you are unlucky, of a bureaucratic ‘comedy macabre’ ahead of you. But it is not difficult to work out how much you can potentially save between the loss you will inevitably make on your UK vehicle and the extra you will have to find to purchase the equivalent of it here in Turkey, that is of course assuming that you are happy to trust the source and providence of a used model here at all. The other option is of course to buy new.

I simply asked myself this. How much would I be happy to accept as payment for travelling to Izmir for a day and doing a little bothersome but hardly backbreaking work? Well, that of course depends on the individual, but If your potential saving represents a pretty good take for a day’s business and you pride yourself on a ‘get this done’ attitude, then this may well be an option for you.

Finally, a couple of things as a footnote. You may have heard that you must surrender your vehicle to customs every time you leave Turkey and this indeed used to be the case. However, I have written repeatedly to the British Embassy on this point and though I claim no credit for it, I was informed early last year that this particularly pointless regulation had been repealed and that you are now free to leave your car at your home. This has been my experience over my past three trips to the UK, but as with anything else here in Turkey, I still suggest you check.

I have also heard rumours that RHD vehicles can no longer be imported into Turkey. I must say that I have not researched this but since my own vehicle is RHD and I had no problem with renewal only one week ago, I am assuming that vehicles under the ‘blue carnet’ scheme (temporary visitors’ plates) are exempt by virtue of the fact that they are not strictly imports. Again, my advice would be to check.

There is a very similar ‘blue carnet’ scheme in operation for foreign students studying here in Turkey. I have no real knowledge of this subject other than that the practicalities of application are broadly similar, the relevant paperwork information is contained on the website.

I hope this clears a few things up for those of you who are seeking information on this subject.