Early diagnosis and treatment in acute ischemic stroke are crucial in terms of survival and disability. Many stroke patients remain disabled because of the treatment delay. The purpose of this study was to investigate the factors associated with the early hospital arrival in acute ischemic stroke patients. 113 patients diagnosed with acute ischemic stroke were included in this prospective study performed at the Karadeniz Technical University Medical Faculty Hospital. Patients' characteristics and patients' and relatives' emotional and behavioral reactions were compared between early (within 3 h) and late (after 3 h) arrival groups. 72.6 % of patients arrived at hospital within 3 h from symptoms onset. Univariate analysis revealed that history of atrial fibrillation (p = 0.04) and coronary heart disease (p = 0.02), sudden onset of symptoms (p = 0.001), loss of consciousness (p = 0.03), recognizing symptoms as stroke (p = 0.01), seeking immediate medical attention (p < 0.001), feelings of fear and panic (p = 0.001), arriving at hospital by ambulance having called the emergency medical services (p = 0.04) and National Institute of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score (p = 0.001) were associated with hospital arrival within 3 h. A multivariate regression model demonstrated that recognizing symptoms as stroke (OR, 3.4; 95 % CI, 1.2-9.3) and atrial fibrillation (OR, 4.3; 95 % CI, 1.1-15.7) were independent factors associated with early arrival. The role in early arrival at hospital of recognizing symptoms as stroke and seeking immediate medical attention with transportation by ambulance emphasize the importance of public awareness concerning recognizing the symptoms of stroke and accessing emergency medical assistance.