Living in Turkey: A Guide for Expats

Turkey provides a varied and well-balanced way of life, from the Mediterranean coast with its abundant sunshine to the vibrant large cities.

You’ll find living in Turkey to be fascinating, whether you’re moving to Turkey or exploring the country. Turkish people are kind, the cost of living is less than in other well-known European expat areas, and the food is very good. Furthermore, both local and long-distance travel is very easy thanks to a well-developed transportation system.

We’ll give you an overview of Turkish culture and show you how to get the most out of it in this guide. Let’s start.

Life in Turkey: Fast Facts

  • Official Name: Republic of Turkey
  • Population: About 85 million
  • Capital City: Ankara
  • Neighboring Countries: Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria
  • Political System: Presidential Republic
  • Official Language: Turkish
  • Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)
  • Money: The Turkish Lira
  • International dialling code: +90

Why Turkey: Benefits of Living in Turkey

Weather

In almost every region of the country, you can expect to get 250 days of sunshine every year. If you opt to live in a city in the southern part, you’ll notice that temperatures will range from 20°C degrees in the cooler months to 40°C in July and August. You can enjoy the outdoors most of the year thanks to the perfect weather. 

Low Cost of Living

Food in Turkey is less expensive than in Western Europe, and so is daily living. Prices are indeed typical or high for locals on the average pay, but if you’re an expat living off a pension or investment outside of Turkey, you’ll see that your money in Turkey will buy you considerably more than back in your own country

Great Food

Turkish cuisine is very rich and satisfying for all types of diets. There are so many local markets and gourmet shops where you can buy fresh products. Turkish people like traditional breakfasts, and you’ll have the opportunity to taste tasty local cheeses and olives when you relocate to Turkey.

Friendly People

Turkish people are known for being more friendly than people in western countries. When you relocate to Turkey and live there full time, you’ll realize that it’s very easy to meet local people. Additionally, if you like to eat out frequently, getting together for lunch and dinner is very common.

Where To Live in Turkey

Turkey is a big country with diverse cities, each with its unique attributes. We’ve listed the most popular ones.

Istanbul

The most populated city in Turkey is Istanbul. Although it isn’t Turkey’s official capital, it can be referred to as its cultural capital. Istanbul is the place to go if you want to live in a large city. It has a rich history, delicious street food, and lively nightlife. Life in Istanbul is very active and it’s a great option if you want to do business.

Izmir

Izmir can be a wonderful choice if you’re seeking a tranquil city. The Aegean region’s capital is less hectic than Istanbul. In addition, beaches are easily accessible. Keep in mind that Izmir typically has more affordable accommodation options than Istanbul.

Bodrum

Formerly a fishing village, Bodrum is today a well-known vacation destination for both locals and foreigners. Bodrum, which is situated on Turkey’s southwest coast, is the ideal location if you want to enjoy crystal clear waters every season. Bodrum is a popular relocation destination, especially for retirees from Northern countries.

Antalya

The city to visit if you enjoy the Mediterranean climate is Antalya. It boasts wonderful beaches and lovely natural surroundings. Russian vacationers love Antalya and prefer to spend the majority of the year there. Antalya may be the best option if you’re seeking a laid-back lifestyle.

Life in Turkey: Accommodation

The vast majority of foreigners who live in Turkey opt to rent first, although communication with landlords can be challenging due to the language barrier. You might be able to get help from an English-speaking real estate agent with your search and lease negotiations. Most rental properties are unfurnished.

Although you can discuss the length of the lease with the landlord, standard rental agreements are the norm. A month’s rent as a deposit and a monthly maintenance charge is usually required. Rent occasionally includes utility costs.

Buying Property in Turkey

The Mediterranean way of life can be enjoyed without having to spend a lot of money. There are several affordable housing options available to foreigners in Turkey. The cost of real estate in Turkey is still rather low for foreign buyers when compared to Europe. However, before making any decisions, one should consider several things.

Property acquisition doesn’t permit you to obtain a work or residence permit in Turkey. If you don’t have a residence permit, a Foreigner Identity Number can be obtained from the TNP Foreigners’ Department which will let you proceed with the property acquisition.

Note that if the property’s price is a minimum of $400,000 you can be eligible for citizenship in Turkey.

Education in Turkey

There are many public schools in Turkey but the majority of expats enroll their kids in private or international schools. The primary holidays are in January/February and June to September, while the academic year lasts from mid-September or early October through May or early June.

In Turkey, children between the ages of six and 18 must attend school.

Public schools are free but most expats prefer to send their children to international schools where British and American curricula are followed. There are also French, German, and Italian schools in Istanbul.

The Healthcare System in Turkey

Turkey boasts efficient public and private healthcare. The Ministry of Health (MOH), universities, and private hospitals offer different types of services. Foreigners and expats living in Turkey can apply for health benefits either through Universal Health Insurance or private health insurance.

Turkey's National Health Insurance Program

The majority of health issues, including diseases, pregnancies, and emergencies, are covered by universal health insurance. In Turkey, the Social Security Institution (SGK) is in charge of managing general healthcare. You can get in touch with the Social Security office to find out more about your rights. Having access to this insurance entitles you to discounts at private hospitals as well. But keep in mind that public hospitals might occasionally be overcrowded.

Transportation

Turkey has a large transportation infrastructure. In Istanbul, the public transportation network is quite effective, making it possible to get practically anyplace in the city by bus or subway. The buses run often as well. Renting a car in Istanbul isn’t recommended due to the notorious traffic.

You can use minibusses in tourist areas like Antalya and Bodrum. In these cities, renting a car might be a wise choice.

In bigger cities, you can find yellow taxis with meters. If you don’t know Turkish, it’s a good idea to write down your destination because drivers don’t always speak English. To prevent the driver from overcharging you, make sure you have a general estimate of how much your trip will cost. There are other ride-hailing options as well, such as Uber and BiTaksi.

Moving to Turkey: Visas and Residence Permits

To enter Turkey, many foreign nationals will require a visa. The typical Turkish tourist/visit visa is good for up to 90 days during 180 days and allows for multiple entries.

You must obtain a Turkish residency permit if you want to stay in Turkey for more than 90 days in 180 days for any reason, including tourism. Before contacting the Provincial Directorates of Migration Management Office in your region to receive a residence permit, you’re required to make an online appointment at the website of the Directorate General of Migration Management.

The following paperwork is needed to apply for a residency permit in Turkey:

  • Residence permit application form
  • Four biometric photographs
  • Passport
  • Notarized copy of the passport
  • Proof of sufficient financial resources to cover you during your stay
  • Health insurance

You might need to submit more paperwork depending on your circumstances, the type of residence permit, and your country.

Cost of Living in Turkey

The cost of living in the country is less expensive for expats than it is in neighboring European nations. Turkey has a low cost of living, however, imported products and petrol are generally much more expensive than in the UK and US. 

If you have foreign purchasing power, you can choose to live busiest expat neighborhoods or seaside resort towns comfortably without worrying about expenses.

See the below section for a quick comparison between some major cities in Europe and Istanbul.*

Istanbul vs. Athens

Consumer prices in Istanbul are 43.06 percent lower than in Athens (without rent)

Consumer prices including rent in Istanbul are 39.10 percent lower than in Athens

Rent prices in Istanbul are 23.82 percent lower than in Athens

Local purchasing power in Istanbul is 37.90 percent lower than in Athens

Istanbul vs. Berlin

Consumer prices in Istanbul are 50.22 percent lower than in Berlin (without rent)

Consumer prices including rent in Istanbul are 55.51 percent lower than in Berlin

Rent prices in Istanbul are 65.93 percent lower than in Berlin

Local purchasing power in Istanbul is 75.95 percent lower than in Berlin

Istanbul vs. Barcelona

Consumer prices in Istanbul are 43.45 percent lower than in Barcelona (without rent)

Consumer prices including rent in Istanbul are 48.17 percent lower than in Barcelona

Rent prices in Istanbul are 58.23 percent lower than in Barcelona

Local purchasing power in Istanbul is 65.70 percent lower than in Barcelona

*Source: Numbeo

The Bottom Line: Life in Turkey

Turkey can provide its residents with a pleasant climate, an active and healthy lifestyle, and affordable living. It’s sunny, full of history, and very beautiful. The blend of Eastern and Western civilizations is also what makes it unique.

Turkey has so many advantages that it could very well end up being your ideal home away from home. Many foreigners adore living in Turkey and won’t even think of moving elsewhere.

Enjoy Turkey!

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