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Moving to Turkey

Expats relocating to Turkey find wonderful contradictions are part of a daily life that flawlessly marries the ancient and the modern, and where Europe and Asia meet across the Bosphorus. Although there are higher risks of terrorism than elsewhere in Europe, Turkey is still a relatively safe country with low incidences of crime.

The country has a population of about 81 million people. The vast majority of the population are Muslim. Despite this, the constitution states that Turkey is a secular republic and the army is a fierce guardian of secularism in Turkey. Other religious beliefs are respected and expats are welcome to practise their own religion.

Turkey's most popular city and the centre where most expats are based is Istanbul. Though there is much more to the country than just one city. Turkey has a wide range of landscapes and sights that will readily appeal to history buffs, nightclub fanatics, archaeology nuts, sun worshippers, city lovers and shopping addicts. 

Due to the country's strict employment laws, it can be difficult for foreigners to secure a job. Despite this, most new arrivals either find employment in finance, tourism or teaching English within the Turkish schooling system. 

Those moving to Turkey should ensure they have all the relevant paperwork in place. Visitors are now only able to stay in Turkey for a total of 90 days in any period of 180 days and visas need to be applied for before entering the country. Those wishing to reside in Turkey long-term need to obtain a relevant residence or work permit.

Expats will find the cost of living in Turkey more reasonable than in neighbouring European countries. It has yet to be admitted into the EU. Those expats with foreign purchasing power can make their money last longer and reach further, even if choosing to live in the largely popular expat areas or the coastal resort towns.

The country’s healthcare system may not be up to the standards that many Westerners are used to. However, good private healthcare facilities can be found in the major cities of Ankara and Istanbul. Many doctors in these facilities will be able to speak English.


Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Turkey

Population: About 81 million

Capital city: Ankara

Other major cities: Istanbul, Antalya, Izmir, Bursa

Neighbouring countries: Turkey is bordered by Bulgaria and Greece to the west, Georgia and Armenia to the northeast, Iran to the east and Iraq and Syria to the southeast. Cyprus sits just off of Turkey's southern coast.

Geography: Situated on the Anatolian Peninsula, Turkey straddles both Europe and Asia. It is surrounded by water on three sides, giving the country access to the Black Sea as well as the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. Its geography is varied and consists of rolling hills, an elevated central plateau and high rocky mountains. As Turkey sits along one of the world's major fault lines, earthquakes can be a common occurrence.

Political system: Presidential republic

Major religions: Islam is the dominant religion with more than 90 percent of the population practising the faith. 

Main languages: Turkish is the official language, but some English is often spoken and widely understood in the main cities and tourist areas.

Time: GMT +2 (GMT +3 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. The European two-pin plug is standard.

Money: The Turkish Lira (TRY) is divided into 100 kuruş. To open a bank account in Turkey, most banks require proof of address, a passport and a Turkish tax number.

Internet domain: .tr

International dialling code: +90

Emergency numbers: 155 (police), 112 (ambulance), 110 (fire)

Transport and driving: Cars in Turkey drive on the right side of the road. Major cities have adequate public transport, but a car may be necessary if living in more remote areas.

Weather in Turkey

Turkey is a large country with huge variability in climate. Along Turkey's coast, the weather is influenced by the adjacent sea, with the Mediterranean Sea producing its famed hot summers and mild winters. Areas close to the Black Sea have cooler summers and less extreme ranges in temperature. Weather in Turkey's interior features a greater contrast, with hot summers and cold winters. 

The capital, Ankara, has warm and dry summers with averages of 68°F (20°C). The winters in Ankara are cold and snowy with January, the coldest month, having an average temperature of 30°F (-1°C). Ankara's rainy season is in spring and it's particularly wet during May.

The majority of expats choose to settle in Istanbul. The city can be windy throughout the year. Summer in Istanbul is from June to September. It features hot and humid weather when the temperature averages 82°F (28°C). Summers are also generally dry, but there may be rain all year round. Winters, which begin in December and end in March, are characterised by cold, wet and occasionally snowy weather. However, temperatures rarely reach a freezing point.


Embassy contacts for Turkey

Turkey embassies

  • Turkish Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 612 6700

  • Turkish Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7393 0202

  • Turkish Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 789 4044

  • Turkish Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6234 0000

  • Turkish Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 342 6053

  • Turkish Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 668 5240

  • Turkish Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 472 1290


Foreign embassies in Turkey

  • United States Consulate General, Istanbul: +90 212 335 9000

  • British Embassy, Ankara: +90 312 455 3344

  • Canadian Embassy, Ankara: +90 312 409 2700

  • Australian Embassy, Ankara: +90 312 459 9500

  • South African Embassy, Ankara: +90 312 405 6861

  • Irish Embassy, Ankara: +90 312 459 1000

  • New Zealand Embassy, Ankara: +90 312 446 3333

Public Holidays in Turkey

 

2020

2021

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

National Sovereignty and Children's Day

23 April

23 April

May Day

1 May

1 May

Atatürk and Youth and Sports Day

19 May

19 May

Ramazan Bayramı Holiday

23-26 May

13-16 May

Democracy and National Security Day

15 July

15 July

Kurban Bayramı Holiday

30 July-3 August

19-23 July

Victory Day

30 August

30 August

Republic Day

29 October

29 October

*Islamic holidays are subject to the sighting of the moon, and dates can change on the Gregorian calendar.

Safety in Turkey

Turkey is generally considered a safe destination, and many expats relocate there without problems. Nevertheless, an ongoing risk of terrorism has raised concerns of safety in Turkey, with several attacks having targeted popular tourist areas in the past, including Istanbul's Atatürk Airport. Road safety is also a concern, and expats should take to the roads with caution. 


Crime in Turkey

Crime rates in Turkey are generally low but have been steadily increasing in recent years. Nevertheless, pickpocketing and muggings occur in the popular tourist areas of Turkey. Expats should follow the normal precautions to lower the risk of being a victim of such crimes.

Expats should note that it’s illegal to insult Turkey, the Turkish ethnicity, the government or the founder of modern-day Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Penalties for contravening this carry fines and possible imprisonment of up to three years.

Although there are no dress restrictions in Turkey, female expats should rather avoid wearing clothing that is too revealing as this may attract unwanted attention.


Terrorism in Turkey

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Turkey due to the presence of both local and regional terrorist groups; these largely include Leftists, Kurdish separatists and Islamic extremists.

The most prominent terrorist organisation in Turkey is the Kurdistan People's Congress (also known as Kongra-Gel (KGK) or PKK), composed of ethnic Kurds with a separatist agenda, who operate mostly in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. The regional terrorist group, ISIS, has also carried out attacks in Turkey.

There have been some terrorist attacks in Turkey in recent years. Some of these have specifically targeted public transport and popular tourist areas, including in Istanbul, Ankara, and along the Mediterranean and Aegean coastal resort areas. Security forces have often been targeted by PKK militants in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern provinces, including Diyarbakır, Batman, Hakkâri, Şırnak, Siirt and Tunceli. Although PKK activity has seen a definite decline in recent years following a ceasefire and talks with the Turkish government, a number of other groups, such as the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and ISIS, continue to present a threat. Attacks are more frequent before major political events and anniversaries. Due to the terrorist threat, many governments warn their citizens to be vigilant and advise against travel to higher-risk regions.

Due to the ongoing conflict in neighbouring Syria, and the impact this has had on some Turkish towns, which have been struck by stray bullets and artillery rounds, several governments also carry advisories against travel to the border areas with Syria. Expats should follow the instructions of their local embassy with regards to travel to the Syrian border or any other high-risk areas in Turkey.


Protests in Turkey

Turkey is in a period of political transition and protests and demonstrations occur quite frequently in the country. Taksim Square and İstiklâl Caddesi in Istanbul, the downtown Kızılay area, and across the street from the American Embassy in Ankara are popular protest areas. Most protests are directed against the government and its policies. Expats should monitor local developments and avoid all large political gatherings.


Road safety in Turkey

Road safety in Turkey is a concern. Expats may find driving in Turkey a challenge. Drivers are generally aggressive and often ignore the basic rules of the road. It should be noted that pedestrians don’t have the right of way, so be extra cautious when crossing the road.

Working in Turkey

Most who move to Turkey do so for sunny skies and its ideal retirement options. There are also thousands of expats working in Turkey, and many more trying to relocate to take advantage of professional opportunities.

A limiting factor for foreign nationals has always been Turkey's conservative approach to issuing work permits. Despite improvements in bureaucracy, the government is still hesitant to grant too many of these prized pieces of paperwork as a result of the country's high unemployment rate.

In fact, recent legislation aimed at reducing the number of expats living and working in Turkey illegally has made it impossible for foreign nationals to make the beloved border runs of old – many who have been residents for years have had to return to their home countries.


Job market in Turkey

Those who have been lucky enough to be brought abroad by an employer willing to sponsor their job contract will find the Turkish labour force generally hard-working and dedicated, with few qualms about working after hours if necessary.

The Turkish economy is growing consistently. It has been lauded for its complex mix of modern industry and commerce, along with a traditional agricultural sector.

It is still possible for expats with an adequate skill set and a bit of determination to find jobs in Turkey. Most often, foreigners obtain employment working in the tourism, teaching, real estate and finance fields in the more expat-friendly city of Istanbul. This major metropolis also presents opportunities in the engineering, information technology, human resources, design, business, marketing and sales departments; though positions in these fields are more of a rarity.

As in the past, there is plenty of opportunity for expats to teach English in Turkey. Many institutions merely require a college degree with no formal teaching training necessary. Adequate salaries accompany these positions. However, expats looking to support a family will need a larger income.

Nevertheless, the Turkish job market is restricted to foreigners, and expats are not permitted to work in specific fields. For example, foreigners are not allowed to be employed in the mining industry, as executive directors of travel agencies and in some professional occupations, such as pharmacists, nurses and dentists.


Finding a job in Turkey

As employers have to apply for work permits for Turkey on behalf of foreign workers, expats should find employment before they arrive. 

Key means of securing a job are to browse online job portals and to contact recruitment agencies. Many multinational corporations are operating in Turkey and might list prospects on their websites. 


Work culture in Turkey

Generally, Turks are very hospitable towards foreign workers. This is ideal for expats as business can be very personal in Turkey. Turks like to take time to form relationships and prefer doing business with those they trust. Turkish business culture is also very hard working. New arrivals should expect to work longer hours than they may be used to. 

Business is hierarchical in Turkey. Those in senior positions are given great respect and their decisions are generally not questioned in public. 

Doing Business in Turkey

Expats doing business in Turkey will find themselves in a unique and dynamic business environment. With the country straddling Asia and Europe across the Bosphorus and sitting within reach of the Middle East, Turkey is a melting pot of Western, Eastern and Arabic influences.

Doing business in Turkey is not overly complicated. However, expats need to have a good grasp of the local business environment and the country’s unique cultural and social dynamics. 

Turkey has a large and well-educated population. Due to its political and economic stability, and its strategic geographic location, it has been seen by many international investors as the stepping stone to Central Asia and the Middle East. As such, many international organisations have set up regional offices in Turkey, particularly in the capital, Ankara, and Istanbul. 

In the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Survey, Turkey was placed 33rd out of 190 countries surveyed. The country scored well for factors such as protecting minority investors (21st), registering property (27th) and enforcing contracts (24th), but low in resolving insolvency (120th).


Fast facts

Business dress

Business dress in Turkey is conservative. Men are expected to wear a suit and tie, although high temperatures and humidity in Turkish cities may sometimes negate this and a shirt and smart trousers are acceptable. Women should also wear smart business suits and ensure that they keep their shoulders, arms and legs covered at all times.

Greeting

A firm handshake is exchanged when male associates greet each other and direct eye contact should be maintained at all times. This is often accompanied by the Islamic greeting, ‘Assalamu alaikum' (peace be upon you). Most women will also shake hands with business associates, although some Muslim women may not shake hands. If unsure, wait for a woman to initiate greetings.

Language of business

Turkish is the official language of business, although English is widely spoken by Turkish businesspeople. Other languages spoken in Turkey include Kurdish and Arabic. It may be useful for expats to learn a few key phrases of Turkish as this will be highly appreciated. However, interpreters are also plentiful in Turkish business circles. 

Business hours

Business hours are usually Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm, with lunch generally between 12pm and 1pm. Muslims may break for prayer five times a day and leave the office early on a Friday for afternoon prayers. Many Turks take vacation during July and August. This should be considered when arranging meetings and appointments.

Gender equality

Conservative attitudes are still common in Turkey, although Turkish businessmen are generally respectful of women.  

Gifts

Gift-giving is not an established practice in Turkish business circles. If giving gifts, be mindful of the Muslim culture. Gifts of alcohol or pork products should be avoided.


Business culture in Turkey

Family is very important in Turkish culture and this carries through to the nation’s business culture. Many businesses in Turkey are still family-run and owned, and business is very personal. The key to doing business in Turkey is, therefore, in building strong and long-lasting personal relationships with Turkish associates. 

Communications

Courtesy and respect are important. When conducting meetings in Turkey, asking personal questions about family, and chatting about Turkish culture and football are good first steps before moving into any formal business discussions. Direct eye contact is important as Turks see this as a sign of respect.

Gestures are significant in Turkey but may be confusing if expats aren't aware of their meaning. Nodding one’s head forward and down indicates 'yes', while 'no' is indicated by nodding one’s head up and back. Shaking one’s head from side to side indicates that something is not understood. 

Hierarchy

Rank and authority are respected in Turkish business circles. Decisions are made from the top down, usually by the head of the family or company. Nevertheless, the opinions of the group are important and those doing business in Turkey may find themselves having initial meetings with less senior associates first, only moving on to meet higher-level executives or senior family members once a relationship and trust has been established. Decision-making can, therefore, be a slow process, and patience is required.

Religion in business

Although Turkey is a secular state, Islam is the dominant religion and has a strong influence over Turkish culture and business practices. This is evident in the frequent prayer times for Muslims who will break five times a day to pray. Friday is traditionally the Islam holy day, and most men will attend Friday afternoon prayers. Expats doing business in Turkey should keep this in mind when arranging business meetings and appointments.

During the holy month of Ramazan (Ramadan), Muslims are required to fast and refrain from smoking and drinking. Expats should respect the traditions and refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in front of Muslim associates during this time.


Dos and don’ts of business in Turkey

  • Do maintain eye contact when speaking to Turkish associates

  • Do remember that business can be very personal in Turkey, so building personal relationships is important to establishing lasting business connections

  • Do use both hands when handing over a business card or giving a gift

  • Don't be offended if a Turkish business associates stand very close while conversing. Turks do not require as much personal space as some Westerners may be used to.

  • Do learn the significance of gestures when negotiating with Turkish associates as these may lead to confusion or miscommunication

Visas for Turkey

Whether going to Turkey on holiday or wanting to live and work there for the long-term, it's necessary to obtain a visa to visit the country.

Expats should note that their passport must be valid for at least 60 days past the duration of their desired visa. 


Visit visas for Turkey

In the past, nationals of several countries could obtain a visa at the border. However, new requirements state that travellers must apply for their visa online before travelling to Turkey. The e-Visa application is straightforward, making it to get a tourist or business visa in a matter of minutes. 

Most entry visas for Turkey are multiple-entry and valid for 90 days. It used to be possible to leave Turkey after 90 days and then re-enter the country immediately for a further 90-day period. However, Turkish authorities have changed this. Visitors will only be able to stay in Turkey for a total of 90 days in any period of 180 days. These days don't have to be consecutive, but they can't be exceeded. The law directly affects expats who have previously resided in Turkey on a tourist visa and made "visa runs", exiting the country temporarily every 90 days to renew their privileges.

Those who overstay their visa will be subject to bans or fines. The new law is designed to encourage long-term residents and expats living in Turkey to apply for proper residence status – documentation that ends up being far more costly than a basic tourist visa.


Work permits for Turkey 

Once they've found a job, those wishing to work in Turkey must apply to their nearest Turkish mission to obtain a work permit. Expats will need to provide their passport, visa application form and a letter from their employer. Other documents will also need to be submitted to the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security simultaneously by the employer (not later than three working days after application). Applications normally take up to two months to finalise.


Residence permits for Turkey

It is now no longer necessary for foreigners working in Turkey to apply for their residence permit separately, as their work permit will include an expat's residence authorisation. 

Those moving to Turkey with their families should also note that dependents applying for a residence permit will also need to file their application at the Turkish consulate.

Residence permits for Turkey are now issued for a maximum period of one year. This applies to all categories of residence permit, including those for spouses of Turkish nationals and business owners. 

Foreigners who wish to live, study or work in Turkey are required to register at their nearest police department upon arrival in Turkey, regardless of the validity of their visa. They will be required to present a number of documents, such as their passport and proof of address.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Work Permits for Turkey

Expats eager to obtain a work permit for Turkey may have their hopes put on hold as the process is characterised by a large amount of paperwork and coordination. 

Expats may be surprised to learn that requesting a work permit is a double-application process. Both the expat employee and the sponsoring employer must apply, with the necessary documents, to the appropriate bodies within 10 days of each other. The expat will be required to submit their application to their nearest Turkish consulate and their employer in Turkey will have to deal with the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security. 

Only those individuals who can prove they possess a specific skill not demonstrated by a member of the local Turkish population can qualify to receive a work permit. Furthermore, only a business entity formally registered in Turkey can submit a work permit application.

Theoretically, it follows that an expat who wishes to work in Turkey, they must have a job offer before pursuing the permit.

That being said, there are several job categories that the Turkish government has specifically banned foreign nationals from working in.


Applying for a work permit for Turkey

Work permits for Turkey are either granted by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (within Turkish borders) or, if abroad, from the Consulate of the Turkish Republic. 

An application must be accompanied by a letter from the employing company. Typically the letter must contain essential information such as the business's name, address and industry, as well as other specifics dictated by the Turkish state.

Normal processing time is approximately one month, but it may take longer. Work permits are dual-purpose as they also function as residency permits. 

*Please note that visa and work permit regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their nearest Turkish consulate for the latest information.

Cost of Living in Turkey

Expats will find the cost of living in Turkey more reasonable than in neighbouring European destinations. The country has yet to be admitted into the EU and it follows that those with foreign purchasing power can make their money last longer and reach further, even if choosing to live in the largely popular expat areas or the coastal resort towns.

Istanbul, the country's largest expat hub and most costly location, was ranked by the 2019 Mercer Cost of Living Survey as the 154th most expensive expat destination out of over 209 cities evaluated. Like most destinations, the cost of living in Turkey is directly affected by location and lifestyle. Rural villages are cheaper than urban centres.

Price-conscious pensioners and seasonal sun-worshippers have long taken advantage of the lower costs, and even those expats who toil in the Turkish workforce and take home the Turkish Lira can live a comfortable lifestyle enriched with the odd luxury. That said, expats employed by a Turkish company and paid in the local currency will need to be mindful of the ever-increasing interest and inflation rates and will need to make sure that their salary rises accordingly.


Cost of accommodation in Turkey

Expats will find the property market in Turkey for both buying and renting generally offers good value for money when compared with the likes of the UK or the US. A wide variety of accommodation is available to suit all tastes and budgets, ranging from very expensive villas with sweeping vistas and extensive outdoor spaces to sparse apartments that offer only the most basic amenities.

Monthly utilities aren't always included in rent, so expats will need to factor in the cost of water, electricity and gas. Although these bills tend to be relatively inexpensive, the cost of heating during winter dramatically increases the cost of utilities. 


Cost of groceries in Turkey

In Turkey, food shopping can still be done at weekly neighbourhood markets where locally sourced seasonal fruits and vegetables are on sale for low costs. Modern supermarkets do stock the imported goods that many expats yearn for, but these foreign food items can summon a hefty price tag. A single jar of peanut butter can be as expensive as all the ingredients that a local would use to make an entire meal.

While this may seem strange in the country that made doner kebab world-famous, many expats are surprised to find that red meat in Turkey is extremely costly.

Expats in Turkey may also find an unexpected food cost is bottled water. It's safe to drink tap water in many areas, but many foreigners still prefer to drink bottled water. The good news is that a 19-litre jug of water is relatively cheap.


Cost of transport in Turkey

Turkey's public transport system is constantly improving and evolving, yet it remains extremely cheap. Buses are the main mode of transit and are generally efficient and economical. Both state-sponsored entities and private buses charge flat and cheap fares for a single journey. Dolmuş, informal, shared taxis that connect commuters going short distances, are also incredibly reasonable. Fares vary according to the length of the journey.

For those expats who would prefer to get around by car in Turkey, the basic cost of buying and maintaining a vehicle may be slightly cheaper than in the UK or the US, but the cost of petrol is high.


Cost of living in Istanbul

Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below is based on average prices for Istanbul in February 2020.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

YTL 3,000 - 4,000

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

YTL 2,000 - 2,500

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

YTL 2,000 - 2,500

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

YTL 1,200 - 1,500

Shopping

Dozen eggs

YTL 9

Milk (1 litre)

YTL 4.70

Rice (1kg) 

YTL 8.50

Loaf of white bread

YTL 2.40

Chicken breasts (1kg)

YTL 22

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

YTL 18

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

YTL 25

Coca-Cola (330ml) 

YTL 4

Cappuccino

YTL 12

Bottle of local beer (500ml)

YTL 20

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two

YTL 120

Utilities/household

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

YTL 0.70

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

YTL 80

Utilities (average per month for a standard household)

YTL 400

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

YTL 3

City centre public transport fare

YTL 3

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

YTL 7

Culture Shock in Turkey

As a country straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey is a unique destination with a rich cultural heritage that blends both East and West. Although the country has such diverse influences and is quite multi-cultural, expats are still likely to experience some culture shock in Turkey. Adjusting to life there may take some time.

Turkish people are generally friendly and welcoming to foreigners. Expats should move to Turkey with an open mind and not be afraid to embrace all aspects of their new life. The slightest effort to learn and speak Turkish on the part of expats will be highly appreciated.


Religion in Turkey

Although the majority of Turkey's population are Muslim, the country is adamant about its persona as a secular state. This stance is enshrined in the country's constitution. However, between the secularists and the traditionalists, tension continues over issues such as the Islamic headscarf and women's rights. 

For all practical purposes, and in Istanbul in particular, one can safely practise one’s own religion and Western dress is widely worn. Despite this, local religious customs should always be respected. This is especially important during the Muslim holy month of Ramazan (Ramadan) when Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking between sunrise and sunset.


Understanding gestures in Turkey

Turks think that it is rude to say an outright ‘no’ if something is not possible. Instead, expats may get a roundabout explanation which new arrivals may find confusing and frustrating. Unlike shaking the head, Turks have a unique gesture for indicating ‘no’ – it is an upward flick of the head accompanied by a clicking of the tongue. 


Addressing others in Turkey

In Turkey, women will always be addressed by their first names with a hanim (pronounced 'hanum', meaning lady) attached to it. It is not considered familiar or rude to use first names. For example, Jane Smith will be addressed as Jane hanim, rather than Mrs Smith. The male equivalent of hanim is bey (pronounced 'bay'). As such, John Smith will be addressed as John bey.


Women in Turkey

Turkish people are known for their friendliness. However, sometimes this extends a bit far when it comes to how men respond to women. Although most men are respectful towards women, reports of sexual harassment of foreign women in Turkey are an unfortunate reality, particularly on public transport or on the streets of Istanbul. It’s not unusual for Turkish men to perceive Western women as sexually promiscuous and for expat women to be the target of lewd comments. Female expats should rather avoid going out alone, especially at night.

Accommodation in Turkey

If expats are willing to negotiate, use common sense, and keep their wits about them, finding suitable, well-priced accommodation in Turkey should be a straightforward process. Housing is widespread and varied, with many great deals to be found. It is also a feasible and popular option for expats to buy property in Turkey, as property rates are fairly low.


Types of accommodation in Turkey

There are many types of accommodation available in Turkey, from flats and apartments to houses, condominiums and luxury villas. The price of property in Turkey varies greatly according to the type and quality of a residence, its location, how recently it was constructed, and whether or not it has parking facilities (parking space is at a premium in Turkish cities, especially in Istanbul). As can be expected, property prices are generally higher in urban areas than in rural areas.

There are no specific expat areas in Turkey – although expats moving to Istanbul might want to check out the districts of Nişantaşı, Teşvikiye and Cihangir. These all offer a good range of accommodation options, and at the same time are vibrant parts of the city to live in.


Finding accommodation in Turkey

There are several online property portals for finding accommodation in Turkey. Expats should also consider engaging the services of a reputable real estate agent when looking for a place to rent. The vast majority of Turkish estate agencies will have a dedicated rentals division. Not all agents will be able to speak English, so it's worth trying to find an agent who is more experienced in dealing with expats.


Renting accommodation in Turkey

Finding suitable accommodation in Turkey should be a straightforward process. However, expats should do some research before leaving their home country. Most expats use online real estate portals to get an idea of the properties available. However, it would be a good idea to contact a local real estate agent (emlak) who is more familiar with the rental market in Turkey.

As with most aspects of life in Turkey, negotiation is key when renting accommodation. Points like the monthly rental fee and the deposit to be paid can all be negotiated with the landlord. If one lacks the stomach or the skills to do it alone, ask the real estate agent to negotiate these points.

Furnished or unfurnished

Rental properties in Turkey can either be furnished or unfurnished. Both are equally available. Furnished apartments and villas often include everything from beds to cutlery and crockery. Many expats prefer renting fully furnished accommodation as it saves them time and money. Furnished accommodation will be more expensive than unfurnished. It also usually requires a larger deposit.

The rental process

The rental process in Turkey depends on the route one chooses to take. Most expats will research properties online and contact some local estate agents who will set up viewings. The estate agent will help with any negotiating to meet an agreement with the landlord. After an agreement has been reached, the estate agent will draw up a rental contract. The deposit and the first month’s rent need to be paid before the start of the tenancy.

If one chooses to rent accommodation directly from a landlord, the process can be fairly straightforward and more relaxed. Expats should nevertheless uphold a formal relationship with their landlord and ensure they still get a signed and notarised rental contract. This will help them avoid any misunderstanding that could come up in the future.

Leases

Rental agreements in Turkey don’t necessarily follow a specific form or set of requirements. When renting directly from the landlord, a verbal agreement is often made. However, it is advisable to have a written tenancy contract. As this can be used to document the lease term, rent and deposit.

The period of a long-term lease agreement is often negotiated between the landlord and the tenant. However, long-term rental contracts are typically signed for one year. Expats should also note that rental contracts will renew automatically if neither party gives notice 15 days before the end of the lease term. There is also a rental increase for each year the contract is extended. This rate should be agreed upon when the contract is drawn up.

Tenants should ensure that they understand all the terms and conditions laid out in the contract, and if there are any uncertain clauses these should be sorted out and amended before signing anything.

Deposits

The tenant will likely have to pay at least one month's rent as deposit as well as one month's rent in advance to secure their new apartment. The deposit is reimbursed when the agreement ends after deductions have been made to cover damage caused by the tenant or unpaid utility bills. Agents will also charge a fee for their services, which is also normally negotiable. 

Utilities

Whether or not the tenant is liable for utility bills in Turkey will depend on the agreement made with the landlord. Sometimes these costs are included in the monthly rental price, and sometimes not.

Some landlords will arrange all utility services themselves. Others will leave the responsibility to their tenant. In rare cases – mostly when renting directly from an owner – utilities may be included in the monthly rent. Expats should ensure they understand the arrangement before they move into their accommodation.

Utilities can be paid at banks or with automatic payments through one's bank account. Automatic payments are the most convenient option. These can easily be arranged by visiting the bank with a copy of the bill. Expats should never make a payment to someone who comes to the door claiming to be an agent. Utilities are never paid like this.

Healthcare in Turkey

The quality of healthcare in Turkey varies from region to region. Expats moving to Turkey will be happy to know that healthcare in the country is generally cheaper than elsewhere in Europe and that there are many private and public hospitals across the country. 

Expats moving to one of the major urban centres in Turkey, such as Istanbul or Ankara will have access to high-quality private hospitals with experienced doctors and medical staff, most of whom can speak English. However, those living in more rural areas will find access to healthcare still quite limited.


Public healthcare in Turkey

Public healthcare in Turkey is not up to the standards that expats from Europe and North America are familiar with. Nevertheless, with rising competition from private hospitals, there has been an increase in the quality of public institutions in recent years. Most expats still choose to go to a private medical facility.


Private healthcare in Turkey

Private hospitals in Turkey are relatively cheap and offer good quality care. In fact, Turkey is beginning to make a name for itself as a medical tourism destination, particularly in the areas of cosmetic surgery, dentistry and fertility treatment. It’s normally easy to make an appointment at a private hospital as many of them have English speaking call centres.


Medicines and pharmacies in Turkey

Pharmacies (eczane) are plentiful in the main towns and cities. Expats living in Turkey will find that accessing medicines at pharmacies is relatively easy. Many prescription medications are available cheaply and over the counter. Most neighbourhoods in major cities have a duty pharmacy that is generally open 24 hours a day.


Health insurance in Turkey

It's compulsory for all residents who are under 65 and living in Turkey to have either public or private health insurance. 

Expats who have been residents in Turkey for more than a year with a valid residence permit can apply to Turkey's public health insurance scheme, which is administered by the state-run Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (SGK). Many employers contribute to public health insurance on their employee’s behalf. Despite this, many expats opt for additional private medical insurance to supplement their public insurance and to cover medical care at private institutions. It’s worth noting that the European Health Insurance Card, relating to free medical treatment in EU countries, is not valid in Turkey. 

Several international companies offer private expat health insurance. Local Turkish companies also offer competitive rates and services. International health insurance can cost thousands of US dollars per year, depending on one’s policy and benefits. Local Turkish health insurance is equally effective and far cheaper. 


Health hazards in Turkey

Expats should only drink bottled water. Malaria is present in the southeastern regions of Turkey, and prophylaxis is necessary if travelling to the affected areas. May to October is the highest risk period.


Pre-travel restrictions and vaccinations for Turkey

There are no specific vaccinations required for entry into Turkey, although those coming from a yellow fever infected area should have a yellow fever certificate.

It’s also recommended to have a rabies injection, especially if travelling outside of the main urban areas, as Turkey has one of the highest incidents of rabies in Europe.


Emergency services in Turkey

Turkey has a public ambulance service, which can be contacted by dialling 112. However, operators may not be able to understand English.

Some hospitals in the major cities offer private ambulance services which can be accessed directly. These are often better equipped and have faster response times than public ambulances. 

Education and Schools in Turkey

Expat children are allowed to attend Turkish public schools. However, the standard of education varies. Also, as Turkish is the language of instruction at all public schools, most expat parents choose to send their children to a private or international school in Turkey.


Public schools in Turkey

Education in Turkey is compulsory for all children from primary through to secondary school. Primary and secondary education in public schools is free to all children, including Turkish nationals and foreigners.

High school education in Turkey is comprised of different branches, including general, vocational and technical schools, with each having a different educational focus. Upon finishing their secondary education, students are awarded the Lise Diplomasi (Secondary School Diploma), which secures the right to partake in nationwide exams for university entry.

The language of instruction at public schools is Turkish, but all children are required to learn a foreign language. Language choices are typically either English, German, Spanish or French.

The school day is generally made up of a morning and afternoon session, with the school week running from Monday to Friday. The academic year in Turkey generally runs from mid-September through to early June and is divided into two semesters.


Private schools in Turkey

Private schools in Turkey follow the Turkish national curriculum, with the language of instruction being Turkish. Some of the more prestigious private schools offer bilingual education.

Expat children wanting to attend a private school in Turkey will have to undergo a general exam to determine their level of competency.


International schools in Turkey

Most international schools are based in Ankara and Istanbul. These schools cover various international curricula and teach in several foreign languages, including English, German and French.

Spaces are often limited at international schools in Turkey. This is particularly true in Ankara, which has a large diplomatic community due to the number of foreign embassies in the city. So, expat parents need to plan well ahead to secure a spot for their child.

Most international schools offer students the opportunity to learn the Turkish language. They also have field trips and cultural activities to assist children to assimilate better into Turkish culture and society.

Tuition at private and international schools is very expensive. It is important to factor this into one's contract when negotiating a package for relocation to Turkey.


Homeschooling in Turkey

Homeschooling is considered illegal in Turkey. According to the National Education Basic Law, all children between the ages of six and 13 have to attend a public or private school.

A loophole that expats parents use is that this law specifically refers to Turkish children. So, foreigners tend to have some success with homeschooling. However, parents of children with dual Turkish citizenship will have to follow the law or face hefty fines or in, extreme cases, imprisonment.


Tutors in Turkey

Receiving private tutoring in Turkey while preparing for a national examination is common. Due to high competition to get into elite high schools and universities, most children will receive tutoring at some point during their scholastic career.

There are three forms of private tutoring in Turkey. The first, and most expensive, is one-on-one tutoring. This is usually done by an accomplished university student or a retired teacher. These tutors usually guarantee excellent results and therefore charge high prices.

The second kind of tutoring takes place on the school premises. Tutoring is offered outside of normal class hours by volunteer teachers. This form of tutoring is usually organised by the school board.

Finally, the most popular form of tutoring is provided by private tutoring centres (dershane). These centres act like private schools with professional teachers. Students first complete an entrance test and are placed into classes according to their results. These schools charge a monthly fee and can be expensive.


Special needs education in Turkey

The Turkish government has a policy to keep special needs children in mainstream classes as far as possible.

Many international schools in Turkey offer special needs education. However, the type of support offered varies from school to school. Some schools offer assistance with only mild learning difficulties while others will have more extensive support systems designed to deal with a range of needs. 

Expat parents looking for special needs education should be sure to research schools before relocating to Turkey. The ideal is to find the best fit between the school and the child – one that can meet their particular needs and has the right experience and resources. Parents could contact the Guidance Study Centre in the area they will be living in. 

The Guidance Study Centre evaluates children’s physical abilities, personal development and academic competences. The centre then provides recommendations on education options. It also gives the family guidance and counselling on the care and treatment of a child with special needs. 

The British International School in Istanbul is one international school that offers special needs support throughout their primary and secondary departments. 

Transport and Driving in Turkey

With a developed transport infrastructure, it’s quite easy to get around Turkey. Most towns and cities have taxis and bus services. Railway and bus routes also connect most destinations across the country. The road network is well developed, so it’s possible to drive in Turkey. However, driving conditions are not of a high standard.


Public transport in Turkey

Buses

Turkey has a well-developed bus network. Bus travel is one of the easiest and cheapest options for getting around the country. Most Turkish cities and towns have a central bus station (otogar) where expats can catch a bus to most destinations across the country. Tickets can be bought at the bus station or bus company offices.

Most buses are air-conditioned and offer a good quality service. Many are staffed by assistants who serve drinks and snacks. Long-distance Turkish buses aren’t usually equipped with onboard toilets. However, there are frequent stops at rest stops along the way. Cell phone use is generally restricted on many buses. Expats may get a few dirty looks if talking too loudly on a bus.

Trains

Turkey’s rail network covers most of the central and eastern regions, with Turkish Republic State Railways operating passenger trains across the country. There are no rail lines along the western and central Mediterranean coasts, apart from a short stretch between Izmir and Selçuk. There also aren’t train services to Bodrum and Antalya, or the Black Sea coast.

On some routes, there are comfortable seating and sleeping compartments. The high-speed Istanbul to Ankara line is the most used in Turkey. There are several daily trains on this line. Delays are frequent, but the journey generally takes between six and ten hours.

Many of Turkey's main cities, including Istanbul, Ankara, Bursa, Adana and İzmir have metro systems. Some cities and towns in Turkey also have light rail transit systems, including trams.

Ferries

There are numerous ferry services in Turkey. They include a regular service across the Dardanelles at Gallipoli, cross-Bosphorus and short-hop ferries between various parts of Istanbul. Ferries also connect Turkey with other countries in the region, including Greece and Cyprus.

Taxis 

Taxis are available in most Turkish cities and are reasonably priced. Yellow cabs are metered. Most drivers don’t speak English so it’s best to have the address written down in advance to show the driver. Tipping is not expected, but a small tip may be appreciated.

Mini-bus taxis, commonly known as dolmuş, are available in large cities and towns. These taxis stop to pick up and drop off passengers anywhere on a pre-established route. They can be flagged down anywhere along their route. Although these taxis are cheaper than yellow cabs and are often faster than regular buses, they can make for a scary ride as drivers tend to be reckless.

Local rideshare apps such as BiTaksi operate in Istanbul and Ankara. Many expats prefer using these apps as it gives them more control over routes and service prices while diminishing language barrier issues. Due to long-standing tension between local taxis and Uber, it isn’t advisable to use the app to get around Turkey.


Driving in Turkey

Although the country has a good network of roads, driving standards in Turkey are generally poor. Turkey has one of the world’s highest motor vehicle accident rates and Turkish drivers are known to be reckless. Expats should drive defensively and with caution.

Renting a car in Turkey should be easy and straightforward. There are a few international car rental companies like Hertz, Europcar, and Budget available throughout the country.

Traffic drives on the right. Road signs are similar to those used in Europe and are plentiful. There is no shortage of petrol stations, which are often open 24 hours a day. However, petrol is expensive in Turkey.


Air travel in Turkey

Turkey’s main airports include Atatürk International Airport, located outside of Istanbul, and Ankara Esenboğa, which is just outside of the capital. There are daily domestic flights to and from many destinations across Turkey. The national carrier, Turkish Airlines, is the most popular. However, there are several smaller carriers offering flights to various destinations in the country.

Frequently Asked Questions about Turkey

Expats considering a move to Turkey will naturally have many concerns about life in this culturally rich country. From their safety and security to healthcare and schooling concerns, here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about expat life in Turkey.

Are there international schools in Turkey?

There are numerous international schools in Turkey. Most are based in Ankara or Istanbul. These schools focus on several foreign curricula including the International Baccalaureate, British and American.

Although expat children are allowed to attend Turkish public schools, most expat parents choose to send their children to international schools. There are good British, French and German schools in Turkey. Tuition at these schools can be steep, and due to the high demand, places can be limited and parents should plan well in advance.

Will I find good healthcare facilities in Turkey?

There are many private and public hospitals in Turkey, but the quality of healthcare in Turkey varies. In recent years, Turkey has actually gained a reputation as a medical tourism destination, particularly in the area of cosmetic surgery, dentistry and fertility treatment. This may have something to do with the fact that healthcare in Turkey is generally cheaper than most expats will find in the rest of Europe. Pharmacies are also plentiful in the main cities and towns. Expats shouldn’t struggle to find most over-the-counter medications.

Is it difficult to import my car into Turkey?

Expats moving to Turkey may want to carefully consider whether they should bring their own car with them. The process for importing a car into Turkey can be complicated and expensive. The Touring and Automobile Club of Turkey regulates the process. Expats will need to submit numerous documents, after which they will have to get an Alien Vehicles Temporary Entrance Carnet to import their car.

Is Turkey safe?

Turkey is generally a safe destination for expats. However, an ongoing threat of terrorism has been cause for concern for many considering a move there. A number of local and regional terrorist groups have carried out attacks in the country in recent years. Many of these have targeted places frequented by foreigners, including Istanbul's Atatürk Airport. Authorities have acted quickly against such attacks and view the protection of foreign visitors and residents as a priority. Expats living in Turkey should keep abreast of local developments and always exercise caution and awareness if visiting popular tourist spots and when using public transport.

Articles about Turkey

Banking, Money and Taxes in Turkey

Turkey has a sound banking infrastructure with plenty of local and foreign options for expats to choose from. Expats moving to Turkey on an employment package may be surprised to find that they generally don’t get to choose the bank they would prefer to use. Rather, employers choose a single bank to work with. Employees are then responsible for opening the appropriate bank account to receive payment.


Money in Turkey

The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY), which is divided into 100 kuruş

  • 5 TRY, 10 TRY, 20 TRY, 50 TRY, 100 TRY and 200 TRY

  • 1 kuruş, 5 kuruş, 10 kuruş, 25 kuruş and 50 kuruş and 1 TRY


Banking in Turkey

Of the local banks in Turkey, Garanti Bank is known for making a more pointed attempt at employing staff who can communicate in English and is often chosen by employers hiring foreigners for its efforts (though not necessarily successful) to cater to expatriates. Alternatively, İşbank owns several European branches and may be more convenient for expats relocating from the European Union (EU). Akbank is another local option that offers a full range of services for expats.

Foreign banks in Turkey include Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Citibank. Internet banking services are provided by nearly all banks. Local banks offer web pages in English as well as Turkish.

Most banks operate between 9am and 5pm. Turkish banks remain open during lunch hours. However, this tends to be the busiest time of the day and queues can be long.

Opening a bank account

Opening a Turkish bank account is relatively easy for expats. Generally, a copy of one’s passport, a tax number, residence permit and proof of address are required.

To obtain a tax number, expats need to go to the local tax office with their passport.

ATMs and credit cards

There are ATMs in most malls. Bureau de change offices are available in commercial areas in Turkey's main cities. 

Visa and MasterCard are commonly accepted in Turkey, including for home delivery where the delivery person will bring a portable machine.

Personal cheques, however, aren't commonly accepted in most places, and banks do not routinely issue cheque books.


Taxes in Turkey

Income tax in Turkey ranges between 15 and 35 percent and is levied against all income. Expats who have lived in Turkey for longer than six months in a calendar year are considered tax residents and must pay income tax on their worldwide income.

However, some exceptions exist for foreigners who stay in Turkey for six months or more for a specific job or business, or particular purposes as specified by Turkish income tax law. Non-residents are only subject to pay tax on their income derived from within Turkey.

Expat Experiences in Turkey

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories and unique experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Turkey and would like to share your story.


Originally from the US state of Alabama, Ginny Lou has long enjoyed travelling and learning about other cultures. She first came to Turkey shortly after graduating from university and soon fell in love with the people and the culture. Joined by her friend, Leslie, the two moved to Adana. Read our expat interview with Ginny Lou for insights into culture, cost of living, language, transport and tea in Turkey.

Ginny Lou

Lisa has been living in Turkey on and off for the last 10 years. She has finally moved back to Istanbul full time and now spends her time writing about this country she loves so much. Lisa has tons of experience and knowledge about the city. Read about her expat life in Istanbul.

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In 2016 Mihaela transported herself from peaceful winter-strewn Transylvania to the crowded bustle of Istanbul. Working as a freelance photographer and marketing strategist, Mihaela enjoys the diversity of Istanbul's offerings. Read about her expat life in Turkey.

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Caroline moved to Istanbul in 2014 with her Turkish husband. Although she's recently moved to Germany, Caroline enjoyed living in such a "vibrant, cultural and historic city". Read some of Caroline's insights from her experience living in Istanbul.

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Catie is an American expat who moved to Izmir with her husband, Jason, in August 2016. Having both previously lived in Turkey, and in search of something a bit different to the “American Dream”, they decided to return to Turkey on a more permanent basis. Read more about Catie's expat life in Izmir.

Catie - An American expat living in Turkey

Nazanin is an Iranian expat who relocated to Turkey in 2008. She discusses the difficulties of living in Istanbul, as well as the advantages that the country has to offer. Read more about her experience of Istanbul

Nelle is a Belgian/French expat living in Turkey. She is married to a Turkish man, and after living in London for a number of years, they moved to Istanbul, where they own a real estate and travel agency specialising in Turkish properties. Read more about her expat experiences in Turkey.

Nelle - an expat living in Turkey

Barbara Isenberg is a freelance writer specialising in travel, food and culture in Istanbul and Turkey. She moved to Izmir with her husband after buying a one-way ticket to Istanbul in August 2007, and now lives a life of leisure and contemplation on the Aegean. Read what she has to see about expat life in Turkey.

Kala Shekhar moved to Istanbul from India. His son Sid is a regular contributor to the Turkish Daily news and is also a deputy editor for one of their supplements called Genext. Read about Kala's take on expat life in Istanbul