Making your way through a foreign city can be daunting, but if it is Istanbul you should feel quite comfortable asking someone for directions. Why? Unlike many other areas of the world, the culture of Turkey demands that people treat each other courteously. As a friend once told me, “I asked for directions and not only did they show me the way, but offered me coffee when we got to the neighborhood!”
While not all Turkish citizens are this hospitable,
it is one of the reasons that people who’ve once visited Turkey consider returning for long term stays.
Many decide it is the ideal home because the cost of living in Turkey is remarkably affordable. The year-round warmth and sunshine keep food costs low, housing affordable, and your health at optimal levels.
People practically live outdoors and friendship is easily created, especially if you learn the national language, Turkish. The largest city, Istanbul, is a popular spot for tourism and relocation. But areas like Antalya City (near the sea), Ankara (the capital), and Didim are equally popular and multicultural as well.
The currency is the Turkish Lira and the current exchange rate is:
3 TL = $1 US
I’ll describe the cost of living in Turkey using Dollars to make things easier to understand:
With a lot of countries vying as the “top” spot for expats and retirement, Turkey is one of the few that can boast that housing is abundant, varied, and easy to obtain whether renting or buying.
Good deals are everywhere, and the process of buying a home of your own is actually pain free.
Generally, the prices for rentals or purchases will increase as you get into the urban areas. The rise of defined “expat” neighborhoods has also influenced some pricing brackets. However, the deals are great no matter where you go.
Do keep in mind that web portals for a real estate search exist, but the best approach is to work with a reputable agent. They can guarantee you get the right terms in your lease, help you find just the right spot for your relocation, and even bargain on your behalf.
That was actually something I was happy to have a professional do for me.
I rarely do well with “haggling” and yet it is something common in almost every business transaction – including property rentals and sales.
The most common “expat” areas are around Istanbul, and include Cihangir, Tesvikiye, and Nisantasi. You may want to visit them before doing a house hunt. You can also opt to live in a more rural area to keep your cost of living in Turkey lower and real estate agents can certainly help you with your search. Note that you can get accommodations for half the prices listed below, or even less, by choosing unfurnished housing in non-expat areas.
The price of modern, furnished, and well-situated accommodations in Turkey are:
1 bedroom apartment in Istanbul — $1200 per month
1 bedroom apartment in the rest of Turkey — $750 per month
3 bedroom apartment in Istanbul — $2200 per month
3 bedroom apartment in the rest of Turkey — $1500 per month
Exploring the different areas is a wise idea, and hotel stays are quite affordable.
This is a good approach if you are unfamiliar with the country and worry about your cost of living in Turkey. Prices for hostels and hotels vary, but average around:
Hostel dorm bed in Istanbul — $20 per night
Hostel dorm bed in the rest of Turkey — $20 per night
Budget hotel in Istanbul — $70 per night
Budget hotel in the rest of Turkey — $50 per night
Medium-comfort hotel in Istanbul — $120 per night
Medium-comfort hotel in the rest of Turkey — $100 per night
Luxury hotel in Istanbul — $280 per night
Luxury hotel in the rest of Turkey — $250 per night
Clearly, the prices for hotels reflect the popularity of Turkey as a tourism destination, but there are always good deals to be found in the less popular areas. You can also try options such as AirBnB and Couchsurfing.
Public transit in Turkey has improved greatly, both within the cities and in outlying areas. You can find taxis everywhere, but there are also trams, funicular or underground railways, metro lines, and more. City buses, cable cars, ferry boats, intercity bus lines, regional rail, and even a sea bus line are all available to get you quickly and affordably from one point to another.
Prices vary widely based on the line you use and your destination. Local fares are very affordable, and all modes of transit are deemed safe and efficient.
Some average prices include:
Single fare on public transit – $0.75
Monthly metro pass – $55
Taxi ride of one hour – $7
Long distance bus – $13-30
Gas (1L) – $1.50
Owning a car can be costly and difficult, and with the many types of transport available, it is entirely unnecessary. Overnight and long distance buses can take you all over Turkey for under $30 (much cheaper than travel in Argentina or Brazil!).
While a car may be unneeded, a cell phone and Internet access are must have items. A common joke is that Turks are on the phone so much it seems like they have two of them!
The most common mobile carriers are Turkcell, Vodaphone, and Avea. They are currently offering only 3G, with 4G LTE networks being developed for 2016. You can purchase a prepaid phone and use a pay as you go account (refilling with prepaid cards), or you can use a contract.
Mobile contracts pay monthly but you must be a resident to get one.
Internet is popular in Turkey, but service is not. As a part of the cost of living in Turkey you will find that ADSL is available in urban areas and popular coastal spots, but in rural areas it can be hard to get a good service. Plans are available as one, three, six and 12 month contracts. WiFi is available in many areas, and Internet cafes are a popular thing in cities and large towns.
Prices vary based on the plans selected, but average around:
Internet (10 Mbps ADSL per month) – $19
Prepaid SIM card – $23 (comes with $16 credit)
Prepaid phone plan (per minute) – $0.14
Local SMS text – $0.10
International SMS text – $0.25
Cell Data Plan (1 GB) – $7
If you are willing to purchase a mobile plan with data, you can forego Internet in a rental until you have decided it is the right location for you. Then, you can go to the trouble of having service installed and billed to you.
Food & Drink
Here’s one truly wonderful thing about the cost of living in Turkey, and it is that Turks eat seasonally. In other words, your prices for food and drink are going to be great all year simply because Turkish people tend to eat only what is actually growing at that time. This eliminates costly import and transportation fees that really boost the prices of foods around the world. Another benefit of this is your health, since you eat only the freshest things available.
Heading to the markets each day allows you to get only the ripest and most delicious fruits, vegetables, fish, and dairy. Red meat is often very pricy, especially when demand is high.
Dining out most often means eating outside with friends or neighbors, but if you want a restaurant experience, Turkey offers the full array. You can easily find street vendors offering affordable fare, but you can also find five-star cuisine in upscale restaurants. These are usually found only in the cities, and can be as wildly expensive as the hotels and tourism resources available too.
Some examples of food prices include:
Street vendor lunch in Istanbul – $8
Fast food – $5
Luxury dinner in Istanbul – $120
Drink in a club – $9
Draft beer – $4
Gourmet coffee – $3
Loaf of bread – $0.45
Local cheese (1lb) – $2.75
Tomatoes (1lb) – $0.50
Lettuce – $0.80
Oranges (1lb) – $0.50
Dining out will still keep the cost of living in Turkey very affordable.
Eating like a local means eating healthy and fresh, but also cheap.
As a diverse country, Turkey has a stunning array of entertainment and natural attractions. Museums and architecture alone could keep you busy for months. There is a tremendous array of culture that ranges from night clubs and cafes, to stage shows and art galleries.
Istanbul hosts many international festivals focusing on music and performance. The beaches, especially those of Izmir, are also popular with residents. The high number of students in areas like Ankara and Eskisehir provide all kinds of cultural and sporting events too.
Local listings will always reveal countless opportunities to hear music, see dancing, listen to literature and poetry, explore art, and so much more. Many events are free, but the following prices are the average to expect for entertainment venues:
Movie ticket — $6
Theater ticket — $25
Bosphorus cruise – $90
Tennis court rental (per hour) — $20
Tour of Grand Bazaar – $60
While you can enjoy the same activities as the world travelers arriving by air, sea, rail and land, it may be more enjoyable to live like a local and keep your cost of living in Turkey as low as theirs!
Of course, there are always the nasty surprises of life that catch us off guard, and these can make the cost of living in Turkey a bit difficult to meet. The TV that costs hundreds to replace, the high price of the OTC vitamins or pain relievers we prefer, or even the new sneakers that you didn’t plan for can hit your budget hard. Even if you can easily accommodate such expenses, it is a wise idea to understand how their prices vary from those of your native home.
Here are a few good examples:
TV – $450
Gym membership – $55
American made jeans – $55
Good leather shoes – $75+
Brand name sneakers – $70+
OTC medicines – $3.50 (5 day supply)
Microwave oven – $60
Consider all you need on a day to day basis, and figure out what it will take to replace them in Turkey. This is a far more accurate cost of living in Turkey than a budget that skips the essentials.
Cost of living in Turkey–Grand Total:
When you consider the facts, the cost of living in Turkey is very reasonable.
A single month will tend to cost:
Accommodation — $1,200
Food and drink — $300
Technology — $50
Entertainment — $100 (can be MUCH higher)
Transportation — $70
Other costs — $150
Grand Total — $1,870
Although the grand total seems high, sharing a rental with a friend or colleague can cut your expenses in half. You can also opt for cheaper studio apartments, especially those near universities, which can be obtained for $500 or less. Shopping only in local markets and not Western grocery stores will help you remain even more on track.
There is a large influx of people from all over the world heading to Turkey for part of the year or on a permanent basis. They come for the hospitable culture, the gorgeous weather and landscape, and the reasonable cost of living.
You have many reasons to give it a try too!