Many people who come on holiday and contemplate moving across often ask if Turkey is a good place to live? It is a good, realistic question because life away from the beach bars and daily lazy boat cruises is always different. We are biased. Some of our team live in Turkey, a secular country and have done so for years because they love it. They now call it home in places like Istanbul, Fethiye, Antalya, Bodrum or the good old expat British haven, Altinkum.
They are realistic and say the country has faults, which is to be expected since nowhere is a utopia. However, they say they wouldn’t move to another country simply because Turkey feels like home. The country boasts a rich history full of Byzantine and Ottoman architecture yet openly embraces modern living. But of course, moving to Turkey is not done haphazardly. It is a big lifestyle decision to make.
So, in this article, we look at aspects foreign nationals need to consider, including the Turkish culture, cost of living, health insurance, residence permits, the Turkish economy, language barrier and more.
About Living in Turkey as a Foreigner
Summary – Advantages of Living in Turkey
1: Gorgeous climate for most of the year
2: State of the art airports with frequent flights to other countries
3: Modern architecture in the housing market
4: Large choice of destinations to choose from
5: Already existing expat communities
6: Multicultural vibes welcoming people from all around the world
7: Low cost of living compared to other countries
8: Excellent healthcare
9: Travelling around the country is fun and easy to do
Summary – Disadvantages of Living in Turkey
1: Volatile Turkish lira which makes budgeting between currencies hard
2: Language barrier for non-Turkish speakers
3: Bureaucracy system and red tape
4: Many expats don’t rate the educational system
Summary – Tips and Advice
1: Include a buffer zone in your budget to accommodate exchange rates
2: Manage your finances carefully
3: Try to learn at least one Turkish word a day
4: Get to know about the different culture and regional traditions
5: Don’t discuss politics
Cost of Living in Turkey
Ten years ago, living in Turkey was cheaper than in European countries. Even foreign citizens on tight budgets could make their money last. However, things have changed. While you can be frugal by shopping at local weekly markets, other lifestyle aspects need careful consideration.
Although smokers still win when comparing cigarette prices with the UK, frequent price increases happen yearly. Likewise, alcohol prices now match European countries. Indeed, most expats who are smokers and drinkers will see much of their monthly budget quickly go. At the same time, while you could spend 100 lira at the supermarket and come out with four bags five years ago, that doesn’t happen now. Indeed, living in Turkey has got more expensive.
However, Numbeo, the price database from around the world, say people moving to Turkey from other European cities will still be better off. They say….
- Consumer Prices are 54.5% lower than in the United Kingdom
- Restaurant Prices are 71.4% lower than in the United Kingdom
- Groceries Prices are 49.6% lower than in the United Kingdom
The significant difference in our cost-of-living budget is that we don’t eat out as much as we used to. The meals, drinks and taxi home are costly. We use local farmers’ markets and, budget supermarkets for household items to maintain decent living costs. Our household bills like gas, electric, water, and council tax are still low cost though and worth every penny.
Renting Versus Buying Property
The highest cost most expats face when living in Turkey is rent. This has increased in price drastically and dents the budget. Rent prices vary from region to region, and expats who rent sometimes say they do so because of inheritance laws. This is one less hassle for expats who have bought their property outright and have no mortgage to pay.
The rent versus buying property debate is not exclusive to Turkey but worldwide, and ultimately is personal. To get an idea of prices of property in Turkey, browse our portfolio of apartments and villas for sale in various areas to understand prices. Each listing contains everything to know, including price, location, home features and details to find out more or arrange viewings.
Do you need to speak Turkish to live in Turkey?
Having knowledge of the Turkish language makes it easier to navigate daily life. Turkish is the official language of Turkey, predominantly spoken throughout the country. On the Med and Aegean coasts, many locals speak English because of the tourism industries; however, learning the official language will help.
Knowing Turkish means communicating effectively with neighbours, colleagues, and service providers. The language facilitates day-to-day interactions, such as shopping, dining, and seeking assistance. Learning Turkish helps to integrate into Turkish society more quickly. It allows you to understand and appreciate the local culture, customs, and traditions. It also helps in building relationships and fostering friendships.
While some multinational companies and sectors in major cities might operate in English or other languages, proficiency in Turkish expands employment opportunities. Many jobs, especially in smaller businesses and local industries, require knowledge of Turkish.
Government services, healthcare facilities, legal processes, and bureaucratic procedures are generally conducted in Turkish. Communicating in Turkish helps to navigate these systems more efficiently and resolve any issues.
Learning new languages also broadens horizons and enhances cognitive abilities. It opens up new possibilities for personal and professional growth by connecting with people and accessing local language resources.
While you may find locals who speak English and expatriate communities in certain areas, particularly in popular tourist destinations or international hubs, knowing Turkish will make your daily life more manageable. Even try to learn the Turkish basics like greetings, numbers, and days of the week.
Important- Managing Finances and the Turkish Lira
Expats’ biggest mistake is not accounting for future developments or neglecting to save money when considering their budget and the Turkish Lira. The Turkish Lira has seen the exchange rate tripled in recent years.
While many people think Brits are now winning for living costs, remember this exchange rate goes down and up. Additionally, expats don’t factor in yearly inflation for the cost of living. To live here long term, give yourself buffer zones for living costs. The most significant way to make the transition work is by carefully managing finances and budgeting for future developments.
High-Interest Savings Account for Expats in Turkey
Many expats in Turkey have two sources of income. The first is private or state pensions, and the second is monthly interest from bank accounts in Turkey. Many banks operate what they call time deposit bank accounts. This is where you deposit the money, pledge to keep it there for x days, and then withdraw the interest after that period is finished. Most accounts operate for 31 or 32 days; hence expats top up their pensions.
Many got the money to deposit by selling their property in their home country. Either deposit the money in a foreign currency and get lower interest rates or convert it into Turkish Lira and get higher interest rates. However, remember, interest rates will change frequently. The current Turkish government favours low-interest rates. Also, remember exchange rates vary if you convert money into Turkish Lira. So, if you plan to return to your home country in ten years, you might not return with the same amount of money you left with.
Health Insurance in Turkey
Turkish healthcare is provided through public and private systems. The government operates the Social Security Institution (SGK), which covers Turkish citizens and legal residents who contribute to the system. Additionally, foreigners can opt for private healthcare providers and insurance options.
Public: Legal residents with a 2nd-year valid residence permit are eligible for public health insurance through the Social Security Institution (SGK). This option typically requires making monthly contributions to the system. However, coverage and benefits vary, so inquire about the terms and conditions.
Private Healthcare: Many private insurance companies in Turkey offer private health insurance plans tailored for individuals, families, and expatriates. Private health insurance provides broader coverage options, including access to private hospitals and clinics. Research different insurance providers and compare coverage.
International Health Insurance: If staying in Turkey temporarily, international health insurance will be suitable. These policies provide comprehensive coverage across multiple countries and can benefit frequent travel beyond Turkey’s borders. Various global insurance companies sell international health insurance plans.
Positive – Residence Permits are Easy to Get
Getting a residence permit in Turkey is relatively easy. Just prove you have the funds to support yourself and have healthcare if you are under 65. To obtain a Turkish residence permit in Turkey, first, come into the country under a tourist visa.
Residence permits types vary, including short-term, family, student, work, and long-term residence permits. Identify the appropriate category for your stay. The documents vary depending on which residence permit you apply for. They typically include…
- The application form on the Directorate General of Migration Management website or in person at the relevant office
- Valid passport or travel document with six months validity.
- Passport-sized photos.
- Proof of health insurance coverage.
- Proof of accommodation, like a rental agreement or property ownership documents.
- Financial documents proving you can support yourself during your stay.
Apply for a residence permit online via the Electronic Residence Permit Application System (e-ikamet) or in person at the local Directorate General of Migration Management office (Göç İdaresi). The fee varies based on the duration and permit. Depending on the office, you may need to schedule an appointment for biometric data (such as fingerprints) and an interview.
The processing time for residence applications varies. After submitting your application, the document acts as a temporary permit until the final decision is made. Approved applications will receive a card, an official document confirming your legal stay in Turkey. Carry this card at all times.
Where do Expats Live in Turkey?
Mediterranean Sea Region of Turkey
The Mediterranean Sea Turkey covers the entire southwest coast. Naturally, fronting the Mediterranean Sea, beaches are the main feature of daily life. Also backed by the Taurus Mountains range, the landscapes are spectacular. The Turkish and Mediterranean diet also focuses on fish and fresh ingredients. Turkish Airports servicing this area are Antalya and Dalaman. Popular places to consider moving to include the Fethiye region consisting of Hisaronu, Ovacik, and Calis Beach, as well as the city centre. Alternatively, the Antalya region also features the city centre and places like Kemer, Belek, Side, Alanya, Kas and Kalkan.
Aegean Sea Region of Turkey
This region covers the entire western coast of Turkey from Canakkale in the north to the Datca peninsula. Naturally, there are many beaches like in Mediterranean Turkey. Still, most tourism awards rate the med beaches like Kaputas, Lara, and Konyaalti as better. The climate on the Aegean Sea is slightly cooler, and while the Med is known for citrus farming, the Aegean excels in olive orchards and dairy farming. The Bodrum peninsula, Altinkum and Kusadasi are famous places expats move to in Aegean, Turkey.
Major Cities in Turkey
Most retired expats move to the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea regions of Turkey. Whereas working expat families tend to head to the big cities like Istanbul, Ankara, the capital city or the city centre of Izmir. In addition, Trabzon and Rize on the northern coast are two major cities with rising popularity among Middle Eastern property buyers. The thing to remember about Turkish cities is the cost of living is higher, especially in Istanbul. This city is the most expensive place to live in Turkey. Read more about where to retire in Turkey.
Enjoy Turkish Culture
In recent years, we have seen Eastern and Western cultures in Turkey change. While time-honoured traditions are still prevalent in the older generations, more youngsters are approaching Western cultures. But Turkish people are still open with their warm hospitality and generosity. In a Muslim country, guests are highly valued and welcomed with open arms.
Traditional rich culture crafts such as carpet weaving, ceramics, calligraphy, marbling (ebru), miniature painting, and tile work (çini) are highly esteemed. Turkish people still celebrate religious and secular festivals throughout the year. Some significant ones include Eid al-Fitr (marking the end of Ramadan), Republic Day (celebrating the founding of the Turkish Republic), and National Sovereignty and Children’s Day.
Turkish folk music and dance feature highly in the rich cultural heritage. Traditional musical instruments like the bağlama (stringed instrument) and darbuka ( percussion instrument) are used to create lively and rhythmic tunes. Traditional folk dances such as the horon and halay are performed at celebrations and gatherings.
Family members hold great significance in Turkish culture. Extended family networks are standard, and strong bonds are fostered between relatives. Family gatherings, especially during holidays, are essential to Turkish life. Turkish cuisine also features heavily. Like other countries, football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Turkey, but also expect to see traditional oil wrestling (Yağlı güreş).
It is worth remembering different regions of Turkey are more conservative than others, and this is where culture is strongest. For example, the east, and major cities of central Turkey, like Konya, Kayseri and the Turkish city of Bursa, have conservative outlooks. For more Westernised cultures, look to other Turkish cities like Antalya, Fethiye, and Bodrum.
Can I Work in Turkey?
Yes, under Turkish employment law, foreigners can work. In fact, many expat families move here because of their work. However, there are specific requirements under Turkish law. Even though some of Istanbul is in Western Europe, Turkey doesn’t belong to the European Union. So, you need a work permit to work legally in Turkey as a foreigner.
The Ministry of Labor and Social Security (MLSS) grants the work permit. Work permits vary, including short-term and long-term licenses, depending on the employment. Before applying for a work permit, secure a job offer from a Turkish company. The employer will initiate the work permit application process on your behalf.
Can I get Turkish Citizenship?
You can get Turkish citizenship and a Turkish passport to live in Turkey permanently. If you marry a Turkish citizen, apply after three years of marriage. Additionally, those with Turkish ancestry or heritage can apply. In exceptional cases, individuals who make extraordinary contributions to Turkey in science, arts, or sports may be eligible for citizenship. One of the most popular options is to buy real estate and pledge to keep it for at least three years. Read more details here or consult with the Turkish Ministry of Interior or qualified immigration lawyers for accurate information based on circumstances.
Best Places to Buy Property in Turkey
When you decide that living in Turkey is the right lifestyle choice for you, you might decide to buy property. In which case, this article about places to buy a home in Turkey will help. Discussing regional and local markets, the article answers common questions and also gives tips on how to decide on the right area in Turkey for you.