Expats living in Turkey are your best source of information about making the move to Turkey - what to bring, obtaining a residence permit in Turkey, mandatory health insurance, housing costs and culture shock.
Moving to Turkey
We asked expats what advice would they offer to a friend moving to Turkey. Here's what they had to say:
"They should be open minded and as in every city, this city also has advantages and disadvantages, however if you have a positive outlook and are into finding out about new cultures its a jewel. Great history, lots to see, ethnic food, safe, rich night life, lots of traffic, difficult language and some chaos. Last but not least: The beautiful Bosphorus," wrote one expat in Istanbul.
"I would say, come to Antalya! It is a great city full of places to visit in the sorroundings. People are very warm and open. Life is easy in Antalya, the streets are safe, the weather is great and there are many activities to do. But not all is good, of course. You have to get used to the Turkish way of living. The 'problem yok' (no problem) philosophy, where everything is ok, never seeing problems, is sometimes comforting and sometimes frustrating. Things are slower than in Europe or USA. You will need patience and adaptation to their culture and way of living. All in all, Antalya is a great place to live," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Turkey.
"If a friend of mine was thinking of moving here I would be delighted! I think it's a great city. I would advise them to learn some Turkish beforehand (it'll make things a little smoother) and not to forget their winter stuff (even though Izmir is on the Aegean and has hot summers it gets cold here in the winter)," commented one expat who made the move to Istanbul, Turkey.
What to Bring When You Move to Turkey (and what to leave behind)
We asked expats living in Turkey what they wish they had brought when moving to Turkey and what they wish they had left at home.
One expat in Istanbul replied, "[I wish I had] brought: English food ingredients, sky satellite system, more books and reading material. [I wish I had left] microwave, large furniture, cars."
"[I wish I had] brought: more books, more Mexican food ingredients, walking shoes. [I wish I had] left: carpets, ski jackets, crystalware,"
mentioned another expat who moved to Turkey.
"[I wish I had] brought with me: food ingredients. [I wish I had left behind] some of the furniture, here is very good and cheap,"
commented one expat who made the move to Turkey.
"At the moment, the only things I wish I would have brought with me are a nice tin of baking cocoa, some good quality slippers in a size 10 for ladies and my collection of dvds," remarked another expat in Izmir, Turkey.
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Obtaining a Residence Permit
"To live in Turkey it is best to obtain a residence permit. These are quite easy to obtain from an Emniyet office that are in all main towns and cities. You did have to obtain your first residence permit from the Turkish Embassy outside of Turkey, this however, may have now changed. The cost of a residence permit varies depending on which countries passport you hold. It is best to go online to check on the latest information. Before you can obtain a residence permit you need to have either a rental agreement, or a Tapu (house deed title). Your first residence permit will be for three months, with your next for either six months or one year," explained one expat.
According to the US State Department, "If you are planning to stay in Turkey for more than 90 days within a 180-day period, for any reason, including tourism, you must get a Turkish residence permit. In order to obtain a residence permit, please schedule an online appointment at e-ikamet.goc.gov.tr before you contact Provincial Directorates of Migration Management Office in your area."
"The U.S. Embassy strongly urges U.S Citizens not to overstay their visas and to maintain valid residence permits at all times. Turkish authorities do enforce the laws, including those stipulating fines, deportation, and bans on future travel to Turkey for people who overstay their visas or do not maintain valid residency permits. If you stay beyond the date your visa or residence permit expires, even if only for a few days, you will be fined at the port of exit and will be subject to a travel ban preventing you from re-entering Turkey for a period between three months and five years (depending on the length of your overstay). Monthly fines for overstaying Turkish visas or residency permits add up quickly. Travelers are encouraged to check with local authorities to ensure compliance with all Turkish immigration regulations. U.S. citizens who have overstayed their visas, residence permits, or visa exempt periods and are subject to a fine can also benefit from the residence permit procedure as long as they pay the related fines," continued the US State Department.
Do I need health insurance To get a residence permit in Turkey?
From the US State Department, "If you are obtaining residence permit, you will be required by the Turkish government to get health insurance that has coverage in Turkey. The Turkish government implemented a general health insurance law called the Social Insurance and General Health Insurance Law (GHI). You can find below some useful information and updates about the General Health Insurance Law (GHI) if you are applying for GHI in Turkey."
Letter regarding Medicare coverage outside of the U.S.
FAQs from the Social Security Institution's (SGK) website pertaining to foreigners
Healthcare in Turkey
According to the US State Department, "Medical care provided in Turkish hospitals varies greatly. Though new private hospitals in Ankara, Analya, Izmir and Istanbul have modern facilities, equipment, numerous U.S.-trained specialists, and international accreditation, some still may be unable to treat certain serious conditions. Health care standards are lower in small cities in Turkey."
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Read our article, Healthcare in Turkey to learn more about hospitals, health insurance and doctors in Turkey
Culture Shock in Turkey
We asked expats about the culture shock they experienced when they moved to Turkey. They replied:
"Not much here - I have lived in more isolated places. The men and women lead very separate lives... accept that and you can get along better. I love the gracious hostess culture, the curious questions about the USA or ABD (many know some English having lived abroad or know tourist English), the pride in their history, respect for cats and dogs, and eagerness to show the best parts of Turkey. It is best to absorb much through reading what others have learned and do walking tours to enrich what you see. ARIT is a good group to join. Take a city bus and ride the route. Hop off when you are interested in seeing more and then hop back on in the other direction to get to where you started. I think strangers are always trying to be helpful with directions even when they have no clue what you are asking. The food is great and relatively cheap if you cook. The men do seem to think women of all ages are desperate for sex...without any committment as they do have a wife and family all arranged for them usually," said one expat who moved to Istanbul, Turkey.
"Izmir is a lovely city and I feel very blessed to live here. But the adjustment was a bit bumpy. I realized what the problem was. In Istanbul where I worked I knew many expats (Americans and Canadians), but after moving to Izmir the number of expat coworkers reduced to 1 (and she's not there everyday). Because I don't get the daily dose of expat conversation and jokes and talk of things that we all can relate to or have an interest in the culture shock really hit. It's no longer only having a Turkish environment in the evenings after work and on weekends, it is now 24/7. I was missing having some expat association. It's nice to talk about a book, a poem or the latest album of some admired music group. Of course, I talk about these things on Skype with friends back in the States, however, it's nice to talk about these with people here, face-to-face. However, I recently discovered a lovely English Poetry Club and Bookswap, but I can only attend a couple of times because normally I'm working fulltime and they meet during the week at an earlier time. Albeit, some of the ladies live nearby and so now I can always share and discuss poems and books, etc,"
mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Turkey.
Many Expats in Turkey Live in Compounds
When we asked expats in Turkey about the type of home or apartment they live in and whether that is typical for expats, they replied:
"3 bed modern apartment, centrally located on a compound. Most expats go for compound living as all the facilities are there (swimming pools, shops, tennis etc.) and also because it is an easier enviornment to make friends. There are many compounds that have villas also with the same facilities," said one expat who moved to Istanbul, Turkey.
"We live in a middle-class Turkish neighborhood. It's mostly apartments in our area. There are very, very few expats in this part of town,"
mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Turkey.
"Typical for expats. It is a villa in a compound. Most of the people around this area are expats," commented one expat who made the move to Turkey.
"We live in an apartment ('daire' as they say in Turkish) which is of a good size for us (open kitchen and a decent size living room, one bathroom, two bedrooms and a balcony). I have met a few expats and they all have similar housing," remarked another expat.
Housing Costs in Turkey
"Look around the city before deciding on where you want to live. Some people are more comfortable in compounds and others want to live in Turkish neighborhoods. Since the rents vary so much, even within a given area, it is important to take your time in finding a place if possible,"
said one expat in Istanbul.
"Housing costs in Istanbul are expensive compared to the UK - even compared to London. The average cost of, for example, a 3 bed apartment on a compound would probably be approx. US $3,000 per month. Villas on similar compounds can be rented for anything between US $4,500 - 10,000 per month," said one expat who moved to Istanbul, Turkey.
"Housing costs vary widely here. We don't live in a compound, so we pay much less in rent. Our rent for a 3 bedroom 1-1/2 bath flat with a Bosphorus view and within walking distance of shopping and the ferryboat is $400 US," wrote one expat.
"Much higher. Turkey is very expensive. Don't find a house for less that $5000 a month," commented one expat who made the move to Turkey.
"Lower--because in the States I paid rent. My husband had his own home so there's no rent. Yay! However, even if we did pay rent it would be cheaper than back in the US. A person can find a nice apt. for anywhere between 450 to 600 Turkish lira. But 500 TL seems to be more of the average in our neighborhood," remarked another expat in Izmir, Turkey.
Safety in Turkey
According to the US State Department, "The potential for terrorist attacks in Turkey, including against U.S. citizens and interests, remains high. Terrorists have previously attacked U.S. interests in Turkey, including the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, and the U.S. Consulate in Adana. Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey. Terrorist organizations also explicitly target Western tourists and expatriates for kidnapping and assassination. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas."