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Moving to Istanbul, Turkey

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By Betsy Burlingame

Last updated on Feb 03, 2023

Summary: Expatriates are drawn to Istanbul, Turkey for its vibrant culture, rich history, and diverse population. With its bustling nightlife, world-class cuisine, and stunning architecture, Istanbul is a city that offers something for everyone. Additionally, the city's strategic location between Europe and Asia makes it an ideal destination for those looking to explore both continents. Before moving to Istanbul, it is important to be aware of the city's high cost of living. Additionally, the city is prone to earthquakes, so it is important to be aware of the safety protocols in place. It is also important to be aware of the cultural differences between Istanbul and other cities, as well as the local customs and etiquette. Finally, it is important to research the visa requirements for expats, as well as the availability of health insurance and other services.

What do I need to know before moving to Istanbul?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Istanbul, they said:

"1. Make sure you research the cost of living in Istanbul and its surrounding cities.2. Learn some of the local language. Turkish is spoken in Istanbul and is considered one of the most important languages of commerce in the city.3. Learn about the cultural and religious practices that are specific to the area. Respect the rules and customs of the people around you.4. Be aware that Istanbul is considered a safe city but there are still occasional incidents of crime. Know how to protect yourself and your belongings.5. Get acquainted with the city’s public transportation system to make sure you can get around easily.6. Make sure you have the proper paperwork and Visa if you plan to live and work in Istanbul.7. Invest in good quality medical insurance since healthcare in Istanbul can be expensive.8. Research the city’s job market and local businesses to find out what opportunities exist before you make the move.9. Familiarize yourself with the neighbourhoods to decide where is the best place for you to live," commented one expat who made the move to Istanbul.

"Find a good relocation company and make sure that they show you everything on the market not only the houses they get commission from, or you will end up seeing houses without kitchen," remarked another expat in Istanbul, Turkey.

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How do I find a place to live in Istanbul?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"There are a variety of different options when it comes to finding a place to live in Istanbul. You can search online for property listings, or look into areas such as Beyoglu, Sisli, Kadiköy, and Bakirköy which tend to have a range of property available. If you don't find what you're looking for online, you could also contact a real estate agent for assistance. Additionally, you could also look into classified listings on websites such as Craigslist, and social networks like Facebook, which are often useful for finding short term rental and other accommodation. Alternatively, if you have friends or contacts in Istanbul, it could be worth asking them too," remarked another expat who made the move to Istanbul.

"We narrowed down the area we wanted to live in and went to a local real estate agent and gave him the list of what we wanted in an apartment," explained one expat living in Istanbul, Turkey.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Istanbul?

"Expat homes and apartments in Istanbul tend to be modern and comfortable, with lots of light and often plenty of outdoor space. Many feature balconies and terraces with stunning views across the city and Bosphorus. Kitchens are usually fitted with all the necessary amenities, and often come with built-in appliances. Interiors have a variety of decorative styles, from contemporary to traditional, and some expat homes and apartments feature extra comforts such as hot tubs and rooftop gardens," explained one expat living in Istanbul, Turkey.

"Typical for expats.. It is a villa in a compound. Most of the people around this area are expats," said another expat in Istanbul.

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What is the average cost of housing in Istanbul?

If you are thinking about moving to Istanbul, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"The cost of housing in Istanbul can vary greatly depending on the area and type of property, but generally it is higher than the national average," replied a member in Istanbul.

"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 Istanbul.

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Should I buy or rent a home in Istanbul?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Istanbul, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"When considering whether to buy or rent a home in Istanbul, there are a few important aspects to take into consideration. Buying a property in Istanbul can be a good investment, as the city is a sought-after destination for holidaymakers and foreign investors, driving property prices up. On the other hand, renting can be more cost effective and provide flexibility if you don't plan on living in the city long-term. It is also important to consider the types of properties available, as well as the associated costs, security and local taxes. Ultimately, the decision should be based on your individual lifestyle and budget," replied a member in Istanbul.

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What should I pack when moving to Istanbul?

We asked people living in Istanbul to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"Clothing for different weathers, a variety of footwear, bedding, cooking supplies, toiletries, cleaning supplies, a laptop and other electronics, books, DVDs, passport, important documents and paperwork, camera, chargers and power adapters, a few favorite items or decorations, sunscreen and other personal healthcare items, light jacket or umbrella, and finally a travel guide or dictionary," said another expat in Istanbul.

"Brought with me:
Food ingredients Left:
Some of the furniture, here is very good and cheap," added another expat who made the move to Istanbul.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Istanbul?

We asked people in Istanbul if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"In Istanbul it is important to dress modestly and conservatively, particularly as a woman, to respect local values and traditions. As Turkey is largely a Muslim nation, demeaning or offensive remarks or gestures related to the Islamic faith should be avoided. Similarly, it is important to be respectful of the country's Ottoman past and refrain from making derogatory comments about their history. Passersby should also be aware that public displays of affection, such as kissing and hugging, are generally not acceptable. Additionally, it is important to be aware that most people in Istanbul speak Turkish, and not many people speak English. As such, it is important to keep in mind that a lack of language skills can lead to misunderstandings, so being polite and respectful is a must," remarked another expat who made the move to Istanbul.

"I wanted sour cream. Didn't know Turks don't use it. Could not find it. So I got a grocery store manager, stood at the dairy counter, and said "Moo!" loudly and stuck out my tongue, grimacing. A customer then said "you won't find sour cream in Turkey."," explained one expat living in Fatih, Istanbul, Turkey.

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How are healthcare services Istanbul?

When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Istanbul, they replied:

"It's is essential that you have health care insurance. Axa as far as I know is the only company that will insure you over the age of 70. This is only possible if you had had a policy with them from I believe 65 years old," commented one expat who moved to Istanbul.

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.

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