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BLOG How to Register Your Mobile Phone for Use in Turkey

24 August 2020 / Lifestyle

If you’re moving to Turkey, it makes sense that you’ll want to use the Turkish mobile phone network. It’s fine to rely on free wifi in bars, restaurants and hotels – or even to rent a portable wifi device – when you’re on holiday. If you’re here permanently, though, you need a long-term solution.

Sadly, this isn’t as simple as switching from your foreign SIM card to a Turkish one. If you want to use your existing handset – or any SIM-enabled device, such as a tablet – there are a few administrative hoops to jump through first. Here’s how to do it.

First things first

Before you move to Turkey, make sure your handset isn’t tied to a service provider in your home country. If it is, make sure it’s unlocked before you come.

Once you arrive, you have 120 days to register your phone for use in Turkey. If you miss the deadline, you’ll have to wait until the next time you leave (and return) to the country. If you use a Turkish SIM card in your handset before it’s registered, your phone will be blocked – possibly in as little as 30 days – and you’ll be unable to use it.

It’s also worth noting that your handset and your Turkish SIM must be registered under the same name. Each person can only register one SIM-enabled device every three years.

Starting the registration process

There are several ways to do this, depending on what you’re comfortable with and whether you have Turkish internet banking. Each involves paying a tax to register your handset; this is currently set at 1,838 Turkish lira. Typically, you’ll need to wait up to 24 hours for your payment to be processed before you can continue with registration.

1 - Visit your local tax office to make the payment. You’ll need your passport, residence permit and your handset’s IMEI number. Next, go to the PTT (post office) and request an e-devlet şifre (ee-dev-let shif-ray), which costs 2tl. This will let you log into the e-devlet site for the first time, when you’ll then be instructed to choose your own password for future use. The site is in Turkish, so you may need to use a browser such as Google Chrome or have a Turkish-speaking friend on hand to help.   

2 - Go online. If you have Turkish internet banking, you might be able to self-register and pay the tax without obtaining an e-devlet password first. Click here to try.

3 - Alternatively, you can pay directly through the tax office website. Again, it is in Turkish so you may need some assistance.

The next step

Once you’re ready to continue, you’ll need to log into the e-devlet site again. From the homepage, choose e-hizmet (e-hiz-met), or services, then bilgi teknolojileri ve iletişim kurumu (bill-gi technolog-ill-eri vay ill-et-ish-im cur-u-mu), which is IT and communications. From there, find the link for IMEI kaydet (IMEI k-eye-det), or ‘save IMEI’.

You’ll be led through the process to completion, when you will be notified that you’ve registered successfully.

There is an alternative

It’s good to navigate these processes yourself – after all, if you’re going to live here, you need to learn. But if it’s all a bit overwhelming, you can also register your handset at a phone shop. You’ll still need to visit the tax office first to make the initial payment and obtain your first e-devlet password from the PTT.

Then, after 24 hours, go to a phone shop belonging to your chosen network – Turkcell, Vodafone, or Türk Telekom. Remember to take the tax payment receipt, e-devlet password, and your passport, residence permit and IMEI number. They’ll do the rest of the registration for you, but be aware they may charge. They’ll also be able to help you top up your phone, choose a data package, or even look at taking out a contract. (Previously, pay-as-you-go was the only option for foreigners, but Turkcell now offer contracts subject to certain conditions.)

Useful to know

If you hold a residence permit, you can register up to three Turkish SIM cards in your name for any Turkish phone. They will stay active as long as you top up and use each one at least once every six months.

Once your handset is up and running, you might need to know the following; just enter the characters on your keypad:

*123# - check your balance

*159# - check your data package

*111# - check/request international roaming

Be aware of changes

The rules for registering mobile devices and SIM cards change regularly, as do the various costs involved. The information we have given is correct as of August 2020.

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