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BLOG Living in Turkey as a Foreigner: What Expats Need to Know

6 April 2021 / Lifestyle


Living in Turkey as a Foreigner

When selling houses to people from overseas, many ask us about living in Turkey as a foreigner. They want to know everything, some out of curiosity and others because they want to become expats who enjoy life abroad. Firstly, Turkey easily matches any other countries, for an idyllic expat lifestyle.

Moving here means tapping into a gorgeous climate, healthy Turkish cuisine, a new life at a much slower pace, new friends, excellent value for money, and a cross-cultural ambience of nationalities from all over the world. However, settling into expat life is vastly different from being here on holiday. Many expats will confirm certain hurdles to overcome. So, let’s look at what to know before moving to Turkey.

Living in Turkey as a Foreigner

1: How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably?

How much money you need depends on where you relocate to. Istanbul, the most expensive destination, has high rent prices, and it is costly to shop, eat out and socialise. Likewise, any travellers who know Turkey well confirm places like luxury Kalkan incur more costs than budget Altinkum over on the Aegean coast. Budget expatriates should factor in at least 5000 Turkish Lira a month, but more if they plan to live in big cities or retire with more lifestyle benefits. Read more about the cost of living in Turkey here.

2: Do People Speak English in Turkey?

This depends on where you go in Turkey. As the world’s 37th largest country, it is incredibly diverse and varied. Expat living on the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts is generally easy because this is where all Turkey’s beach holiday destinations are; hence international tourism is a significant income, so most locals speak English. Choose the Black sea, southeast or central Anatolian cities like Konya or Kayseri, and chances of coming across English speaking locals lower. In this instance, we strongly recommend learning Turkish, even just one word a day.

3: How is Life in Turkey for Foreigners?

Living overseas in Turkey is ideal for many foreigners, as seen in the large expatriate communities dotted across towns, cities, and villages. Any retired foreigner with a decent pension enjoys a good lifestyle thanks to the Turkish lira's current exchange rate compared to other world currencies. Many retired expats also deposited money in high-interest savings accounts. They withdraw the interest every month after paying tax, hence never touch their net worth.

If you cannot retire, you need to navigate the Turkish workplace and get work permits. This daunting task is more challenging if you aren’t employed, don’t know the language and lack social skills to fit in. Overall, our advice is to sort finances out first, and if you can afford to live in Turkey, you will enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Still, some factors affect expatriate living in Turkey. What are they?

4: Residence Permit and International Health Insurance

When living and working abroad in any country, your top two priorities should be legal residency and health insurance. When you move overseas to Turkey, any stay over 90 days within 180 requires an application to gain residency. Most applications get approved if expats prove they financially support themselves. At first, they get one year, and after that, apply for two-year permits. Over 65 expats don’t need healthcare insurance but will pay bills should any medical situation arise. Under 65s need it for the application. Most people who retire abroad to Turkey opt into the government-run SGK system. More about residence permits here.

5: Settling In

Expatriates may well be up for the idea of a move to Turkey, yet when they arrive, they should give themselves a settling period of at least six months. No matter how well prepared you are to live abroad, you may experience culture shock, homesickness or even the dreaded expat syndrome. Retirees often don’t know what to do with the massive amounts of free times now on their hands, and some end up in the pub all day, every day.

At the same time, some people miss family members back home. The excellent news is settling in times are only temporary and every obstacle can be overcome. Our advice is to keep an open mind and network as much as possible. Expatriate communities often include many English-speaking nationalities who guide and help but don’t forget to make friends with Turks as well.

6: Buy Property or Rent

When you relocate to Turkey, renting or buying property is a personal preference. Many people purchase property because of low prices, quick processing time, and affordable running and maintenance costs. Others rent because they are only here temporarily or don’t have funds. Renters should get a contract and shop around to see the average prices of rent in the area where they choose to reside. Otherwise, property buyers can browse our listings of apartments and villas for sale in many regions of Turkey. Each listing includes the price, location, what makes that home stand out, and contact details to find out more or arrange a viewing.

7: Where do Expats Live in Turkey?

Turkey’s expat community can separate into two sectors. Working expats gravitate to big cities like Istanbul, Izmir, or Ankara. They usually already have a job lined up, like being a live-in babysitter or teaching English. Retired expats gravitate towards coastal resorts of the south and west coasts. The following popular destinations stand out as expat hubs.

Cosmopolitan Antalya: Living in a foreign country is sometimes hard, but not in Antalya. This multi-cultural hub makes retiring abroad easy by offering up the Mediterranean’s best beaches, shopping, and nightlife scenes. The name refers to the larger province, Turkey’s second most popular tourist destination and a hub for foreigners buying property. Potential places include the ever-expanding hub of Alanya, historical Side, the city centre, Turkey’s golfing capital of Belek or the luxury villa destination of Kalkan.

Beautiful Fethiye: Many choose to live overseas in this region because of affordable property prices and stunning landscapes of natural beauty. The area sits close to Dalaman international airport, so getting there from other countries is quickly done. Once again, this is a region, and popular towns include Calis beach that offers up marvellous sunsets views, or Hisaronu and Ovacik, both of which feature large expat communities. The city centre is the heart of the action with a vibrant nightlife and shopping scene and a central bus station with connections to the rest of Turkey.

Bodrum Peninsula: To move overseas to Bodrum is to buy into non-conformity. The peninsula has long been a destination for artisans and like-minded individuals because it encourages a sense of expression. While it earns fame for luxury, it is more pricey than other places, some resorts like Gumbet or Turgutreis do an excellent job of accommodating those on a budget. Bodrum’s massive presence on the international sailing scene is witnessed in Yalikavak resort, where the marina often hosts mega yachts of rich and famous celebrities from around the world.

Bustling Istanbul: It makes sense Istanbul has a large community of foreigners because it is Turkey’s biggest and most populated city. Everything happens here, including tourism, business, education, and health. It leads Turkey’s housing market and features the country’s most expensive houses on the Bosphorus shores. In recent years, the property market has expanded into European and Asian outskirt districts, making it more affordable for locals to live there.

Also of Interest

We hope we have given lots of helpful information about living in Turkey as a foreigner. If the topics interests you further, our blog about Turkey will be of use. As a real estate agent with many years of experience, we combined our local knowledge to write about matters affecting expats and holidaymakers in Turkey, including destinations, food, traditions, history, and culture.

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