Working in Istanbul
Many travellers who visit Istanbul are captivated by the city and wish to stay longer. Because of this, there are large numbers of foreigners working in Istanbul. Despite the high unemployment rate in Turkey, finding work in Istanbul as a foreigner is possible provided you have a positive attitude and are prepared to work as hard as the Turks do.
It’s worth checking out the rules and regulations surrounding work permits and visas before you decide to work in Turkey. Many foreigners work in Turkey illegally, preferring to do the three month ‘visa run’ to Greece or Bulgaria rather than trying to tackle the Turkish bureaucracy, though this of course brings its own risks. If you take the official route, keep in mind that work permits can only be applied for after a residency permit has been issued. A useful guide to regulations can be found here:
Short Term Work
Although poorly paid, short term work in bars, hostels or even ships is relatively easy to find and can be a good way to get to know the city and Turkish culture without forking out for accommodation and food. Some hostels, especially in Sultanahmet, offer free board and lodging in return for general work.
For those wanting to stay longer than a couple of months, teaching English is a popular option due to the high demand for English teachers in Istanbul. There are a plethora of private language schools and universities all over the city, and they are often on the lookout for native English speakers with a university degree and/or Teaching English Foreign Language (TEFL) qualification.
Wages at these schools average around TL18-22 per hour. Many private preschools will also hire native speakers to encourage English conversational skills among the children. Popular TEFL job search websites include TEFL.com and Dave’s ESL Cafe.
Although sometimes not as reliable, giving private language lessons can be another option and pay rates are usually higher, between TL30 - TL100 per hour depending on experience and luck. Popular websites for job postings include
Working as an Au Pair can give a unique glimpse into Turkish family life, and there are many opportunities for English and French speakers in particular. Companies such as Anglo Nannies, Icep and Great Nannies can organise placements in Istanbul.
Studying in Istanbul
With its large selection of top-quality universities and language schools, fascinating history and culture, vibrant nightlife, mild weather, hospitable inhabitants and relatively low cost of living, studying in Istanbul is a popular option for many.
Turkey has almost 150 universities and colleges and it’s estimated that there are more than 30,000 foreign students in the country. A large number of European and North American universities participate in university exchange programs for undergraduate students (such as ERASMUS) or run cultural internship programs in the city.
Most universities in Turkey are of a high standard and have internationally recognized qualifications. Almost all use English as the language of instruction. Some of the more popular educational institutions for foreign students in Istanbul include Ozyegin University, Bilgi University; Koc University ; Yeditepe University; Marmara University ; Bogazici University and Istanbul University.
The subject range on offer is wide and students can find just about anything in line with their interests. Turkey’s proximity to the rest of Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Central Asia make it an interesting place to study International Relations and Political Science, while its rich history and archaeological sites draw many students of Archaeology and History. Istanbul’s title as a European Culture Capital for 2010 has attracted many with a more artistic bent, who come to the city for its growing and vibrant arts, literature and music scene.
Another popular option for those coming to Istanbul is to study the Turkish language. This fascinating language - which is spoken by almost 80 million people worldwide and has roots in Central Asia – gives a unique glimpse into Turkish culture. Some of the more reputable language schools which offer Turkish courses include Dilmer; Tömer; Kedi Cat and EF Turkish Centre. These courses offer a variety of timetable options for studying Turkish and can easily be fitted around work or study. For a brief overview of the Turkish language and some useful phrases, check out our section on Turkish Language Basics.
Those with a keen interest in history may find learning Ottoman Turkish an interesting choice. Due to substantial reforms of the Turkish language by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1932, very little of modern Turkish is related to the language used during the Ottoman period, which had many loanwords from Arabic, Persian and French and used Arabic script. Institutions offering Ottoman Turkish courses in Istanbul include Fatih University and Ismek.
Eyup ©Helen Simpson
"A traveller without observation is a bird without wings" - Moslih Eddin Saadi