Are you planning to move to Istanbul? Chances are you have some questions about the city- what it's like, where to live, how to get around and much, much more. To help you get settled, our local experts have prepared a list of the most frequently asked questions about Istanbul by expats. If you have any to add, feel free to contact us!
What are the best suburbs to live in as an expat in Istanbul?
That depends on your what you're looking for! Where you're working, who you're with and what qualities you like in a place are all important things to consider. There are a number of popular suburbs for expats in Istanbul including: Kadiköy, Üsküdar (Asian side) and Bakirköy, Taksim/Beyoglu, Mecidiyeköy, Besiktas & the European Bosphorus (European side). More detailed information can be found here!
I’m relocating here with my children. Are there good international schools in Istanbul?
Yes. There are many high quality international preschools, kindergartens, primary and secondary schools in Istanbul which give instruction in English and other major languages. Check out our pick of the top international preschools in Istanbul.
Are there clubs and organisations aimed at expats in Istanbul?
Definitely. There are a wide range of social and business oriented organisations catering to expats in Istanbul. The main ones can be found here.
What’s it like to drive in Istanbul? Do I need to change my driving license?
Driving in Istanbul can be a challenge at first, and it's worth knowing about the related laws and customs in Turkey. You don't need to change your driving license when driving in Turkey, but you must carry a notarised translation of your home license.
Is it safe living in Istanbul?
Generally speaking, yes. Crime, especially violent crime against foreigners, is low in Turkey compared to most other countries around the world. Having said that, it's of course worth taking usual safety precautions in Istanbul such as avoiding unlit places at night and being aware of your surroundings.
Is it easy to get around in Istanbul?
Yes, although in rush hours it can pose a bit of a challenge! There are many different public transport methods in Istanbul, including: bus, minibus, taxi, metro, metrobus, tram, ferry, seabus, funicular and shared taxi. See our section on public transportation in Istanbul for more detailed information.
What’s the cost of living in Istanbul?
The cost of living in Istanbul differs hugely depending on where you decide to live and what you do. Compared to many popular expat destinations (especially those in southeast Asia, Africa and Central/South America), Istanbul is quite an expensive city. The average tax on goods and services is 18%, the cost of gas is very high as is imported items such as electronics and foreign foodstuffs. Having said that, seasonal produce is very cheap, public transportation reasonable (around 1.75TL for a Metro ticket) and eating out in basic restaurants is very affordable. A large proportion of your income is almost certainly going to be dedicated to housing, which means deciding where to live in Istanbul is something worth considering. You'll also want to take into account the basic bills in Istanbul.
How can I open a bank account in Turkey?
In order to open a bank account in Turkey, you will first need to obtain a tax number, then take it together with your passport to your bank of choice. Some banks require a residence permit and proof of address, while others will make it easier on you. Check out our list of the major expat banks in Istanbul for more information.
How can I obtain a tax number in Turkey?
Obtaining a tax number in Turkey is free and it is a relatively easy task. Go to your nearest tax office with your passport and a photocopy of it (along with your residence permit if you have one), and they will issue your number to you while you wait. There are tax offices spread throughout Istanbul; ask for directions to the 'Vergi Dairesi'.
How can I apply for a Turkish residence permit?
Applications for Turkish residence permits should be made within 30 days of arriving in the country and are priced according to your nationality and the duration of time applied for. In Istanbul, foreign nationals currently need to apply at the central police station ('Emniyet') in Fatih. For up-to-date information and to make an appointment (this is done online) for a residency permit, see the Foreigner's Department website of the police. Processing time for the permit following your appointment is approximately 10 days. Appointments fill up very fast so it is advised to book as soon as possible. More useful information can be found here. Note that rules change fast in Turkey!
How can I apply for a Turkish working permit?
Turkish work permits must be applied for at your nearest Turkish diplomatic mission at least one month before you plan to be in Turkey. You will need a visa application form, a letter for your Turkish employer and your passport to apply. Your employer will then need to submit other neccessary documents to the Turkish Ministry of Labour & Social Security Turkey's within three working days after you apply for your work permit/visa. See our section on working and studying in Istanbul for more.
How is the quality of healthcare in Istanbul? Are there English-speaking doctors around?
The quality of healthcare is generally quite high. There are a plethora of public and private hospitals in Istanbul where English and other major languages are spoken. We recommend taking out private health insurance before coming to Turkey.
What’s the climate like in Istanbul?
Istanbul's climate is temperate, with hot and dry summers and cold, wet winters; it snows occasionally during the winter months. Check out our section on Istanbul weather for the latest forecast.
What are the major differences between the Asian and European sides of Istanbul?
The European side is home to the historical Eminönü Peninsula, where many of the city's major sites are. Otherwise, there are no major differences between the two sides, though the Asian side tends to be slightly cheaper to live than the European side.
Are there many job opportunities for expats in Istanbul?
That depends on what you're planning to do. There are many English teaching job opportunities, and some seasonal work is usually available. See our section on living & studying in istanbul for more.
I want to learn Turkish. What are the main Turkish language schools in Istanbul?
Harika! Learning Turkish is a great way to get to know Turkish culture. We've compiled a list of the best Turkish language schools in Istanbul here.
How are expats treated in Istanbul?
Very well! Turks are super friendly people and tend to be very hospitable to foreigners in Istanbul.
When are the public holidays in Istanbul? Are there any special days?
There are a number of public and religious holidas in Istanbul as well as festivals and other special events throughout the year. Check out our list of the 2011 important days in Istanbul here.
What’s Turkish culture like? Are there any particular habits and customs worth knowing about?
Turkish culture is very lively and colourful, and Turks are often referred to as some of the most hospitable people in the world. There are a few habits and customs worth knowing about, including in Turkish business life.
What are the typical business hours in Istanbul?
While offices and banks tend to open on weekdays from 9am – 5pm, bigger stores tend to be open much later and on Sundays, particularly in busy areas such as Istiklal Street and in Sultanahmet.
I’m going to need a cell phone while I’m living in Turkey. What’s the process for getting one, and which mobile phone operators do you recommend?
If you're planning on staying awhile in Turkey, we recommend that you purchase a Turkish phone. You'll need your passport to register for a Turkish cellphone and to buy a SIM card. For more on having a mobile phone in Turkey, see here.
I am moving to/from Turkey, and need to enlist the help of a good Istanbul relocation company. Can you suggest any?
Yes. Enlisting the help of a reliable and efficient relocation company will make your relocation to Istanbul much easier. We have put together a list of the major relocation companies operating to/from and within Turkey and Istanbul.
I just moved to Istanbul and need to start paying the bills. What are the main utility companies in Istanbul, and how can I pay them?
The main utilities you'll have to deal with when living in Istanbul are gas, water and electricity, along with internet and cable television if needed. Check out our section on paying the bills in Istanbul, where you'll find a list of all the main utility companies along with advise about payment.
How do people shop in Istanbul? Are there supermarkets or markets to buy everyday things?
There are many different kinds of shops in Istanbul, from small convenience stores to large supermarkets and local markets, putting you in reach of basically everything you need.
I want to catch up on the latest Turkish news while I’m there. Are there good English language magazines and newspapers in Istanbul?
I’m coming here with my pets. What’s it like to have a pet in Turkey, and are there any vets in Istanbul you would recommend?
Pets, especially cats and dogs, are common in Turkey, and locals tend to be kind to animals here. For more on having a pet in Turkey and for a list of animal health services in Istanbul, see our section on pets and vets.
What’s it like to do business in Istanbul?
Doing business in Istanbul is mostly similar to western countries. For more detailed information about doing business in Turkey, and for basic business etiquette, see here.
I want to post things back home. Where should I go?
Your local PTT (Post Office) deals with stamps and local and international postage. There are PTT offices scattered around Istanbul, and they are recognisable by their yellow and blue sign.
If there’s an emergency, who can I call in Istanbul? (Police, Fire, Ambulance)
It's important to know who to call in an emergency in Istanbul. Here's a list of the major numbers you should keep on hand:
Telephone Enquiries: 118
Air Ambulance: 0212 592 88 27
Night Ambulance: 0212 240 3914
International Hospital Ambulane: 0212 663 3000
International SOS Assistance: 0212 230 9638
Haydarpasha Station © Yildirim...
Golden Horn © Yildirim Inceale...
Istanbul at night by Mista Rig...
Eyup Mosque ©Helen Simpson
Kadikoy Bazaar ©Helen Simpson
"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake" - Robert Louis Stevenson