6 tips for the new Istanbul expat

Hello Yemeksepeti.com

Hello Yemeksepeti.com

Today I read a post from a lady moving to Istanbul. She was looking for advice on arriving to Istanbul and what to look out for. It inspired me reflect in my time here and write this piece. These are a couple of my survival tips for those who are fresh off the plane bound for the expat life in Istanbul.

1. Make Turkish and Kurdish friends and accept invitations

Some of the greatest experiences I have had in Istanbul are with my Turkish and Kurdish friends. Invites to festivals, concerts, TV shows, holidays and weddings are all made possible through these networks. Through them, I have experienced the real Turkey and through their genuine hospitality and helpfulness I have become a better person.

2. Get schmoozing online

Facebook pages for Istanbul expats are good resources for asking questions, getting local news and finding new friends.  Sites include (to name a few) Expats in Istanbul,  Istanbul Expat Centre, Foreign Women of Istanbul (Women only), Expat Events in Istanbul,   Istanbul Expats & Internationals Group, Expat @Savers and Cook’s Corner for Expats in Turkey. Send a question out to the world via these sites and your life is often made a lot easier!

We’re also pretty lucky in Istanbul to have a number useful English websites and publications. These tell us what’s on, what’s hot and tell us where all the best places are to eat and drink. Check out My Merhaba.com, TimeOut Istanbul, yabangee.com,  The Guide Istanbul and Internations.org. You can register to receive updates or join their social networking pages to keep up to date with all the latest news.

3. Book your appointment for your residency permit

In 2012, the Turkish Government changed the 90-day  back-to-back tourist visa conditions which many of us loved for its easy renewal process. Now you can’t get back-to-back visas and if you want to stay long-term you need a resident permit called an Ikamet. Many expats  have gone through the Ikamet process in the last 12 months which has  bombarded the appointment system making it difficult to get an appointment when you need it most. My advice for any DIY expats (e.g. those who don’t have the support of  a large company), who wish to stay more than 90 days, is to book your appointment fast (click on the links labelled E-Randevu).

Be patient as the system is fraught with glitches. For example,  when I used it last, I couldn’t log back into my appointment to print out my appointment documents. I had to go through the process again which pushed my appointment out to a later date and I couldn’t log back into cancel my appointment.  Facebook and Internations have been filled with SOS calls from expats who were unable to get their residency permit before their visa expired. There are means and ways around this, but I have learnt, what works for one person in this process – has not worked for others. Plan ahead and book ahead.

4.  Get an IstanbulKart

This card will be your ticket to the tram, the metro and the bus and provides discount fares. You can buy it from magazine kiosks near bus, metro and tram stations. They cost 10TL and you add credit to the card as needed – which again can be done at any magazine kiosk.

5.  Register for Yemeksepeti.com

You’ve had a tiring day and you’re stuck on the couch unable to move. Hello YemekSepeti.com! From your smart phone (yes, they have an app) or laptop you can order food and drinks from many restaurants around town and they deliver to your door. Feel like Turkish cuisine? Ding dong – delivered to your door! In the mood for Chinese or Japanese? Knock knock! Delivered to your door! Or maybe you devoured one too many Efes the night before and need a greasy fast food fix? Hello, Big Mac at my door.

6. Register your foreign mobile phone

Within a couple of days of landing in Turkey, make sure you register your foreign mobile phone with a phone company, otherwise your phone will be locked eventually and it’s costly to unlock it. The regulations on this keep changing so it’s best to visit Avea, Vodafone or Turkcell – the main dealers in Turkey – for more information. A fee maybe payable.

There are more tips I could share but I will leave that for later posts. These are just a few key tips that have helped me assimilate to life here. Feel free to add more tips for other expats below.


14 thoughts on “6 tips for the new Istanbul expat

  1. Thanks for the post! It’s very helpful. I went to the website for booking e-appointments, but I could not figure out where to click in order to login. Can you help me with this? Thanks!

    • I have recently had to contend with this same issue yabangee.com has a step by step with links but I found it particularly hard to book an appointment online at the fatih police station in fact I couldn’t. So I just went down there went to windows right next to the stair case and they set me up with an appointment granted it was two months away but just by having an appointment I’m legal. Good luck!

      • Thanks for sharing your experience. It seems the process can be very different for each person. Its pot luck! My first attempt was successful even though I didn’t follow the rules. I got frustrated with the online booking system. My printer ran out of ink and I couldn’t access the existing application/appointment, I had to do another application which pushed my appointment back. I couldn’t cancel the original appointment either. I thought – how many people couldn’t cancel like me – I’ll just turn up with the right documents. So I did and they processed me without questions. That was 2010. I suggested this to two others since – it hasn’t worked for them. The difficulties for booking appointments largely started last year when the revolving 90 day tourist visa was changed. Everyone on the tourist visa living in Turkey rushed the system so they could stay and it seems the system is still not coping with the amount of yabancis living here. Definitely worth the experience.

  2. I was wondering about the phone bit – I got here Saturday and have had very little interaction with anyone who seems to be able to help me with my phone. I brought a Galaxy S3 with me. What exactly do I need to do to “register” it? Just take it to a phone store and get a SIM card and prepaid plan? Or something more?

    • Are you here to live or just to visit? And do you intend to use your own sim from your country?? Or have a new Turkish sim? Do you have a resident permit? Its a different process depending on your circumstance. Reply and I’ll get back to you. If your desperate I find the guys at Vodafone on istiklal closest to the Galatasaray Lisesi very good at explaining things in English…..even though I’m with Avea.

    • First I would decide on the phone company with the best deal and buy a sim card from them with a pre-paid deal. You can get some great packages with sms, calls and 3G (3G is a must to use GPS around Istanbul and for keeping in contact with friends in traffic!)

      I use Avea and for 28TL a month I get something like 2GB of internet, 500 sms and 500 calls – I never use it all up! Other friends have Vodaphone or Turkcell but pay considerably more per month. It does pay to see if any specials are on now. I’ve had no problems with Avea with connections etc and stores generally have English speakers…but yes definitely shop for a good deal between the major suppliers. Also note the registrations fees for companies further down in this list of information.

      To register your international phone you need to go to a Vergi Dairesi (Tax Offıce) or Ziraat Bank and pay 120TL over the counter. Four things first though to be aware of:
      1. Your date of entry to Turkey in your passport must be within the last 30 days to be able to register a cell phone bought overseas.
      2. You can only register one foreign mobile phone every two years.
      3. If you’re a tourist, registering your phone will keep the sim/phone unlocked for 6 months. If you’re a resident or citizen registering gives you access forever on that handset and sim.
      4. The handset is registered to that sim. You can’t change companies after registeration …that easily (I mean this is Turkey! anything it possible! you might be able to but I haven’t gone down that road!).

      You can fınd the address for the tax office by googling ‘Vergi Dairesi adres’ but for most people on the European side – the easiest one to get to/find is the Beyoglu Vergi Dairesi in Sishane: Meşrutiyet Cd No:125. Conveniently located opposite the Metro Station on the street down from Tunel’s funicular station. Its in an old grey stone building. Avoid the lunchtime period as they shut usually from noon to 1pm.

      When you pay the tax office the 120TL they will also take the IMEI number of your phone by dialing *#06# and then give you a receipt – keep this safe.

      Once paid up at the tax office, go to a store representing the company where you got your SIM card. (ie. if you’re with Turkcell go to a Turkcell store). Now they may say they can’t register you, but ask for the address of their store that does (not all will register because they need certain authority).

      You will give them your passport so they can take a copy of your entry stamp (proving you’re registering within the 30 day period of entry to the country). Give them your tax receipt too. Turkcell will charge an additional 50TL to register your phone, Avea charge 35TL. Not sure what Vodaphone charge….

      The phone company will do the rest and usually within a few days you can use your phone.

      I hope this works out for you. To be honest when I went through this process I was given the wrong information on several occassions and I’ve wanted to do a post about this since.

      This information was validated by Turkcell and Avea stores on 4 March 2014.

      • Wow, that was super helpful. Thanks a ton. I already have a SIM card, what benefit do I get from registering it? Also I’m planning on getting a new phone soon, so I should probably wait to register until after that if I’m buying from abroad?

      • The benefit of registering your foreign phone now with its new Turkish sim card means your phone won’t get locked in a few days/a weeks time. Either continue to use your international sim in your foriegn phone or as soon as you use the Turkish sim card in a foreign phone have the phone registered to avoid it getting blocked. Be aware if you register one foreign phone now, you have to wait two years to register a second! So either buy your second phone here (it won’t need to be registered if bought here) or have a nice friend register the second phone for you. Hope that helps?

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