Living in Istanbul: Tips for Foreigners

Any foreigner living in Istanbul can approve of the city’s incredible variety. Turkish traditions are combined with contemporary designs to attract tourists and ex-pats worldwide.

Istanbul is home to both the European and Asian continents, filled with history and culture. Istanbul is a multicultural city, offering something for everyone from various attractions to cultural activities. In addition, having an affordable cost of living makes Istanbul an attractive destination to relocate and live in with its marvelous Istanbul property.

How is Life in Istanbul?

Istanbul is a famous city of cultures and civilizations. It was founded in 657 BCE as Byzantium and is a favorite ex-pat destination. The city’s history is a mix of religions, cultures, and ethnicities, including periods of Islamic and Christian influence.

Thousands of bilingual citizens speak English and other languages in Istanbul, Turkey’s cultural and tourism center. If you’ve already chosen to relocate to Istanbul, you would be excited to discover Istanbul property. Here’s what life might be like. Because of its strategic location along the Bosphorus canal, Istanbul has a rich historical culture, as the Ottoman and Eastern Roman empires’ seat of authority, history, and customs permeate its structures and populace. The Hagia Sophia, Basilica Cistern, and Blue Mosque attract foreign residents and tourists. While the Hippodrome in Constantinople is old, the Galata Tower in Istanbul is medieval.

Istanbul offers special seasons and climates suited for residents from all over the world. Summers are humid, dry, warm, and clear, while winters are cloudy, windy, cold, and lengthy. Throughout the year, the average temperature ranges between 3°C and 29°C.

Istanbul features 39 distinct neighborhoods ranging from rich to hipster. Foreigners in Istanbul have several options based on their lifestyle and budget. A vibrant corporate and commercial zone like Levent attracts thousands of Turkish and international workers. To the north of Sariyer, however, are stunning natural scenery and coasts. In general, property near the Bosphorus is more costly, whether to rent or buy.

Public transportation in Istanbul is both inexpensive and effective. An Istanbul card allows individuals to access trains, buses, and ferries, and the fare payment mechanisms are pretty simple.

Moreover, when it comes to air travel, Istanbul is a prime location in Turkey. The city is booming with real estate developments and commercialization, and is practically on the doorstep of three continents, covering many destinations in Asia, Europe, and Africa.

Currently, there are over 1.5 million foreigners living in Istanbul, Turkey.

Why Should You Move to Istanbul?

A new start in a foreign country is common and people relocate due to various reasons like employment, marriage, etc. In a remote exotic location where they may readily meet natives and other ex-pats, many aspire to travel overseas. Istanbul has recently been an ex-pat hotspot for many reasons. Here are a few of them listed below.

  • Historic background: The history of Istanbul is extensive. Being at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, it has neighborhoods on both continents. Istanbul offers a diverse business scene. If you work in your current country, see if your company has a presence there. Aside from its stunning beauty, Istanbul seamlessly combines the two. It’s also well-connected to key worldwide cities, making domestic and international travel easy. If moving to Istanbul appeals to you, keep reading.
  • Healthcare for everyone: Turkey provides universal healthcare, you can obtain several medical procedures for free if you are enrolled with Social Security (SGK).
  • Cost of living: You can locate apartments in the city center for as little as US$500. Groceries are cheaper than elsewhere in Europe, and bazaars sell fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Excellent weather: Sunny climate is also a good reason to move to Istanbul. Summer is dry and hot, with temperatures ranging from 24°C to 28°C. It stays about 19°C at night.

Is Moving to Istanbul Easy?

Yes, it is. As long as you learn about regulations and laws before leaving your home country. You can contact the relevant embassy or consulate for expatriate information, such as permits, visas, and insurance for family members’ vaccinations.

Submit passport, visa, and permit applications as soon as possible because this process takes time to complete. Also, if any of these documents are about to expire, it is a good idea to renew them quickly.

Request official copies of important personal documents and allow at least a few weeks for them to arrive. If necessary, arrange for official translations. Items to consider include the following:

  • Certificates of birth and marriage
  • Naturalization, passport, green card, citizenship proof, and so on.
  • Certificates of Social Security
  • Vaccination and medical records, as well as dental records
  • Policies of insurance
  • Diplomas and academic records
  • Employment history
  • Evidence of residence (utility bill, statement, etc.)
  • Testamentary will

Insurance is vital to learn the precise insurance needs and availability; limits vary significantly worldwide.

What are the Requirements for Moving to Istanbul?

Most travelers need a visa to visit Turkey. However, there are multiple visa categories, several means to obtain a permit, and various costs to pay. It all depends on the type of passport you have, your nation of origin, and the reason for your stay.

There are various passports: diplomatic, special, service (together known as official passports), and ordinary visas.  Also, ensure that your passport is valid for at least 90 days beyond the visa period. As a result, if you are granted a 90-day visa, ensure that your passport is valid for at least 180 days.

You can visit the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website, select your country, and read the visa regulations for regular passport holders. For example, if it says: Ordinary passport holders are exempt from visa requirements for a period of […] days. — You are among the fortunate because you do not require a visa. All you need is a passport that is up to date.

What is the Easiest Way to Move to Istanbul?

Turkey’s visa requirements are different from those in most other countries, so securing one before moving there is necessary. The sort of visa you may need depends on your purpose of travel and period of stay, whereas ex-pats from several countries would not even require a permit for moving to Turkey. The Turkish visa system offers a variety of visa kinds. If you want to live in Turkey permanently, you’ll want to learn a few details before applying for a visa. You can apply for a long-stay visa if you intend to stay for more than 90 days. You can also obtain a tourist visa and apply for a resident permit in Turkey within 90 days after entering the country.

Buying a property is the easiest way to move to Istanbul. So you boarded a plane and flew to Istanbul. The next step is to choose a location to live. People with low and average earnings can live well in Turkey. So many foreigners opt to relocate there. Compared to most Western and European countries, Turkey’s overall cost of living, including property rates, is lower. There are several things you should know whether you buy or rent a property.

Although the rent varies depending on the location and size of the property, you can anticipate paying between US$250 and US$400 per month if you buy an apartment and rent an apartment flat. Remember that this is dependent on the property’s location and, of course, its size.

What is Daily Life in Istanbul Like?

Turkey’s Istanbul area is a renowned tourism destination. Istanbul’s superb climate makes it a year-round destination where tourists can enjoy historical sites, vibrant nightlife, and chic shopping. Autumn and winter are wonderful seasons for visiting historic places.

One of the city’s most famous landmarks is the Hagia Sophia, a former church-turned mosque. This is now a museum and a work of art. The Blue Mosque, with its six minarets, is still used for worship. You can see the calm Uskudar region and the legend-laden Maiden Tower on an islet via boat. No matter where you go, there’s always something to view.

From high-end shops to bustling markets, you may buy dried fruits, nuts, spices, olives, Turkish delight, and oils at the Spice Bazaar, Istanbul is a shopping wonderland. The Grand Bazaar is one of the world’s largest covered markets, with approximately 3,000 businesses. Shopping, food, and entertainment are all under one roof at the Mall of Istanbul, Forum, and Istinye Shopping Park Centre.

In terms of cuisine, Istanbul has it all. There’s something for every taste and budget, from sophisticated fusion restaurants to traditional food carts providing street cuisine.

Istanbul is a crowded city, yet congestion relief efforts have a big influence. There’s also the multi-billion dollar Marmaray Tunnel Link project. This 2014 bridge connects Asia and Europe across the Bosphorus. The new train, underground, and metro that connects the center and Asia in about 30 minutes have also increased demand for property in Bahcesehir, Beylikduzu, and Halkali. Add to that the three Bosporus bridges connecting both continents, and the city is booming.

The Bosphorus divides the European and Asian sides. Many visitors come to Sultanahmet, Turkey’s most famous tourist destination, to see the Byzantine and Ottoman ruins. Beyoglu, home to Taksim Independence Square and Istiklal Avenue, contains a few tourist attractions. Also popular are Besiktas and Ortakoy. Affluent neighborhoods with billionaire homes include Bakirkoy, Beylikduzu, Bahcesehir, Esenyurt, Kucukcekmece, Buyukcekmece, and Sariyer.

Asiatic Istanbul was long disregarded by both Turks and foreigners until the internet advanced and travelers got intrigued. It is also a great place to reside and commute to the EU. However, Uskudar and Kadikoy are receiving the most interest. Uskudar is a vital traffic center due to its excellent ferry connections, while Kadikoy is noted for its nightlife and shopping. Some travel writers have compared Bagdat Avenue, the Asian area’s principal street, to America’s Rodeo Drive. This is a wealthy area with millionaire homes and high-end stores.

How do Turks behave towards Foreigners in Istanbul?

The attitude of Turkish people towards newcomers is welcoming. As Turkey is a country where many tourists frequent each year Turks are used to foreigners.  Most foreigners live in Antalya, Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. Visitors avoid rural areas in favor of well-developed cities. Turkey is an essentially secular republic.

Many Turkish individuals, especially those living in cities or tourist areas, have broader viewpoints and are open-minded. Religious traditions and secularism coexist in many neighborhoods. The Turkish people are kind and polite to foreigners. Foreigners are socialized in Turkish culture. Turkish people are always ready to help and meet newcomers.

What is the Cost of Living in Istanbul?

Living costs in Istanbul are not expensive compared to other countries with similar, development, and urbanization aspects. It also depends on the person’s financial and lifestyle needs, but it’s usually approximately US$1,000 each month. The fee includes food, drink, and hotel. If you are renting, budget Us$500 per month for living expenses. The present exchange rate makes the ordinary household’s income quite appealing.

What are the Prices of Houses in Istanbul?

Istanbul, one of the world’s fastest developing megacities, has no shortage of possibilities. Every year, up to 30 new streets emerge from the suburbs, and unused land pieces become home to residential complexes, shopping malls, and workplaces. Every year, ancient Constantinople needs up to 250,000 accommodation units (apartments or homes) for visitors. Immigrants are also a large part of the population, whether tenants or buyers.

Most sought-after districts to rent from or buy a house (not to be confused with the cost per square meter):

District July 2021 (thousand USD/1 sq.m.) The average price for 2021 (thousand USD/1 sq.m.) Investment return period, years Price change for a year,%
Adalar 8.716 7.916 34 39,68%
Arnavutkoy 2.841 2.631 25 23,74%
Atasehir 5.266 5.105 25 18,93%
Avcilar 3.387 3.200 21 30,77%
Bahcelievler 3.638 3.507 21 14,55%
Bakirkoy 10.508 9.988 36 25,50%
Bayrampasa 4.167 3.968 23 19,64%
Bagcilar 3.503 3.357 21 18,58%
Basaksehir 5.639 5.010 24 46,85%
Beykoz 10.238 9.205 53 59,47%
Beylikduzu 3.368 2.959 18 41,16%
Beyoglu 6.058 5.744 20 13,59%
Besiktas 13.205 12.385 40 24,13%
Buyukcekmece 4.186 3.811 26 35,25%
Esenler 3.467 3.320 21 15,84%
Esenyurt 2.637 2.526 16 20,69%
Eyupsultan 5.151 4.499 21 39,78%
Fatih 4.490 4.387 20 10,95%
Gaziosmanpasa 3.439 3.307 20 15,91%
Gungoren 3.515 3.368 20 13,79%
Kadikoy 9.779 8.817 35 34,07%
Kartal 4.128 3.922 27 18,55%
Kagithane 4.603 4.383 22 21,45%
Kucukcekmece 4.249 4.105 21 19,52%
Maltepe 4.704 4.418 26 19,33%
Pendik 3.409 3.234 26 17,71%
Sancaktepe 2.964 2.784 25 22,99%
Sariyer 13.072 11.968 36 31,42%
Silivri 3.009 2.806 26 28,21%
Sultanbeyli 3.060 2.933 28 20,52%
Sultangazi 2.994 2.834 23 20,24%
Tuzla 3.751 3.518 26 24,37%
Zeytinburnu 4.698 4.622 22 8,52%
Catalca 3.237 3.106 32 21,92%
Cekmekoy 3.507 3.324 25 21,31%
Umraniye 4.206 3.950 25 22,37%
Uskudar 5.403 5.175 27 18,41%
Sile 4.743 4.380 26 32,45%
Sisli 6.013 5.788 23 14,95%

What is the Cost of Rental Apartments in Istanbul?

The most reasonably priced places in Istanbul to rent an apartment have been identified. Earthquakes have increased the demand for safe dwellings. This increased the city’s lease payments for new structures.

Finding a cheap rental house in Istanbul is getting harder. We have produced a list of rental unit pricing to help you find the finest district. Recent data shows that rental home prices in Istanbul have grown dramatically. The increases are remarkable since they occur in newly built flats, thought to be the safest in the city. The desire to live in a safe place and an earthquake-resistant home rises daily. Due to growing rental demand, many people are abandoning their old houses and moving into newer, safer buildings.

The list of districts on the European side of Istanbul for finding the lowest rent is as follows.

  • The lowest rent in Basaksehir is US$240 while the highest is US$670
  • Esenyurt’s rent is US$400
  • Zeytinburnu rent costs US$550

The Anatolian side of Istanbul, which has a lower population density, demands flexible rental pricing.

  • In Maltepe, the rent ranges from US$250 to US$600
  • A one-bedroom apartment in Kadikoy, the most costly district along the coast, will set you back US$180. For example, in Uskudar, a one-bedroom apartment may cost US$300, whereas a two-bedroom apartment in Atasehir might cost US$400

What is the Cost of Food in Istanbul?

Turkish cuisine is typically regarded as world-class. Turkey’s cuisine is famous for kebabs and baklava, but that’s only the beginning. Traveling across Turkey is the only way to appreciate Turkish cuisine’s diversity and complexity. Istanbul is a culinary melting pot. So eating out will be one of the highlights of your vacation to Istanbul. You may try kebabs, starters, vegetarian and meat dinners, seafood, pastries, desserts, and beverages.

Istanbul provides many choices of street meals to sample throughout your visit, within your budget. Casual dining is widespread in Istanbul’s malls and city centers. This is not your average kebab restaurant in Istanbul. The Turkish Lira’s low exchange rate and cheap meals allow travelers to save money. You will pay between US$10 and US$30 per person for a good lunch in an Istanbul casual dining restaurant A nicer restaurant may charge above US$10 per person.

Istanbul’s culinary scene is world-class. To feast like an Ottoman Sultan or savor world-class food prepared by famous chefs. The Bosphorus offers several fine dining options in Istanbul. Some restaurants even have roofs and patios for all seasons.

As Turkey is bordered by the sea on three sides, it offers a variety of fresh fish dishes. Turkey’s fishing season spans from September to April. For seafood lovers, this is the greatest time to dine in Turkey. The average cost ranges from US$20 to US$50 per person throughout the fishing season.

How is Public Transport in Istanbul?

Getting around Istanbul, one of the world’s most crowded cities may be difficult at times. Moreover, the region’s terrain makes public transit building challenging (Istanbul, like Rome, was built on seven hills). The city municipality is currently working hard to increase public transit choices for Istanbul residents. This project’s main goals are to build the Istanbul metro and connect the two continents.

The modern Ttamway’s one line connects Kabatas to Sultanahmet, while the T4 travels northwest through the city. Both lines are functioning throughout Europe. It’s open 6 a.m.-11 p.m. The Istanbul tram is clean and cool. The T1 line connects the city’s major attractions. We strongly recommend you to take it because it is the cheapest and quickest method to go to the old town.

Subway is open from 6:15 a.m. until midnight and currently has two lines on the European side. Unfortunately, these two lines are not yet linked. There is also a line on the Asian coast, but it is not relevant to you because it is not yet connected to Sabiha Gokcen Airport.

In Istanbul, there are 400 bus lines, the bulk of which operate till midnight every night. Except for Sultanahmet (which is accessible by tram), buses run throughout the city. On the sides of the buses, destinations and significant stops are written in yellow.

Metrobus is a bus line that runs in dedicated lanes to avoid gridlock. Most of the places covered areas on the outskirts of town. As a result, if you are visiting the city, its use is irrelevant. Only Istanbul Kart and Mavi Kart (monthly subscriptions) are accepted. All stations sell or recharge Istanbul Kart.

Ferries allow movement from Europe to Asia. To bypass chronic traffic congestion on the two main Bosphorus crossings, Istanbul residents use public boats and ferries. Taking a boat can help you understand the city’s size and is a cost-effective way to see it from the sea. There are four main piers on the European side (Eminonu), and two on the Asian side (Uskudar and Kadikoy).

Minibusses are shared taxis that run 24/7. It’s fast, affordable, and commonly used in Turkey. They travel a defined path and leave when full (8 passengers). You may stop wherever you choose. Payment is simple: once seated, inform the driver of your location and provide cash (only cash is accepted).

How is Safety in Istanbul?

Istanbul is a safe city although it is a metropolis. Just like everywhere else, you have to be careful. However, the locals are kind, and there is even a police tourism squad.

Can You Work in Istanbul?

Yes, you can work in Istanbul with the right permits. In Turkey, you cannot work in any job without a work permit, which must be approved. If you are detected working illegally in Turkey, you may be arrested or deported.

Work permits are employer-specific, and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security oversees all cases. You must first establish an agreement with your future employer before filing for a work visa or permit. Unless you apply as a self-employed professional, your employer will collect your documents. Then you may apply for a work visa in Turkey or from home.

You can apply for a work permit directly to the Ministry of Labor and Social Security if you have a valid residency permit*. You and your employee will fill out an online application and send it to the ministry with the relevant papers within six days. Your application will be responded to electronically and in writing within 30 days.

What are the Advantages of Living in Istanbul?

Here are the advantages of living in Istanbul.

  • Istanbul combines the finest of history, modernism, and progress, with an abundance of natural beauty.
  • For those interested in ownership, there are several possibilities, including luxury flats and homes, in the most prominent structures, with the most stunning luxury finishes.
  • Many international universities and schools are located here.
  • Prices are low compared to many European countries.

What are the Cons of Living in Istanbul?

People from all over the world are coming to this country to meet the expatriates who now name this country their second home. To everyone’s relief, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages in their new residence. Check them out together with our how-to guide for starting a new life in Turkey.

  • Friends and family back home: When we move overseas, we take solace in the notion that we can hop on a plane whenever we choose. But, on the other hand, moving to Turkey causes some people to miss their friends and family more than they expected. The good news is that this is only a passing phase, and you can stay in touch daily with programs like What’s App, Messenger Video Call, and Skype.
  • Language Barriers: Living in a multi-cultural environment has several challenges. While learning Turkish is a wonderful experience, being multilingual may be difficult. The difficulty to communicate in Turkish is the most prevalent complaint from ex-pats. Because mex-pats pats reside in tourist locations with natural English speakers, international living is easy.
  • Schools: Private tuition is expected to be costly at many prestigious institutions. On the other hand, Turkish public schools are free, allowing pupils to interact with and befriend local children.
  • Traffic Jam: Istanbul’s traffic is usually intense in rush hours. Expats who don’t want to use public transportation can take taxis. For example, iTaxi and Bitaksi are handy ridesharing services that accept card payments.

What are the Best Places to Live in Istanbul?

Millions of people visit Taksim Square and Istiklal Street every day. Tourists from all over the globe come to visit the magnificent Ottoman and Byzantine buildings left behind in the ancient Sultanahmet area. The best places to live in Istanbul are included below.

  • Nisantasi: Go to modern Nisantasi for a stylish way of life. Nisantasi, located in the Sisli district, is the most fashionable neighborhood, with the Abdi Ipekci street running through it, which has the most expensive businesses in Turkey. In addition to boutique shopping, prepare to spend your days eating lunch with fellow ex-pats at roadside cafés. Despite its trendy vibes, Nisantasi is also known for its Art Nouveau architecture, which can be seen in certain older buildings.
  • Kadikoy: Head to Kadikoy for the best Asian side experience in Istanbul. Kadikoy, centrally placed and adjacent to Uskudar, also has excellent ferry connections to neighborhoods in European Istanbul. Many locals rely on them to go around. Apartment living is popular here, particularly among the student body of a local university, which makes it an educational powerhouse in Istanbul. You will be pleasantly surprised by the low housing expenses in Kadikoy.
  • Basaksehir: Basaksehir, located 30 minutes south of Istanbul’s new airport, is one of the city’s emerging neighborhoods. Even though the local council has made significant investments in public transportation, it is also located close to the TEM highway, making it excellent for commuting and reaching the central districts of Istanbul. Furthermore, the younger generation is often well educated, and local projects by the Istanbul municipality have made it a hub for real estate speculators.

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