Using your mobile phone in Turkey

When you stay for a long time in Turkey, it is advisable to buy a mobile phone in Turkey itself and take out a mobile subscription from a Turkish telecom provider. This is almost certainly the cheapest and easiest solution for smoothly mobile phone usage in Turkey. Calling with your Turkish mobile phone costs nearly next to nothing, and you’re easily accessible for your new Turkish friends.

Cheap subscriptions but slightly more expensive cell phones in Turkey

Mobile phones in Turkey are a bit more expensive than in Europe and the USA due to higher taxes. This makes many "immigrants" tempted to buy a mobile phone in their home country and use it in Turkey with a Turkish SIM card. Years ago, there was even a rather lucrative business in mobile phones of European origin in Turkey between foreigners and Turkish citizens, given the very favourable tying subscription packages in some European countries ...

Starting from 10-12 $, you already have a package with a few GB Internet and thousand(s) of calling minutes

However, the Turkish government was not so amused with this situation since they lost a considerable tax revenue; so they decided to close this gap. All Turkish cell phone operators started to transmit a signal by which the origin of the cell phone was scanned. If you put a Turkish SIM card in a foreign mobile phone (a non-Turkish mobile phone), it was recognised by the Turkish telecom operator as a foreign mobile phone, and got blocked over time. If you had bad luck, this happened just after a few days, if you were lucky only after several weeks. You could get your mobile phone "unblocked" – for example, at the customs office at the airport – upon presentation of your passport and paying a small amount of approximately 130 Turkish lira.

At the end of 2015, the procedure was slightly modified. Foreign cell phones are still detected and blocked, but this should happen now only after four months. However, an absolute guarantee about this period is not given. If you want to register a foreign mobile phone in Turkey – to make sure it won’t be blocked after some time if you use it with a Turkish SIM card – the cost is now up to 1000 $. This means that the benefit of importing a relatively “cheap” European or American cell phone to Turkey and register it afterwards, is almost completely eliminated. Also, remember that your foreign cell phone should be "simlock-free" if you want to use it with a Turkish SIM card.

The best solution

We therefore encourage our clients to – if you come regularly to Turkey and want to use a Turkish SIM card – to get a mobile phone subscription at a Turkish provider such as Turkcell, Vodafone or Avea, and to buy a mobile phone in Turkey at the same time. At the conclusion of a contract with a Turkish telecom operator, you have to present your passport, Ikamet and tax number. The Turkish government wants every mobile phone user to be registered clearly regarding anti-terrorism measures. As in Europe and the USA, there is also on the Turkish telecom market a large selection of multiple packages by various operators. So it absolutely won’t be a problem to find a Turkish mobile phone subscription that suits you. Starting from 10-12 $, you already have a package with a few GB Internet and thousand(s) of calling minutes.

Practical tips

  • For those among you who are not into a Turkish mobile phone subscription – for example, you are only a few weeks a year in Turkey – a Turkish prepaid card can be a solution, but please note that these cards usually don’t function abroad. If you intend to manage your Turkish bank account from abroad by Internet banking, it is better to opt for a subscription; as the login authentication procedure almost always passes through text message.
  • Also, keep in mind that – if you do not use a Turkish SIM card in Turkey but a foreign one – the roaming charges can be substantial. Some foreign telecom operators apply excessive roaming charges for mobile phone use in Turkey, and the Turkish mobile phone subscriptions are very reasonably priced.

The RealProinvest team is always standby to help our customers and to answer all of your questions, and, of course, not only concerning the use of your mobile phone in Turkey. You can also opt for our annual service package, the RealProinvest Diamond Service Pack, whereby we will take care of the payment of all your bills such as electricity, phone, water, Internet, real estate taxes, insurance and so on. If you would like to be informed to any changes in practical matters – such as the use of a mobile phone in Turkey – we suggest you subscribe to our newsletter here or to consult our blog regularly.