There are many challenges when moving to a different country; you may rightfully have concerns about living in Istanbul or Turkey as an expat.
You have to go through countless procedures in different steps ranging from finding accommodation to enrolling in school, getting health insurance and meeting your special needs. It is like a new world with new rules. Therefore, while adapting to the life in a new country, it is important to start working with leading experts and an experienced company in order to come through this complex process. We can say that the relocation process is similar to pregnancy; while the natural process is the same for everybody, families may have different experiences.
Choosing the right neighborhood to live in is the first rule of living in Istanbul as an expat. It is one of the most important tasks before the relocation process. Istanbul is one of the most preferred cities by expats in Turkey due to the career and educational opportunities it offers. Since the city is situated on two continents (Anatolian and European sides), it is highly important to know which side to live in before your arrival. While the life on Anatolian side is cheaper and more comfortable, expats feel obliged to live on the European side because of the job opportunities and international schools. Especially, the families who have school-age children prefer living on the European side, otherwise they have to spend around three hours in traffic every day.
It is important to note that Istanbul has become one of the most expensive cities in the world, relating to real estate market. Even though it is hard to find a new apartment that is built after the earthquake in 1999 in the most popular districts, such as all Bosphorus area, Etiler, Ulus and Levent, the prices never go down. Almost all the buildings over there are more than 30 years old, some are renovated (in terms of infrastructure and interior design), and some are to be renovated. The maintenance/compound fees of A+ compounds in the European side (such as Maya Residence, Sari Konaklar, Platin etc.) are almost equal to a regular 1+ apartment. In most of the buildings, there is a “doorman” who provides some kind of convenience services to the tenants.
There are also “new” emerging districts such as Bomonti, Elmadag, Sishane, Balat and they have newer properties which are built according to the new construction law but they are not considered very affordable either.
There are 2 other “suburban” districts on the European side, called Kemerburgaz and Zekeriyakoy. Both of them are 15 min drive to the new financial district Maslak; both are very “modern villages” that mostly have houses, not tall buildings and they are also the only two neighborhoods that have security clearance from US and UK Consulates. You may also consider such neighborhoods as an expat who considers living in Istanbul.
That means we have to limit our expectations and budget to focus on the best decision since it’s very easy to get lost in the options in Istanbul as an expat. It’s bigger and deeper than it seems and there’s no “average” in Istanbul’s real estate market. It works like a stock market, what is available today is not available tomorrow, so our housing team needs to check the updated status of our portfolios according to the expat’s feedback.
Washington=Ankara: The general atmosphere and the city order are similar in both cities.
Istanbul=New York: The prices of food and housing are more or less the same.
After choosing the neighborhood, the next step is finding the house and dealing with the renting procedures as an expat who considers living in Istanbul. As Turkey Relocation Management Services, we help you with the all rent contract procedures. Although the English documents are not valid in Turkey, we prepare the materials both Turkish and English for you to understand all the articles but it is important to know that the contracts must be in Turkish.
If you don’t have the chance to come to Turkey before moving, we can provide you some visual help as well. For example, we send you the pictures of houses and show you how to reach the main places such as schools, hospitals and shopping centers. We can also suggest you some locations for business and give you recommendations for public transportation. As an expat who plans living in Istanbul, such information may come in handy in the first place.
Life for Persons with Disabilities
Unfortunately, life is very difficult for persons with disabilities in Turkey. Although there have been significant efforts to make the cities more disability-friendly places, there is still much progress to be made. People with disabilities especially face difficulties in terms of accessibility, education, employment and health. So, if you have any disabilities, it is necessary to think twice before coming to Turkey. Especially as an expat in Istanbul or Turkey, you may have more difficulties since you’ll have a language barrier as well.
If you have a personal health insurance in your country which has international coverage, you can also use it in Turkey. According to Law on Foreigners and International Protection, Law No. 6458 that is updated in April 11, 2014, expats who plan to living in Istanbul or Turkey are obliged to get health private insurance specific to his/her age and risk group in addition to getting residence and work permit.
There are special packages for expats that cover private hospitals. The amount of default coverage is generally 80% but it can reach up to 100%. However, only some of the private hospitals have agreement with the social security institution. Therefore, only the “by law coverage” may not be enough. The fact that whether your children and your wife will benefit from your health insurance or not is related to its coverage. If you have the family pack, they can also benefit from your health insurance.
Unfortunately, in Turkey there is no emergency service available in English; this may be a handicap for an expat who plans living in Istanbul or Turkey. Our 7/24-expat support services will assist you on any issue. In any case, the contact number of the emergency service is 112.
As for the prices, the medical services in Istanbul are cheaper in Turkey than in many European countries. The hospitals also carry out many successful operations. Do not worry about it. Turkey is a country where the medical tourism is very common and it is one of the most successful countries in terms of medical operations.
In order to have a smooth process and overcome language barriers, we suggest you to get medical assistance from us. When we look at the most preferred hospitals by expats in Istanbul and overall Turkey, they are the American Hospital, Acıbadem Group and Medikalpark.
You can also find very successful educational institutions in Turkey that provide education in English. It is also possible to find institutions that provide pre-school education in a foreign language. Here, it is important to benefit from the equivalence between schools. The equivalence between private schools exists but it depends on the country and school which the student is coming from.
In order to enroll in high schools and universities, the students need to pass some English exams. Universities also have special quotas for foreign students in Turkey. Almost all of the universities provide education in foreign languages. And if you have started MBA or doctorate in your country, you can continue them in Turkey as long as the equivalence is accepted between universities.
The schools that provide education in a foreign language are mostly situated in Etiler, Ulus, Hadımköy, Rumelihisarı, Zekeriyaköy, Kemerburgaz, Yeniköy, Selamiçeşme, Akatlar and Levent. It is possible to find many successful examples as well. As an expat who plans living in Istanbul or Turkey, you can get a consultancy service from us in terms of education and school decision.
If you want to attend the Turkish courses, we have some agreements with language courses. We also offer private lessons for the people who are working. You need to learn basic Turkish to live in the country. You can benefit from the body language while talking to your friends but you will need to speak Turkish with other people in the street. On request, we can also open a conversation club in order to improve your Turkish.
If you have a pet, you can also bring them to Turkey. Most of the animals are accepted without any problems, but dogs and cats are the easiest ones. In some minimal cases, animals apart from dogs and cats may be put in quarantine. There are some bureaucratic processes before bringing your pet. You have to start the procedures 3 months before; otherwise your pet may not be accepted to the country at the same time with you.
Veterinaries are very common in Turkey but you can have some language problems. We also provide assistant services in this issue for expats living in Istanbul.
Your pet may create a problem while renting a house in the city but in the suburbs, there are no such limitations. The choice of the house owner and the size of the animal are important and you need to take this into consideration before you move.
Dog walking is also very common. Therefore, you can freely take your dog to a walk in any neighborhoods. We provide dog boarding & training services with our business associate Von Bakachan Hundesport & Hundeplatz, and can assist you to our colleagues who can walk your dog. This service is limited for expats living in Istanbul.
You will see many stray dogs and cats in the streets but the municipalities vaccinate them all. So, they are not dangerous.
Relocation brings a lot of experiences and opportunities but at the same time the process might be a little bit tiring. Like other countries, Turkey has its own regulations and you have to be careful and selective about choosing your neighborhood, house, school etc. In order to overcome all of the unexpected problems, have a smooth relocation process and reach all the services easily, you can always trust our services. For more information, please consult us.
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Local and international flights
Schedules and details of tram, metro and bus lines
Bosphorus Cruise timetables, IDO for seabus, fast ferry & car ferry schedules:
Most popular banks for expatriates:
Local and international postage:
Most popular hospitals for expatriates:
Most popular English magazines:
Most popular English newspapers:
Most preferred bookstores that sell English books:
Online grocery shopping:
For dog training, & dog sports club:
for online cultural events / tickets:
On-line take-away / fast-food restaurants:
Miscellaneous on-line shopping stores:
Preferred local tourism agencies:
Most preferred TV / Satellite companies:
For most preferred mobile phone companies:
Furniture & accessories – furniture villages:
Selected Shopping Malls
Selected Media Markets
Other useful links:
Major E-Commerce Sites:
Arriving employees should contact their local Relocation Consultants to keep the stress level at the minimum level in “moving away from home” process. Before you arrive, make sure you gained information about:
- Visa requirements (if applicable)
- Work/Residence permit requirements
- Other registration formalities
- Restrictions on shipped household items & customs duties (if applicable)
- Pet requirements (if applicable)
- Housing availability
- Educational institutions
- Auto / Property / International Health Insurance
- International Driving Permit
On your way to your host country, make sure that you have:
- Passport (& extra photocopies)
- Travel tickets
- Travel Insurance
- Extra photos
- Photo I.D.’s & Driver’s license
- Marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Birth certificates for children (if applicable)
- School / academic records and Diplomas (if applicable)
- Health certificates and vaccines records for pets from your veterinarian (if applicable)
- Bank records
Selected Questions & Answers for New Comers
Q: Do I need to have residence permit to stay in Turkey for a couple months?
A: Yes. According to the “Foreigners and International Conservation Law”, resident permit is obligatory for all non-Turkish citizens who want to stay in Turkey more than 90 days. Permission will automatically be cancelled if you don’t start to use within six mounts (article 19). All migration process design and govern by Ministry of Interior Directorate General of Migration Management. For the more information please visit http://www.goc.gov.tr/
Q: Do I need to have health insurance for obtaining residence permit in Turkey?
A: Yes. Foreigners and International Conservation Law become valid on 11 April 2014.According to the law all foreigners should have compulsory health insurance for obtaining residence permit in Turkey (article 43). The lowest assurance of private health insurance for foreigners, designated by Insurance General Directorate. Health Insurance is provided from private insurance agencies. There is a discrimination prices for health insurance according to age differences.
Q: What is an apostil?
A: It is a standard certification verifying the authenticity of a document for official use across countries that have signed the Convention of The Hague. If you need an official document then you should go to notary to have notarized translation and then to Governor’s office in order to have it apostilled.
Q: How long can Apostilled documents be used in Turkey??
A: Apostilled documents are valid until the date mentioned on the Apostil stamp.
Q: When do I need a work permit for the employee?
A: A work permit is needed for all non-Turkish citizens who come to work in Turkey, even if they work for 1 day.
Q: When do you have to start registration?
A: The exact timing depends on your nationality and the purpose of your stay. If you want to visit and stay in Turkey as tourist you must have tourist visa according to your nationality. If you want to work and stay you will need official application for work and resident permit.
Q: What are the Schengen countries?
A: Schengen countries are: Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Turkey is NOT a part of Schengen agreement.
Q: How long does it take to obtain a work permit in Turkey?
A: Depending on if you have applied it locally or from abroad, it will take between 2 to 3 months after the application is submitted.
Q: What is the authorized Institution about Immigration process in Turkey?
A: Republic Of Turkey Ministry of Interior Directorate General of Migration Management is an authorized institution. You can check its website http://www.goc.gov.tr/main/Eng_3_en-US
Q: How far in advance should we plan visits of properties?
A: Our standard advice is to start the home search 3 to 4 weeks before the planned move-in date. If you do not give deposit to real estate agent or to the landlord, the same house could be presented to another potential tenant. Please kindly remember that real estate market is very flexible in Turkey like all over the world. What is available today may not be available tomorrow so you need to check the updated status of your portfolios before you start a house visit.
Q: What is the normal length of the lease contract?
A: It depends on the type of contract. A standard lease contract is minimum for one year.
Q: What do we need to do prior to getting the keys to the property?
A: The first month of rent and requested deposit should be to paid to the owner (by bank transfer and separately) after all parties agree on the lease contract and sign it. If you would like to have insurance for cases like, theft, fire etc. you can provide it from a private insurance company. Turkish Catastrophe Insurance Pool (DASK) is an obligatory insurance in Turkey for all properties.
Q: How does the “departure” take place?
A: The flat has to be in the same condition when you exit. We advise the tenant should be present during the departure process to compare the condition of the flat at the entrance and exit. At the end of the exit process, tenant must give back the keys to the owner and pay for any agreed indemnities or damages.
Q: How do I recuperate the deposit?
A: When you want to leave from the house you must inform the owner officially within certain time according to your lease contract. After your request about departure, the owner will come to house to check the conditions. If there is not any damages or a condition that effects to deposit in the house, the owner should give back the deposit in a few weeks, after he/she makes sure that all utilities are closed and related invoices have been paid off.
Q: Is temporary accommodation available in Turkey?
A: There are quite a lot of temporary accommodation options in Turkey, which are located in the center of the cities. You can find many good residence apartment or residence hotels especially in the big cities. In general prices are higher than long-term properties, however Internet and all utilities are included in the price.
Q: What are the different school systems in Turkey?
A: Turkish students obligated to continue their education for 12 years in Turkish Education system. However foreign students can enroll in one of the International schools in the country. For Istanbul, new comers essentially have 3 options when it comes to education in the city: British International Istanbul, International Community School and MEF International School. On the other hand Lycée François Pierre Loti d’Istanbul has French education system. All these schools can provide primary, secondary and high school education for non-Turkish students.
Q: How long is EU driving license valid in Turkey?
A: If you have EU driving license, you can drive a car in Turkey until its expiration date.
Q: What is a foreign identity -number and how do I obtain this?
Foreign Identity number is given to all foreigners who have residence permit in Turkey at least for 6 months. The number starts with 99 and provides to get all kinds of operations in public institutions and organizations for foreigners. You should apply personally to Foreigners Department of Provincial Security Directorate to get your foreign identity number.
Q: Can I open a bank account and subscribe to TV, Internet and telephone before my arrival in Turkey?
A: No, you will need your Foreign Identity card to open a bank account. After you get your Turkish identity card and sign a rental agreement you can subscribe to all utilities.
Please kindly note that Turkey Relocation Management Services team can assist you with all relocation issues.
For all your questions, concerns & inquiries please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org