There are three network operators in Turkey:
- Türk Telekom (formerly called Avea)
- TURISTCELL(Istanbul Welcome Card)
Turkey can be a complicated country to buy a local SIM, because there are some legal restrictions in place. Turkey is not an EU country, so roaming fees from many operators can be priced quite high. Generally, you can buy a local SIM card by showing your passport in a store.
Registration for foreign mobile phonesEdit
All mobile devices purchased outside Turkey which use a Turkish SIM must be registered with the government after a period of grace. In 2015, this grace period was extended finally to 120 days. After this period, the phone will be blocked for the Turkish SIM. This doesn't affect SIM cards from outside Turkey or the KKTC roaming in the country.
A few days after you start using your SIM on a (new) device, you'll get a SMS in Turkish with the exact grace period. It reads like this: "<14-digit IMEI number> IMEI no'lu cihaz kayit disi listesinde oldugu icin <day month="" year=""></day> da kullanim disi birakilacaktir. Hattiniz acik kalacaktir. Bilgi icin <phone no.=""> yi arayabilisiniz</phone>". In English: "<14-digit IMEI number> will be shut off on <day month="" year="">. Your line will remain open. Information at <phone no.=""></phone></day>".
If you are staying for more than 120 days, this registration can be done at the same time as purchasing a SIM card from a network operator's store. They will register the IMEI (the unique number that identifies your device) and the SIM. You can check the IMEI of most handsets by dialing *#06#. Once listed and connected to a Turkish SIM, it won't be possible to link the same device (or IMEI) to another Turkish SIM in the future.
Tax for foreign mobile phonesEdit
Before an operator will register your phone, they require a special document from the local Tax Office. In 2019 the fee for "importing" a foreign device was raised to horrendous 1500 TL (Turkish Liras) tax (around 230 € or $255). So you have to go to the Tax Office first and pay 1500 TL to have your phone registered for another 50 TL later to finally use a local SIM card. More info about this procedure from this website in English. There are exceptions made for temporary residents.
Turkey adopts this registration system to prevent theft and fraud, though some suspect other reasons too. As the grace period has now been extended to 120 days, workarounds are now not that relevant for the one-time visitor.
- If you plan to stay longer, you can buy a cheap Turkish phone or modem. You will need to provide paperwork showing who you are, but you don't have to pay the tax for registering a new device.
- North Cyprus (KKTC) prepaid SIMs can work in Turkey without roaming surcharges on Telsim/Vodafone network or on discounted packages with Turkcell
- You can bring more than one device (or a Dual-SIM phone) and change them every 120 days, adding up time to block them all.
- You can use a roaming SIM card of a foreign provider instead. Some good offers are mentioned at the end of this article like Vodafone SIM cards from some countries.
- On your next visit to Turkey, better take a different phone with you, if your Turkish SIM is still valid and 120 days have been elapsed.
- Technically, the vulnerability of a whitelist approach based on an IMEI is that there are mobile devices on the market on which their IMEI number can easily be altered (changed, re-flashed).
- Many WiFi access points are available all over the country and offer a valid alternative.
Prices and availability Edit
Prices for new SIM cards vary widely in Turkey. Every 3rd shop in Turkey is a mobile store now. Shop around and negotiate and you will find lots of offers for starter packs. Most will have credit or data already included and will start around 150 TL. If you don't speak Turkish, you will need to add at least 100 TL to package prices mentioned below for starting up with the SIM card in downtown stores. Shop around for the best deal. At the airports this fee is quite inflated and up to 5 times higher even in branded stores. So better buy in town instead.
Tom has written an extensive blog in English about the situation in Turkey with more details about the situations at the airports. After having bought a SIM card package prices for data are very low and are set by the operators. Every branded store can sell you a data package or add-on at a similar price, if you already have a Turkish SIM card.
For the returning visitor who registers their own handset, the expiry rules are pretty complex. Given the relatively high start-up costs, you may think of keeping your SIM. In general, your credit and line will stay active for 6 months, before a top-up of at least TL 20 is required. This can be done online or from abroad by 3rd party top-up sites (with a fee). Failure to obey the registration and top-up rules will result in your device being blocked from future use in Turkey. The easiest workaround is to bring a different phone (or IMEI) for your next visit.
Frequencies and coverage Edit
Like in Europe, 2G GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. Nationwide Turkcell has the best coverage, followed by Vodafone and Avea. If you stick mainly to the cities, it does not make any difference which of the three providers to choose.
4G/LTE EditIn 2015 the regulator auctioned off licenses on 800, 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz bands for 4G/LTE (Bands 3, 8, 1 and 20) . All three providers launched 4G/LTE in 2016. It has been marketed from the start as "4.5G", otherwise known as LTE+ or LTE Advanced, accelerated by carrier aggregation where available in major cities in all 81 provinces from the start. Coverage is generally quite good: Turkcell has the best, followed by Vodafone and Türk Telecom with the least.
All Turkish providers have censored access to the internet in the past. As usual this censorship is not enforced on roaming SIM cards. Sites which are considered as offensive are simply blacked out. Their selection is somewhat erratic: e.g. one dating app is blocked, while its clone is still open to be used. The government has also blocked social media sites for days in the past like Facebook and Twitter in times of a major crisis.
These black-outs have severed in 2016/7 with the blackout of major sites like Wikipedia. They have also started to clamp down against VPN services used to bypass these blocks like the Tor network that is officially blocked since 2016. To have free access and ensure anonymity, better install a working VPN on your device, before entering the country or use a roaming SIM.
EU roaming Edit
Be aware that Turkey is not part of the EU, nor the EEA, where from 2017 new international roaming rules are enforced. So roaming rates on most European SIM cards are not capped or regulated in Turkey and can be much higher. Better buy a local SIM in the country. But some Vodafone SIM cards from the UK and Spain work in Turkey same as roam like at home like another EU country.
Additionally, have in mind that all Turkey-issued prepaid SIM cards don't include international roaming. They only work domestic in Turkey and Northern Cyprus (KKTC - without Türk Telekom).
Turkcell launched their "4.5G" LTE in 2016 using tri-band aggregation of 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz frequency bands. 4G/LTE is free to prepaid. Turkcell is known to have the best coverage in the countryside.
A Turkcell prepaid SIM card costs more than 150 TL. This is added by variable amounts of call credit, SMS or data. You can check your balance by dialling *123#.
Additional credit can be be bought from 20 TL in Turkcell stores and many other outlets. For balance check enter *123#.
Data feature packs:Edit
Default rate outside of packages is 1 TL per 100 KB.
These data bundles in up to 4.5G are offered:
|7 days||1 GB||15 TL||HAFTALIK 1GB|
|30 days||1 GB||25 TL||YENI 1GB|
|2 GB||30 TL||YENI 2GB|
|4 GB||40 TL||YENI 4GB|
|6 GB||50 TL||YENI 6GB|
|8 GB||60 TL||YENI 8GB|
For activation text code to 2222. You have to confirm the subscription by sending the word 'EVET'. When you want to cancel the service send an SMS to 2222 containing the word 'IPTAL' followed by the name of the package. The message you receive later must be confirmed with the word 'EVET'. To find out how much data remains on your package, send an SMS to 2222 with the word 'KALAN' or enter *100#.. You will get back a message showing what remains and the last date of usage.
If you need to set up a dial-up connection manually on your computer (phone as modem), dial *99**1*1# In some cases you may need to add an extra initialization key. In device manager->modem->advanced->extra initialization key, type: at+cgdcont=1,"ip","internet"
Tourist SIM card Edit
For incoming tourists, this special SIM was introduced called Tourist Welcome Pack. It's for 249 TL and comes with 20 GB, 300 local mins and unlimited BiP and WhatsApp use valid for 30 days.
More info Edit
- Tethering and VoIP are allowed
- APN (may need to be set manually): internet
- Website in Turkish: http://www.turkcell.com.tr
- English support page: http://www.turkcell.com.tr/english-support
Vodafone is the 2nd operator in terms of coverage. 2G on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE was launched in 2016. It has a good coverage in the country, slightly worse than Turkcell, but better than Türk Telekom.
Vodafone SIM cards are available in all Vodafone stores (locator). The retail price often depends on your bargaining skills and origin and should be around 150 TL plus some allowances added. Most shops want to push you to their pricey Holiday Line (see below).
Required documents for purchase are a passport with a valid expiry date. For passports in Arabic or any non Latin letters additionally a notarized translation by a sworn translator is required.
To top-up visit the nearest Vodafone shop to buy a top-up voucher. Many of our stores have automated top-up machines make topping up your phone even faster. Call 7500 and enter 12-digit number on your top-up voucher press #, enter 5-digit number on your top-up voucher press #.
For balance check enter *123#.
Data feature packsEdit
Default data outside of packages is 0.12 TL for 10 KB for their new 4.5G 'SüperNet'.
Vodafone has shifted its prepaid plans to all-in combo packages recently for their prepaid plans. They come with 250 domestic mins and 250 SMS for a month plus this data volume:
- 2 GB: 25 TL
- 4 GB: 30 TL
- 6 GB: 35 TL
- 7 GB: 25 TL - this package is only for new customers
With Freezone they offer data and youth oriented plans including 750 mins and free WhatsApp per month:
- 2 GB / 4 GB, 750 mins, Video-, Social and Music Pass: 22 TL
- 5 GB / 10 GB, Video- Social and Music Pass: 35 TL
- 7 GB / 14 GB, Video-, Social and Music Pass: 43 TL
The lower data is for customers > 26 years, the higher < 26 years.
Vodafone Passes Edit
Turkey is one of the few countries where Vodafone has released its passes for unlimited social media and streaming to prepaid plans:
- Social Pass for Twitter, Instagram and Facebook: 20 TL monthly or 10 TL weekly
- Video Pass for YouTube: 29 TL monthly or 15 TL weekly
- Chat Pass for Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp: 5 TL weekly, 10 TL monthly
- Music Pass for Spotify: 10 TL monthly
Tourist SIM Edit
For visitors they have revamped their 'Vodafone Holiday line', now also called "Holiday Tariff". It's for 200 TL sales price and comes with 20 GB data, 750 local minutes and 1000 SMS all valid for 30 days. It's exclusive for foreign customers (excluded Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Yemen, Palestine and Israel). In maximum, 3 prepaid lines can be activated for a foreigner.
More information Edit
- APN: internet
- Website in Turkish: http://www.vodafone.com.tr
Türk Telekom (formerly called Avea)Edit
In 2016 Türk Telekom rebranded its mobile network from Avea, but you see their old sign still sometimes. It's the smallest provider in Turkey in terms of coverage, but they have still good speeds in the cities and a fair coverage in the countryside.
2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE was launched in 2016. It still has the lowest coverage in the countryside, but is strong in cities.
Their official SIM cards start at 150 TL with 750 mins and 10 GB for a month. They are sold in their stores (locator). Türk Telekom is the cheapest of the three providers, especially if you bring along a local who can negotiate in English.
Data feature packsEdit
Default data rate is: 0.2 TL for 10 kB, overuse charge: 0.5 TL per 100 KB.
Like Vodafone they want to push all new customers to their all-in combo packs with 750 mins, 1000 SMS plus this data volume per month:
- 4 GB: 23 TL
- 7 GB: 27 TL
- 10 GB: 32 TL
For data only they offer the biggest variety of packages up to 4.5G at the lowest prices in Turkey right now:
|Validity||Volume||Price||Activation to 5555|
|1 day||100 MB||1.90 TL||GUN|
|1 day||1 GB||6 TL||GUN1|
|7 days||100 MB||5 TL||HAFTA|
|7 days||1 GB||9 TL||HAFTA1|
|7 days||10 GB||25 TL||HAFTA10GB|
|30 days||100 MB||9 TL||AYLIK 100MB|
|30 days||250 MB||12 TL||AYLIK 250MB|
|30 days||500 MB||19 TL||AYLIK 500MB|
|30 days||1 GB||19 TL||AYLIK 1GB|
|30 days||2 GB||39 TL||AYLIK 2GB|
|30 days||3 GB||45 TL||AYLIK 3GB|
|30 days||4 GB||49 TL||4GB|
|30 days||5 GB||55 TL||AYLIK 5GB|
|30 days||6 GB||59 TL||AYLIK 6GB|
|90 days||10 GB||35 TL||3AY10GB|
For subscription send an SMS with the keyword to 5555. You get a response from number 2438. You have to respond to that with another SMS and the word 'EVET' (for yes). If 3G with HSPA speed is not working, you need to send another SMS to number 3334 with text '3G' and reconnect to network.
Check data credit via SMS to 5555 with the word KALAN <activation code="">. To stop auto-renewal, text IPTAL <activation code=""> to 5555.</activation></activation>
For additional data volume you can add these packages:
- for 3 days:
- 1 GB: 3 TL, 3GUN 1GB
- 2 GB: 5 TL, 3GUN 2GB
- for 7 days:
- 1 GB: 5 TL, HAFTA 1GB
- 2 GB: 8 TL, HAFTA 2GB
- for 14 days:
- 1 GB: 8 TL, 2HAFTA 1GB
- 2 GB: 12 TL, 2HAFTA 2GB
- 4 GB: 15 TL, 2HAFTA 4GB
For activation, text code to 5555.
More information Edit
- APN: internet
- Website in Turkish: http://www.turktelekom.com.tr
Instead of buying a SIM card you can rent a mobile Wifi router (MiFi) with a data SIM card from one of the local companies to avoid the legal hassles.
Alldaywifi rents out routers to establish a 3G/4G internet connection and connect by WiFi with up to 10 devices. You can only book online and pay by credit card. The device will be delivered within Istanbul city center in 2 hours and to other parts of Turkey within 24 hours. Delivery charge is free in Istanbul and $ 10 (one-way) elsewhere in Turkey. Their office is near Taksim Sq. on Istiklal Street, so you might pick it up there.
They deliver an extra battery ("power bank") in the package to extend its mobile capacity. It gives "unlimited" mobile internet in Turkey. The network is not disclosed. Alldaywifi has the right to apply an unspecified FUP to prevent "abuse" of "unlimited" data.
The rental rates depend on duration:
- 3 days: $ 26
- 4 days: $ 29
- 5 days: $ 32
- 6 days: $ 36
- 7 days: $ 42
- more than 7 days: $ 6 per day
The device seems to be insured and no deposit withheld, but their T&Cs put all responsibility to the lendor.
- Website: https://alldaywifi.com/
Foreign SIM cards roaming in Turkey Edit
Because of the complex and confusing start-up procedures like registration, possible taxes for your device, short validity or censorship of local SIM cards, Turkey is grey-listed and you may think of using a foreign SIM card on roaming in Turkey instead. This is especially an option, when you only stay for a short time, use little data, are a recurring visitor with the same device or want to keep your SIM card alive for a longer period. These are the best offers from other European countries bypassing Turkish censorship.
Kyivstar and Lifecell Ukraine Edit
Turkey is included in their roaming packages for each 100 MB at UAH 35 per day with Kyivstar and UAH 30 with Lifecell. For Lifecell other options are available too. For more info see our Ukraine chapter.
Lifecell Europe Edit
Lifecell Europe is a German-issued SIM card from Turkcell now rebranded into Lifecell. It's sold in Germany and via eBay.de or Amazon.de to other countries as well. The starter price of 10 € is credited as balance. German online registration is required.
For roaming on the Turkish Turkcell network, they offer a data package called Türkei Roaming for a surcharge of 5 € all domestic (German) packages are included for Turkish roaming: 2.5 GB for 9.99 €, 4 GB for 14.99 € or 8 GB for 24.99 €
Overuse is 0.02 € per MB. Package doesn't auto-renew. Speed on Turkcell network is up to 18 Mbps. Turkish censorship doesn't apply. For more info check Lifecell in our Germany chapter.
Ay Yildiz Germany Edit
Ay Yildiz is another German-issued SIM card similar to Lifecell Europe (see above) given out by Telefónica Germany. They offer two data packages for roaming in Turkey valid for 30 days:
- 500 MB: 9.99 €
- 1.5 GB: 14.99 €
This package is once-off and can be booked multiple times. Outside rate is € 0.29 per MB. Turkish censorship doesn't apply. For more info see Ay Yildiz in Germany chapter.
Vodafone UK, ESP, HU, DE Edit
Vodafone SIM cards issued in local Vodafone networks of the UK, Spain or Hungary also give data in Turkey either for the domestic rate of the originating country of the SIM card or a heavily reduced rate on their Turkish Vodafone network in up to 4G/LTE:
- Vodafone UK has included its Turkish Vodafone network to the domestic EU/EEA zone for roam like at home. This means that you can use any PAYG SIM from Vodafone UK including Voxi, load a bundle and use it in Turkey at the domestic UK rate. Vodafone UK SIM cards are easily available through online vendors on eBay and other platforms and can be activated and topped up from outside the UK. For more info see Vodafone in the UK chapter.
- Vodafone Espana (Spain) has also included its Turkish network to their EU roaming zone from 2018 giving data at domestic Spanish rates in Turkey. Spanish SIM cards must be bought and registered on location in Spain. For more info check Vodafone in the Spain chapter.
- Vodafone Magyar (Hungary) has included Turkey to their domestic EU roaming zone as well. Hungarian SIM cards need some paperwork to be activated and are only available in Hungary for registration. Check Vodafone in our Hungary chapter.