There are three network operators in Turkey:
- Türk Telekom (formerly called Avea)
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 all local Turkish SIM cards. 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 has adopted this registration system officially to prevent theft and fraud, though some suspect tax evasion and surveillance too. As the grace period has now been extended to 120 days, workarounds are now not that relevant for the one-time or short-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 or Turkcell network.
- 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 from a foreign provider instead. Some good offers are mentioned at the end of this article like Vodafone SIM cards from some European countries.
- On your next visit to Turkey, better take a different phone with you, if your Turkish SIM is still valid and more than 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).
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 than 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. Once having bought a local SIM card, prices for data remain very low and are set by the operators. Every branded store can sell you a data package or add-on at a similar price, once you 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 20 TL) is required. This can be done online or from abroad by 3rd party top-up sites (with a fee). Failure to obey both registration and top-up rules will result in your device being blocked from future use in Turkey and/or discontinuation of your SIM. 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 Türk Telekom. If you stick mainly to the cities, it does not make aa big difference which of the three providers to choose.
In 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 as late as 2016. It has been marketed from the start as "4.5G", otherwise known as LTE+ or LTE Advanced, accelerated by carrier aggregation where available. Coverage is generally quite good: Turkcell has the best, followed by Vodafone and Türk Telecom with the least. Because of low local data prices, some networks tend to be congested in city areas.
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 in the past like Facebook and Twitter in times of a major crisis.
This censorship has worsened since 2017 with blackouts for months of major websites like Wikipedia. They have also started to clamp down against VPN services used to bypass the block 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 better use a roaming SIM.
EU roaming Edit
Be aware that Turkey is not part of the EU, nor the EEA, where international roaming rules are enforced. So roaming rates on most European SIM cards are not capped or regulated in Turkey and may be much higher. Some Vodafone SIM cards from the UK and Spain work in Turkey on a roam like at home base like in any other EU country.
Additionally, have in mind that all prepaid SIM cards issued in Turkey don't include international roaming. They only operate domestic in Turkey and in Northern Cyprus (aka KKTC - except Türk Telekom).
Turkcell launched their so-called 4.5G LTE in 2016 using tri-band aggregation of 800, 1800 and 2600 MHz (B3,7,20) frequency bands. Turkcell is the market leader with the best coverage in the country and the most customers on its network.
A Turkcell prepaid SIM card (called Hazir card) costs more than 100 TL to be added by variable amounts of call credit, SMS or data. You need to shop around for the best deal, but prices are slightly higher than on its competitors.
Top-up credit can be be bought from 20 TL in Turkcell stores and many other outlets. For balance check enter *123#.
Base plans Edit
Turkcell has now shifted to combo packages a base plans to be extended by add-on packs. Remember that you need to add the fee for a new SIM card on top. These plans are given out for 4 weeks:
- 6 GB + 500 mins: 45 TL; + 1000 mins: 55 TL
- 8 GB + 500 mins: 50 TL
- 10 GB + 500 mins: 55 TL; + 1000 mins: 65 TL
- 14 GB + 500 mins: 69 TL; + 1000 mins: 79 TL
Tourist SIM card Edit
Incoming tourists are often pushed to this special SIM card called Tourist Welcome Pack. It's for 149 TL and comes with 20 GB, 300 local mins and unlimited BiP and WhatsApp use valid for 30 days.
Data feature packs:Edit
Default rate outside of packages is 1 TL per 100 KB.
These data bundles are offered for extra volume:
|7 days||1 GB||15 TL||HAFTALIK 1GB|
|30 days||1 GB||25 TL||YENI 1GB|
|2 GB||30 TL||YENI 2GB|
|4 GB||35 TL||YENI 4GB|
|6 GB||40 TL||YENI 6GB|
|8 GB||45 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.
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 and customer numbers. 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 100 TL plus some allowances to be 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#.
Vodafone has shifted its prepaid plans to all-in combo packages recently for their prepaid plans. They come with 270 domestic mins and 250 SMS for a month plus a data volume. They offer for 28 days:
- 5 GB: 25 TL
- 8 GB: 30 TL
- 12 GB: 35 TL
- 15 GB: 45 TL
Tourist SIM Edit
For visitors they have revamped their 'Vodafone Holiday line', now also called "Holiday Tariff". It's for 80 TL sales price and comes with 15 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.
Data feature packages Edit
Default data outside of packages is 0.12 TL for 10 KB for their new 4.5G 'SüperNet'. Vodafone offers so-called refill packages for more data running for the rest of the base plan:
- 1-3 GB: 12 TL
- 4-5 GB: 18 TL
- 7 GB: 24 TL
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
- Games Pass for some games: 6 TL weekly
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 offers the cheapest rates in the country right now.
Their official SIM cards start at 100 TL plus allowances. 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.
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
They don't have any special tourist plan for now, but expect to pay at least 150 TL for the SIM and a few GB.
Data feature packsEdit
Default data rate is: 0.2 TL for 10 kB, overuse charge: 0.5 TL per 100 KB. 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
alldaywifi (WiFi rental) Edit
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 on local SIM cards, Turkey is grey-listed and you may think of using a foreign SIM card on roaming in Turkey instead. This is a good 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 networks roaming in Turkey thus bypassing Turkish censorship.
m:tel Bosnia and Herzegovina Edit
m:tel has agreement with Turkish operator Turkcell for roaming package which include 1 GB lasting for 10 days for price of 10 KM. For more info see our Bosnia and Herzegovina chapter.
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: 3 GB for 9.99 €, 4.5 GB for 14.99 € or 6 GB for 19.99 €
Overuse is 0.02 € per MB. Package doesn't auto-renew. Speed on 4G 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 roaming on the 4G Türk Telekom network:
- 500 MB: 9.99 €
- 1.5 GB: 14.99 €
This package is once-off and can be activated 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, Spain, Hungary Edit
Vodafone SIM cards issued in some 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 giving data at domestic Spanish rates in Turkey. Spanish SIM cards should 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.
- Free mobile from France is another option to include Turkey for data in its domestic plans up to 25 GB.