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Basics[edit | edit source]

Operators[edit | edit source]

There are three network operators in Turkey:

  • Turkcell
  • Vodafone
  • 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.

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Registration for foreign mobile phones[edit | edit source]

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 phones[edit | edit source]

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.

Workarounds[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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.

Expiry[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

4.5G.jpg

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 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.

Censorship[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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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[edit | edit source]

Turkcell.jpg

Turkcell is the biggest operator in the country with the best coverage nationwide. 2G is on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. In 2015 Turkcell’s population coverage was at 99.8% in 2G and 95% in 3G.

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.

Availabilty[edit | edit source]

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#.

Recharges[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

Default rate outside of packages is 1 TL per 100 KB.

These data bundles in up to 4.5G are offered:

Time Volume Price Activation
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 | edit source]

For incoming tourists, this special SIM was introduced called Tourist Welcome Pack. As of August 2020 it costs 149 TL and it comes with 20 GB, 200 local mins and unlimited messaging via BiP and WhatsApp use valid for 30 days.

More info[edit | edit source]

  • Tethering and VoIP are allowed

Vodafone [edit | edit source]

Vodafone.jpg

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.

Availability[edit | edit source]

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 packs[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

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 | edit source]

For visitors they have revamped their 'Vodafone Holiday line', now also called "Holiday Tariff". As of 08.2020 it's for 80 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 | edit source]

Türk Telekom (formerly called Avea)[edit | edit source]

NEW Türk Telecom logo

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.

Availability[edit | edit source]

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 packs[edit | edit source]

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 | edit source]

alldaywifi[edit | edit source]

Alldaylogo.png

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.

Foreign SIM cards roaming in Turkey[edit | edit source]

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 in our wiki and you may think of using a foreign SIM card for roaming in Turkey instead. This is especially 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 countries bypassing Turkish censorship.

Kyivstar and Lifecell Ukraine[edit | edit source]

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.

Ay Yildiz Germany[edit | edit source]

Ay Yildiz is a German-issued SIM card given out by Telefónica Germany. They offer data packages for roaming in Turkey valid for 30 days on the Türk Telekom network:

  • 2 GB: 9.99 €
  • 4 GB: 14.99 €
  • 8 GB: 24.99 €

This package is once-off and can be activated multiple times. Outside rate is 0.29 € per MB. For more info see Ay Yildiz in our o2 Germany chapter. SIM card is available on eBay and can be registered through online ID.

Lebara Germany and Vodafone Germany[edit | edit source]

After the closure of Lifecell Lebara in Germany sells a data roaming pack on the Turkcell network with 1.5 GB for 30 days at 14.99 €. Vodafone in Germany sells roaming add-ons to every CallYa prepaid SIM of 500 MB for 9.99 €. Both SIM cards can be bought in or from Germany and registered online through WebID. For more information check our Germany chapter.

Vodafone UK, ESP, HU, NL[edit | edit source]

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 included its Turkish Vodafone network to the domestic EU/EEA zone for roam like at home. However, since the May 2020, Turkey has been removed from the EU roaming list of Vodafone UK. (see here: ispreview and the new Vodafone Europe zone list: Vodafone-list only the two unlimited max subscriptions have Turkey in their free roaming zone, but this is irrelevant for short-term users: Vodafone global roaming plus destinations.)
  • Vodafone España (Spain) has 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. The SIM card is available on eBay, but you need to register it and the seller does this through WhatsApp.
  • 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.
  • Vodafone Nederland (The Netherlands) has included Turkey to their domestic EU roaming zone as well. Unfortunately it's only for subscriptions and not for prepaid users. Check Vodafone NL in our Netherlands chapter.

Tele2 Russia[edit | edit source]

Tele2 Russia offers a prepaid plan called ¨premium¨ and costs 1800 rubles (about 22 euros or 25 dollars) monthly and has unlimited roaming offer in a lot of countries including Turkey (400 MB on full speed daily and 128 kbit/s thereafter). More information on their site: Tele2 Russia & Tele2 Russia [site in Russian, open in Chrome with translate function.] Unfortunately, they offer only 3G roaming in Turkey, you can check that on this site: Tele2 Russia roaming partner information. Their SIM card is available on eBay as well.

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