After staying eight months in this city, I have a love-hate relationship with Istanbul. I’ve spent two years as a digital nomad, and Istanbul is the only city I’ve returned to.

So, what is it that makes Istanbul so special? 

It’s complicated. Some of the things I love most about Istanbul are the same things that I hate. Things change quickly from one day to the next.

Istanbul has about 16 million people, but those population numbers are probably outdated by now. As the massive construction projects around the city suggest, this city is growing fast. That makes the city pretty damn exciting, but at times, you’ll suffer from the growing pains too. Read this guide to find out about the worst scams, the best neighbourhoods, and everything else you might want to know about being a digital nomad in Istanbul.

Is Istanbul good for digital nomads?

When I read about budget-friendly mega-cities online, Istanbul usually tops the list. And if you have even the slightest interest in world history, the prospect of living in the former capital of the Ottoman and Byzantine Empire is tantalizing. The uniqueness of Turkish culture and the variety of neighbourhoods is just icing on the cake.

After seeing how prices have evolved in this city over the last couple of years and having lived there on a budget, the city is not as economical as it seems. 

It’s not that Istanbul isn’t cheap by Western standards, it most certainly is. But the best discounts here often come with a caveat. The cheapest accommodations are usually of extremely low quality, and so is the cheapest food. Not to mention, prices here have skyrocketed of late, not just in Turkish Lira terms, which is notoriously inflation-prone, but also in US Dollar terms.

So, before you plan a trip to Istanbul, you should keep in mind that while things are cheap, you should always be willing to pay a little extra. And one more thing that’s of particular importance to digital nomads, the internet in your apartment will almost certainly be of poor quality, make sure you pay for mobile data.

First impressions of Istanbul

I have never been so awe-struck about a place in my life. 

When I first went to Istanbul, I had never been to a non-Western country before. The culture shock was real, but I liked it. Here’s what stood out to me:

Turnons:

  • Every street has a different vibe: The winding streets that branch out from Istiklal Avenue in Beyoglu are a sight to behold. It feels like every little alleyway has a different energy that’s hard to put into words.
  • Diverse food options: More on the food later, but it was incredible to me how many unique dishes there were. Not to mention, restaurants with different specialties.
  • There’s so much going on at once: Many people find the crowds are a turnoff, but I don’t. Every little building in the historical areas is interesting architecturally, there are all sorts of characters (not scammers) just chilling on the streets going about their day, it’s great.

Turnoffs:

  • The smells: The sights are great, the smells… not so much. It depends a lot on the neighbourhood you’re in of course. Walking beside a garbage bin here is usually vomit-inducing.
  • Scammers abound: Everyone hears about the ridiculous amount of scammers before they go to Istanbul, so I was prepared to ignore them. It’s still annoying to even hear their voices though.
  • Cost of Living in Istanbul was once cheap, but it’s getting pricier every month.

Of course, my first impressions are a distant memory at this point. Since I’ve been in Istanbul for a while, I’ll tell you my long-standing points of praise and gripes at the end of this guide, because it takes a while for those to set in.

Everything you need to know before you get to Istanbul

I wish I could experience Istanbul for the first time all over again. I’m so jealous of you that I might just hit my head and give myself amnesia so I can join you. Alas, I have experienced Istanbul many times before. Fortunately for you, I can give you some good pointers for your first time.

When is the best time to visit Istanbul?

Istanbul is a huge city, so I’m tempted to say that any time is good. That said, it gets more lively when the sun is out, which you can count on roughly from May to September. After that point, the weather varies greatly from one day to the next. Heck, from one hour to the next. I once enjoyed a sunny Istanbul morning followed by an afternoon deluge that would make Noah’s flood look like a rather unremarkable bout of drizzly weather. 

Make sure you always have a raincoat with you from Fall to Spring. And something to keep you warm, because it does get windy. 

From a tourist point of view, the major sights are mostly busy year-round, but it gets worse in the summer. You might want to avoid July and August for that reason, plus the fact that it’s hotter around those times too.

Housing & Neighborhoods

If you’re a budget traveller reading this less than a month before you’re planning to go to Istanbul, it’s already too late for you. If you want a quality apartment for a decent price here, I recommend booking at least 2 months in advance. Seriously, it’s that bad.

Unfortunately, the events in Ukraine in 2022 exacerbated the pre-existing exodus of Russian digital nomads into Istanbul. Combine that with an already-short housing supply in a rapidly-growing city like Istanbul, and you can see why people are willing to pay just about any price for an apartment. You’re unlikely to find anything of good quality under $1,000 USD. And even then, it might not be in the neighbourhood you want. Everyone is competing for housing everywhere. And you’ll need to know a local ahead of time to get local deals from a Facebook group or local rental websites like Sahibinden. That said, locals have a hard time finding an affordable place too nowadays.

As I alluded to earlier, housing quality is a little questionable. I’ve never seen a city with such a high density of negative reviews on Airbnb. Plus, it doesn’t help that the owners are rather hostile to anyone who questions the livability of their little 15-square-metre shitbox that lacks hot water everywhere except for the shower.

I don’t mean to dissuade you, but I want to set your expectations low because you’re not going to get value for money when renting an apartment as a foreigner in Istanbul. I’ve tried a hotel before, and it’s honestly a much better experience, even if it’s more expensive.

When you’re talking with a host on Airbnb, make sure that you ask about everything that you’re not sure of before you book. If you can’t see a stove in their pictures, ask where it is. And one question you should always ask is whether you can flush toilet paper down the toilet. In some apartments, you need to throw it in the garbage due to the plumbing system. Many of my friends who haven’t been to Turkey find this outrageous, but I thought you should know ahead of time.

That said, I think there must be a better solution to the housing problem for digital nomads in Istanbul and beyond. We’re in the process of curating a large database of digital nomad apartments that actually have the amenities you need, for a lower price than you would find listed on other booking sites. Enter your name and email below to get access to them as soon as they’re released.

The Best Neighbourhoods In Istanbul For Digital Nomads

Opinions on this matter vary widely depending on who is giving the advice. Tourists and locals prefer different things and you’ll learn about my preferences in a moment. 

Let me emphasize that neighbourhoods and districts in Istanbul are different. Districts are bigger and have about half a million inhabitants each. Neighbourhoods are situated within districts, some districts have a mix of good and bad neighbourhoods, and others are entirely good or bad. If I recommend a neighbourhood, then I’m not endorsing the entire district it’s situated in.

Here is a list of my favourite neighbourhoods in Istanbul:

  • Besiktas (entire district)
  • Cihangir, Galata & Karakoy (in Beyoglu)
  • Nisantasi (in Sisli)
  • Kadikoy (entire district)
  • Icadiye and Kuzguncuk (in Uskudar) 
  • Sariyer (entire district)
  • Kucukyali (in Maltepe)
  • Fener & Balat (in Fatih)
  • Fulya (in Sisli)
Besiktas

Monthly Airbnb Price Range: $800-$1,200++

Safety: High

Transportation: Accessible

Besiktas Digital Nomad
Besiktas Digital Nomad

Besiktas is one of my favourite places of all time. I can’t point my finger at exactly what it is, it might be all the lively cafes and bars filled with university students and the fact that it is generally cleaner than most places in Istanbul. Add in some gorgeous views of the Bosphorus, a high density of parks, pleasant architecture, and quality urban planning, and you can see why it won me over.

Admittedly, all these cafes and bars make Besiktas a little noisy, but you could find a residential area that’s a bit removed from the action. Personally, I have no problem working in the noisy cafes that permeate Besiktas, some have suitable tables, but everyone is different.

Besiktas is a district, so the neighbourhoods that I recommend the most here are Sinanpasa and Bebek, but I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the neighbourhoods along the water. Plus, large sections of the seawall are walkable here and in Sariyer, so that’s a bonus.

Besiktas isn’t close to any major tourist attractions, aside from Dolmabahce Palace, which in my opinion is the most beautiful palace in Istanbul and one of the best I’ve ever visited. However, most of the major attractions are still easily accessible from Besiktas via public transportation.

Cihangir, Galata, Karakoy

Monthly Airbnb Price Range: $600-$1,000+

Safety: Medium (Scammers & Pickpockets)

Transportation: Highly Accessible

Galata Digital Nomad
Galata Digital Nomad

I lumped these three together because they are all situated close to one another, each within the Beyoglu district. All are quite close to Istiklal Avenue and Taksim Square. You can easily hop on the Metro or tram to get to Sultanahmet from these places as well. I would say that these neighbourhoods are all quite touristy, but it also means that they have almost anything a foreigner could want within reach, though green spaces are scarce.

As I said, every neighbourhood has a different vibe. Cihangir is a very low-key residential neighbourhood compared to the hustle and bustle of Istiklal, and my favourite of the three. You can find ample cafes to work in there. Galata and Karakoy are full of restaurants and bars in tight alleyways beside historic buildings. Some of these bars are a bit scammy so I would read the reviews first before going in.

Each of these neighbourhoods is extremely hilly, but I think it’s worth the exercise anyways. Plus, it will give you more excuses to eat some delicious Turkish food.

Nisantasi

Monthly Airbnb Price Range: $1,200-$1,500+++

Safety: High

Transportation: Highly Accessible

Nisantasi Digital Nomad
Digital Nomad Nisantasi

Nisantasi is a neighbourhood in Sisli, which is a district next to Beyoglu and Besiktas. Of course, part of the reason why I mention it here is because it has great access to both of those places. Despite being situated right in the middle of the action, I find it has a more relaxed yet upscale vibe.

As one of the wealthiest quarters in Istanbul, rent here is going to cost you a pretty penny. Naturally, restaurants and cafes follow this pattern too. The reason for these high prices is that Nisantasi is a major destination for luxury shoppers in Istanbul. Not to mention, this high density of shops also makes it a bit tough to find restaurants in your immediate vicinity compared to elsewhere in the megalopolis.

That said, I appreciate the clean, beautiful streets and proximity to Macka Park and the abundant restaurants towards Osmanbey station. I’ve noticed that many locals don’t recommend Nisantasi, but given its plentiful cafes and easy access to the rest of Istanbul, I think it’s great for a traveller with a little more money to spend.

Kadikoy

Monthly Airbnb Price Range: $600-$1,000+

Safety: High 

Transportation: Highly Accessible

Digital Nomad Kadikoy
Digital Nomad Kadikoy

A local favourite, Kadikoy often tops the list of best districts in Istanbul. Kadikoy is the first district I’ve mentioned on the Asian side. You can’t go wrong living in any of the neighbourhoods near Kadikoy pier, or in Moda. 

I’ve lived in Kadikoy, and I like Kadikoy, but I think it’s a little overrated. It’s a high-energy student quarter full of bars similar to Besiktas, but the vibe feels different. I’ll try to explain why. My Turkish friends tell me that a different type of person will frequent Kadikoy. Kadikoy, for lack of a better term, is more “hipster” than anywhere else in Istanbul. If that’s your thing, then that might bump it to the top of the list. Personally, I’m indifferent to this.

I find that generally speaking, Kadikoy is cheaper than the other neighbourhoods I’ve listed so far. At least, it’s cheaper when it comes to restaurants and bars. Housing isn’t exactly expensive here, but I found it was of poor quality and also very hard to come by compared to the tourist zones.

Uskudar (Kuzguncuk & Icadiye)

Monthly Airbnb Price Range: $800-$1,200+

Safety: High

Transportation:  Accessible

Uskudar Digital Nomad
Uskudar Digital Nomad

Also on the Asian side of Istanbul, Uskudar is a huge residential district that local İstanbullu tend to describe as conservative. In any case, I find the area quite pleasant, specifically the neighbourhoods of Icadiye and Kuzguncuk. You could stay elsewhere in Uskudar, but I find that the rest is mostly just average upper-middle-class residential neighbourhoods. Not bad by any means, but not worthy of this list.

In Kuzguncuk and Icadiye, you’ll find a fair few foreigners and cafes to work in or just relax. Relax is the keyword here. Uskudar is just so much more laid back than the rest of Istanbul. You can easily take a train or boat to the other highlights, so even though it feels far from the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to reach.

From peaceful parks and promenades along the Bosporus to cute 19th-century houses, you won’t lack anything in these two neighbourhoods, except for nightlife. But I prefer peace and quiet 7 nights a week to the noise of revellers well into the night

Neighbourhoods to avoid in Istanbul

There are a lot of bad neighbourhoods and districts to avoid in Istanbul. Frankly, you wouldn’t ever need to go near those places anyways, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about them.

Here is a brief list of places to avoid:

  • Bagcilar
  • Esenyurt
  • Sultanbeyli

There are two neighbourhoods that I haven’t mentioned yet that you might be wondering about. They are Sultanahmet and Tarlabasi.

Sultanahmet

Sultanahmet is one of the main tourist districts in Istanbul. The Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and The Grand Bazaar are all situated here. When you hear people refer to “Constantinople”, Sultanahmet and the larger Fatih district is the zone they are referring to. Having once been the capital of both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, Sultanahmet is without a doubt the historical centre of Istanbul.

A trip to Istanbul wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Sultanahmet, but I don’t recommend staying there unless you’re only going to go for a few days. It’s just way too touristy, and I haven’t heard good things about the hotels here either.

Tarlabasi

It’s also common to see lots of lodgings in Tarlabasi. Situated near Istikal Avenue, the Galata Tower and Taksim Square, it is a residential neighbourhood that has become populated with Airbnbs in recent years due to its fortuitous location. However, it is quite run down. Most locals tell you to avoid this neighbourhood entirely. 

I lived in Tarlabasi the first time I lived in Istanbul. Honestly, I didn’t think it was that bad. I didn’t hang around the streets at night, but then again, there isn’t anything to do on those streets aside from walk home. 

Would I live in Tarlabasi again? Probably not. But given how gentrified the neighbourhood has become, its poor reputation is unwarranted. So if you’re looking for a cheap part of Istanbul that’s still close to all the major tourist sights, you could try living in Tarlabasi.

Entry & Visas

Turkey is one of the most permissive countries in the world when it comes to allowing tourists to enter. It’s not just Westerners who can stay on tourist visas, many other nationalities have a clear path.

Citizens of Western countries and select Asian countries like Japan and Singapore can usually stay on a 90-day tourist visa. Americans, Canadians, and other nationals of English-speaking countries need to pay for an eVisa. I recommend you do this before arrival, the process is quite straightforward, just go directly to the government website I linked and don’t click on any of those scam websites that come up when you search for the Turkish eVisa on Google.

As for digital nomad visas in Turkey, there are residence visas, but lately, they have become extremely challenging to obtain. I’ve known a couple of people who are in tourist visa limbo having stayed above their limit, but not having yet received their residence visa. As of May 2023, most people get their applications rejected as far as I know.

Currency

Turkey uses the much-maligned Turkish Lira. I’ve never been able to obtain this currency outside of Turkey. You can easily exchange some once you arrive at the airport but don’t take out too much. Generally speaking, exchanges offer favourable rates with only a few exceptions in tourist areas. Just shop around a bit when you get to Istanbul to find exchanges that only take 1 or 2% of your money. And bring Euros or USD because rates for those currencies are the lowest. On the other hand, you could use ATMs in Turkey to take out cash, read the guide I linked to learn how to save money on fees and avoid scams.

You will definitely want to keep cash on hand during your visit. While most places accept credit cards, a few small restaurants, pool halls, and similar establishments will only accept cash. Plus, some credit card readers won’t work with my Wise card, which is intended to be used internationally, or my normal credit card.

Here’s a cautionary tale to explain why you want to keep cash around in Istanbul On the last day of my second sojourn there, I went to purchase some Baklava to bring home to my family. Having run out of cash, I figured I would use my card that day. The man at the counter enthusiastically loaded up a box full of baklava knowing he was about to make a big sale. The final tally came to nearly $30 which was probably a lot of money for him. Then he pulled out the credit card reader….

No amount of scratching on my chip or banging on the reader would make my card work. I apologized and left the store while the man grimaced goodbye to me with a look of despair plastered across his face. I bought Turkish delight for my family instead.

Getting to Istanbul from the airport

Honestly, if there is one thing I hate about Istanbul it’s this part. Istanbul has two airports: Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport. Both are inconvenient to commute to and from.

Istanbul Airport
Istanbul Airport is one of the biggest in the world

Once you leave Istanbul airport, you have four transportation options into the city:

  • Taxi
  • Havaist (Istanbul airport) or Havabus (Sabiha Gökçen)
  • M11(Istanbul airport) or M4 (Sabiha Gökçen)
  • Public buses

Taxi drivers in Istanbul are legendary scammers, so unless you are staying in an area that’s hard to access from the airport by other means, I would discourage you from taking this option. If you do, download BiTaksi or Getir because it shows you the prices ahead of time. But you’ll need an internet connection to use those options of course, and most foreigners don’t have internet when they arrive.

If you end up staying near a Havabus or Havaist stop, then I highly recommend taking one of these buses from the airport. The only issue might be if you have a lot of bags, then you’ll need to carry them from the stop to your apartment. This isn’t very fun when you’re in Istanbul for the first time.

As for the Metro, I have never had problems with the M4 to Sabiha Gokcen. However, I tried taking the newly opened M11 from Istanbul Airport and the experience was terrible. Foreigners couldn’t create a new Istanbul card with their credit card and the machines don’t accept the 200 lira bills that you typically get from ATMs and exchanges. Not to mention, you need to walk 15 minutes from the airport exit to get to the actual Metro platform as well.

What you need to know while you’re in Istanbul

What to do the day you arrive

Once you finally get to Istanbul, your first order of business is to get a Turkish SIM card. Unfortunately, public wifi isn’t a thing here unless you already have a phone number (and therefore, a data plan making it a moot point). You’re better off with mobile data whether you’re working or sightseeing. I’ve found that Turkcell has the best coverage. But monthly plans will be rather expensive, and it’s hard to tell to what extent the Turkcell location you visit is price-gouging you. Expect to pay up to $60.

Aside from that you should take a look at Google Maps to find the nearest grocery stores, cafes, restaurants, and potential coworking spaces. Keep in mind that you might have to test different stores since some will notice that you’re new and charge you more than what’s fair.

Where to work in Istanbul as a digital nomad

The best coworking spaces in Istanbul will of course depend heavily on where you decide to base yourself. There’s no use commuting a long way to a workspace because that defeats the purpose of remote work. 

The neighbourhoods I suggested to you so far all have abundant cafes to work from. Of course, they are almost universally quite noisy. So your quiet alternatives are as follows:

  • DAIRE Coworking in Besiktas
  • Galata Business Centre in Galata

Unfortunately, outside of Besiktas and Beyoglu, many neighbourhoods don’t have coworking spaces easily accessible. There are neighbourhoods such as Levent, which have coworking spaces, but that’s more of a business district and not a good area for a digital nomad to live in. Unless you value the tranquillity of an office, it’s probably more convenient to go work at a cafe.

Food

Most people regard Turkish food quite highly. And for good reason, Turkish food provides an incredible amount of variety. From vegan options like cig kofte to tender Turkish barbecue, you can find local foods to please any palette.

I think many Westerners have the impression that Turkish food is exotic. I certainly did before I arrived. Being of Italian descent, many dishes are exactly like what my mother or grandmother would cook. And I think that stews are common to just about every culture, with regional variations. 

At the end of the day, restaurants and food stands of all kinds can be found in just about any densely-inhabited quarter of Istanbul. It shouldn’t be too challenging to find food that meets your dietary restrictions, no matter whether you’re looking for vegan or Halal options, Istanbul has something for everyone. The only issue you might have is if you have extremely sensitive food allergies.

You should be aware that while food in Istanbul seems cheap at first, quality can be of concern with some of the cheaper options. A $1 durum sounds like a steal until you taste how gamey the “chicken” is, trust me, I’ve tried it. You’re likely better off paying a bit extra in most cases, it’s probably still going to be significantly cheaper than food in your home country. 

A good meal at a fancy doner restaurant is only about $15, and that’s at the high-end. Meals will rarely cost you above $10 unless you go to an upscale restaurant, and I found that most of those places just serve hamburgers and pasta anyways in an attempt to imitate American restaurants. All in all, I’d say that $2 is the minimum threshold to have a good meal without meat and $3 is the minimum threshold for one that includes meat. After that, it’s a sliding scale based on what dishes you want and what degree of quantity and quality you’re looking for.

I should add that the more you pay, the more consistent your service is. It’s not that cheaper places have bad service, it’s just that service is somewhat variable there, sometimes even depending on the server or owner’s mood that day.

Tipping

If you do decide to shell out a bit extra and go to a nice sit-down restaurant, then it’s customary to tip about 10%. Otherwise, tips in Turkey are appreciated but not at all expected.

Buying Groceries

Istanbul has a huge culture of eating out compared to most countries. It’s just way more convenient to eat out when options are so numerous and kitchens are often tiny. Buying groceries will barely be cheaper for you anyways, since eating out is quite affordable.

If you’re really travelling on a budget, then you could consistently live off of eggs, pasta, bread, and local produce for a very low price, perhaps $150 per month. However, I’ve found that the quality of produce is extremely questionable compared to neighbouring countries. Locals tell me that Turkey exports their best produce to Europe while everyone else gets the short end of the stick.

Vibes

Social Life in Istanbul

Istanbul is a massive city, and as such, there are lots of different types of people you can meet. But as with any big city, not everyone wants to socialize. Most people, myself included, find strangers a bit impenetrable when you first meet them.

I partly attribute this to the language barrier, few Turks speak English, or any language other than Turkish for that matter. If you want to soften people up a bit, you should learn a few Turkish words to get along.

After a while, you’ll find that people will get used to you and will treat you better after seeing you multiple times. 

However, making friends in Istanbul might be tough if you don’t already have an in. I think the easiest way to make friends would be to stay in a university quarter like Besiktas and sign up for some activity that allows you to talk to students. It could be a language exchange, a gym, or something else. 

Do everything you can to make your first Turkish friend, and after that, you’ll be warmly introduced to new people all the time. When you meet Turkish people in that context, they are exceptionally warm and friendly.

For my part, I managed to make Turkish friends outside of Turkey. Once I came to Istanbul the second time, I easily developed a bunch of social connections as a result of warm introductions, and just the fact that I was with a group of people made me more approachable to strangers too.

Nightlife in Istanbul

For such a large city, I find that proper nightlife options are a bit lacking. Istanbul has a lot of techno clubs, but I am pretty indifferent to that genre of music. The ambiance of the bar quarters like Besiktas and Kadikoy is excellent, but there isn’t much variety from bar to bar and few clubs too. 

Keep in mind that if you are a man and decide to attend a nightclub, you will need at least as many women as men in your group, otherwise, you will not be let in. 

I should also say a word about Taksim, most clubs and bars around there exist solely to scam tourists. You should never go to a bar that some stranger on the street invites you to, no matter how friendly they seem. Just ignore the touts that populate Istiklal when they approach you.

Street Life in Istanbul

As I said earlier, one of the first things that initially made Istanbul so attractive when I arrived was just how much stuff is going on when you walk out your door.

You see people of all kinds when you walk the street, especially oddball characters you wouldn’t find elsewhere. Conversations between friends, loud arguments, beggars, and street vendors selling their wares all meld together. This was fascinating to me at first, though over time, the noise becomes a bit of a drag.

I also noted that most neighbourhoods have their unique character, and the types of people who walk the streets have a lot to do with it. My favourite thing about Istanbul is simply the fact that I can walk to different parts of the city and experience a different vibe on a whim.

Activities in Istanbul

The tourist attractions in Istanbul are several and are likely to occupy your time if you have a full slate of work to attend to. I don’t need to tell you the obvious, go to Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, Suleymaniye Mosque, and so on. Dolmabahce Palace is perhaps the most wondrous attraction of all, but gets overlooked by many tourists since it is located in Besiktas and not Sultanahmet.

That said, outside of tourist attractions, some people find activities a bit lacking. There are certainly lots of different foods to try, and neighbourhoods to wander through, but not everyone enjoys these types of activities.

If you’re an outdoors person, you can go to Belgrad forest, but otherwise, you’ll need to venture far outside of Istanbul for good day trips. If you enjoy live music, there are a few bars in Kadikoy that provide it, but again, for a city of its size, your options are limited.

Things like gyms and yoga salons are also pretty sparse given how dense the city is. You’ll find that many gyms are rather gritty. And MacFit, which offers the most modern gyms around the city, is overcrowded and overpriced.

The pros and cons of living in Istanbul: lasting impressions

I’ve stayed in Istanbul for 8 months in my lifetime. Honestly, I don’t think any other place in the world compares. For me at least, it’s the biggest city I’ve been to and also the most different from any of the others.

Of course, since I’ve been to Turkey so many times, I will certainly come back in the future. But I’ve also stayed long enough to notice the downsides to Turkey too. I wrote a more complete article about the pros and cons of living in Istanbul, here is a summary:

Why you would come back

  • Incredibly warm people: If you manage to fall in with a group of Turkish friends, you’ll always feel welcome. No doubt.
  • Unlimited Turkish food options: I don’t know how people get bored with the food here. Most countries don’t have so many different dishes so readily accessible everywhere.
  • The hustle and bustle: If you love big cities, Istanbul is the place for you. 
  • Neighbourhoods: Istanbul is like 20 or 30 cities compounded into one. If you’re content with walking the streets of the city, you’ll never run out of things to do.

Why you would never return again

  • Noise: Good lord, it feels like you’re living in the same house as a thousand people in some neighbourhoods. Istanbul is rarely laid back. 
  • Crowds: Unless you live in far-flung sections of the city, you’ll never get away from the crowds. Basically, after 12 pm, things start to heat up and they never really calm down until 8 pm-11 pm depending on the season. Get out in the mornings for a little more relaxed experience.
  • People who don’t keep their word: Aside from scammers, which are relatively easy to avoid, you’ll also notice that Turkish people have a habit of making promises they can’t keep. Don’t get your hopes up and keep your expectations low.

The final word on Istanbul for digital nomads

Istanbul is one of the most fabulous cities you could stay in. As far as daily enjoyment goes, I think anyone who appreciates history, Turkish culture, and Turkish food, will be over the moon with a long stay here.

That said, Istanbul can be wildly impractical at times. Especially for a foreigner. You’re going to pay a premium for most things, so it isn’t as cheap as it looks at first glance. And things like fast internet and coworking spaces that you need to do your work aren’t easy to come by.

If you’re curious about the country, I have a lot more information about being a digital nomad in Turkey, read the linked article to grow your understanding of different nomad destinations in Turkey and weight the pros and cons.

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