No country has had more impact on my life than Turkey. Except, of course, the country I was born in. Staying 8 months as a digital nomad in Turkey has made me more familiar with the country than I ever expected to become when I first visited.

Digital nomadding in Turkey can be an extremely rewarding experience. But you have to go into it with the attitude that you’re going to make it work. Turkey will sometimes disappoint you, whether that disappointment comes in the form of weak infrastructure or getting scammed, the country has its pitfalls. On the other hand, the gorgeous views and rich history this country offers more than make up for it.

Turkey, with its mesmerizing blend of East and West, holds a unique allure. Known for its rich history, diverse culture, and tantalizing cuisine, the country is becoming less and less a hidden gem for the digital nomad. Dive into this digital nomad guide to Turkey and unearth the fascinating treasures that still lie hidden in this dynamic country.

Is Turkey good for digital nomads?

As a digital nomad in Turkey, you’ll find a world teeming with opportunities and experiences. The country offers a lower cost of living than many Western nations, making it a feasible place to enjoy a high quality of life on a moderate budget. Moreover, the diverse landscape, steeped in history and culture, provides ample activities to explore during downtime. From the architectural splendours of Istanbul to the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia, every corner of Turkey promises a new adventure.

However, Turkey does present some unique challenges to digital nomads. The language barrier can make everyday life and social interactions difficult, as English is not widely spoken. Moreover, while Turkey is working on improving its digital infrastructure, reliable and fast internet, a key necessity for digital nomads, can sometimes be hard to come by, especially in more remote areas.

Additionally, though Turkey is rich in cultural activities and historical sites, it may not offer the same variety of modern amenities that digital nomads are accustomed to, such as a wide range of coworking spaces.

In sum, Turkey offers a diverse, culturally rich experience for digital nomads, albeit with a few challenges. It’s a country that requires a bit of adaptability but rewards you with a unique lifestyle and experiences that are hard to match.

5 Reasons You Should Go To Turkey

Cost of Living

In comparison to many Western countries, Turkey offers a lower cost of living. Accommodation, transportation, food, and even some services like laundry and housekeeping are quite affordable. 

Particularly striking is the cost of dining out. Istanbul’s culinary scene is diverse, with options ranging from upscale restaurants to local eateries and street food stalls. Even at finer dining establishments, prices are typically more modest than you’d expect in the rest of Europe.

If you prefer to cook, there are budget grocery options as well. However, be mindful that the quality of produce can be a bit inconsistent as Turkey exports much of its best produce. Although Istanbul might not be as inexpensive as other popular digital nomad destinations in Southeast Asia, for example, it can still provide a more affordable lifestyle compared to many Western countries.

Turkey Is One Of The World’s Most Historical Countries

Turkey is a country with a rich cultural and historical tapestry, and Istanbul is often seen as the gateway between the East and the West. The city alone offers a wealth of cultural experiences and historic sites. From the architectural marvels of Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and the Suleymaniye Mosque, to bustling marketplaces like the Grand Bazaar, Istanbul is a treasure trove of experiences for those interested in history and culture.

Beyond Istanbul, Turkey continues to impress with natural and historical wonders. Cappadocia, with its fairy-tale chimneys and cave dwellings, offers a completely different, surreal experience, and the opportunity to go hot-air ballooning over its unique landscapes. Antalya, on the other hand, combines stunning beaches with ancient ruins, perfect for those who want to mix relaxation with cultural exploration. Then there’s Izmir, a city that combines modernity with history, with its beautiful promenade, excellent restaurants, and the nearby ancient city of Ephesus. 

The diverse range of experiences across Turkey ensures there’s always something to pique your interest. Whether you’re an outdoors enthusiast, a history buff or just like hanging out with new people, Turkey will fulfill your desires.

Delicious and Varied Food

Turkish cuisine is a testament to the country’s rich cultural history. It’s heavily influenced by its Ottoman heritage and is exceptionally diverse, with different regions of the country having their own specialties. In Istanbul, you’re likely to come across a broad spectrum of these regional dishes.

From simple street food like simit (a sesame-encrusted bread ring) and balık ekmek (fish sandwich) to heartier meals like kebabs, pide (Turkish pizza), and İskender kebab, there’s something for every palate. Mezze platters with a variety of small dishes are also common and allow you to sample many flavours at once. Sweet lovers can indulge in famous Turkish desserts like baklava, lokum (Turkish delight), and künefe.

Besides the variety, another exciting aspect of Turkish food is its availability. Whether it’s from a street food vendor, a local Lokanta (a type of Turkish restaurant), or a fancier restaurant, tasty food is never far away in Istanbul. It’s also an integral part of Turkish culture, and sharing a meal can be a great way to connect with locals.

Welcoming Locals

Turkish hospitality is something that many travellers and expatriates cite as a memorable aspect of their stay in the country. While Istanbul, like any big city, may initially seem impenetrable to outsiders, persistence and effort can lead to meaningful connections. Once a relationship is established, you can expect a level of warmth and hospitality from Turkish friends that is characteristic of their culture. They often go out of their way to make you feel welcomed and included. This could range from invitations to meals, being introduced to a wider circle of friends, or being offered help with anything you might need, from finding the best local places to understanding customs and traditions. This friendliness and inclusivity can make living in a foreign land feel much more like home, making the adaptation process easier for digital nomads.

Unique Turkish Culture

Turkish culture is a fascinating blend of traditions that have evolved over centuries. It has been influenced by various cultures including the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Ottomans, each leaving their distinct imprint. Yet, despite these influences, Turkey has maintained a unique cultural identity of its own.

Turkey’s culture manifests in several ways. Architecturally, the country is a dream for any history or design enthusiast, with a rich heritage reflected in its palaces, mosques, and traditional homes. Turkish music, from classical Ottoman court music to Turkish pop, rock, and folk music, provides a rich soundscape. Folk dances vary by region, each with its own unique costumes, steps, and music, and are a captivating sight.

Turkish arts and crafts are further reflections of this unique culture. From intricate carpet weaving to calligraphy, ceramics, and leatherwork, these handicrafts often carry deep cultural meanings and showcase the creativity and skill of Turkish artisans.

Cuisine, as previously mentioned, is another significant aspect of Turkish culture. It’s more than just food – it’s an integral part of social life and traditions.

Turkey’s language, while it might pose a challenge for newcomers, is also a reflection of its unique culture. While learning Turkish can certainly enhance your experience, even knowing a few basic phrases can go a long way in endearing yourself to the locals.

Also worth mentioning are the cultural norms and values in Turkey, which emphasize respect for elders, hospitality, close family ties, and an overall strong sense of community. These aspects can create a sense of belonging for digital nomads and make their stay more rewarding.

All these factors together create an unparalleled cultural experience for digital nomads living in Turkey. The opportunity to immerse oneself in such a culture can be a significant draw for those who value unique cultural experiences and learning opportunities.

The Devil’s Advocate: 4 Reasons to Avoid Turkey

Language Barrier

While English proficiency varies by location and demographic in Turkey, overall, the level of English is relatively low compared to many other countries. This can pose significant challenges for digital nomads, as daily tasks like grocery shopping, navigating the city, or even interacting with locals can become more complicated. In social settings, this barrier could also make it harder to form relationships and integrate into the local community. Learning basic Turkish phrases can help, but achieving a level of proficiency that allows for deep, nuanced communication would require more time and effort.

Scammers and Unreliable Promises

Like many tourist-heavy cities around the world, Istanbul has its share of scammers. These can range from overpriced taxi rides to fraudulent bars and clubs, particularly in certain areas like Taksim. For a digital nomad new to the city, it might be challenging to distinguish between legitimate businesses and scams. Additionally, the article mentions a tendency for some locals to make promises they can’t or don’t intend to keep. This can lead to misunderstandings or unmet expectations, which could be frustrating and potentially strain relationships.

Inconvenience for Work

Digital nomads typically rely heavily on a few key resources for their work: reliable, fast internet, and conducive workspaces like coworking spaces. In Istanbul, these can be harder to find and more expensive than in other popular digital nomad destinations. For instance, the availability of fast, uninterrupted internet might be inconsistent, and coworking spaces might be scarce or overcrowded. These challenges could affect your productivity and potentially your income, making the city less practical for digital nomads than it first appears.

Costs for Foreigners

Despite Turkey’s general affordability, as a foreigner, you may find that you’re charged more than locals for certain goods or services. This “foreigner tax” might apply in markets, taxis, or even in rental agreements. While this is not exclusive to Turkey and happens in many places worldwide, it could make living in Istanbul more expensive than initially expected. This higher cost of living can eat into one of the main advantages of being a digital nomad in Turkey, and make budgeting more complex. Being aware of local prices, learning some Turkish, and negotiating skills can help avoid paying inflated prices.

Entry into Turkey

When it comes to opening its borders to tourists, Turkey is notably permissive, offering a warm welcome to individuals from a wide array of nationalities. Particularly for Western citizens and residents of certain Asian countries such as Japan and Singapore, the path to entry is often uncomplicated with the provision of a 90-day tourist visa. Even if you come from a country that doesn’t usually have access to Europe, getting a 30 or 90-day tourist visa isn’t as difficult as it would be for accessing Schengen.

For citizens of English-speaking countries including the US and Canada, an eVisa is a requirement. The process of acquiring this is relatively straightforward; simply go to the official government website and follow the instructions. It’s recommended to apply for the eVisa before your journey to avoid any inconvenience upon arrival. Do note, however, to be wary of fraudulent websites that might surface in your search results for the Turkish eVisa.

Turkey Does Not Yet Offer A Digital Nomad Visa

As it stands, Turkey currently does not offer a specialized visa for digital nomads. In the past, the country had provisions for 1-year tourist visas, however, these have since been discontinued. This means that acquiring residence in Turkey now demands navigating a series of legal procedures, which can often be daunting and may necessitate the hiring of professional agencies. Therefore, while Turkey presents an intriguing proposition for digital nomads, it’s important to be aware of these factors when planning for a long-term stay.

What it’s like to be a digital nomad in Turkey

Frankly, my opinion of Turkey always varies from one day to the next. At least, it does while I’m there. When I’m gone, I always miss it, and that says a lot about the country.

The thing is, Turkey is a high-risk high-reward type of place. The historical attractions, food, and people are usually amazing. And living near them all the time makes your life a lot more joyous.

On the other hand, sometimes Turkey’s lack of organization, combined with economic conditions that even impact tourists, make your day a lot worse. Internet and even water outages are not unheard of and typically come completely out of the blue.

Here’s how it really feels to be a digital nomad in Turkey.

When is the best time to come to Turkey?

Planning when to visit Turkey requires considering factors such as weather and local holidays. If you are one to favour a milder climate, the coast during winter can be an ideal choice. The weather tends to be windy and cool – a stark contrast to the scorching summers. However, the inland areas witness snowfall during winter, offering a different yet equally enchanting experience.

Another critical aspect to consider is the religious holiday of Ramadan, an essential observance for Turkish Muslims which leads to a period of increased activity and often crowded markets and public places. Therefore, if you prefer quieter surroundings, it’s recommended to plan around this period.

Summers in Turkey can be quite hot, particularly in the cities. Nevertheless, if beach life is your preference, places like Antalya offer a delightful summer retreat. Equipped with this knowledge, you can time your visit to align with your climate preference and tolerance for local festivities and crowds.

Finding Accommodations in Turkey

Navigating the housing market in Turkey, particularly in bustling Istanbul, can be challenging for digital nomads. Over the years, Airbnb prices have risen significantly, with most places seeing at least a 50% increase in price within a year. This surge can be attributed to growing demand from travellers not just from the West but also from Russia and the Arab world. The competition for housing is fierce, particularly in Istanbul.

Outside of Istanbul, you might have a slightly easier time finding accommodations. A common method is to use local rental websites like Sahibinden, but this usually requires assistance from a local due to language barriers. You could also look into Facebook groups for potential leads, but it’s crucial to be wary of scams. At every stage, making local friends you can trust can help you find long-term accommodation. Of course, this isn’t at all feasible for your first time in the country.

Planning ahead is key. If you want a quality apartment at a reasonable price, booking at least two months in advance is advisable, especially considering the influx of digital nomads into Istanbul. The reality of finding a good-quality apartment under USD 1,000 can be tough, and the ones within budget may not be in your desired neighbourhood.

Airbnb reviews for Istanbul accommodations tend to be mixed, and some properties might lack basic amenities, leading to less-than-ideal living conditions. This is why it’s essential to clarify everything with the host before booking – even details such as the existence of a stove or the plumbing system’s toilet paper policy.

In fact ensuring that your apartment is actually suitable for remote work, and livable for a months-long stay is likely one of the most annoying parts of living in Turkey, especially in Istanbul.

Most rental sites there have posed major problems for me, and I know I’m not alone. If you want a more consistent solution, we’re in the process of curating a large database of digital nomad apartments in Turkey and beyond. Enter your name and email below to get access to them as soon as they’re released.

For those on a digital nomad budget, coliving might be a viable option. This arrangement can provide a cheaper price and offer the added benefit of a ready-made community. However, it’s worth noting that while the cost of accommodations is high in popular cities like Istanbul, Izmir, Antalya, and Bodrum, prices are generally more affordable in smaller towns and rural areas. But be prepared for potential language barriers outside of the tourist hubs. Despite these challenges, Turkey’s value for money when it comes to infrastructure and living experiences is commendable.

Food Options in Turkey 

Dining in Turkey offers a fantastic array of options. A plethora of restaurants, grocery stores, and cafes fill the bustling quarters of cities like Istanbul, satisfying every culinary need you may have. The real star of the show, however, is the local Turkish cuisine. Celebrated for its impressive variety and flavour profiles, Turkish food caters to every palate. Whether you’re a vegan seeking delectable cig kofte or a meat-lover in search of tender Turkish barbecue, the local gastronomy won’t disappoint.

Westerners might consider Turkish food as exotic, but in many ways, it mirrors familiar flavours from around the world. For example, being of Italian descent, I found several dishes that reminded me of meals my mother or grandmother would make. From aromatic stews to comforting casseroles, Turkish cuisine reflects universal culinary traditions with its unique regional spin.

As for my personal recommendation, you don’t want to spoil your palette by going to barbecue restaurants every day. As nice as it sounds, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. For daily meals, you can easily frequent a Lokanta, which offers a variety of Turkish home-cooked meals at very reasonable prices in a cafeteria-style setup.

Cost of food in Turkey

The affordability of food in Turkey is another draw for digital nomads. From street vendors to sit-down restaurants, options abound for budget-friendly meals. Of course, there’s a balance to be struck between cost and quality. A $1 durum might sound tempting, but the quality of ingredients can be questionable. It’s often worth paying a bit extra for a higher-quality meal. Even so, prices generally remain significantly lower than in Western countries.

For instance, a meal at a high-end doner restaurant usually costs around $15. Most other meals won’t set you back more than $10 unless you’re dining at an upscale establishment. I found that $2 is a reasonable minimum for a satisfying vegetarian meal, and $3 can get you a good-quality meal with meat. Naturally, prices vary based on the dishes you choose and the level of quality and quantity you desire.

Service quality can also fluctuate with price. Cheaper establishments usually offer satisfactory service, but consistency can sometimes depend on factors as fickle as the server’s mood that day. As you pay more, the service tends to become more reliable and polished. Despite these variables, the diverse, delicious, and affordable food scene in Turkey adds to its allure for digital nomads.

Finding A Sim Card in Turkey

Staying connected in Turkey requires a bit of planning. Public Wi-Fi is not as common as in some countries, and even when available, it often requires a phone number to access, which necessitates having a data plan. As such, acquiring a local SIM card is a practical solution for digital nomads in Turkey. This approach offers a more reliable and convenient source of internet connectivity, be it for work purposes or navigating the city.

However, obtaining a SIM card in Turkey can be a mixed bag in terms of costs. Prices can fluctuate significantly depending on the seller, with some potentially inflating prices. While it was possible to purchase a SIM card for less than $20 a few years ago, prices have since escalated, potentially reaching up to $60 in some cases.

Transportation Costs in Turkey

Turkey’s transportation network is both efficient and affordable. Public transit within cities, for instance, is quite inexpensive, with a single bus ticket usually costing less than a dollar. For intercity travel, buses are an economical choice, with fares typically ranging between $5 and $20 depending on the destination.

While car rentals are available, they’re not much cheaper than in other countries and are often unnecessary in major cities with well-developed public transport systems. Domestic flights are another good option, with fares typically around $50, offering access to a robust network connecting cities throughout the country.

Other costs to be aware of in Turkey

In addition to housing and food, other expenses digital nomads should consider in Turkey include transportation, fitness, and entertainment costs. Fitness enthusiasts will be pleased to learn that gym memberships are quite affordable, often costing around 20 euros.

However, those planning to visit popular tourist attractions should brace themselves for higher-than-expected costs. For instance, entrance fees to famed sites such as the Dolmabahce Palace are now more expensive than even Versailles, costing around 26 euros versus 20 for Versailles. This reflects a general strategy to maximize revenue from tourism. Being mindful of these additional expenses is key to planning a budget-friendly stay in Turkey.

Spending in Turkey

Managing finances while in Turkey requires a bit of savvy. The country operates on the Turkish Lira, a currency that may be challenging to acquire outside of the country. As such, it’s recommended to bring US dollars or Euros, which can be easily exchanged upon arrival at the airport or other exchange bureaus.

While it might seem convenient to exchange a large amount at once, it’s advisable to exchange only what you anticipate needing in the near term. Currency exchange shops in Istanbul offer favourable rates, generally taking only 1 to 2% of the exchanged amount. To get the best deal, you might want to shop around a bit in the city.

In addition to a credit card, keeping some cash on hand is a smart move in Turkey. While many establishments accept credit cards, some smaller restaurants, pool halls, and similar venues only accept cash. Moreover, certain international credit cards may not work with some card readers.

If you need to take out cash, I’ve written a guide about the best ATMs to use in Turkey to help you save money and avoid scams.

Internet Speed in Turkey

One of the significant considerations for digital nomads is the quality of internet connectivity. Turkey, unfortunately, does not rank very high in terms of internet speed. As of recent data, the country stands at 64th in the world for mobile speed and 109th for broadband.

One common issue is that internet service can often grind to a halt, impacting work productivity. Particularly in Airbnb accommodations, where you might be sharing a connection with a dozen or more other guests in a single building, the internet quality can be less than ideal. This reality underscores the need for digital nomads to ensure their selected accommodation has reliable internet access, or to consider alternative arrangements, such as co-working spaces.

Best cities for digital nomads in Turkey

Turkey is a gigantic country. There are dozens of other cities you could stay in frankly. That said, it will be a lot easier to find accommodation in the big cities I list rather than some of the small gems. Plus, those larger cities provide social opportunities that you just might not get in mid-sized cities.

Istanbul

Istanbul Digital Nomad
Istanbul Digital Nomad

I recently wrote a much longer and more detailed article on being a digital nomad in Istanbul. Look there for more recommendations regarding the best neighbourhoods and accommodations.

Why you should go: Napoleon once said that if the world had a capital, it would be in Istanbul.

The unique blend of Eastern and Western cultures, stunning historical landmarks, and bustling city life are unmatched by any city I’ve been to. 

Cost of living in Istanbul:  can vary widely based on lifestyle choices and where in the city you decide to reside. Generally, it’s more expensive than other Turkish cities, but still affordable compared to Western standards. While finding quality accommodation can be challenging and slightly more expensive, the culinary scene and vibrant nightlife more than make up for it.

Best Neighbourhood: Besiktas

Nomad Infrastructure: Istanbul is a gigantic city, so there are a plethora of coworking spaces and cafes that allow for laptops. That said, it’s likely that you won’t live near one unless you live in neighbourhoods like Kadikoy, Besiktas, or Cihangir which are all magnets for digital nomads.

Nomad Community: One unfortunate part of Istanbul that I read a lot from other people is that they have trouble finding and befriending other nomads. The city is so big, that we’re all spread out. And meetups are tough to find too. Stick to English language-centric meetups and you might have success.

Izmir

Digital Nomad Ephesus
Digital Nomad Ephesus

Why you should go: Izmir, also known as the San Francisco of Turkey, is a city located on the Aegean coast. It is a popular tourist destination due to its lovely climate, beautiful coastal views, and more laid-back atmosphere compared to Istanbul. The city has a budding digital nomad scene with an increasing number of cafes and coworking spaces.

The cost of living in Izmir is generally lower than in Istanbul, making it an attractive choice for those seeking a coastal city experience on a budget. While it may not have as large an international community as Istanbul, it’s definitely growing as more digital nomads discover its charm.

Best Neighbourhood: Alsancak

Nomad Infrastructure: Coworking spaces and laptop cafes are not hard to find here. Many of Turkey’s remote workers flock to Izmir. So long as you stay in the popular neighbourhoods near the centre, you should be able to find spots to work at.

Nomad Community: While Izmir may not have as large an international community as Istanbul, it’s definitely growing as more digital nomads discover its charm.

Antalya

Antalya Digital Nomad
Antalya Digital Nomad

Why you should go: The beach, Antalya is a prime choice for digital nomads who want to combine work with a beach holiday. This Mediterranean city boasts stunning beaches, ancient ruins, and a pleasant climate year-round. Not to mention, there are some pretty breathtaking landscapes inland too.

The cost of living in Antalya is a little bit lower than Istanbul. There’s a decent number of cafes and coworking spaces, and the city is gradually becoming popular among digital nomads, particularly in the summer months when the weather is ideal for beach-going.

Best Neighbourhood: Kaleici

Nomad Infrastructure: There are some coworking spaces here to attract transient visitors. But don’t expect as much as in Izmir and Istanbul.

Nomad Community: Antalya attracts tourists from all over the world. In fact, within Turkey, Antalya is known as a hub for Russian tourists. That said, it might be difficult to find people staying here for a longer time.

Trabzon

Digital Nomad Trabzon
Digital Nomad Trabzon

Why you should go: Situated on the Black Sea coast, Trabzon is a destination for those who crave natural beauty and a slower pace. Think Switzerland but on the Black Sea. Trabzon is a destination for digital nomads who want to immerse themselves in local culture and nature. It’s perfect for those seeking peace and tranquillity, but might not be the best fit if a buzzing digital nomad scene is a priority.

The cost of living in Trabzon is lower among Turkish cities. Despite its natural beauty, it seems most foreigners have yet to visit this magnificent city and region.

Best Neighbourhood (district): Arakli

Nomad Infrastructure: This city might not have the bustling digital nomad community or numerous coworking spaces found in Istanbul or Izmir, but it has a unique charm and lower living costs.

Nomad Community: You probably won’t find many nomads here. In Turkey, Trabzon is a relatively popular destination, but it’s not well-known outside of it.

Bodrum

Bodrum Digital Nomad
Bodrum Digital Nomad

Why You Should Go: Famed for its beautiful marina and stunning castle, Bodrum is a popular choice for those seeking a smaller city with a laid-back coastal lifestyle. 

The cost of living in Bodrum: can be higher during the peak tourist season. However, it becomes more affordable in the off-season months. Bodrum is ideal for digital nomads who are looking to enjoy the Mediterranean lifestyle, stunning historical sites, and a quieter atmosphere. But don’t come from June to August if you’re looking for any of those things.

Best Neighbourhood: Bodrum Old Town

Nomad Infrastructure: It may have a selection of cafes that are suitable for remote work, but the city doesn’t have as many coworking spaces as Istanbul or Izmir.

Nomad Community: Once again, this is a tourist town. You might find a group of tourists for a few days, but most people here are just passing through.

The Final Word on Turkey

In my opinion, Turkey is just about the most interesting country you can travel to on a budget. That’s just my opinion though. Others prefer Southeast Asia or South America and that’s fine with me. But for my money, you can’t find a safer country with a more interesting history or delicious food at this price.

Turkey is an intriguing destination for digital nomads, offering a unique blend of East meets West culture, rich history, stunning landscapes, and a variety of city experiences. From the bustling metropolis of Istanbul to the laid-back coastal cities of Izmir and Antalya, there’s something for every digital nomad. Each city has its own charm and attractions, catering to different lifestyle preferences and budgets.

While Turkey might not have a digital nomad visa just yet, the country is open and welcoming to tourists and digital nomads alike. Accommodation can be a challenge, particularly in popular cities like Istanbul, but planning ahead and looking beyond Airbnb can yield some good options.

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