Wondering about the Istanbul cost of living? I’ve got you covered!
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SUMMARY: The Istanbul cost of living is relatively affordable compared to Western countries, yet varies depending on the lifestyle and the area of choice. Key expenses include accommodation, food, transportation, and entertainment, with certain areas offering more economical options than others.
Fear not, we have all the insider knowledge to help you navigate your way through Istanbul’s living costs so that you can live in Turkey with peace of mind.
After living in Istanbul since 2019 and having visited so many places throughout Turkey, I have picked up a better understanding of the cost of living throughout Turkey.
It can be confusing to figure out a new budget for a place you have never lived so I hope that this will help you get a feel for the average household prices.
Let’s take a look at:
- In-Depth Look at Istanbul’s High Cost of Living
- Istanbul vs. 4 Other Major Turkish Cities
- Should You Choose Istanbul?
- Managing Expenses in Istanbul as a Newcomer
In-Depth Look at the Cost to Live in Istanbul
Istanbul, Turkey, the crossroads of Europe and Asia, has a diverse cost structure. Location plays a big role when it comes to housing especially.
One thing to note is that inflation is quite high as of September 2023 and is expected to continue through 2024 by many economists.
The Turkish currency is called the Turkish Lira and is represented by tl and ₺.
Let’s look at the breakdown of common costs in Istanbul as of Sep 2023.
- Local markets offer a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices. Expect to spend around 1,500-2,300 ₺ per month for a single person.
- Dining experiences in Istanbul can range from budget-friendly (120 – 320 ₺ per person, per meal) to high-end luxury, (400-1,500 ₺ per person, per meal) depending on what you prefer.
- Obviously, local food prices will be much cheaper than those that have been imported.
- Istanbul’s public transport system is both an extensive and affordable way to get around.
A one-way ticket cost depends on what type of transportation you’re using. As of August 2023 below are the current rates.
- Standard use of Istanbulkart – 15 ₺
- Monthly Istanbulkart – 1,177 ₺
- Minibus – 12 ₺
- Marmaray – 33.19 ₺
- Metrobus – 22.23 ₺
- Taxis are also an option. Though more expensive, they provide flexibility and comfort.
- Starting meter: 19.17 ₺
- Minimum trip cost: 70 ₺
- Petrol is averaging around 37 ₺ per liter.
- Private healthcare in Istanbul is on par with European standards, but it’s expensive.
- Recently I did a small run of blood work and it cost me 3,000 ₺.
- Public healthcare, on the other hand, is cheaper but has longer wait times. You will also have a harder time finding a translator.
- A mandatory health insurance policy could cost around 3,000 ₺ per year, though this doesn’t cover much.
- If you get a more comprehensive insurance policy that covers private hospitals for outpatient alone you are looking at probably 12,000 ₺ per year.
- Istanbul offers a wide array of entertainment options. The range for museum fees is quite vast. They range anywhere from 40 ₺ to 750 ₺. If you’re visiting I recommend a MuzePass and if you’re planning to live here for a little while, the Muzekart is totally worth it!
- Movie theaters can range anywhere from 130 ₺ to 200 ₺ for a ticket depending on the mall you go to.
- Gym memberships vary, but on average, they cost about 600-800 ₺/month.
- A 1-bedroom accommodation in Istanbul’s city center typically ranges between 12,000 – 30,000 ₺.
- The same apartment outside the city center could cost less, around 8,000 – 18,000 ₺.
- However, price fluctuations are significant depending on the specific neighborhood and the quality of the apartment. Besiktas and Sariyer are the most expensive districts in Istanbul to live in.
- Electric will cost you around 300-400 ₺ a month but could be more if you have multiple mini AC splits.
- Water can be anywhere from 100 ₺ to 250 ₺. Energy-efficient washing machines definitely help keep this lower.
- Registering a foreign phone fee jumped from 6,091 ₺ to 20,000 ₺ this year.
- Short-term Residence permit fee has also gone up. The fee is different per country and number of people. I recently paid 2,600 ₺ for one year.
- I have found electronics to be much more expensive in the country than outside and not the same quality.
- The gross monthly minimum wage is currently 13,414.50 ₺ with a net of 11,402.32 ₺ which is obviously not enough to live on.
Istanbul’s cost of living encapsulates all that is beautiful and challenging about this captivating city.
Whether it accommodates your pocket depends significantly on your personal lifestyle.
Istanbul vs. Other Major Turkish Cities: A 2023 Comparative Analysis
When considering relocation or travel within Turkey, cost of living comparisons can be influential.
We’ll compare Istanbul’s cost of living to that of other major Turkish cities: Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, and Antalya.
As a base, we will use a single person’s monthly costs. The average monthly expenses are about 34,600 ₺ per month in Istanbul.
One thing to note is that this is the average. Of course, it could be more or less depending on your preferences and how you live life.
As the capital city of Turkey, Ankara has a prominent role in both politics and industry. However, its cost of living is significantly lower than Istanbul’s.
A single person’s estimated monthly costs average about 26,800 tl a month, which is about 17% cheaper than in Istanbul. Key factors are:
- Housing: Rent here tends to be roughly 38% lower than in Istanbul.
- Food: It has a higher cost of about 12% than food in Istanbul.
- Transportation: Public transit is much cheaper, with a monthly ticket price of approximately 63% less than in Istanbul.
Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey, presents an alternative with a laid-back lifestyle.
While it’s still more economical than Istanbul in some ways, the housing costs actually make living in this city more expensive than Istanbul.
The average cost of living for a single person in Izmir is 44,600 tl per month, coming in at 29% more expensive than in Istanbul.
- Housing: Rent prices are about 1.5 times higher than those in Istanbul, making it the biggest expense. According to my friend who lives there, the quality is not as good as those in Istanbul either.
- Food: The cost of food falls below that of Istanbul, generally by around 3%.
- Transportation: Public transit in Izmir is much cheaper, with a monthly ticket price of approximately 53% less than in Istanbul.
Just a ferry ride away from Istanbul lies Bursa, a city rich in history and known for its automotive industry.
The cost of living here is 36% less than in Istanbul with a monthly average of 22,200 tl for a single person.
- Housing: Bursa’s housing costs are much more economical, with rent prices about 45% less than in Istanbul.
- Food: Food expenses tend to be 14% cheaper than in Istanbul.
- Transportation: Public transportation in Bursa is roughly 73% cheaper than in Istanbul.
Famous for its idyllic beaches, Antalya is a preferred location for expats drawn to its warm climate and lower cost of living.
Antalya’s average monthly cost for a single person is around 25,100 tl or about 27% cheaper than Istanbul.
- Housing: Housing in Antalya is quite affordable, with average rental prices roughly 38% less than in Istanbul.
- Food: Food costs are about 28% lower than those in Istanbul because so much of the food is grown down south there are fewer transportation costs.
- Transportation: Transportation, like food and housing, is cheaper—around 49% less expensive than in Istanbul.
In conclusion, while Istanbul offers a vibrant, cosmopolitan lifestyle, other cities in Turkey provide attractive alternatives for a lower cost of living.
The following sections will dig deeper into why some people still prefer Istanbul and offer tips on how to manage living expenses in this bustling metropolis.
Why Istanbul, Turkey?
Despite the higher cost of living compared to most other Turkish cities, Istanbul continues to attract both global tourists and expats. Here’s why.
Breathtaking History and Culture
- Istanbul is the only city in the world straddling two continents: Europe and Asia, making it culturally rich and diverse.
- Its history goes back thousands of years, with each civilization leaving its mark on the city.
- The city is home to several UNESCO World Heritage sites like Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, and Grand Bazaar.
Lively Social and Nightlife Scene
- A hub of great restaurants, vibrant street food culture, exciting nightlife, and music festivals – Istanbul’s energy is infectious!
- There are some amazing food tours to help you sample many of the delicious foods of Turkey.
- You can enjoy a mix of traditional Turkish taverns and modern rooftop bars.
Unique Geographic Location
- Globally connected, Istanbul has one of the largest airports offering flights to hundreds of destinations.
- It also has a smaller airport that has mostly domestic flights.
- It’s also a great base for exploring Turkey, with easy access to historical, coastal, and natural sites.
- There are many day trips that you can take to expand your experience just beyond Istanbul.
Growing Business Opportunities
- Istanbul is Turkey’s economic powerhouse, housing several national and international companies, and providing numerous employment opportunities.
- A vibrant entrepreneurial and start-up scene, offering opportunities for creative and innovative individuals.
- Numerous international schools cater to expat families, and Turkey’s finest universities are situated in Istanbul.
Beyond these reasons, it is also quite easy for a foreigner/expat to settle in Istanbul.
Many people know a little bit of English and because there are so many foreigners, they are used to helping them.
There are also a lot of great options for learning Turkish in Istanbul. Many people will come to Istanbul to learn Turkish for a little while then move elsewhere
So, while Istanbul may seem expensive when we look at the raw numbers, the city has so much to offer that for many, the higher cost of living seems a reasonable trade-off.
Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a culture vulture, a career-driven professional, or a student, Istanbul has something for you.
How to Manage Living Costs in Istanbul
Despite the generally higher prices in Istanbul, it is possible to manage and even save money with these practical tips:
Schedule Your Shopping Wisely
- Local bazaars offer local and fresh vegetables and fruits at lower prices than supermarkets. When I first moved to Turkey, I lived in Kucukyali. It is still one of my favorite bazaars to this day.
- Regular sales at big department stores can be a good opportunity to save on clothing and housewares.
- Local markets will often run sales. Once you purchase more than 35 tl worth, you have the option to buy sale items. I have purchased many things at half price because of this.
Consider Using Public Transportation
- Istanbul’s public transportation system includes trams, buses, and ferries and is relatively cheap.
- Using an IstanbulKart, the local transportation card can provide significant savings on commuting costs and it is quite easy to reload.
Choose Your Accommodation Wisely
- For anyone coming to Turkey, accommodation is their biggest expense. Make sure you choose wisely.
- The areas of Beyoglu and Kadikoy are comparably more affordable places to live in and are quite culturally rich as well.
- Sharing an apartment can decrease living costs, especially in the more desirable but pricier areas of the city.
- If you’re visiting, you can always Airbnb and select a private room if you want a more affordable option.
Eat Like a Local
- Enjoying delicious and affordable local meals at “lokantas” (cafeterias) can be cheaper and healthier than always dining in restaurants.
- You can visit Turkish street food vendors for foods like “simit” and “döner” at a fraction of the cost of a full meal at a restaurant.
- And of course, there is always cooking at home. Most Turks buy their daily groceries more frequently and in smaller portions than we do in the States.
Save on Entertainment
- Enjoy nature with a picnic in one of many green spaces like Yıldız Park or the Belgrad Forest instead of always going out to cafes or dining out.
- Explore Istanbul’s rich history for free. Some attractions, like the Sultanahmet district, are free, and others have student discounts or free days for residents.
Implementing these tips will not only save you money but also enhance your cultural understanding and integration, making your stay in Istanbul even more memorable.
FAQs on Living in Istanbul 2023
How does the cost of living in Istanbul compare to other cities in Turkey?
The cost of living in Istanbul tends to be higher than in other major Turkish cities like Ankara, Bursa, and Antalya though surprisingly lower than in Izmir.
Is it possible to live cheaply in Istanbul?
Yes, it is possible to live frugally in Istanbul. This can be achieved by budgeting wisely, shopping in local markets, using public transportation, and opting for economic housing. However, the quality of life may differ based on individual preferences and lifestyle choices.
Are healthcare services costly in Istanbul?
Healthcare cost varies depending on whether you opt for private or public healthcare services. Private healthcare is generally more expensive, but the service level and facilities are usually top-notch. On the other hand, public healthcare is affordable and widespread, but facilities may not be as premium.
Is Istanbul suitable for students on a budget?
Absolutely, Istanbul can be a great place for students on a budget. The city offers a wealth of affordable housing options, cheap eateries, rich cultural experiences, and a good transportation system which makes it a student-friendly city.
What is the most expensive aspect of living in Istanbul?
Typically, housing is the most expensive aspect of living in Istanbul, specifically in the central and popular neighborhoods. However, there are more economical alternatives available in the outskirts and suburban areas of the city.
Final Thoughts on the Cost of Living in Istanbul
After digging deep into the financial implications of life in Istanbul, it’s clear that an understanding of the associated costs plays a crucial role in the overall experience of Istanbul.
- The cost of living in Istanbul is distinctive and varies based on diverse factors such as housing, food, transportation, healthcare, education, and lifestyle attractions.
- In comparison to other major cities in Turkey like Ankara, Bursa, and Antalya, Istanbul’s living expenses may be higher, but the services in Istanbul and the cultural and economic opportunities it offers can justify the costs.
- Living in Istanbul, despite the cost, can offer a unique blend of experiences that fuse tradition with modernity, making it a coveted destination for many, both, Turks and foreigners.
- The cost of local living shouldn’t be a deterrent for potential settlers. Even within Istanbul’s vibrant landscapes, effective strategies exist to manage and lower everyday expenditures, ensuring that Istanbul remains approachable for different budget levels.
Ultimately, navigating this topic will require some discovery on your part – both in terms of understanding your finances/needs and appreciating the city’s vibrant character.
These numbers are meant to give you an idea of the standard cost of living both in Istanbul and other major cities.
Istanbul is not just a city you live in, it’s a city that lives in you.
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Turkey vacation basics
When I plan a trip these are the websites I use. Hope they help you plan your next adventure as well!
VISAS: You can use the free e-visa portal here but for a few extra dollars you can use iVisa and someone else will handle any issues that may come up.
E-SIM: When I traveled to SE Asia I discovered e-sims and I’m never going back. Airalo has been easy and cheap!
TRAVEL INSURANCE: I use TravelInsurance.com for my trips abroad.
CAR RENTAL: I have loved working with Discover Cars when I rent cars in country.
ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Turkey hotel deals on Booking.com.
CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: You can browse GetYourGuide’s website to find just the tour you’re looking for!