Turkish lira and Kurus Istanbul Currency

Istanbul Currency: All You Want to Know about Exchange Rates, Budgets and More

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Are you curious about Istanbul currency? After reading this, you will know everything you need to know!

Traveling abroad can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it also requires careful planning when it comes to managing your money, or you could be quite frustrated by the end.

Currency exchange rates can vary significantly depending on where you are even within the city, and understanding how to best manage your money while traveling is essential for a successful trip.

After living in Istanbul for years as well as traveling in and out of Turkey, I have picked up a few things that I hope will be helpful for you as you prepare for your trip to Turkey.

In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of currency conversion, provide tips on how to handle cash and cards while in Turkey, and explain the potential pitfalls of exchanging currency in Turkey.

Let’s jump in!

Turkish Lira

The Turkish lira (TL) is the official currency of Turkey and Northern Cyprus.

It is divided into one hundred kuruş and has been in circulation since 1844 when it replaced the kuruş as the primary unit of currency in the Ottoman Empire.

The lira was originally based on two systems: 6.61519 grams of pure gold or 99.8292 grams of pure silver.

In 2005, a new law removed the old Turkish lira from circulation and introduced a new series of banknotes with strengthened anti-counterfeiting features called the new Turkish lira.

turkish money on turkish flag - Tipping in Turkey

Exchange Rate

In recent years, it has experienced numerous drastic fluctuations due to political and economic unrest in the region.

Despite efforts to stabilize it, its value against other major currencies like the US dollar continues to fluctuate significantly.

You can use this handy calculator to figure out the current exchange rate. While I could just tell you, it changes too often to make it worth either of our time.

Where should I get my Turkish Lira?

If you’re looking to get Turkish lira, the best place to start is with a local bank or currency exchange, though the location is important to consider.

The exchange offices at the airport is always the most expensive but sometimes necessary.

I recommend starting with a small amount instead of doing the full amount at the same time if you have to go this route.

Many banks offer competitive rates for buying and selling Turkish lira, making it easy to find the best deal.

You can also use online services such as XE Currency Converter to have a solid understanding of what kind of rate you should be looking for.

My favorite way to get cash is via my debit card. I talk a bit more about it HERE.

No matter which option you choose, make sure to do your research and shop around for the best rate before making any transactions.

Which is best cash, credit cards or traveler’s checks?

When visiting Turkey, it’s important to consider what method of payment to use.

Cash is the most widely accepted form of payment in Turkey, and it’s advised to always have some Turkish lira on hand for smaller purchases like taxi rides or market stalls.

Especially if you are outside of typically tourist areas, you will need cash more often than not.

Turkish lamps hanging from a ceiling in a local shop. Along the walls are vases and other trinkets to buy

Even if a place has a credit card machine, they prefer cash because they lose money to the fees charge by the card companies. Cash is also helpful if you want to leave tips.

You can read more about tipping in Turkey on this post

Credit cards are accepted at most establishments in large cities, but cash is still king in less populated areas.

The one problem that some foreigners experience is that their foreign card may not be accepted.

American Express and Discover are rarely accepted but even with a Visa or Mastercard, some machines won’t work with a foreign card.

In this case again, it is always good to have a back up debit card and cash.

Traveler’s checks are not very common in Turkey; if you do need them, make sure you find a bank that will accept them before you leave home.

Ultimately, the best method of payment while traveling in Turkey will depend on your personal circumstances – how long you’ll be staying, where you plan on going, and how much cash you feel comfortable carrying around with you.

How should I handle my cash?

If you don’t have a travel bag, I would definitely recommend a money belt especially if you will be in touristy areas like Sultanahmet or Taksim.

Just like most of the world, touristy areas are known for pickpockets. It can be quite crowded and you want to keep your essentials safe!

These days coins aren’t used as much because there prices have risen so much.

If you do use coins, the 1 tl and 50 kurus are most preferred as the smaller denominations are just extra weight.

If you’re traveling with a group and you take turns paying for things, I highly recommend the app called Splitwise. It is a free app and makes splitting the bill so easy!

How to avoid excessive exchange fees

1. Using a card with international fees:

Most likely your current credit card has an average charge of 3% of every dollar spent while abroad. If, however, you use certain international credit cards they have no foreign transaction fees.

2. Use Local Banks:

You can also exchange at many local banks. This is definitely less expensive than doing it at the airport. While the rates are pretty good, they aren’t the best you can get.

3. Do NOT do cash advances:

If you try to use your credit card as an ATM card you will have to pay cash advance fees which are typically incredibly high-interest rates. It is definitely not worth it. There are better options.

4. Fee-Free Debit cards:

When I travel, I use my debit card to pull out some cash. I have a credit union and they have free international withdrawals but I know not everyone has a card like that.

If you don’t, you may consider a WISE account. This is what I use every month to send money to myself because they have the best rates to transfer money.

They also they have an international debit card with zero fees!

Wise (formerly transferwise) debit card

If you are asked if you want to purchase in USD or TRY, always choose the local currency. If you don’t, there are often hidden fees that could add up over time.

How much cash should I bring to Istanbul?

As I shared above, I typically just pull it from the ATM when I land somewhere.

If you’re going to get some exchanged before you come, you could come with 2,000 lira and that could be enough to get you started.

I recommend you don’t travel with enough cash for your entire trip because it is dangerous. If it gets stolen, you’re up a creek without any paddles.

A couple thousand will cover a taxi and dinner at moderate places. If you wanted to go to a nice place, you would easily be able to use your credit card.

If you’re curious about how much you should plan to budget for your time in Turkey, here are some suggestions. I do my budgets a little differently than most though.

The daily budget includes housing, food and transportation.

Then there is an extra lump sum because you won’t do the same attractions every day and wouldn’t need that budget everyday.

Budget travel: $32/day plus $15-20 for experiences like hamam and maybe a museum.
Moderate travel: $75/day plus $50-60 for experiences a couple of museums or a nicer hamam
Luxury travel: $180/day plus $200-300 for experiences – museum pass, lux hamam, Bosphorus cruise, fun cooking class, etc.

Looking to do a week in Turkey? Check out a couple of possible itineraries.

Of course, currency in Turkey is an important aspect of the country’s economy. The Turkish Lira has experienced both periods of strength and volatility in recent years.

Factors such as political instability, inflation, and economic growth have all played a role in shaping the currency’s value.

Despite its challenges, the Turkish government has taken measures to stabilize the currency and promote economic growth.

It remains to be seen how the Turkish Lira will fare in the future, but one thing is clear: its significance cannot be overlooked in the global economy.

Have you used Turkish Lira, the Istanbul currency?
– Kimberly


How much is $100 Turkey in US?

Everyday it changes. As of this writing 100 turkish lira is about $5.25, €4.75, £4.15. You can use the free calculator above to check for today’s rates.

What is the best currency to take to Istanbul?

While you might be able to use Euro or Dollars in touristy areas, you will definitely get a terrible exchange rate. It is always recommended to use local currency, even when you pay with your debit card. Make sure you always have some cash on you as it is definitely preferred to cards here.

Can you use USD in Istanbul?

In some places, yes but it isn’t really worth it because of the poor exchange rate you will get. I definitely recommend using Turkish lira for anything you do in Turkey.

Is Turkey cheap for USD?

Unfortunately because of the current economic crisis, the dollar goes pretty far. When you visit please make sure you keep to yourself how “cheap” things are as it is hard here for those of us who live here. Inflation is high and our money doesn’t go very far.

Should I carry cash in Istanbul?

Most definitely! You should always have cash on hand. Cash is king in Turkey. You will get cheaper prices with cash and will always be able to pay where as if you have a card, you might not be able to.

What is not allowed to bring to Turkey?

Pretty standard things like drugs, weapons, firearms and radioactive substances are not allowed. In addition there is a list of foods that are prohibited: fruit, eggs, meat, dairy products and fresh or packaged food.

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