Easy Guide To Purchasing A Turkish sim card
Purchasing a Turkish sim card is important for a variety of reasons and even quite simple to get even before you leave the airport if you need to.
There is nothing worse that needing to call or find out something and not having access to the information.
If you have a T-mobile plan that gives you free service on a 2g network that is awesome….but let’s be honest, 2G isn’t getting you very far. After living on 3g or 4g it can be hard to go back to the lower 2g. If you are here for a short time, it might not be necessary to have more than that service.
If, however, you don’t have coverage in Turkey I have a few simple recommendations that will keep you connected with people back home and here in Turkey.
If you aren’t familiar with WhatsApp, it is a free application that allows you to text, video and call over a wifi connection.
It is secured end to end. While it is owned by Facebook now everything is secure from sender to receiver.
If people back home will also install this app, which is actually used worldwide, you will be able to stay in touch with people easily and for free! You can even do FaceTime type calls with your friends back home.
Reasons for purchasing a turkish sim card
When I first came to Turkey in 2018 I had T-mobile and they provided free data here on 2G, if I remember correctly. But sometimes it didn’t work right. There was something I had to do with the roaming but didn’t know. I was often frustrated that the signal wasn’t strong enough to do the maps….leaving me stranded a bit at times.
Because of that I think there are some good reasons that it is really helpful to have a Turkish sim card. Let me elaborate.
- Avoid extra fees. When you purchase a sim card, you will be able to use your phone in country like you need to. You don’t have to worry how much it is going to cost to call someone or can you watch that video on Netflix. No more need to think about roaming.
- If you’re going to apply for a longer stay, you will need a Turkish number. Say you want to apply for a short-term resident visa, you will need a Turkish number to do so. But keep in mind your phone will likely stop working at 3 months so have a game plan.
- No worrying about signal strength. You won’t have to worry about if you have signal with your home country carrier because likely where ever you are, save the caves in Cappadoccia, you will likely have service.
- Don’t have to rely on free wi-fi. You are guaranteed to be able to connect regardless of if you have wife service. If you just come thinking you’ll just ride wifi in McDonalds, you might be frustrated. Sometimes the wifi is really slow or you can’t connect. Why leave connection to chance when it is so important for your safety and peace of mind.
Purchasing a Turkish sim card
This process can be pretty simple though there are a few things I suggest to make it the easiest!
- This will only work if your phone is unlocked. You can take it into your phone retailer and ask them to unlock it without a problem typically. They usually will do it free of charge. Especially if you explain you are traveling abroad.
- Make sure you go to a Turkcell, Turk Telecom or Vodofone shop. The reason is they will take care of everything for you while you are there and it will be easy-peasy. While you can go to a reseller, you will likely have a more difficult time actually activating the card.
- Get more than you think you need. They call their monthly services “packets”. You will purchase a packet and it will be good for 4 weeks, not a month like most places in the States. So say you get 15 GB, 1000 minutes and 1000 SMS. You have 4 weeks to use that up.
I would say that even now I am only looking at how many GB I will use. WhatsApp, maps, social media…all that is going to come out of GB. Even locals use WhatsApp which means you will rarely use the texts and minutes.
- Be aware of what they are charging you at the airport. Of course, everything at the airport is more expensive. You are paying for convenience. What is standard is a packet fee and an activation fee. But if you are being charged 300+ tl, they they are overcharging you.
- Use local apps. Bi-taksi is one of my most recommended apps for getting a taxi in Turkey. (You can read my blog post about the apps I recommend downloading for your visit.) But you can only use this app if you have a Turkish number.
Three Turkish Carriers
For each of these services I would recommend you find a photo or explanation of what you’re wanting to show them. It will make it much easier on everyone involved. If you find someone who can speak English, or your native tongue, that’s even better!
Turkcell is who I use and I love them. They have great service and coverage. They are known as the best and often a little more expensive though it isn’t enough to sway me.
They have a tourist package called the “Tourist Welcome Pack” that you can learn a little more about in this video. They have a variety of other packages that are cheaper and contain less data if you’re interested.
- Includes: 20GB internet, 200min. calls in all directions, unlimited messaging via BiP & whatsapp
- Cost: 149 tl plus one time activation fee
- Valid: this packet is good for 30 days
Vodafone is another great option for purchasing a Turkish sim card. They have a page just for tourists as well called “Tourist Exclusive Pack”. Check out the details here.
- Includes: 20 GB internet, 750 minutes calls, 1000 SMS
- Cost: 40 TRY plus the cost of a Turkish sim card
- Valid: for 28 days from day of purchase
Finally, we have Turk Telekom. They do not provide a special tourist package like the other two so you will have to choose what you want if you decide to go with them. With Turk Telekom you will have to purchase a sim card and the the packet you want to go with.
- Includes: This is determined by the packet you choose
- Cost: the price of the sim card will vary as to where you purchase it from. See most recent prices from their website below.
- Valid: for 28 days from day of purchase
I would say to make sure you understand how long you can use the sim card. Every company is different and it will depend on what you actually purchase. The tourist cards are only valid for so long. If you get more of a normal sim card it can be valid indefinitely as long as you load money onto every so often.
Having a local sim card while in country not only provides solid connection but also peace of mind! My recommendation for who to go with is Turkcell by far. Perhaps I am biased as I am a loyal customer but they really do have great coverage as well as a great tourist package.