2023 Easy Guide To Purchasing A Prepaid SIM Card for Turkey Tourists

Are you looking into purchasing a SIM card for Turkey? we’ll talk about both traditional SIM cards and e-sims.

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Purchasing a prepaid SIM card in Turkey is important for a few reasons.

It is quite simple to buy your SIM card before you leave the airport if you need to, though I recommend waiting to get it outside the airport or purchasing an e-sim card online if your device is compatible.

There is nothing worse than needing to call or find out something and not having access to the information. I learned this the hard way!

If you have a T-mobile plan that gives you free international roaming in 215 countries*, that is awesome.

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.

*Go5G, MAX and Plus plans give you up to 5GB of high-speed data in more than 215 countries and destinations at no extra charge. Go5G, Magenta, ONE, and Simple Choice plans give you up to 5GB of high-speed data in 11 European countries (Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, and Greece) at no extra charge.   T-MOBILE

4 Must-Have travel accessories

Reasons for Purchasing a Prepaid SIM Card

When I first came to Istanbul, Turkey in 2018 I had T-mobile and they provided free mobile internet data plans here. But sometimes it didn’t work right.

It has improved a lot but still with T-Mobile you only have 5G (it’s not unlimited data) for the time you’re here, which may be sufficient for you.

If you do use that, make sure you turn your roaming on or you won’t be able to access it at all.

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 why it is really helpful to have a local SIM card to use in Turkey. Let me elaborate.

  1. Avoid extra fees. When you purchase a Turkey tourist prepaid sim card, you will be able to use your mobile phone in a country like you need to.

    You don’t have to worry about 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.
  2. 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.
  3. No worrying about signal strength. You won’t have to worry about if you have a signal with your home country carrier because likely where ever you are, save the caves in Cappadocia, you will likely have service.
  4. 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 McDonald’, you might be frustrated.

    Sometimes the wifi is really slow or you can’t connect. Why leave a connection to chance when it is so important for your safety and peace of mind?
black phone with sim card

Purchasing an e-sim card for Turkey

Using an esim card when you travel to Turkey can be a great way to stay connected while abroad.

An e-sim, embedded SIM, is a digital SIM card, and it allows you to activate a cellular plan from a local carrier without having to purchase or carry around a physical SIM card.

This can save you time and money.

Additionally, e-sims are more secure than physical SIM cards because they cannot be removed if your device is lost or stolen.

With an e-sim, travelers can access 4G connections around the world and save on data roaming costs.

Activating an e-sim is a simple process that typically requires setting up the user’s device to be compatible with the network provider.

This includes entering specific codes or scanning a QR code that will authenticate the e-sim on your device.

Once this is done, users can choose their desired cellular plan and start enjoying access to an affordable and secure connection while traveling abroad.

Compatibility

That being said, you should make sure that an e-sim is compatible with your phone.

Checking whether a device is compatible with a network provider is essential when setting up an e-sim.

The best way to do this is to check the device’s compatibility list on the network provider’s website, which will tell you if it supports e-sim or not.

Additionally, it is important to check with your phone manufacturer for any specific requirements for using an e-sim.

Once you have confirmed that your device is compatible, you can then follow the steps to activate your e-sim and enjoy an affordable and secure connection abroad.

Unfortunately, if it isn’t compatible, you will have a need for a physical SIM.

Buy a SIM card in Turkey in 2023

This process can be pretty simple though there are a few things I suggest to make it the easiest!

  1. This will only work if your phone is unlocked. You can take it to your phone retailer and ask them to unlock it without a problem.

    They usually will do it free of charge. Especially if you explain you are traveling abroad.
  2. Make sure you go to a Turkcell, Turk Telecom, or Vodafone 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Be aware of what they are charging you if you purchase your sim card 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 are overcharging you.
  5. Use local apps. Bi-taksi is one of my most recommended apps for getting a taxi in Turkey.

    But you can only use this app if you have a Turkish number so it won’t work with an e-sim.

SIM Card Providers in Turkey

Each of the providers offers prepaid SIM cards both for short trips (less than a month) and longer trips (up to 3 months).

They typically has a card showing the sim card deals and data plans available.

It will make it much easier for everyone involved. If you find someone who can speak English or your native tongue, that’s even better!

Turkcell – Best Prepaid SIM Card for Turkey IMO

Turkcell is who I use and I love them. Turkcell has the best mobile network coverage, in my opinion.

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.

Turkcell logo
  • Includes: 20GB internet, 200min. calls in all directions, unlimited messaging via BiP & WhatsApp
  • Cost: 149 tl plus a one-time activation fee
  • Valid: this packet is good for 30 days

Vodafone Turkey

Vodafone is another great option for purchasing a local SIM card in Turkey. This is typically the cheapest SIM card for Turkey but not the best coverage.

They have a page just for tourists traveling in Turkey as well called the tourist Welcome to Turkey Pack. Check out the details here.

Vodofone logo
  • Includes: 20 GB internet, 750 minutes calls, 1000 SMS
  • Cost: 40 TRY plus the cost of a local SIM card
  • Valid: for 28 days from the day of purchase

Turk Telekom

Finally, we have Turk Telekom. They do not provide a special tourist SIM 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 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 the most recent prices from their website below.
  • Valid: for 28 days from the day of purchase
Turk Telekom's tourist package options

Install WhatsApp

whatsapp logo

If you aren’t familiar with WhatsApp, it is a free application that allows you to text, video, and call over a Wi-Fi 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 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. Here are a few other apps I recommend downloading.

Final thoughts on a Turkey SIM card for Tourists

If you’re looking to get a SIM card for your trip to Turkey, I recommend an e-sim if your device supports it as it is the most practical and can be reloaded indefinitely.

If you want a traditional SIM card my recommendation is to go with Turkcell as I think they have the best SIM card, but 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 prepaid tourist SIM card in Turkey is only valid for 28-30 days.

After that time, the SIM card will be deactivated and you will have to purchase a new one.

If you’re staying longer than 28 days, you can get a different type of plan. The card then would be good for 3 months.

Don’t miss these other things you should know about Turkey before you come.

Do you normally buy an international SIM card when you travel abroad?

Turkey vacation basics

When I plan a trip these are the websites I use. Hope they help you plan your next adventure as well!

FLIGHTS: I am a huge fan of Skyscanner and WayAway.

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.

AIRPORT TRANSFERS: I have used these transfers many times and they are always great. If you’d like more options, I also recommend GetTransfers.com as they allow you to compare companies.

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!

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