Straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey is a multicultural country with a rich history. Due to its sunny weather, welcoming culture and low cost of living, many expats relocate to Turkey for retirement, but the country has plenty to offer expats who can obtain a work permit. As with most countries, moving to Turkey has its benefits and disadvantages.
Below are some of the main pros and cons of living in Turkey.
Cost of living in Turkey
+ PRO: Low cost of living
Turkey boasts a cost of living that is much lower than many other European countries. Expats with foreign purchasing power can live very well in Turkey, although even those who work in Turkey and are paid in Turkish lira can live comfortably.
- CON: Expensive imported goods
Due to a high import tax, imported goods come at a premium. Expats should also be aware of the high cost of electronics and importing cars.
Healthcare in Turkey
+ PRO: Generally affordable healthcare
Since 2003, Turkey has invested a tremendous amount into transforming its healthcare system, expanding access to and quality of healthcare. Under the public health scheme, those earning below a certain threshold have access to free health insurance, while it remains relatively inexpensive for the rest. Private healthcare is also relatively affordable and is of great quality. As a result, Turkey has become something of a medical tourism destination.
- CON: Healthcare access and quality varies across the country
In the less developed parts of Turkey, public healthcare quality and accessibility may not be as good. Expats in rural areas should familiarise themselves with the standard of healthcare in their area.
Accommodation in Turkey
+ PRO: Variety of housing options
There is a wide range of accommodation in Turkey, with good opportunities to rent or buy apartments, houses, condominiums or villas. Expats can use an online property portal to find accommodation, or alternatively engage a real-estate agent.
- CON: Negotiation may be necessary
Negotiation is a key aspect of Turkish culture, and renting is no exception. Expats who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with negotiating can ask an estate agent to negotiate for them.
Education in Turkey
+ PRO: Free primary and secondary education
Public primary and secondary education is free for all residents in Turkey, but the language of tuition in public schools is Turkish.
- CON: Limited space in international schools
International schools teach in English, but space is limited. Expat parents planning to move to Turkey should secure a spot as soon as possible.
- CON: Homeschooling is illegal
All Turkish children are required to attend school, and homeschooling is not considered a valid form of schooling in this regard. Parents of expat children argue that it should not apply to them, but parents of children with dual Turkish citizenship could face legal repercussions if their children are not registered with a private or public school.
Getting around in Turkey
+ PRO: Widespread and cost-effective public transport
Public transport is well-developed in Turkey. Bus travel in Turkey is easy and cheap, trains and planes are great for travelling between cities, and many of Turkey’s main cities have metro systems. Taxis and mini-bus taxis are also available in most cities.
- CON: Road safety is a concern
Adherence to road rules is low, and local drivers can be reckless. Turkey has one of the world’s highest motor vehicle accident rates, so expats should exercise caution both as drivers and pedestrians.
Lifestyle in Turkey
+ PRO: Hospitable and friendly people
Hospitality is a foundation of Turkish culture, and Turkish people are known for their friendliness and generosity. It's not unusual for people in public to be invited by strangers to have tea or a meal.
+ PRO: Turkey is a secular state
The majority of people in Turkey are Muslim, but individuals are free to practice their religion. That said, it is always wise to respect local religious customs such as refraining from eating, drinking and smoking in front of fasting Muslims during Ramadan.
- CON: Women may receive unwelcome attention
Although there is a blend of traditional Muslim and modern European fashion in city streets, women should be prepared to avoid revealing or tight clothing, covering their legs and shoulders. This is especially true in more conservative rural areas. Catcalling is quite common in Turkey.
- CON: Limited freedom of expression
Insulting Turkey, the Turkish people or the government is illegal and could lead to fines or even imprisonment. There are also restrictions on what the Turkish press may report. Additionally, many Turkish people are fiercely nationalistic and may take criticisms of their country or government personally.
Working in Turkey
- CON: Strict employment laws
It can be difficult for foreigners to secure a job. Because of the country’s high unemployment rate, the government is conservative with issuing work permits.
Safety and security in Turkey
- CON: Risk of terrorism
Although Turkey is generally a safe country with low levels of violent crime, the threat of terrorist acts remains a concern. Expats should stay up to date with current events and exercise caution near tourist spots and when using public transport. Many governments advise their citizens to be vigilant and avoid high-risk areas of the country.