SIM Cards in Turkey: How to Buy + Best Deals

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Traveling to Turkey? Wondering where and how to buy a local sim card for your trip to Turkey? We’ve done all the research so you don’t have to!

We spent three months in Turkey, now known as Türkiye, in 2022 and tried the three big mobile providers for a month each, plus we tried a couple of eSIM cards in Turkey too.

In this guide to Turkish SIM cards, we’ll answer all your frequently asked questions, including how to save money when buying your SIM card, how to get the best signal and speed, how to get the best 4g, and how to keep your phone topped up for the whole of your stay.

SIM cards in Turkey

Do You Need a SIM Card in Turkey?

Most Turkish hotels, cafés and restaurants have pretty good wifi services, so you may be wondering why you even need a mobile SIM card when you’re traveling in Turkey.

If you’re always on the go, using public transport or driving, and hopping between cities and attractions, then a local SIM card is invaluable. The convenience of being able to check your bank balance, translate, order an Uber or Lyft, book a hotel or even call for roadside assistance just make life on the road a little bit easier.

Also, public networks in hotels, shopping malls and eateries are not secure. If you need to manage personal banking, send emails or do anything other than browsing and streaming, you’ll be vulnerable using public wifi.

Good to Know: All Turkey SIM card prices and exchange rates are accurate at the time of going to press in mid-October 2022.

Planning a trip to Turkey? Get all our tips and tricks about driving in Turkey so you can stay safe on the road and have an amazing trip!

What About Your Existing Provider?

You will not be able to use your data, make calls or send texts with your domestic contract, unless you’re willing to spend a lot of money. Our UK-based mobile phone provider charges us £3.33/US$3.73 per 1GB, or £6/US$6.73 a day for an international roaming package, and some American friends we met in the country were looking at even higher costs to use their cell phones overseas.

The best option is to buy a local SIM card. You’ll need to make sure your phone is unlocked, and it’s best to do this before you arrive in Turkey, as it can take a few days.

But what if you don’t want to swap SIMs and lose your number? You could get a portable wifi device, use an eSIM or use an app for calling – but we’ll come onto that later.

Good to Know: If you’re in the country for any longer than 120 days, you will need to register your device in Turkey and pay the registration fee of 2,732 Turkish lire (£131/US$147) or your phone will be blocked from the Turkish mobile phone networks. Find out how to register your phone here.

Best SIM Card Turkey: Our Recommendation

If you’re in a hurry and just want to know the best SIM card in Turkey for tourists, then go with Turkcell. You can get a Turkcell tourist welcome pack, which gives you 20GB of data plus country-wide calls and SMS, for around £15/US$17.

We recommend Turkcell because it has by far the best network coverage, an intuitive and easy-to-use app for topping up data, and wide coverage of stores and re-sellers. It is not the cheapest of the Turkish operators, but at around 25p/30c per 1GB of top-up data, it is at least 80% cheaper than the equivalent costs in the UK or USA.

Is this your first time visiting Turkey? Get all the information you need in our Turkey Travel Guide, including what to pack, the best time of year to go, getting there and practical tips to help you have the best trip!

Buying Tourist SIM Cards in Turkey

The sale of SIM cards to visitors in Turkey is controlled by the government, and you will only be able to purchase a tourist pre-paid SIM card. expect the process to take at least 30-40 minutes, with a contract to be signed at the end.

One SIM card is allowed per passport, and you must take this with you when you buy the SIM, which will be registered against your passport and visa (if you need one). You’ll be asked to sign a simple contract at the end of the transaction.

Pop the SIM into your phone and check it’s working. Remember to keep the contract and SIM envelope as it will have your new Georgian phone number written on it, and you’ll need this to use the app.

Your prepaid Turkey SIM card is valid for 28 days. If you need it for longer, make sure to top up before the 28 days, and the validity period will extend to three months.

There are no unlimited data options in Turkey for mobile phone SIMs. The most data we were able to buy at a time was 70GB, but this included all sorts of add-ons we didn’t want. We stuck to topping up with the specific data-only packs, so we weren’t paying for services we didn’t need.

Good to know: Every time we purchased a Turkish SIM card, we were asked to pay cash. We asked about using a credit card but were told that they were unable to accept non-Turkish cards in store.

Are you planning a road trip in Turkey? Get the best Turkish road trip destinations and places to see/things to do en route + maps and nearby attractions so you don’t miss a thing!

Turkish Telco Operators

Turkey has three big SIM card providers – Turkcell, Turk Telecom and Vodafone Turkey. You’ll find their stores and re-seller shops (where you can top-up) in every town and city across the country.

All three Turkish telecom providers also have an app which is not geo-locked, where you can check usage and add data. We found the app user experience extremely varied.

Some Turkish providers are allowed to set prices for the tourist SIM card at shop level, so you may find you pay more in a tourist area, at Istanbul airport, a transport interchange or at the land border. We found the prices considerably cheaper in out-of-the-way towns and cities, in some cases by as much as 50%.

Good to Know: All the Turkish operators use LTE, which stands for ‘long-term evolution’. Similar to 4g and often referred to as 4.5g, LTE data is transferred faster and with lower latency, making it a better option than regular 4g. Turkey is expected to see 5g become available in mid-2023.

RELATED POST: SIM Cards in Georgia: How to Buy + Best Deals

Turkcell

Tourist Welcome Pack

Price: From 320TRY (£15.30/US$17.15). Expect to pay upwards of 450TRY at the airport or border.

Included: 20GB internet + 200 minutes of calls in Turkey + unlimited messaging via Whatsapp and BiP (their own messaging system).

Top-up: Data is topped up with pre-paid data packages, which cost from 5TRY (25p/30c) per 1GB for a 30GB data pack + minutes, to 10TRY (50p/60c) per 1GB for a smaller 8GB pack. There are over 30 packages available via the app, and you can choose which is most suitable for your needs.

App: The Turkcell app is available in English for both IoS and Android operating systems, the app is user-friendly, and it’s easy to see your data, calls and SMS usage. We were able to top up successfully 90% of the time, with the occasional glitch at the point of payment. Using a different card and/or not agreeing to store the payment information always seemed to resolve this issue.

Coverage: Turkcell is widely considered to have the best mobile network coverage in the country, which is backed up by their network coverage map. We were able to get a strong LTE 4g signal in even the most remote of spots. Think the top of Nemrut Dagi, or Ani right on the Armenian border.

Speed: We were able to upload large video files to YouTube quickly, download high-resolution images easily and stream Netflix.

Good to Know: Turkcell gives away gifts every Wednesday when a gift box icon called salla kazan urges you to shake the phone and win a prize. It’s usually something like 2GB of data free for the next 12 hours or unlimited YouTube for a day. It’s a bit gimmicky, but actually quite helpful!

Vodafone Turkey

Tourist Prepaid SIM Card

Price: From 350TRY (£16.80/US$18.85). Expect to pay upwards of 500TRY at the airport or border.

Included: 20GB internet + 750 minutes calls in Turkey + 250 local SMS + unlimited Whatsapp.

Top-up: Data is topped up with pre-paid ‘easy packages’, which cost from 6TRY (30p/35c) per 1GB for a 30GB data pack + minutes, to 12TRY (60p/67c) per 1GB for a smaller 7GB pack. There are nine packages available via the app, and you can choose which is most suitable for your needs.

App: Called Yanimda, the app is available in English for both IoS and Android operating systems. We didn’t find this app very user-friendly, and it was hard to navigate. It was impossible to top up using the app, as it required the entry of 4 digits into the CVV2 field, which we all know is only 3 digits, even in Turkey!

Coverage: The Vodafone coverage was not as wide as Turkcell – at one point I had full LTE coverage, and Phil was stuck with the dreaded E!

Speed: We were able to upload large video files to YouTube, download high-resolution images and stream Netflix, but it took an hour to upload one YT video, and streaming tv involved a bit of buffering, dependent on location.

Good to Know: According to speedtest.net Turkey ranks 66th in the world for internet speed, with a median download speed of 28.72mbps and a median upload speed of 12.27mbps.

Turk Telekom

Tourist Prepaid SIM Card

Price: The only operator with a fixed price for a tourist SIM.

Included:

Welcome 25: 25GB data + 750 minutes in Turkey + 750 local SMS Price: 85TRY (£4.10/US$4.60)

Welcome 50: 50GB data + 1000 minutes in Turkey + 1000 local SMS Price: 85TRY (£7.90/US$8.85)

Welcome 75: 75GB data + 750 minutes in Turkey + 750 local SMS Price: 85TRY (£7.90/US$8.85)

Top-up: You can top up with 20GB of data for 50TRY (£2.40/US$2.70)

App: Called Türk Telekom Online İşlemler, the app does not have the option to change languages. Even though Turk Telecom offers the cheapest data, not being able to top up using the app made using their SIM cards for the duration of our 90-day stay a non-starter.

Coverage: Turk Telekom’s coverage is pretty weak in comparison to their competitors. They do offer 5,000 wifi hotspots around the country, but we would only recommend them if you’re planning to visit the popular tourist areas and attractions. They’re not a good choice if you’re planning to go off the beaten path in Turkey.

Speed: We were able to upload large video files to YouTube but it was a slow process. Successful downloading of high-resolution images and streaming Netflix was very location dependent.

Using a VPN in Turkey

Turkey’s government has been ramping up its internet censorship and surveillance regime for years, and currently, almost 350,000 websites are blocked in Turkey. You’ll need an effective VPN for Turkey to access the open internet, avoid government internet monitoring and stream tv from your home country.

While technically using a VPN is legal in Turkey, the government has blocked many VPN providers. We recommend NordVPN as they offer obfuscated servers, meaning not only can you disguise your IP address at the receiving end, you can disguise it in Turkey too, meaning you can use NordVPN without detection.

We used NordVPN on our phones and Macbooks for the duration of our three-month stay, meaning we could catch up with Netflix and Amazon Prime, manage personal finances and access lots of websites we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, like YouTube.

You need to organise this before you travel, as yep, you guessed it, NordVPN is a blocked website!

Using an eSIM in Turkey

An eSIM is a virtual SIM, which usually provides data only. The benefits of eSIMs are multiple;

  1. An eSIM works in your phone in conjunction with your normal SIM – you can move between using one or the other, meaning you can keep your usual number.
  2. You buy your eSIM online, making them extremely convenient.
  3. eSIM providers work with lots of networks, meaning you’ll connect to the best one wherever you are.
  4. An eSIM can cover multiple locations and not tie you to one country. Think the whole of Europe, Asia or North America – how simple would that be?
  5. No data roaming fees – you know the costs upfront.
  6. You can organise your eSIM at home and activate it on arrival.
  7. These data-only SIM cards mean you’re not paying for minutes and texts you don’t need and won’t use.

The only downside is that you have to pay for the convenience, and the per GB cost is high in comparison to local prices. 1GB of data in Turkey with popular eSIM provider Airalo costs £4/US$4.50, in comparison to £2.50/US$2.80 for 1GB of Turkcell top-up data.

Good to Know: Your device needs to be unlocked. e-SIMs don’t work with all mobile devices – you can check whether your phone is compatible here.

Holofly

Price: £19 to £87 / US$19 to US$99

Included: From five days to 90 days of unlimited data. You cannot tether or hotspot using these plans.

How: Buy online and receive a QR code (so you need a second device or someone with you) to scan, and you’re good to go.

Airalo

Price: £4 to £16 / US$4.50 to US$18

Included: From 1GB to 10GB of data, with all but the smallest pack valid for 30 days. You can use this eSIM to tether and hotspot.

How: Buy online and receive a QR code (so you need a second device or someone with you) to scan, and you’re good to go.

BreatheSIM

Price: £1 to £54 / US$1.50 to US$75

Included: From 1GB to 20GB of data, with all but the smallest two packs valid for 30 days. You can use this eSIM to tether and hotspot. BreatheSIM packages cover areas rather than countries, so in the Turkey eSIM, the whole of Europe is covered.

How: Buy online and make some changes to your settings (explained very clearly on their website) and the eSIM will activate automatically once you connect to a network in a country covered by the bundle.

ETravelSIM

Price: £9 to £71 / US$10 to US$80

Included: From 3GB to 20GB of data valid for 28 days, and three unlimited eSIMs valid for 7, 15 or 28 days. You can use this eSIM to tether and hotspot, but the unlimited data plans have a fair usage policy of 2GB of data per day, after which data usage is barred.

How: Buy online and receive a QR code (so you need a second device or someone with you) to scan, and you’re good to go.

Nomad

Price: 18.50 to £50 / US$20 to US$54

Included: From 1GB to 5GB of data valid for 7 days for the smallest data pack and 30 days for the larger packs. You can use this eSIM to tether and hotspot, and there are top-up options available via the Nomad app.

How: Buy online and receive a QR code (so you need a second device or someone with you) to scan, and you’re good to go.

Order a Turkish SIM Card Online

If you like to be organised and want to slip that SIM into place as soon as you arrive, then ordering a Turkish SIM online for delivery to your home or workplace is a great option. Remember that your phone must be unlocked to use a replacement SIM like this.

SIMOptions

Travel SIM World

Price: £35.60 / US$39.90

Included: 6GB of data, no calls or SMS. Valid for 15 days. Tethering and hotpot enabled. It is not possible to top up this SIM card.

How: Buy your personal SIM card for Turkey and get it delivered to 120+ countries. Prepare your device and check your settings. Arrive at your destination, insert your SIM card and start browsing.

Orange Holiday World

Price: £44.50 / US$49.90

Included: 10GB of data, no calls or SMS. Valid for 14 days. Tethering and hotpot enabled. Various top-up options are available.

How: Buy your personal SIM card for Turkey and get it delivered to 120+ countries. Prepare your device and check your settings. Arrive at your destination, insert your SIM card and start browsing.

Portable WiFi Device for Turkey

A portable wifi device or portable hotspot means you can keep your number, and tether or hotspot to the device, wherever you are. A pocket wifi device like this operates like a router at home, meaning more than one device can be connected simultaneously.

Instead of connecting to your internet service provider, the wifi device uses cloud SIM technology, meaning you don’t need to buy a SIM card because it’s already included.

GlocalMe devices usually come pre-loaded with a few GB of data, and then you can buy more via their app or online. GlocalMe offers a variety of packs from one-day passes for £3.60/US$4, to an 8GB 30-day pack for £40/US$45.

Just register your device online or in the app and purchase data packs for immediate mobile internet connectivity.

GlocalMe Duoturbo Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

GlocalMe G4 Pro 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot Router

GlocalMe UPP 4G Mobile WiFi Router

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Turkey SIM Card Guide
SIM Card Turkey Guide