There are three network operators in Turkey:
- Türk Telecom (formerly called Avea)
Turkey can be a complicated country to buy a local SIM, because there are some legal restrictions. Turkey is not an European country, so roaming from many operators can be priced quite high. Generally, you can buy a local SIM card by showing your passport in a store.
Registration for foreign mobile phonesEdit
All mobile devices purchased outside Turkey which use a Turkish SIM must be registered with the government after a period of grace. In 2015, this grace period was extended to 120 days. After this period, the phone will be blocked for the Turkish SIM.
A few days after you start using your SIM on a (new) device, you'll get a SMS in Turkish with the exact grace period. It reads like this: "<14-digit IMEI number> IMEI no'lu cihaz kayit disi listesinde oldugu icin <DAY/MONTH/YEAR> da kullanim disi birakilacaktir. Hattiniz acik kalacaktir. Bilgi icin <phone no.> yi arayabilisiniz". In English: "<14-digit IMEI number> will be shut off on <DAY/MONTH/YEAR>. Your line will remain open. Information at <phone no.>".
If you are staying for more than 120 days, then this registration can be done at the same time as purchasing a SIM card from a network operator's store. They will register the IMEI (the unique number that identifies your device) and the SIM. You can check the IMEI of most handsets by dialing *#06#. Once listed and connected to a Turkish SIM, it won't be possible to link the same device (or IMEI) to another Turkish SIM in the future.
Tax for foreign mobile phonesEdit
Before an operator will register your phone, they require a special document from the local Tax Office that you have paid TL 165 (Turkish Liras) tax (around € 40). So you have to go to the Tax Office first and pay TL 115 to have your phone registered for another TL 50 later to finally use a local SIM card. More info about this procedure from this website in English. Their are exceptions made for temporary residents.
Turkey adopts this registration system to prevent theft and fraud, though some suspect other reasons too. As the grace period has now been extended to 120 days, workarounds are now not that relevant for the one-time visitor.
- If you plan to stay longer, you can buy a cheap Turkish phone or modem. You will need to provide paperwork showing who you are, but you don't have to pay the tax for registering a new device.
- North Cyprus (KKTC) prepaid SIMs can work in Turkey without roaming surcharges on Telsim/Vodafone network or on discounted packages with Turkcell.
- You can bring more than one device (or a Dual-SIM phone) and change them every 120 days, adding up time to block them all.
- You can use a roaming SIM card of a foreign provider instead. Some good offers are mentioned at the end of this article.
- On your next visit to Turkey, better take a different phone with you, if your Turkish SIM is still valid and 120 days have been elapsed.
- Technically, the vulnerability of a whitelist approach based on an IMEI is that there are mobile devices on the market on which their IMEI number can easily be altered (changed, re-flashed).
- Many WiFi access points are available all over the country and offer a valid alternative.
Prices and availability Edit
Prices for new SIM cards vary widely in Turkey. Every 3rd shop in Turkey is a mobile store now. Shop around and negotiate and you will find lots of offers for starter packs. Most will have credit or data already included and will cost around TL 40-60.
Package prices for data are very low and are set by the operators. Every branded store can sell you a data package or add-on at a similar price.
For the returning visitor who registers their own handset, the expiry rules are pretty complex. Given the relatively high start-up costs, you may think of keeping your SIM. In general, your credit and line will stay active for 6 months, before a top-up of at least TL 20 is required. This can be done online or from abroad by 3rd party top-up sites (with a fee). Failure to obey the registration and top-up rules will result in your device being blocked from future use in Turkey. The easiest workaround is to bring a different phone (or IMEI) for your next visit.
Frequencies and coverage Edit
Like in Europe, 2G GSM is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz. Nationwide Turkcell has the best coverage, followed by Vodafone and Avea. If you stick mainly to the cities, it does not make any difference which of the three providers to choose.
4G/LTE EditIn 2015 the regulator auctioned off licenses on 800, 900, 1800, 2100 and 2600 MHz bands for 4G/LTE. All three providers launched 4G/LTE in April 2016. It has been marketed from the start as "4.5G", otherwise known as LTE+ or LTE Advanced, accelerated by carrier aggregation where available in major cities in all 81 provinces from the start.
All Turkish providers have censored access to the internet in the past. As usual this censorship is not enforced on roaming SIM cards. Sites which are considered as offensive are simply blacked out. Their selection is somewhat erratic: e.g. one dating app is blocked, while its clone is open to be used. The governement has also blocked social media sites for days in the past like Facebook and Twitter in times of a major crisis.
These black-outs have severed in 2016/7 with the blackout of major sites like Wikipedia. They have also started to clamp down against VPN services used to bypass these blocks like the Tor network that is officially blocked since Dec. 2016. To have free access and ensure anonymity, better install a working VPN on your device, before entering the country or use a roaming SIM.
A Turkcell prepaid SIM card costs around 50 TL. This includes variable amounts of call credit, SMS or data. You can check your balance by dialling *123#.
Additional credit can be be bought from 20 TL in Turkcell stores and many other outlets. For balance check enter *123#.
Data feature packs:Edit
Default rate outside of packages is 1 TL per 100 KB. These bundles in up to 4.5G are offered:
|Time||Volume||Price||Activation to 2222|
|7 days||1 GB||10 TL||HAFTALIK 1GB|
|30 days||500 MB||14 TL||YENI 500MBINTERNET|
|1 GB||20 TL||YENI 1GB|
|2 GB||25 TL||YENI 2GB|
|4 GB||35 TL||YENI 4GB|
|6 GB||45 TL||YENI 6GB|
|8 GB||55 TL||YENI 8GB|
|3 months||15 GB||89 TL||TEKRARLI15GB <phone no.>|
You have to confirm the subscription by sending the word 'EVET'. When you want to cancel the service send an SMS to 2222 containing the word 'IPTAL' followed by the name of the package. The message you receive later must be confirmed with the word 'EVET'. To find out how much data remains on your package, send an SMS to 2222 with the word 'KALAN' or enter *100#.. You will get back a message showing what remains and the last date of usage.
If you need to set up a dial-up connection manually on your computer (phone as modem), dial *99**1*1# In some cases you may need to add an extra initialization key. In device manager->modem->advanced->extra initialization key, type: at+cgdcont=1,"ip","internet"
More info Edit
- Tethering and VoIP are allowed
- APN (may need to be set manually): internet
- Website in Turkish: http://www.turkcell.com.tr
Vodafone is the 2nd operator in terms of coverage. 2G on 900 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE was launched in April 2016.
For visitors they sell their 'Vodafone Holiday line' with a recommended retail price of 70 TL including 50 TL bonus. This can be a good deal, if you need so much credit. Customers, who buy a Holiday Line, can not change their price plan. Only foreigners with a valid non-Turkish passport can buy this Holiday line. In maximum, 3 prepaid lines can be activated for a foreigner.
Required documents for purchase: Passport with a valid expiry date. Notarized translation by a sworn translator is required for the passports issued in non-Latin alphabet.
- Visit the nearest Vodafone shop to buy a top-up voucher. Many of our stores have automated Top-Up make topping up your phone even faster.
- Call 7500 and enter 12-digit number on your top-up voucher press #, enter 5-digit number on your top-up voucher press #
For balance check enter *123#.
Data feature packsEdit
Default data outside of packages is 0.12 TL for 10 KB for their 4.5G 'SüperNet'. These bundles are offered:
|24 hours||150 MB||2 TL||GUNLUK 150|
|7 days||250 MB||5 TL||ABONE H250MB|
|500 MB||7 TL||HAFTALIK 500|
|1 GB||10 TL||1 GB HAFTALIK|
|30 days||250 MB||12 TL||ABONE DEVAM 250 MB|
|500 MB||16 TL||ABONE DEVAM 500 MB|
|1 GB||22 TL||ABONE DEVAM 1 GB|
|2 GB||30 TL||ABONE DEVAM 2 GB|
For data balance check text SORGU <activation code without abone> to 3636. All packets shown on the table above will not renew automatically.
More information Edit
- APN: internet
- Website in Turkish: http://www.vodafone.com.tr
Türk Telecom (formerly called Avea)Edit
In 2016 Türk Telecom rebranded its mobile network from Avea, but you see their old sign still sometimes. It's the smallest provider in Turkey in terms of coverage, but they have still good speeds in the cities and a fair coverage in the countryside.
2G is on 900 and 1800 MHz, 3G on 2100 MHz, 4G/LTE was launched in April 2016.
Their SIM card is up to 50 TL with 20 TL credit. Dial 8090 to activate SIM.
Data feature packsEdit
Default data rate is: 0.2 TL for 10 kB, overuse charge: 0.5 TL per 100 KB. They offer the biggest variety of packages up to 4.5G at the lowest prices in Turkey right now:
|Validity||Volume||Price||Activation to 5555|
|1 day||100 MB||1.90 TL||GUN|
|1 day||1 GB||6 TL||GUN1|
|7 days||100 MB||5 TL||HAFTA|
|7 days||1 GB||9 TL||HAFTA1|
|7 days||10 GB||10 TL||HAFTA10GB|
|30 days||100 MB||9 TL||AYLIK 100MB|
|30 days||250 MB||12 TL||AYLIK 250MB|
|30 days||500 MB||19 TL||AYLIK 500MB|
|30 days||1 GB||19 TL||AYLIK 1GB|
|30 days||2 GB||39 TL||AYLIK 2GB|
|30 days||3 GB||45 TL||AYLIK 3GB|
|30 days||4 GB||49 TL||4GB|
|30 days||5 GB||55 TL||AYLIK 5GB|
|30 days||6 GB||59 TL||AYLIK 6GB|
|30 days||7 GB||64 TL||AYLIK 7GB|
|30 days||8 GB||69 TL||8GB|
|30 days||10 GB||79 TL||10GB|
For subscription send an SMS with the keyword to 5555. You get a response from number 2438. You have to respond to that with another SMS and the word 'EVET' (for yes). If 3G with HSPA speed is not working, you need to send another SMS to number 3334 with text '3G' and reconnect to network.
Check data credit via SMS to 5555 with the word KALAN <activation code>. To stop auto-renewal, text IPTAL <activation code> to 5555.
For additional data volume you can add these packages:
- for 3 days:
- 1 GB: 3 TL, 3GUN 1GB
- 2 GB: 5 TL, 3GUN 2GB
- for 7 days:
- 1 GB: 5 TL, HAFTA 1GB
- 2 GB: 8 TL, HAFTA 2GB
- for 14 days:
- 1 GB: 8 TL, 2HAFTA 1GB
- 2 GB: 12 TL, 2HAFTA 2GB
- 4 GB: 15 TL, 2HAFTA 4GB
For activation, text code to 5555.
More information Edit
- APN: internet
- Website in Turkish: http://www.turktelekom.com.tr
alldaywifiEditInstead of buying a SIM card you can rent a mobile Wifi router (MiFi) with a data SIM card from one of the local companies to avoid the legal hassles.
Alldaywifi rents out routers to establish a 3G/4G internet connection and connect by WiFi with up to 10 devices. You can only book online and pay by credit card. The device will be delivered within Istanbul city center in 2 hours and to other parts of Turkey within 24 hours. Delivery charge is free in Istanbul and $ 10 (one-way) elsewhere in Turkey. Their office is near Taksim Sq. on Istiklal Street, so you might pick it up there.
They deliver an extra battery ("power bank") in the package to extend its mobile capacity. It gives "unlimited" mobile internet in Turkey. The network is not disclosed. Alldaywifi has the right to apply a FUP to prevent "abusing" of "unlimited" data.
The rental rates depend on duration:
|3 days||$ 23|
|4 days||$ 26|
|5 days||$ 29|
|6 days||$ 32|
|7 days||$ 35|
|7+ days||$ 5 x days|
The device seems to be insured and no deposit withheld but their T&Cs put all responsibility to the lendor.
Rent 'n Connect Edit
Similar to alldaywifi, Rent 'n Connect rents out mobile WiFi routers (Mifis) and additionally tablets too. You can book their devices on their website to be delivered for a fee of 5 EUR on the same day in Istanbul if you order before noon or up to 24 hours in the rest of Turkey. They have offices at SAW airport and close to Taksim Sq. in Istanbul too. Drop off can be arranged there or by mail in a prepaid envelope.
The router is a TP-Link M5350 Mobile Hotspot. It is capable of 21.6 and 5.76 Mbits on 2G and 3G connecting up to 10 devices in up to 5.5 operating hours. The bundle consists of the router, SIM card, sleeve, charger and free 2200 mAH powerbank during rental period. They give "unlimited" data on an undisclosed network. Their FUP limits "unlimited" to 15 GB per week at full speed and beyond throttled to 2G.
The rental rates are 5.99 EUR per day (always counted from 10am) and a discount of 30% off all rentals of 7 days or more. Their 7" tablets (called Digital Guide which comes with various useful apps) have the same price. You can pay by Visa, MasterCard, AmEx or PayPal. While for the router no deposit is withheld, they block 100 EUR for the tablet on your credit card. Anyway, you are held responsible, if you lose or break the device.
Foreign SIM cards on roaming Edit
Because of the complex start-up procedures like registration, possible taxes for your device, short validity or censorship of local SIM cards, Turkey is grey-listed and you may think of using a foreign SIM card on roaming in Turkey instead. This is especially suitable, when you stay for very short, use little data, are a recurring visitor with the same device or want to keep your SIM card alive for a longer period.
Vodafone Ireland Edit
Turkey is included in their roaming package for 200 MB at € 3 per day. Roaming is on the Vodafone network in up to 3G only. More info see Euro2.
Kyivstar and Lifecell Ukraine Edit
Turkey is included in their roaming packages for each 100 MB at UAH 35 (5 TL) per day with Kyivstar and UAH 15 (2 TL) per 50 MB with Lifecell. Roaming is on the Turkcell network in up to 3G. For more info see Euro9.
Turkcell Europe Edit
This is a German-issued SIM card from Turkcell. It's sold in Germany and via eBay.de or Amazon.de to other countries as well. The starter price of € 10 is credited as balance. German online registration is required. For roaming on the Turkish Turkcell network, they offer two data packages:
- Türkei Internet Option 500: 500 MB per month: € 9.99 - activation: text 'TR INTERNET 500' to 77733
- Türkei Internet Option 2GB: 2 GB per month: € 19.99 - activation: text 'TR INTERNET 2000' to 77733
Overuse is € 0.02/50 KB plus € 0.49 per day. Package doesn't auto-renew. Speed on Turkcell network is up to 7.2 Mbps. Turkish censorship doesn't apply.
- APN: turkcell.internet
- Username and password: turkcell
- More info in German and Turkish: http://www.turkcell.de
Ay Yildiz Germany Edit
Ay Yildiz is another German-issued SIM card similar to Turkcell Europe (see above). They offer a 1.5 GB package for 30 days for roaming in Turkey at € 9.99. This package is once-off and can be booked multiple times. Outside rate is € 0.29 per MB. For more info see Ay Yildiz in Germany chapter.