Turkey is a popular travel destination for many in Europe, but also for those from the Middle East and North Africa. Turkey has many beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, and many activities are cheap. Turkey is certainly a destination you should visit at least once, I would say.
What is not cheap, however, is to roam with your provider. Roaming can be expensive in Turkey, which is why seasoned travelers prefer to buy a Turkish SIM card. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Turkey. Let's go.
Table of Contents
Mobile Operators, Networks & Frequencies in Turkey
Turkey has 3 telecom providers: Turkcell, Vodafone Turkey, and Türk Telekom. Turkcell has the most subscribers with more than 35 million customers. Vodafone Turkey is following Turkcell with more than 25 million subscribers. Türk Telekom is, with around 20 million subscribers, the smallest operator in Turkey. Turkcell has the best coverage in the country, followed by Vodafone and Türk Telekom.
Best SIM Card in Turkey
If you want to buy a SIM card in Turkey, I would recommend going with Turkcell, mainly because they have the best coverage in Turkey. Vodafone can be an option if you are staying in the cities.
You should not buy a SIM card at airports unless you like giving money away for free. The prices at the airport are highly inflated for no reason. You will find many stores that will sell you SIM card, including official stores and vendors. SIM cards are sold for 150 TRY ($25.20), but you can negotiate the price. That is why it is good to know the average sale price so that you do not get scammed by a vendor.
IMEI Registration in Turkey
As of 2015, all phones have to be registered with the authorities when using a Turkish SIM card within 120 days. Otherwise, your phone’s IMEI will be blocked. The registration fee is 1500 TRY ($255), which is insanely high. When I was in Turkey many years ago, this rule did not exist, so I did not have to deal with this mess.
This rule does not apply to those who are roaming with their provider or those who stay in Turkey for less than 120 days. Do note that if you ever wish to use a Turkish SIM card after those 120 days, you would need to bring another phone with you or roam with your provider. Your phone’s IMEI is unique and will be blocked if it has not been registered.
To not deal with this mess, you can also get an international SIM card that covers Turkey SimOptions sells a TrueMove H Smart Traveler+ from $39.90. It comes with 6 GB for 15 days. It gets shipped to your home address so that you can be connected as soon as you arrive in Turkey.
Internet Censorship in Turkey
Unlike other countries in the Middle East, internet censorship is not so prevalent in Turkey. However, some sites, like Wikipedia, get blocked at times. The same counts for individual apps. If you are roaming with your provider, you will not face this censorship.
Either way, I would strongly urge you to use a VPN in Turkey so that you can browse the web without interruption or being watched by the authorities. I use NordVPN because I get high speeds with their servers and stay fully anonymous when browsing the web. They have around 5500 servers in 59 countries. They have servers in Turkey, many countries in Europe, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates (there are many more, but these are the closest to Iran). You can get up to 70% off your NordVPN subscription if you get yours today!
EU Roaming in Turkey
Lastly, this is important for those with a European Union SIM card: Turkey is not part of the EU or EEA, which means that the Roam like Home rule does not apply in Turkey. Therefore, it is recommended that European citizens with EU SIM cards buy a Turkish SIM card instead of roaming with their providers. Many providers, however, offer free roaming in Turkey, but this is not the case for all. Be sure to check your provider’s site to learn whether you can roam for free or not.
Turkcell is the operator with the best coverage in Turkey. Its 3G network covers more than 95% of the population, and 4G/LTE is still being developed throughout the country. 4G/LTE can be used when using a prepaid SIM card. Turkcell SIM cards are sold around 150 TRY.
The following Turkcell monthly packages can be added:
- 15 TRY: 1 GB (for 7 days)
- 25 TRY: 1 GB
- 30 TRY: 2 GB
- 40 TRY: 4 GB
- 50 TRY: 6 GB
- 60 TRY: 8 GB
You can also buy a Turkcell tourist SIM card called Tourist Welcome Pack. It is sold for 250 TRY and comes with 20 GB, 300 minutes, and unlimited WhatsApp use for 30 days – not a bad deal at all.
Vodafone Turkey, just Vodafone, is the second-largest operator in Turkey and has the second-best coverage. Vodafone SIM cards are sold for around 150 TRY, although most shops will try to sell you the Vodafone Holiday line, which is their tourist SIM card (to be discussed later).
The following Vodafone monthly combo packs, called SüperNet, can be added. They come with 250 minutes and SMS:
- 25 TRY: 2 GB
- 25 TRY: 7 GB (for new customers only)
- 30 TRY: 4 GB
- 35 TRY: 6 GB
Vodafone Freezone is targeted to the youth that are younger than 26 years old. The plans come with 750 minutes and free WhatsApp usage. “Older folks” can still get these plans, but you will get less data when you are considered to be old. The data allowance listed first (before the or) are for the old folks, while the allowance after the or are for the youngsters. All plans are valid for a month:
- 22 TRY: 2 GB or 4 GB
- 35 TRY: 5 GB or 10 GB
- 43 TRY: 7 GB or 14 GB
All plans come with the Video-, social-, and music passes, which can be bought separately. They offer unlimited usage for select apps:
- Social Pass: 10 TRY weekly or 20 TRY monthly for Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook
- Video Pass: 15 TRY weekly or 29 TRY monthly for YouTube
- Music Pass: 10 TRY monthly for Spotify
- Chat Pass: 5 TRY weekly or 10 TRY monthly for Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp
The Vodafone tourist SIM card, known as Vodafone Happy Line, is sold for 200 TRY and comes with 20 GB, 750 minutes, and 1000 SMS for 30 days. For some reason, citizens from the following countries are not allowed to buy this SIM card:
Türk Telekom, previously known as Avea, is the smallest operator in terms of subscribers and nationwide coverage. Speeds are good in the cities and OK in rural Turkey. A Türk Telekom SIM card is sold from 150 TRY and comes with 10 GB and 750 minutes. Although the “worst” Turkish provider, they have the cheapest rates.
Türk Telekom sells combi packs, which all come with 750 minutes and 1000 SMS together with the data allowance you choose. The plans are valid for a month:
- 23 TRY: 4 GB
- 27 TRY: 7 GB
- 32 TRY: 10 GB
You can also add Türk Telekom data packs. A handful of them are listed below:
- 1.90 TRY: 100 MB for 1 day
- 6 TRY: 1 GB for 1 day
- 9 TRY: 1 GB for 7 days
- 19 TRY: 500 MB for 30 days
- 19 TRY: 1 GB for 30 days
- 25 TRY: 10 GB for 7 days
- 35 TRY: 10 GB for 90 days
- 39 TRY: 2 GB for 30 days
- 55 TRY: 5 GB for 30 days
- 59 TRY: 6 GB for 30 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Turkey
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Turkey
Getting a SIM card from Turkcell would do you well when considering a Turkish SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Cards in Other Middle Eastern Countries
Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
Next Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences
Looking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do:
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Learn About Your Phone Travel Options
You can buy local prepaid SIM cards, international SIM cards, mobile hotspots, or roam internationally. Each of these options has its pros and cons. Learn more about them, and find the best option for you.
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