Written by Simla Koray

Ah, Istanbul. With its incredible dynamics, the people and the breathtaking sea view everywhere you go, İstanbul challenges and nurtures you all at the same time. And once you get the taste of it, it’s almost impossible to let go. With 14 million residents, this huge city may be intimidating, but don’t worry – I’ve lived here for more than 20 years and I know everything you have to know before moving to Istanbul. Looking for accommodation? Visit Spotahome Istanbul for rooms and apartments available for rent in the city.

Things to know before moving to Istanbul

Moving to istanbul

First things first, you are going to need a passport. Before anything else, you have to obtain your passport in order to travel to Turkey. And make sure it’s valid for at least 3 more months before your arrival date to the country as the maximum stay in Turkey is for 90 days for tourists.

See also: 5 Unique Things to Do in Istanbul

1. How to get a permit and visa in Istanbul

  • Apply for a work permit with a passport, work visa application form, passport size photographs (make sure you have multiple copies) and one copy of your employment contract.
  • After getting the permit, go back to the consulate and turn in your passport, work permit, work visa processing fee and work permit processing fee.
  • Go to the Aksaray Police Station and get your residence permit.

Your residence permit is valid for one year and it is easily renewable. Those coming to Turkey without these documents can easily stay in the country for 90 days before making a decision to move permanently. More information on the papers you will need to live in Turkey can be found on the  e-ikamet website.

See also: What To NEVER Do In Istanbul

2. The currency rate of Turkish Lira is amazing

I’m always very amused when my friends come over to visit and realize that the exchange conversion to Turkish Lira makes the quite rich – it’s a lot of fun to watch. When you are moving to Istanbul, getting used to the currency is probably the hardest thing – especially because you will realise you’re actually not that rich when you go back home.

Moving to Istanbul

3. Turkish banks have English-speaking staff

In Istanbul, banks open around 8:30AM and close at 17:30PM, which is a paradise for those who are never able to go to a bank early in the morning. There is always at least one person at the branch that speaks English to make it easy for expats moving to Istanbul.

See also: Opening a Bank Account in Turkey for Expats

4. Lifestyle in Istanbul is more authentic

In my opinion, İstanbul is far cheaper compared to Paris, Berlin, Rome or London. Our groceries are organic but still cheap and we pay far less for the garment. And let’s not forget to mention the Turkish Cuisine – it’s incredible. If you think your country’s selling you the real kebap, you’re mistaken. There are a lot of weird and fantastic food spots you have to try once in Istanbul – it’ll make you question if it’s legal to marry food?

This picture cosists of 90% breakfast ? This big breakfast @vanyimirtakahvalti will surely keep you fit and energized throughout the day ?

A post shared by Istanbul Food Guide #istanbul (@istanbul.foodguide) on

You should also know that we buy bottled water instead of drinking it from the tap – even though you will hear that the water in Turkey is drinkable. It’s your decision.

Fashion in Istanbul is also a huge statement – it tells people who you are and where you’re from but thankfully, things aren’t so expensive.

And then there’s Turkish coffee – our coffee game is super strong and it’s getting better and better thanks to the third wave coffee trend. And that’s not all – our coffee can predict your future!

5. How to get around Istanbul

One of the things you’ll need first when moving to Istanbul is a phone. Turkey’s mobile coverage networks are really good and the shops tend to speak English – you’ll be able to get a new tariff without a problem.

Next is transportation: my advice, as a Turkish girl who lived in Istanbul almost her entire life, is to live close to your workplace or school. Always check the routes before you travel – I’m sure you know that Turkish transportation is quite an… erm… interesting experience (we have a lot a lot a lot of traffic). The cheapest way to get around Istanbul is with IstanbulKart.

We have various types of transportation systems such as otobüs public buses, metrobüs which are faster and have its own special road (similar to tramways), metro lines, minibüses, and dolmuş, which is a vehicle that can usually take up to 8-9 people and drives to the most important central areas. But my favorites are ferries and boats, called ‘feribot’ and ‘motor’ – we use these to avoid the traffic at the hectic Bosphorus Bridge.

Moving to Istanbul can seem like a hard decision, but you should give it time – it definitely gets easier. You will see that you will get used to calling Istanbul your home and this new bond will be unbreakable. And don’t worry about making new friends – everyone in Turkey is usually very friendly and people go out of their way to help. It’s very easy to make friends and everyone can become a part of our culture. All you have to do is say “hi”.

Written by Simla Koray

See you in Istanbul!

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