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Phones, Wifi & Internet in Turkey

Last Updated on February 14, 2024

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During your trip to Turkey, you'll want to communicate with loved ones back home, with your traveling companions, with airlines, hotels, travel agencies, and other travel services both inside and outside of Turkey, and you'll definitely want to connect to the internet for email, information, and social media.

Luckily, there are several options when it comes to using your phone in Turkey, and today, we will uncover everything a traveler might need to know about using the internet and phone in Turkey.

Wi-Fi in Turkey

Wi-Fi (wireless Internet connection) is standard all over Turkey, with fiber internet connections and an average speed of 40 Mbps download. While 40 Mbps may sound fast, it is still slower than most countries in the EU (averaging 103.3 Mbps)! 

However, virtually all hotels, hostels, dorms, rental apartments, and even tree houses have wifi, as do many restaurants, cafés, bars, beach café-bars, offices, intercity buses, trains, and ferryboats. The connection and its speed may vary, but you'll have the opportunity to connect.

How to Connect to Wi-Fi in Turkey?

Connecting to a Wi-Fi connection in Turkey is the same as worldwide. Ask for the Wi-Fi name and password and connect to the service. 

Some establishments might have the Wi-Fi password and name hanging somewhere on the wall (marked with Wi-Fi Şifresi, meaning Wi-Fi password). While other establishments may need you to register for their service to use free Wi-Fi. 

Keep in mind that while free Wi-Fi is common in Turkey, speed and connection problems are also frequent! So, you should get a private connection if you need fast speeds.

Using a Mobile WiFi Hotspot

A mobile Wi-Fi hotspot is a small mobile-phone-like device that connects to a local mobile phone network and provides you with a Wi-Fi signal by which you can connect your laptop, tablet computer, or mobile phone to the internet, allowing you to make and receive voice calls, messages, and email, and to browse the Web.

You can bring your own mobile Wi-Fi hotspot to Turkey or rent one while you're there. It can be a simple and easy way to stay in touch. Also, using a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot will be faster and safer than using public connections. 

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in Turkey

Communication security is an important consideration in the age of hackers and cybercrooks. So, many people consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to protect their data, no matter how they connect to the internet. 

However, you don't need to worry! Getting a VPN is not necessary while traveling in Turkey, as the cybercrime rate is considerably low. But, if you prefer to be on the safer side, it's not a complicated or expensive new piece of equipment, just an inexpensive service you sign up for online. You should know that VPNs fall into a gray area in terms of the legality of using them in Turkey.

Using Your Mobile Phone in Turkey

If you're coming for a short visit (up to 120 days), you should have little problem using your mobile phone in Turkey via international roaming, with a Turkish SIM card, or via a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot

Mobile Phone & Data Networks

Turkey has three major mobile phone companies with excellent coverage throughout the country. You'll rarely be far from a mobile phone signal if that's how you choose to communicate. 

The internet connection on the mobile is 4.5G or 4G with an average speed of 15 Mbps throughout Turkey, though it tends to be much faster in major cities. You’ll need a Turkish SIM card to connect to mobile phone companies in Turkey.

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Limitations on Foreign Phones in Turkey

If you come to Turkey as a tourist and visit the country for 90 days or less, you will have no trouble using a SIM card. However, if you plan to stay longer, you should know that you will need to pay a hefty tax for registering a foreign phone in Turkey. Read more here.

How to Get a SIM Card in Turkey

If you want to avoid spending extra money on expensive international roaming options, we recommend getting a Turkish SIM card or E-SIM card. 

eSIM Cards

If this is your first time hearing the term "eSIM card," it is a virtual SIM card that works just like a normal SIM card. However, you don't need any physical cards to use it, and the plans might be more advantageous compared to the former. Moreover, if you have a phone made after 2018, it will likely support an eSIM card. Remember to ensure your phone is compatible by contacting the manufacturer.

There are many eSIM providers, but read reviews to make sure you find one that will work in Turkey and that you activate it according to the instructions.  Many eSIM card service providers are data only plans, which may or may not meet your needs.  Most people in Turkey use Whatsapp which allows for calling using an internet connection, without the need for a SIM that allows phone calls. It’s best to set up Whatsapp and purchase an eSIM prior to arriving in a foreign country.

Getting an eSIM card in Turkey

You have two options for using an eSIM card in Turkey. First, you can activate an eSIM card from an international provider (such as AirAlo). Be careful not to activate it too far in advance and use up extra days on your plan.

The other option (better for longer stays, or if you need a phone that can make calls) is to purchase an eSIM after you arrive. Telecom providers, such as Turkcell, require you to activate an eSIM at one of their branches. You will need to bring your phone, ID, cash or card for a nominal fee plus money to top up your service. It can take a while to activate (up to 24 hours). Staff will assist you in activating the card.

It also would be possible to combine both options, having some internet access for when you first arrive, and later adding an eSIM that would have the ability to make calls. Since most phones allow for numerous eSIMs to be loaded at the same time, this can be the best option though it would be a bit more expensive to purchase both. 

SIM Card

If your phone does not support an eSIM card, or if you prefer having a physical SIM card, you have several options. 

  1. You can pre-order/reserve a pre-paid international SIM card to arrive at your home in your country. (Remember, you can buy an international roaming SIM, if your mobile phone is unlocked.)
  2. You can get a SIM card at the airport through the official shops. (Keep in mind, prices might be more expensive than in the city center.)
  3. You can go to a local dealer downtown and get your SIM card. However, each dealer will have their own prices, so you may want to shop around for better deals.

Keep in mind that if you plan to stay in Turkey for an extended period, you'll have to register your mobile device with the government and pay a fee.

How to Make Calls to & from Turkey

No matter what sort of phone or system you use or where you're calling from, you need to know how the Turkish telephone systems work to make calls to and from Turkey. Please check out our detailed guide for more information. 

Alternatives to Making Calls in Turkey

Turkish Landline Phones

Turkish landline (wired) phones work with phone cards, credit cards, or Turkish liras, depending on the type of phone. You will mostly see them in hotels and local businesses. But beware of hotel surcharges! Hotels tend to charge exorbitant rates and surcharges for all phone calls, and especially for international calls. Be sure to ask about rates and surcharges at your hotel before you call.

Fax

Many places (including most hotels) will send or receive a fax for you. Rates vary. Shop around. Look for the sign Fax Çekilir (Fax Sent).

Phone and Wi-Fi in Turkey

When it comes to using your phone when traveling in Turkey, you have many options. If you have a newer model phone, getting an eSIM card might be the most practical. Also, you can opt for a regular SIM card. 

Wi-Fi connection is widespread, and while slow, there is free Wi-Fi in many cities throughout Turkey. So, you may not need an international plan at all! Just make sure to research well and plan ahead.

—by Tom Brosnahan, updated by Can Turan

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