Mobile Phone SIM Cards in Turkey

Your home mobile phone company may offer international roaming plans which you could use while you travel in Turkey, but the rates for this service may be relatively high.

If you have an “unlocked” or “jailbroken” GSM mobile device capable of operating in the 900 Mhz and/or 1800 Mhz bands, or 3G 2100 Mhz band, you may be able to remove your home mobile company’s SIM card and replace it with one that offers less expensive service while you travel in Turkey, either an international roaming SIM, or a Turkish mobile phone company’s SIM.

International Roaming SIM

You can buy an International Roaming SIM from a provider of mobile roaming services and use it in Turkey as well as in other countries. You can install the SIM just before leaving home, and it will be ready to connect as soon as you arrive in Turkey. Also, you can keep and use an international roaming SIM for future trips in other countries.

Many companies around the world offer these roaming SIMs.

Turkish SIM

Upon arrival in Turkey, you can find a mobile phone shop, decide on a short-term mobile plan, purchase a SIM, have it installed, and use it for up to 120 days while you travel in Turkey. The local rates, almost always cheaper than international roaming, may save you money. But you probably won’t be able to use the SIM on a future trip to Turkey, nor in other countries.

Take your mobile device and your passport to a shop of any of the three mobile telephone operators in Turkey. There are even mobile phone shops in the largest airports, so you may be able to do it as soon as you arrive in Turkey.

The clerk will photocopy two pages from your passport: the personal information and photograph page, and the page with the Immigration stamp showing the date of your entry into Turkey.

The clerk will insert a newTurkish SIM in your device and pair the SIM’s unique identification number (MSISDN) with the identification number (IMEI) of your mobile device, meaning that the SIM can only be used with that device (at least in Turkey).

There is a charge for the SIM and account set-up.

You then select the mobile service you want, often offered as a paket (package) with a defined maximum number of telephone minutes, SMS messages and, if you wish, Internet data (in Megabytes or Gigabytes), for a certain price.

Within a few days after you begin using your Turkish SIM, you may receive an official government message (in Turkish) on your device informing you that, because your device is not registered with the government (and the tax paid), your device will be blocked from Turkey’s mobile networks after 120 days. The message will contain an end date for your service, and will look like this:

YASALUYARI

123456789XXXXXX IMEI no’lu cihaz kayit disi listesinde oldugu icin 26.08.2015 da kullanim disi birakilacaktir. Hattiniz acik kalacaktir. Bilgi icin 4440532.

Here’s a translation:

LEGAL NOTICE

Because the device with the IMEI 123456789XXXXXX is on the list of unregistered devices, it will be blocked from service on 26.08.2018 [26 August 2018]. Your mobile line will remain open. For information, call 4440532.

“Your mobile line will remain open,” but it will do you no good, as your device will be blocked, and the SIM, paired with your device, cannot be used in any other device.

What is a SIM?

SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) is a small electronic chip and memory card that stores information on a mobile device customer, the device’s account, and country of usage. It may also store data such as SMS (Short Message Service) messages, phone numbers of your contacts, etc.

When you turn on your mobile device, the SIM tells the device which network to connect to, who you are (so people can call you), and your phone usage preferences.

SIM Sizes

SIMs come in three forms: Standard, Micro, and Nano. Older phones may use the largest (Standard) SIM, many newer models take the Micro SIM, and the newest Apple iPhones and iPads require a Nano SIM, the smallest.

With an adapter, you may be able to use a smaller SIM in a phone designed to use a larger SIM, but you cannot use a larger SIM in a phone that requires a smaller SIM. For example, you may be able to snap a Micro or Nano SIM into an adapter for your phone that accepts only a Standard (large) SIM, but you cannot use any SIM but a Nano SIM in the iPhone 6.

Locked or Unlocked?

Mobile phones are either “locked” (you can’t change your SIM card), or “unlocked” (you can remove your SIM card and replace it with a different one).

If you phone is unlocked, you will be able to remove (and save) your current card, buy a new Turkish SIM card, insert it in your mobile phone, and use your phonepaying local Turkish rates for calls. This is usually much cheaper than international roaming.

Unlocking/Jailbreaking

In Turkey, a mobile phone shop—they seem to be everywhere in the cities—may be able to “unlock” or “jailbreak” (SİM kiliti kırmak) your “locked” GSM phone so that you can put in a different SIM. There will be a fee for this service.

Important note: unlocking your phone will void its warranty, and may cause problems with your home mobile phone company. Both of these are good reasonsnot to unlock your phone.

In Istanbul, the beating heart of the mobile phone market—white, grey and black—is the Doğu Bank İş Hanıbuilding, Hamidiye Caddesi 10 [map]. Go here to buy, sell, crack/jailbreak, repair or accessorize your phone. Not a lot of English spoken, but they’ll figure out what you want.

Virtual Private Networks

If you access the Internet by public Wifi while traveling, you should consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to prevent hackers from stealing your sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card and bank account details, etc. VPNs are easy to set up, and basic service may be free. More…

Another way to assure security of your communications is to rent your own Mobile Wifi Hotspot, which uses the same secure network as mobile phones to connect your computer—even several computers—to the Internet. More…

—Tom Brosnahan


Turkey’s Mobile Phone Networks

International Roaming in Turkey

Mobile Phones for International Travel

Wifi Voice & Messaging Apps

Calling to & from Turkey

Mobile Theft: Protect Yourself!

Communications in Turkey

Travel Details FAQ

Istanbul Love Bus...the new novel by Tom Brosnahan

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