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Use Your Mobile Phone in Turkey

Last Updated on May 15, 2024

When traveling to a foreign country, having a working phone with an internet connection is essential for navigating and communicating. If you plan to bring your cell phone to Turkey from your home country and use it during your stay, you'll need to consider your options carefully.

First, you will need to check if your phone is compatible with Turkish mobile phone operators. Some phones may not work in Turkey or might not have good coverage. If your phone is compatible, you have several options to consider when using your mobile phone in Turkey. Depending on your phone brand, operator, and situation, you might choose one of the following options to use your phone:.

Will Your Phone Work in Turkey?

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Your phone or hotspot must be able to operate in the 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, and/or 3G 2100 Mhz frequency band(s), or it will not work when accessing a mobile operator or making local calls in Turkey. Most European-based phones are GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phones using the 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, 2G, 3G or 4G, and 4.5G LTE standards. The implementation of 5G in Turkey is planned for 2024.

Some USA-based GSM phones use the 850 Mhz and/or 1900 Mhz frequency bands, which would not be compatible in Turkey or Europe, but some mobile phones sold in the USA are:

— Dual-band: 900 Mhz for Europe and Turkey and 1900 MHz for the USA

— Tri-band: 900 Mhz and 1800 Mhz for Europe and Turkey, and 1900 Mhz for the USA

— Quad-band: 850 Mhz, 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, and 1900 Mhz four-band phones work practically anywhere in the world where GSM systems are found.

In the USA and Japan, standards (CDMA, TDMA, etc.) are in use as well as GSM. The 4G LTE (“Long-Term Evolution”) standard (or even 4.5 LTE) is operational in Turkey.

Importing Your Mobile Phone

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As we mentioned, if you have a mobile phone and/or mobile Wifi hotspot capable of operating on the 900 Mhz, 1800 Mhz, and/or 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, or EDGE 2100 Mhz frequency band(s) (as in Europe) and your home phone company has approved it for use in other countries, you should be able to use your cell phone in Turkey via international roaming.

A foreign visitor may enter Turkey with one personal mobile device (cell phone) and use it for up to 120 days via international roaming or with a Turkish SIM card without having to pay customs duty or register it. To set up a foreign mobile phone for roaming in Turkey, see the phone’s user manual for instructions on how to select a local network.

After 120 days, you must register your device and pay the registration fee, or your device will be blocked from the Turkish mobile phone networks. Keep in mind that you will need a Turkish resident permit, your passport stamp, and registration fees in order to register your cell phones in Turkey.

“Locked” or “Unlocked?”

If you are unable to remove the SIM card from your phone, your phone is probably “locked,” and you may have to use your mobile carrier’s international roaming plan while you are in Turkey. This can be expensive, and you may face excessive roaming charges.

If you can change the SIM card in your mobile device and it works with different SIM cards, it is “unlocked,” and you should be able to insert a SIM card for international roaming bought before you arrive in Turkey or buy a Turkish SIM card in Turkey, and this may be cheaper than using your home phone company’s international roaming plan.

“Jailbreaking” Your Phone

If you search for practical tips for using your phone in Turkey, you may come across the suggestion of jailbreaking your device. However, in reality, this is not always successful. You can ask a Turkish mobile phone shop to “unlock” or “jailbreak” your phone, a procedure that may be against the rules of your contract with your home mobile phone company, which may void your phone’s warranty and which may not work in any case.

Using a Global Roaming SIM

If your phone is unlocked and you can swap your current SIM card, you may save money by ignoring your home company’s international roaming plan and instead buying a special international roaming SIM from another company.

There are many affordable international roaming SIM plans that can offer benefits a specific mobile company is not offering. We recommend searching your home country's phone operators to make sure you choose the best option for your travel.

Using a Turkish SIM

If your phone is unlocked, you can buy a Turkish SIM for your mobile device and use it in Turkey for up to 120 days before your mobile device must be registered with the government, and a tax paid, or it will be blocked.

Today, many Turkish mobile operators offer advantageous packages for travelers who will be visiting Turkey for a short amount of time.

Using an eSIM

An eSIM is a type of digital SIM that enables you to activate a cellular plan from your carrier without requiring a physical SIM card. Nowadays, it is possible to install multiple eSIMs on a single phone and use multiple phone numbers. If your phone is locked or you don't wish to go through the hassle of obtaining a new SIM card, we suggest that you explore the eSIM providers available in your home country.

Using Mobile WiFi Hotspots

An alternative to using your phone for roaming is to rent a mobile Wifi hotspot, a device that connects your laptop, tablet, computer, or smartphone to the Internet via the Turkish mobile phone networks. Using apps on your computer or smartphone, you can make voice calls, send and receive email and messages, and browse the Web 24/7 for a flat daily fee.

Registration of Cell Phones for Residents of Turkey

By government regulation, all mobile phones bought in Turkey must be registered with the Turkish government. However, in December 2014, the government announced that foreign visitors would be allowed to enter Turkey with their personal mobile phones and use them via international roaming or with a Turkish SIM for up to 120 days without having to register them. After that amount of time, if you are a legal resident of Turkey, you must register your device and pay the registration fee, or your device will be blocked from the network.

—Tom Brosnahan, updated by Can Turan

Read More

Mobile Phones for International Travel

Turkey’s Mobile Phone Networks

Using Your Mobile Phone in Turkey

International Roaming in Turkey

SIM Cards

Calling to & from Turkey

Protect Against Phone Theft!

Communications in Turkey

Travel Details FAQ

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