Navigating the landscape of foreign currency can be a challenge for travelers, but understanding the basics of the Turkish Lira can make your travel experience smoother and more enjoyable. Whether you plan to dine at a quaint local eatery, explore the bustling markets, or unwind in a luxury hotel, you will need to familiarize yourself with this currency and how to exchange it
Cash from an ATM
The most convenient way to get money in Turkey is by using your home bank ATM/cash card or a credit card in a Turkish ATM/bancomat/cash machine. Most Turkish ATMs issue only Turkish liras, but some will give you liras, euros, or US dollars.
Of course, ATMs are run by banks, so there will be not just fees, but significant fees, perhaps 2% or 3% or more of the money you receive. ATMs are an easy, but expensive, way to get money.
If you want to exchange cash, plenty of places will do it for you, and it can be cheaper.
Foreign Exchange Offices (Döviz Bürosu) are found in tourist, market and commercial areas. They offer better exchange rates than most banks, and may or may not charge a commission (komisyon). Offices in market areas tend to offer better exchange rates than those in tourist areas. Offices at international airports in Turkey tend to offer poor rates of exchange (for you; good for them).
Tips for Safe Currency Exchange
Safety is always important when dealing with money. When you're in Turkey, there are a few simple things you can do to make sure your currency exchange is secure.
- Always count your money before leaving the exchange counter. It's easy to make mistakes, so double-check to be sure.
- Keep your transaction receipts. This is useful if there are any disputes or if you want to exchange your Turkish Lira for your home currency when you leave.
- Only use reputable exchange services. This might be banks, hotel exchange services, or recognized currency exchange offices.
- If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. A significantly better rate might indicate a scam, so be cautious.
Consider the Buy & Sell Spread
In the currency exchange market, two key terms you'll often encounter are "buy" and "sell" rates. The "buy" rate is the amount the exchange office will pay to purchase a unit of your currency, and the "sell" rate is the price at which that unit is sold to another customer. The difference between these two rates is known as the spread.
The spread size indicates the profit the exchange office makes on each transaction - the larger the spread, the more profit for the office and the less favorable the rate for you. Conversely, a smaller spread implies a more customer-friendly transaction.
Therefore, when exchanging money, it's recommended to seek out exchange offices where the difference between the buy and sell rates is the smallest.
Let's illustrate this with an example using the current exchange rates where 1 US dollar is equivalent to 23.5 Turkish lira:
Buy US$1 = TRY 23.48. For every US dollar you exchange, you receive 23.48 Turkish lira.
Sell US$1 = TRY 23.42. For another customer to buy that dollar, they have to pay 23.42 lira.
Spread = 0.06. The exchange office retains 0.06 lira.
If you exchange US$100, you'll receive TRY 2348 in return, and the exchange office will earn 6 lira (approximately 0.26%) on the transaction.
Now, if you come across an office offering rates of Buy TRY 23.49 and Sell TRY 23.48, with a spread of only 0.01, it's a better deal for you. You would receive TRY 2349 for your US$100 instead of TRY 2348. The office keeps only 0.01 lira (roughly 0.04%) — a much more favorable scenario for you.
Therefore, always aim to find an exchange office where the difference between the buy and sell rate is minimal to ensure the most value for your money.
Post Office (PTT)
Most post offices will exchange cash US dollars or euros, and the bigger post offices may also exchange other major currencies such as UK sterling (but no Scottish notes!)
These have the worst rates, the biggest commissions, and the most cumbersome procedures, but a few specialized branches may be willing to exchange currencies lesser known than the US dollar, Euro, Sterling, and Yen.
Understanding the Current Economic Climate
Understanding the current economic climate can be crucial when dealing with currency exchange, particularly with the Turkish Lira. The value of the lira fluctuates over time due to a multitude of factors such as domestic financial policies, inflation trends, and the global economic landscape.
Over the past few years, the Turkish Lira has experienced various shifts, leading to periods of both appreciation and depreciation. Before you exchange your currency, it is beneficial to have a basic understanding of the current economic conditions. The value of your home currency against the lira can change from day to day, so timing your exchange might lead to a more favorable rate.