The official currency as well as the unit of Turkish money is the Turkish Lira (Türk Lirası, TL or TRY). A unique symbol (₺) was introduced by the Turkish Central Bank to denote the Turkish Lira.
Banknotes are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 liras.
The lira is divided into 100 Kuruş (koo-ROOSH), with coins in denominations of 10, 25 and 50 (Kuruş). Read more about the history of the Turkish lira which was used before the new Turkish Lira.
Where to Obtain Liras
It's usually best to obtain your Turkish liras in Turkey rather than before you leave home, as the exchange rates outside Turkey are generally not as good as those inside the country.
The easiest way to get cash liras is to stick your home bank card or credit card into a Turkish ATM (bancomat/cashpoint, cash machine). While withdrawing cash, choose the option to be charged in the local currency (Turkish Lira) instead of your home currency to avoid the hidden costs of dynamic currency conversion (DCC).
You can exchange foreign-currency cash at a Currency Exchange Office (Döviz Bürosu). Note that exchange rates at international airports in Turkey are usually worse than rates in city centers. In Istanbul or tourist areas, it’s easy to find places to exchange your money, but you may need to provide your passport and other details at exchange offices in order to exchange money.
Using Credit and Debit Cards in Turkey
Turkey is a country that happily accepts credit and debit cards, which are widely used in cities and tourist destinations. Remember to inform your bank about your travels to Turkey so that your card doesn't get blocked due to suspicious overseas transactions. Travelers Checks are a bother, and not recommended.
As digital wallets gain popularity around the globe, Turkey is no exception. Mobile payments are becoming more common, particularly in larger cities and tourist destinations. The adoption of mobile payment platforms such as Paycell and BKM Express is on the rise, offering the convenience of secure and quick transactions.
However, not all vendors may accept mobile payments or even debit and credit cards, particularly in rural areas or local markets. Hence, it's still essential to carry some cash in Turkish Lira. Apple Pay, Paypal, Google Pay, and many other global wallets are not currently in use.
Cash vs. Card
While cards are quite popular, cash is used widely in local markets, small shops, or when taking a ride in the famous Turkish dolmuş (minibuses). If you are venturing off the city or visiting smaller towns and villages, you'll definitely need cash. The good news is that ATMs are easy to find in Turkey, so you won't have trouble withdrawing cash when needed.
You can benefit from tax-free shopping in Turkey if you're from outside the EU. This means you can get a refund for the VAT you pay on your purchases, but there's a process to follow. First, make sure the store you're shopping at offers Tax-Free Shopping services. When paying, ask for a Tax-Free form. Fill it out and have it stamped by the store. Before you leave Turkey, show your purchases, receipts, and your stamped form at the customs office at the airport to get your VAT refund.
Bargaining and Tipping Customs in Turkey
Don't be scared to bargain while shopping in Turkey, especially in bazaars and markets! It's part of the shopping venture. Start by suggesting a price lower than what you're willing to pay and work from there.
When it comes to tipping, it's a common practice in restaurants, cafes, and taxis. The usual amount is around 10% of the bill, but feel free to give more if you've received excellent service. A service charge might be added to your bill in some upscale restaurants or hotels, in which case extra tipping is unnecessary.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Turkey varies greatly depending on where you are. Generally, big cities like Istanbul and Ankara are more pricey than the smaller towns and countryside.
For example, a meal at an inexpensive restaurant is quite affordable, but it’s possible to find high-end establishments whose prices mimic the cost of Europe or North America.
Note that Turkey has been facing high levels of inflation in recent years and the prices of goods and services, as well as the exchange rate for foreign currency, can change rapidly. As such, many places that cater to tourists might have a price list in a foreign currency. However, Turkish lira is the only official currency in Turkey and it is always possible to pay in Turkish lira.
Cost of Traveling in Turkey
To give you a rough idea of daily costs, a budget-conscious tourist could get by on less than $100/day. This includes meals at affordable restaurants, public transportation, and budget accommodations. You should budget more if you plan to visit museums and historical sites or enjoy the nightlife.
Tour operators and establishments that cater to tourists will often post their prices in foreign currencies such as USD, Euro, or Sterling.
Read more about the cost of traveling in Turkey.
Banks in Turkey
Banks in Turkey typically operate from 9 am to 5 pm from Monday to Friday. They're usually closed on weekends and public holidays. But don't worry, ATMs are widespread and open 24/7, allowing you to withdraw cash whenever needed. Remember that transactions might come with fees, especially if you're using a foreign bank card.
Most people in Turkey are welcoming and honest, but like everywhere, a few might try to take advantage of travelers. For example, be cautious of overly friendly strangers inviting you to bars or restaurants, which can lead to abruptly high bills.
Also, be aware of the classic taxi hoaxes, where drivers take longer routes to charge more or use rigged meters. Always demand using the meter in taxis, and consider using ride-hailing apps like BiTaksi, which offer transparent pricing.