Is Turkey a cheap country for a foreigner to live? (2023)

Turkey is one of the few countries that spans both Asia and Europe. Compared to other countries in Europe, it is one of the more affordable places to visit. However, prices have sky-rocketed in Turkey recently due to high inflation, so it is not as cheap as it once was. As the Lira has dropped in value, imported goods have become more expensive, such as fuel, food and technology.

Much like other countries experiencing inflation, Turkish businesses have felt the pain especially, with production costs rising. Local people have struggled to stretch their pay checks to cover the increased costs of rent and food.

Fortunately, the minimum wage was recently doubled in an effort to keep up with the cost of living. 

In 2021, 1 US Dollar was worth 8 Lira, as of 2023 it’s worth 19 Lira. 

Living cost by city

All that being said, the cost of living can still be reasonable in Turkey depending on what region you live in. It’s more expensive to live in the big cities like Istanbul (which is still much cheaper than somewhere like New York or Sydney) than in smaller cities or towns.

So, what does it cost to live in a big city? Below we’ll compare the cost of living in Turkey’s largest cities using Numbeo’s price guide for 2023.

The prices we have listed are in USD.

Istanbul: Population 16 million

For those seeking employment, Istanbul is the historic, cultural and economic hub of Turkey which makes it good for business. It comes with a price tag though as Turkey’s most expensive city. 

Costs in Istanbul

Meal at a cheap restaurant: $6.37 USD

Cappuccino: $2.35 USD

One-way transport ticket: $0.53 USD

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city each month: $718 USD

Ankara: Population 6 million

The cost of living is fairly reasonable in Turkey’s capital city (rent is 55% cheaper than in Istanbul). Ankara is a university city with lots of going on in terms of cultural and social activities. 

Costs in Ankara

Meal at a cheap restaurant: $4.25

Cappuccino: $1.95

One way Transport Ticket: $0.45

Monthly costs for a single person, without rent: $400

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city each month: $294

Izmir: Population 4 million 

Izmir has many of the same amenities as Istanbul (such as being a major transportation hub) but with a lower price tag with rent around 50% cheaper. It is one of the most westernized places in Turkey, so communicating with real estate agents will be more straightforward. Located on the Aegean coast, the temperature is a mild with an average of 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 Celsius) in summer and 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 Celsius) in winter. 

Costs in Izmir

Meal at a cheap restaurant: $4.25

Cappuccino: $1.70

One way Transport Ticket: $0.40

Monthly costs for a single person, without rent: $402

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city each month: $327

Bursa: Population 3 million 

The entire city of Bursa is a world heritage site known for its Ottoman architecture. It is also a great place for families to buy their first home with very low house prices. 

Costs in Bursa

Meal at a cheap restaurant: $3.72

Cappuccino: $1.89

One way Transport Ticket: $0.40

Monthly costs for a single person, without rent: $497

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city each month: $230

Antalya: Population 2.6 million 

Antalya is another seaside city with lots of tourists, which makes it the ideal place for entrepreneurs to set up a hotel or restaurant or pursue a career in tourism. 

Costs in Antalya

Meal at a cheap restaurant: $5.04

Cappuccino: $1.81

One way Transport Ticket: $0.42

Monthly costs for a single person, without rent: $403 

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city each month: $604

What about the cost of living in Turkey’s popular holiday destinations? Unfortunately most of them are expensive too (comparable to that of living in Istanbul) but not all of them!

Bodrum: Population 187,000

In the 1960s, Bodrum was transformed into a chic and sophisticated town as it attracted renowned foreign artists, authors and other creatives. Now it offers upscale living for a comparable price to living in Istanbul, with the perks of being a holiday destination. 

Costs in Bodrum

Meal at a cheap restaurant: $5.31

Cappuccino: $2.06

One way Transport Ticket: $0.40

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city each month: $690

Alanya: Population 327,000

With its stunning Mediterranean coast and fast-growing expat scene, Alanya sits roughly 133km from Antalya on the south coast of Turkey. 

Costs in Alanya

Meal at a cheap restaurant: $5.31

Cappuccino: $2.02

One way Transport Ticket: $0.48

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city each month: $638

Marmaris: Population in holiday season 500,000

Marmaris, a coastal resort town located in southwest Turkey on the world-renowned Turkish Riviera, offers a sea-lovers lifestyle for holiday makers.

Costs in Marmaris

Meal at a cheap restaurant: $6.37

Cappuccino: $2.03

One way Transport Ticket: $0.53

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city each month: $477

Fethiye: Population 161,000

Fethiye is a seaside town on the southwestern Turquoise Coast. With an incredible natural harbour and stunning landscapes, it is surprisingly one of the cheapest cities to live in (along with Bursa and Izmir). 

Costs in Fethiye

Meal at a cheap restaurant: $4.78

Cappuccino: $1.69

One way Transport Ticket: $0.45

Renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city each month: $381

Why is Istanbul so expensive?

At least one-fifth of all Turks live in Istanbul. But why is it the most expensive city? It is a densely populated city (the largest city in Europe) with over 15 million people, which makes the property market difficult to enter, pushing prices up. 

There are also many international companies located in Istanbul which means that people travel from all over the world to Istanbul for work. The minimum monthly salary in Turkiye of ~$547 USD (Jan 2023) can’t cover the average rent in a one-bedroom apartment in the city center at $720 USD, let alone other living costs like utilities and groceries. So it costs more to live in a big city like this than what most people make. 

How do local people get by on the minimum wage?

Shared living, or living with family, cuts down accommodation costs for locals. With 3 or 4 incomes in the house, families can get by as long as they cut out expensive items like alcohol, meat and toilet paper. Living in a wealthy area requires people to be wealthy, so often people will commute to work in the city where it is more expensive to live. 

If you plan to live in a big city like Istanbul, you need to make sure your pay check will cover your living costs.  

How can I live on a budget in Turkey? 

Groceries

Most groceries are not expensive in Turkey if you shop at a discount store like Sok, BIM or A101. If you are after imported goods or speciality items like almond or coconut milk, then you will see a hefty price tag.

Coffee

Coffee varies wildly in price depending on what café you choose, so if you’re on a budget it’s a good idea to check the menu before you sit down.

Pouring a coffee

Alcohol

Alcohol is cheap compared to western countries (between $1.50-$2 USD for a bottle of beer) –  but it isn’t served everywhere because Turkey is a Muslim country, so you will need to check the menu to see if they serve alcohol before choosing a restaurant. You can also bring your own alcohol, just check with the staff if it’s ok before you start drinking. A mid-range bottle of wine costs around $10, but you can purchase one for much cheaper too. 

Entertainment

It costs $4 USD to see a movie at the cinema, $5 for a combo meal at McDonalds and $1.50 for an ice-cream cone. Even an upscale café like Vitavien in Istanbul sells their classic Turkish ice-cream for $2 and Rocher Dolce (hazelnut and chocolate ganache cake) for $3.50.

Tours can be expensive in Turkey. If you are visiting attractions on your own you can save quite a bit of money as many historical sites are free. Mosques, parks and markets are all free to visit too. 

Transport in Turkey

Internal flights in Turkey are very cheap; it costs under $80 USD to book a return flight from Istanbul to Izmir, or $40 for Istanbul to Ankara.   

But the cheapest way to travel the country is to book a bus, with a long-distance bus fare between cities between $15 and $30 USD, depending on the distance. Some popular bus companies are Istanbul Seyahat, Kamil Koç, Pamukkale Turizm.

Cars are incredibly expensive in Turkey due to high taxes, so you can save money by using public transport or walking everywhere.  

A single ride on a ferry, metro, tram or bus in a city is roughly 15 Lira, or 80 cents (US). If you are a resident and have a monthly pass, it can be even cheaper. In Istanbul, the city card is called the Istanbulkart and in Izmir it’s called the Izmirkart Children under 6 years old are free. 

Living Expenses

To live in Istanbul, $1,240 USD per month would cover your basic living expenses (including renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city) as a single person. A family of four would need $3,060 USD to cover monthly living expenses (which includes renting a 3-bedroom apartment in the city). Just keep in mind you may need more than this if you plan to rent a furnished apartment or eat out frequently. 

So while the cost of living can add up in some cities, even the most expensive city in Turkey is 4 times cheaper than somewhere like New York.

The only other countries in Europe that compare to Turkey in price are Romania and Hungary, and even then, Turkey still comes out on top.

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