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Living in Istanbul
A comprehensive guide about living well in Istanbul
Are you about to start expat life in Istanbul? You should definitely plan ahead: Istanbul’s hustle and bustle and maze-like structure can massively overwhelm newcomers. Our guide to Istanbul helps you prepare, with advice on international schools, healthcare, housing, and much more.
Need to move abroad? Organizing an international relocation is not something you should do on your own. As expats, we understand what you need, and offer the the essential services to help you move and live abroad easily. Contact us today to jump start your move, and begin the preparations with our free relocation checklist.
Life in Istanbul
Freedom of religion and a liberal attitude are common aspects of life in Turkey’s largest city. Although the majority of the population is Muslim (though not necessarily practicing), the patriarchate of Constantinople plays an important role for Eastern Orthodox Christians all over the world. The city offers many places of worship for other Christian denominations or people of Jewish faith.
This freedom is partly due to Istanbul’s cosmopolitan and metropolitan character. It has always been a big city, experiencing a steady population growth since the 1940s. This demographic trend is partly due to many people from rural areas hoping to find a better life in the metropolis. This is why in 2014 the city had more than 14 million inhabitants.
Going to an International School
There are different international schools for expat children in Istanbul. Most of them offer an IB or country-specific curriculum. Although the language of instruction is usually English, these schools are prepared to welcome children from different countries. They offer courses to help students improve their English, if necessary. There are also some schools for specific nationalities living in Istanbul, such as the German school or the French lycée.
Contact the supervisors at your school of choice and schedule a visit. You can also get in touch with other expats of our local InterNations Community and find out which schools they suggest. We have chosen three local international schools as an example.
Istanbul International School
Istanbul International School offers primary and secondary schooling to expat children. The curriculum is set by the National Board of Education in England and focuses on three main areas of study:
- Environmental Studies (Science, History, Geography, Cultural Studies)
- Life Skills (English, Modern Foreign Languages, Math, Personal Social Health Education, Information and Communication Technology)
- Expressive Arts (Visual Arts, Music & Movement, Physical Education)
Younger children living in Istanbul can receive their pre-school education here. The school has three campuses, all three are located in Üsküdar.
The Istanbul International Community School was founded in 1911, aimed at foreigners living in Istanbul. It is one of the oldest international schools in the world and provides an IB education for children of all age groups. The original location of the school is where the smaller Hisar campus can be found, catering to kids from pre-school level to grade 3. However, most of the school’s activities have been moved to the Marmara campus (PK-12), which is a 25-mile drive away for expats living in Istanbul’s central areas.
Istanbul International Community School offers independent and co-educational daycare. Here, children enjoy a full IB education in three different programs:
- IB Primary Years (PK-6)
- IB Middle Years (7-10)
- IB Diploma P (11-12)
MEF International School Istanbul
MEF International School has campuses in Istanbul and Izmir. The Istanbul campus is located near Ulus Park, in Ortaköy. The language of instruction is English. However, other languages, including Turkish, are part of the curriculum, providing expat children with a truly international experience.
Children of all ages enjoy an extensive IB education at the school’s early childhood center as well as with its primary and secondary program for middle school and high school students.
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Istanbul: Education, Healthcare, Housing
There are a vast number of public and private universities in Istanbul, which offer many opportunities for higher education. Some of the public universities in Istanbul are:
- Istanbul University
- Galatasaray University
- Marmara University
- Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts
- Yildiz Technical University
The Istanbul University, for instance, has 20 faculties, 3 departments, 3 schools, 17 institutes and 27 research and study centers all over the city. Most of the faculties, colleges and some administrative offices are located in Beyazit, Lalaeli, Sarachane, and Vezneciler.
For more information on admission, enrollment and fees, it is always best to contact the university directly.
Taking Care of Your Health
There are many hospitals in Istanbul which offer excellent medical care. Most of them are JCI accredited and equipped with the newest technology. Internationally trained doctors and nurses cater to the needs of residents and visitors alike. The main hospitals for expats are:
- American Hospital
- International Hospital
- German Hospital
- Acibadem Memorial
- Florence Nightingale Hospital
These hospitals do not just offer basic check-ups and treatments. They also have special units for plastic surgery, organ transplantation or lasik eye treatments. Special needs concerning psychological issues or nutrition and diet are also addressed.
Have a look at our article about living in Turkey to learn more about the Turkish healthcare system in general.
In Istanbul, pharmacies are indicated by a white, square sign with the letter “E”. Most pharmacists and chemists (eczan) are open between 10:00 and 19:00, Monday through Saturday. In addition, every neighborhood has at least one on-call pharmacy (nöbetci eczane), which you can visit in case of emergency. They are available between 19:00 and 10:00.
If you are unable to reach a pharmacy near you, you can contact a medicine delivery service instead. This service will deliver your medication to your doorstep 24/7 for a small fee. However, remember that operators may not speak English.
In Case of Emergency…
In case of a medical emergency, call 112. This state service is free and can be reached from any phone. It may, however, not offer the same quality or have the same reaction time as private ambulance services.
Alternatively, you can contact the ambulance service of your health insurance provider.
Looking for a Place to Live
Rental prices in Istanbul vary strongly, depending on the location of your new home. Rents for a one bedroom apartment in the city center vary between 1,000 TRY and 2,000 TRY. Advance payments of 6 to 12 months and a security deposit are the norm in Istanbul. Additionally, your landlord may ask you to pay your rent in Euro or USD.
To search for housing, try searching online classifieds, as they have the advantage of being up-to-date. Alternatively, you can take the old-fashioned route and buy the weekend editions of local newspapers such as Hürriyet, Milliyet or Zaman.
However, private real estate ads may only be in Turkish. If you have not picked up the local language yet, you should hire a real estate agent to help you find housing in Istanbul.
Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!