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Living in Turkey
A practical guide to the way of life in Turkey
As an expat in Turkey, you’ll witness a modern country rich in heritage and tradition. Figuring out the intricacies of everyday life in Turkey might take some time, though! Let our guide give you a good idea of contemporary Turkey, from healthcare and housing to schools for expat kids.
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Life in Turkey
According to Turkish tradition, a stranger at one’s doorstep is considered a guest from God. As an expat in Turkey, you will often experience the cordial hospitality which is common for this country. This attitude does not only attract expats, but many tourists as well. The beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts are especially popular among visitors and expatriates.
Turkey’s currency is the Yeni Türk Lirasi (New Turkish Lira, TRY). It was introduced in 2005 and is widely used. However, if you’ll be living in a tourist area, you may even find shops and restaurants which also accept foreign currency. If you still carry USD or EUR, you may thus be able to spend them.
The Turkish Healthcare System
Healthcare in Turkey is part of the country’s social security system. You will find that with one single contribution, you are covered in case of illness, accident or retirement. All these insurances are organized by the same institution.
The SGK (Social Security Institution) and the Ministry of Health sometimes run their own medical establishments. You will have to visit these in case of an accident or illness. Only if those facilities do not provide sufficient services can patients living in Turkey be transferred to other hospitals or clinics.
The Turkish healthcare system has improved significantly in recent years. Hospitals, clinics and practices offer many facilities and types of treatments. Unfortunately, infectious diseases and parasite-related illnesses still occur in the country. The development of irrigating agriculture has also led to a reintroduction of malaria. In comparison to EU countries, Turkey’s medical care is still below average.
The Different Healthcare Sectors
Turkey’s healthcare system encompasses many hospitals, health stations, and healthcare centers. Most of these are run by the Social Security Institutions or the Health Department.
In addition to the state run one, there is a private healthcare sector with hospitals and doctor’s practices. These private facilities provide truly excellent medical care. Unfortunately for a majority of people living in Turkey, only the more affluent are able to afford private healthcare.
According to social security regulations, you must cover about 20% of the costs for your medication. Retirees only have to cover roughly 10% of the medication costs. However, patients paying for expensive medication and modern treatments out of pocket are a reality of living in Turkey.
What Can You Expect to Pay?
The costs for a visit to the doctor in Turkey typically start around 140 TRY, a visit to the dentist may cost you 40 TRY and more. This price, however, can be significantly higher, depending on the type and quality of treatment as well as the city where you live.
You may also face high costs when checking into a Turkish hospital. Inquire about the exact treatment prices and about your insurance coverage beforehand. Depending on the reason for hospitalization, the costs may vary strongly.
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Accommodation and Education in Turkey
Finding a Place to Live
Before renting an apartment or house, you should know that rents vary strongly depending on the location and facilities. Especially in larger cities, rents can be rather high for expats. The average rent for a 4-bedroom apartment in Ankara, for instance, ranges from around 1,200 TRY to 2,000 TRY and more, but Istanbul can easily be much more expensive.
Most apartments in Turkey come with a living room, three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Generally speaking, these are unfurnished. Furnished rooms are rather simple with only basic equipment and furniture included. As a foreigner, you may be asked to pay your rent in USD or EUR. Advance payments of 6 to 12 months’ rent are normal.
Good sources for finding housing are the Internet and the classified sections of local newspapers. Daily newspapers such as Hürriyet, Zaman or Milliyet are a great place to start. If your Turkish language skills are not fluent, you may want to hire a real estate agent instead. Contact other expats in Istanbul and Ankara for a referral.
Use Water Wisely
The electricity supply in Izmir, Ankara and most districts of Istanbul has a voltage of 220 Volts to 50 Hertz. The biggest parts of these three cities are also connected to gas supplies.
Turkey’s water supply has improved in availability and quality in recent years. Major cities however, may still experience a water shortage in the hottest summer months. Vendors often sell water in large bottles to make up for this shortage. However, this water does not always adhere to strict hygiene standards. To avoid getting sick, make sure to boil it before you drink it.
The Turkish Education System
School is obligatory for all children from age 6 to 14. While attending primary school, Turkish children usually wear school uniforms.
As part of the school reforms in 1997, compulsory education was extended from 5 to 8 years. In this way, children receive three more years of compulsory schooling at public institutions. Public primary schools are free of charge for all children.
Private schools, which may require tuition payments, are an exception to this rule. However, many of these private schools cater to the needs of certain minorities (Greek, Jewish, Armenian) or to the children of expat families. After attending primary school for 8 years, students receive a diploma. They may then choose which type of secondary school to attend.
Choosing a Secondary School
There are different kinds of secondary schools in Turkey, which your children might attend:
- General schools with a branch focusing on social sciences or natural sciences
- Secondary schools with a focus on athletics
- Vocational secondary schools
Vocational schools concentrate on a particular field or occupation such as finance, tourism, or trade. Students are prepped to work in this field after graduating. Some of them are Imam-Hatip secondary schools. These have an Islamic curriculum, preparing their students for a career with a religious focus.
Private secondary schools are under the control of the Ministry of National Education. Many of them — such as IB World Schools in Turkey — are, however, founded and run by independent institutions or foreign investors.
After secondary school, most children move on to university or begin to work in the occupation they have been prepared for.
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