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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Istanbul

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Relocating to Istanbul

When thinking about Istanbul, the first things to come to mind probably include Turkish bazaars and historic buildings like the Hagia Sophia. In fact, Istanbul is not just Turkey’s cultural center. The city also boasts an impressive heritage.

In ancient times, many people were moving to Istanbul’s forerunners, then known as Byzantion, later on as Constantinople or Byzantium. It has been the capital of three successive empires and seen an influx of all kinds of ethnic groups. They came as colonizers, settlers, traders, conquerors, or migrant minorities, but they all left their mark.

Today, Istanbul is not only the biggest city in Turkey. People moving here will experience a vibrant culture, a modern society, and a dynamic economy.

Two Continents, One City

Did you notice how the Bosporus seems to break the city in half? Istanbul is simultaneously located in Europe and Asia, giving people moving to Istanbul the chance to be in two continents at once. Its location makes it a bridge between the East and the West.

The Bosporus has always been an important passageway. It connects the Black Sea in the north with the Marmara Sea in the south. In this way, it has boosted Istanbul’s economic significance. Relocating to Istanbul will take you to a place where the defining characteristics of two continents join with an abundance of historical sites, picturesque landscapes and waterfronts.

The First Step: Your Work Permit

If you are going to Istanbul for work reasons, you will have to secure a work permit, a work visa and a residence permit first. The first step is finding a Turkish Embassy or Consulate in your home country. There you will have to apply for a work permit and then for a work visa, in this order.

To apply for a work permit, you have to provide the following documents:

  • one copy of your passport (with translation if not in the Latin alphabet)
  • one copy of your residence permit
  • official translation of your diploma
  • completed work visa application form
  • one copy of your work contract

Following the Work Permit: Your Work Visa

After receiving your work permit, you can apply for a work visa at the same consulate or embassy. You have to turn in the following paperwork (in person), also prior to your move to Istanbul:

  • valid travel document with your work permit
  • non-refundable work visa processing fee
  • non-refundable work permit processing fee

Settling in Istanbul: Your Residence Permit

Even after your move, you are not done with your paperwork. Now it is time to make your way to Aksaray Police Station in order to pick up your residence permit. This has to happen within 30 days after your arrival. Your residence permit will be valid for one year. You can renew it as often as you wish as long as you are employed in Istanbul.

Fortunately, the Directorate General of Migration Management offers information on how to make an appointment and where to get the required documents. The Aksaray Police station is located on the European side of the city.

Istanbul: Transportation & Neighborhoods

Taking a Taxi: Something a Little Different

Taking the taxi in Istanbul may not be as fast and convenient as in your home country. Private metered taxis are easy to find unless you travel during rush hour. However, before you hop on a taxi, keep in mind that traffic can be extremely heavy and the drivers quite reckless.

Unfortunately, only very few taxi drivers speak English or any other foreign language. Write down the address on a piece of paper and show it to the taxi driver. Do make sure that the driver knows the location before you get in the car.

Paying for Your Taxi and an Alternative

There’s a nighttime fare and a daytime fare, the latter being a lot cheaper. Taxi drivers sometimes try to scam passengers out of their money by charging the nighttime fare during daytime or taking longer routes. If your taxi ride takes you across the TEM highway or the Bosporus Bridge, you will have to cover the toll. Tipping the driver, however, is not necessary as it is included in the base fee.

You are not in the mood for a taxi ride? You can also take one of the water taxis for a trip across the Bosporus. Water taxis were introduced in 2008. The fee is calculated per trip, not per passenger. With the capacity to hold up to 10 people, water taxis are often cheaper and faster than regular taxis.

All about Public Transportation

If you prefer public transportation to taxi rides, you can choose from various types of transportation:

  • Public buses (otobüs) are cheap and reliable with fares from 1.95 TRY. Express buses to more distant destinations are also available. However, they are more expensive.
  • Private buses (halk otobüs) and mini-buses (dolmus) also operate on different routes. The mini buses are a little more expensive, but you can negotiate the fare based on your destination. You are not tied to bus stops as the driver will let you off wherever you wish.
  • The metro runs mostly in the downtown area with ten stops between Taksim and Atatürk Oto Sanayi.
  • The tram and light rail (tren) cover a significant part of Istanbul and are connected to the metro system.
  • Ferries (vapur) are used by many residents in Istanbul to cross the Bosporus. They also take you to the Prince Islands for a weekend get-away.
  • Inter-city buses are not only cheap but also reliable and comfortable. They offer an on-board service similar to that on airplanes.


The most common way to pay your fare is via Istanbulkart. These are available as reduced fare cards, free ride cards, and passes. Unless you are a student, veteran, or a senior citizen, you will have to purchase a Blue Card for your daily commute. The fee for the card is 10 TRY, the monthly loading fee is 120 TRY. A single ride costs 1.65 TRY using the Blue Card.

The Differerent Sides of Istanbul

The district of Beyoglu is often called Pera, too. Here the influence of people from various cultural backgrounds is still prevalent. Thus Beyoglu is not only Istanbul’s center of trade, but also the city’s hub for art and entertainment. With neighborhoods such as Taksim Square, Galatasaray, Tünel, or Tarlabasi, it also features the busiest nightlife in Istanbul.

The Asian side is Istanbul’s calmer corner. It was first known as Chalcedon and forms one of the city’s largest districts. Although Kadiköy is the first stop for most people who arrive here, the Asian side is famous for its historical market.

The Prince Islands, on the other hand, are ideal for a weekend get-away. Take the ferry to Kinaliada, Heybeliada or Büyükada on a sunny day. All three of these islands are famous for their monasteries and churches, which are open for visitors. Most visitors discover the islands via bicycle, which can be rented for a few liras.

The historic peninsula is known for its vast number of museums and monuments. Constantine had chosen this part of the city as his capital, leaving behind many architectural and cultural treasures. Here you’ll find the Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace or the Archeological Museum. Sultanahmet Square — Istanbul’s touristic center — is located on the peninsula as well.

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  • Sven Baudach

    My business partners, also mainly expats, and me, we always use the wonderful InterNations Events as an informal get-togethers.

  • Maggy Roswick

    With all the great information and contacts provided by InterNations, it was no big deal to get settled in Istanbul.

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