How to Get a Sim Card in Turkey as a Foreigner?

If you are visiting Turkey as a foreigner and do not have a sim card, your stay in Turkey might be challenging. We all need a sim card to communicate with the world and find our ways in a foreign country. While it is possible to find Wi-Fi in many spots, sometimes it might not be possible to find a working internet, and perhaps you might need to call someone offline.

For this reason, it would be the most plausible thing to get a sim card in Turkey. The sim card’s scope, price, and type may change depending on how long you want to stay in Turkey. Luckily, there are different sim card brands and types that you can choose from.

Besides the sim card type and brand, it is also important to know what are the steps to follow while getting a sim card in Turkey. Today in this guide, I will explain how to get a sim card in Turkey as a foreigner and other details you need to know.

Is it necessary to get a Turkey SIM card?

Before starting, this question is needed to be answered, especially if you are visiting Turkey for the short term and think it might not be worth the effort to get a sim card for such short notice. The thing is, if you are staying in Turkey for at least a week, it is highly recommended to get a sim card. If you do not think that you will make many calls during your stay in Turkey, you might want to focus on sim cards with internet options.

Additionally, sim cards in Turkey are quite affordable for many people. Of course, this information is based on the average data use and residence in Turkey. In the long run, the prices might change.

Moreover, it is essential to research with GSM providers will be the best option for you. If you skip this step, there is a high chance of you being unsatisfied with the service you get from your GSM provider. You would also want to check whether if your phone will work with any sim card from any carriers.

Lastly, please keep in mind that phones bought in foreign countries work in Turkey for only 120 days. When this limit is exceeded, it is not possible for phones to work with sim cards if you do not pay the registration fee.

Getting a Sim Card in Turkey

The first step of getting a sim card in Turkey is deciding on a GSM service provider. As I mentioned earlier, little research is a must in this step. After you decide on a GSM service provider, you need to visit that GSM service provider’s store. It is important to visit the original shop and not visit some random phone accessory or repair shop that carries the same logo in their shop.

It is crucial to bring your passport to the shop with you, or the processes will not be able to be performed. Additionally, it would be best to prepare a pre-translated text with you regarding what you want to get or bring someone who speaks Turkish with you to the shop, since it might not always be possible to find someone who speaks English in those shops. Benefitting from online translation services might also work.

After the workers understand your point and find the best option for you, it is only left just to perform the procedure and give you your sim card. As you put it to your phone, you are good to go. If you have any problems regarding your sim card, you can always visit the place you bought it or call the customer service of the GSM service provider you use.

If you want to get a SIM card as soon as you arrive in Turkey, it is possible to find stores of all three GSM service providers at the Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökçen Airport in Istanbul in the arrivals lounge.

If you have to contact people immediately, it would be best to get a sim card first, even before you step out of the airport. Please keep in mind that the prices will be a lot higher if you want to purchase your SIM card at the airport. For more reasonable prices, you might want to wait until you get to the city center

Best GSM Service Providers in Turkey

As I mentioned several times earlier, it is crucial to know which GSM service providers to choose and know which package you want to have. Before starting, it would be best to mention two convenient options for foreigners in Turkey. One, you can purchase a pay-as-you-go sim card or prepaid Turkish SIM cards.

There are three GSM service providers in Turkey which offer services for foreigners, named Vodafone, Turkcell, and Turk Telekom. In general, both foreigners and Turkish locals prefer Turkcell, and it is known to be the best GSM provider among all.

Best GSM Service Providers in Turkey

Please keep in mind that even though this is the general conception about GSM service providers, it is still a subjective comment of people and does not guarantee a perfect service from Turkcell. The packages in Turkcell are known to be pretty comprehensive and have good coverage. Additionally, Turkcell is known for being pricier than other alternatives.

After Turkcell, Vodafone is the second-best GSM service provider. Even though the coverage of Vodafone is smaller than Turkcell’s, the prepaid data package options in Vodafone are greater. So, if you will need lots of internet in Turkey, it might be more plausible to go with Vodafone in Turkey.

Lastly, Turk Telekom is the third GSM service provider in Turkey. Turk Telekom has the least coverage among all GSM service providers, meaning that the service might not be good outside of the major cities and towns in Turkey.

If you are planning to visit small towns, villages, and especially coastal towns, Turk Telekom is not recommended. However, there is nothing wrong with using Turk Telekom if you will always be in central places.

Prepaid Plans

As I mentioned earlier, there are two different options you can go by in Turkey SIM cards: prepaid plans or pay-as-you-go plans. In prepaid plans, you will be charged a defined amount each month for a defined amount of talking, internet, and SMS.

For example, a GSM service provider might charge you 100 TL a month and give you 100 SMS, 100 minutes to talk, and 2 GB of internet. As you finish your 100 minutes talking, you will not be able to make calls, or as you finish your 2 GB internet, you will not be able to use the internet within your package. Please keep in mind that even if you use less than what is given to you, the price will be the same, and you cannot get a refund for the amount you do not use in the period. 

You do not need a contract for choosing prepaid plans. The only thing you will need is your passport. Another thing to mention in the prepaid plans is what will happen if you exceed your limits. If you do finish your internet and continue to use it, you will most likely be charged a lot more for each MB you use.

Depending on the GSM service provider you are choosing, you might get a limit that would stop you from using the internet or any other service as you finish them. Moreover, some GSM service providers send a text if you finish your talking minutes, internet, or SMS rights.

However, this is not valid for every single GSM service and package. It might go unnoticed that you finished your package, and you are left with a big phone bill that you have not noticed. For this reason, it would be best to keep track of how many minutes, data, and SMS you got and use them reasonably.

Pay-as-you-go SIM Cards

Another option to get a SIM card in Turkey is the pay-as-you-go SIM card. Just like the prepaid option, you can get this type of SIM card just with your passport. After two to three days you purchased it, your SIM card will be ready to use.

With this option, you can make and receive calls for 180 days. Please keep in mind that this option is for those who only need to make phone calls; there are no internet use rights included in the package.

Pay-as-you-go SIM cards can be the best option if you are comfortable with not having internet (it makes sense since the internet can be found in various places) and only need your phone for calling in emergencies. This plan is a lot cheaper than the prepaid option, meaning that if you are staying for a short period in Turkey, you do not have to pay a lot of money for a SIM card.

If the minutes you paid for finish in this plan, you might want to top-up to the plan.

See more for your travel: Major Turkish Airports

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

You may also like...