Is Istanbul a Good Place to Live?

In order for a city to be a livable place, it should be attractive with the opportunities it can offer and make people’s lives easier rather than making it difficult. Istanbul is one of them.

Istanbul is one of the nicest cities for living in it. It is known that the city has lots of opportunities in terms of employment as well as with its vibrant nightlife, cultural diversity, various entertainment choices to maintain an active social life, and historical past. In addition to many opportunity options, the cost of living is more convenient compared to other metropolises. However, if you are one of those who prefer to live in nature and away from the crowd of the city, Istanbul will not be your first choice.

In this article, you will get to know Istanbul better, which is home to millions of people, and you will have the opportunity to understand the living conditions and lifestyle.

Daily Life in Istanbul

In terms of cost of living, living conditions, safety, and human relations, Istanbul reminds a European city in many aspects. However, considering the abundance of mosques, the azan is heard 5 times a day, and the mentality of people in some topics also reminds the Middle East a little bit. Compared to other metropolises in the world, Istanbul is an easier city to live with its financial means, while it ensures that you do not feel foreign with its street and daily life.

Along with cultural differences, some regions of Istanbul differ considerably from each other in terms of architecture and lifestyle. Although they are generally friendly locals, the choice of place to live is important for your quality of life. In general, families wake up early in the morning and parents go to work while children go to school, traffic is heavy in the morning and evening. At the same time, while it is possible to see groups of friends socializing in many different places outside, there are also many people who spend time in the park or on the seaside and walk their pets.

In general, most tradesmen and locals know enough English to communicate at a minimum level, but learning the language of the place in order to fully understand a culture always provides a healthier communication opportunity. Turkish, which is an easy language to learn, will help you in times of communication confusion.

Turkish Mentality and Human Relations

Since Turkey is a country known for its hospitality, locals may also be a bit too friendly. If we compile a few features that may seem strange at first, we can help you with your questions about neighborly relations. Sometimes locals may ask you personal questions, such as where you are from, where you come from, or your age, as well as your profession or why you came from. In addition, in some residential areas, the fact that the apartments are too intertwined may make it feel a bit intimate.

Besides, people like to help each other and there can be a collective work between people, in general.

Moving to Istanbul

It is an easygoing process that moving to Istanbul and become a resident. You must spend some money and time on it, also there is a formal process in order to send documents to the Ministry of the Interior Immigration Affairs. However, you can get easily used to live in Istanbul after official dealing is over. You can come to Istanbul as a tourist, then apply for residency. In addition, you can also become a resident as apply based on work or study. It is more guaranteed to apply for residency when you are in Istanbul. Furthermore, you can be obtaining a residency as open a business or purchase a property. Lastly, you can marry a Turkish citizen.

When the official paperwork is completed, you can receive news from the ministry for an appointment in approximately one month. If there is no missing document, the result is clear in about 90 days. It is forbidden to leave the country within the expected period for a residence permit, but if you have a special permit for good reason, you will be allowed to leave for up to 15 days.

What You Should Expect and Not?

Contrary to what is reflected in the international media, of course, Istanbul is not a place where camels and horses roam the streets. Based on the list I mentioned below, the place you live will vary regarding what kind of life you want to lead. Istanbul is a large settlement area that receives both internal and external migration, so its cultural and religious diversity is high. You can always meet a group of people with whom you feel close, people respect each other and do not interfere. In Istanbul, where mosques and churches coexist, there is respect for freedom of belief. And after adapting to the city, it is possible to come across various people with traces of every opinion and ideology.

Like most European cities, you can provide personal space and freedom to yourself or your family in Istanbul. You can keep your traditions alive and come together with people who share the same faith as you because Istanbul is also a diverse place in terms of ethnic origin.

Living in Istanbul as a Foreigner

Istanbul, the city where Turkey provides the most opportunities for people, is a modern city to live with, with its unique culture, product variety and abundance, natural and man-made beauties to be seen, colorful nightlife, and affordable living costs. In Istanbul, you can find many job opportunities in accordance with your career life, and you can live a comfortable and effortless life after retirement.

Suitable Places to Live

A lovely street in Kuzguncuk Neighborhood
A lovely street in Kuzguncuk Neighborhood

According to your living conditions and expectations, you can look at many districts as a living area in Istanbul. If you intend to buy a property, you can take a close look at the home market by living in rent for a while, or you can get help directly from a real estate agent. You can also search for an apartment, residence, or detached house according to your request from various websites. With a wide range of living spaces, Istanbul offers the opportunity to live both in urban life and in relatively more isolated places.

Although the culture and spirit of the neighborhood, which are nostalgic features of the old one, are gradually disappearing, we have listed a few settlements that will make you feel as if you have been a native there for many years:

  1. Kuzguncuk: If you are familiar with the Turkish television series, Kuzguncuk is a settlement that you will not feel out of things and which you probably often see, is located on the borders of Uskudar. Kuzguncuk, home to people of many different cultures with its colorful streets, is one of the oldest settlements in Istanbul.
  2. Moda: Moda, which is connected to the Kadıkoy district, is a place that hosts people of all ages. It has a feature that attracts people with its beautiful seaside and various cafes, bars, and green space. Especially in the morning, you are likely to encounter young and old people who walk their pets and go for a walk. Moda, whose view is as beautiful as its unique structure, is among the most preferred places to live in Istanbul.
  3. Erenkoy: Erenkoy is connected to Kadıköy, one of the most decent districts of Istanbul. Because the average age is generally high, it offers a quiet and calm living space experience. With its green spaces, it is a preferred living area to stay a little away from the noise of the city.
  4. Feneryolu: Feneryolu is a residential area that is again connected to Kadıköy. It is a very popular place with its calm and peaceful structure and ease of transportation in general.
  5. Acibadem: Acibadem, which is connected to both Kadıköy and Uskudar, is among the preferred places due to its central location. It is very popular due to its proximity to malls in the region and being on the metro and metrobus line. A decent and quiet neighborhood, Acibadem is also suitable for family life.
  6. Balat: Balat, which is connected to the Fatih district of Istanbul, is a very preferred place of life with its unique texture and beautiful streets. It is one of the oldest residential areas of Istanbul and is located in the center. Balat, where social life is intense, is among the preferred places to live.
  7. Cihangir: Cihangir, which is connected to the Beyoglu district, is one of the preferred places for a high quality of life. This popular settlement, which houses the art community, is also important with its historical texture. Cihangir as a decent living area also offers a colorful life with its nightlife.
  8. Arnavutkoy: Arnavutkoy, which is connected to the district of Besiktas, is a place that connects two different lifestyles with both colorful nightlife and the Bosphorus view. With its narrow streets and old buildings, Arnavutkoy is a centrally located living space with intimate human relations.
  9. Emirgan: Offering a friendly and spacious life option with its natural beauty and streets leading to the sea, Emirgan is one of the most beautiful districts of Istanbul. Due to its central location, the place is also in demand, it can be preferred for a quiet and peaceful life.
  10. Tarabya: Tarabya, which has a deep-rooted historical past, is a distinguished habitat where nature and the sea meet. Tarabya, which is among the most decent districts of Istanbul, is among the most preferred places with its Yesil areas and lively coastline.

Healthcare for Foreigners

After settling in Istanbul, you can use the SGK health system offered by the government. However, it can sometimes take a long time to make an appointment and wait in line from public hospitals. You can find the best doctor who is suitable for your health problem with quick research; you can be treated at any private hospital of your choice. For example, it is known that most tourists come to Turkey especially for aesthetic operations and are treated. For a small amount, you can be treated and you can plan the treatment process and the aftermath with your doctor.

Working as a Foreigner in Istanbul

Business District

Although the concept of illegal work may seem preferable to not dealing with providing the necessary permits, it will have serious material and moral consequences. First, because you will not have insurance, you cannot legally have a right when there is an accident at work. In addition, if you are found to be working in a job illegally, you will pay a fine and be deported.

On the other hand, you can find freelance work opportunities in Istanbul. Or there are dozens of business lines that you can work in accordance with your profession, you can create a curriculum vitae from various websites and apply for positions that you are interested in. In addition, one of the popular professions is to teach English by obtaining a TEFL certificate. Again, in the same way, if you have a skill that you can earn income by teaching someone, you can give private lessons and you can easily access your students with the help of the internet.

Legally, you must apply for a work visa in order to work in Turkey, Istanbul. The work visa that you can apply for online may vary in time depending on the job you will be doing. In addition, if you are an employer, you must employ at least 5 Turkish-born workers for each foreign worker. For more information, please see: https://www.csgb.gov.tr/

Additionally, there are some jobs that forbidden in order for foreigners to work:

  • Veterinary
  • Tourism guide
  • Notary
  • Dentistry, nursing
  • Pharmacy
  • Security guard in private or public organizations
  • Captaincy, clerkship, crew, etc. within land waters.
  • Customs brokerage

Restrictions on advocacy and doctorship have been flexed, please see for more information: https://www.barobirlik.org.tr/dosyalar/duyurular/avkanunundayapilacakdegisiklikler.pdf , https://gocmenburo.com/

Public Transport

İstanbul has a well-developed transportation infrastructure.

It is possible to travel wherever you want by using public transport. You can travel at a more affordable cost by using IstanbulKart as well as single-use tickets. You can travel between Asian and European continents using bus line, metro, metrobus and sea route transportation. In addition, you can provide faster transportation on routes with minibus lines. In addition, you can reach your destination with a small number of people by minibusses known as a yellow minibus. Minibus and metrobus lines are running 24/7, and the number of buses and steamships varies depending on weekdays-weekends and special days and holidays.

In addition, you can also travel by high-speed train known as Marmaray and the nostalgic trams that have been in service since 1852, which you can usually see in Taksim and Kadıköy. If you do not want to use public transport, you can travel on the rented car by agreeing with the car rental companies arranged according to the options suitable for each budget.

Safety in Istanbul

Unfortunately, crime around the world is an unavoidable fact. However, although Istanbul is the most populous and largest city in Turkey, crime rates are very low compared to other metropolises around the world. Istanbul, which is considered a safe city when viewed in general terms, is a lively and livable place with its dense young and middle-aged population.

Places We Do Not Recommend to Live

As everywhere else, of course, Istanbul has areas that are considered more dangerous than others. Generally, high crime rates blended with poverty and unemployment in that areas. Also, you may not feel comfortable in some places due to natives’ radical conservatism. There is a list of places you may want to avoid living in Istanbul:

  • Dolapdere
  • Tarlabasi
  • Gaziosmanpasa
  • Kasimpasa
  • Kustepe
  • Laleli and Aksaray
  • Sultanbeyli
  • Esenyurt
  • Gulsuyu
  • Karabayir
  • Sarigol Neighborhood
  • Gazi Neighborhood
  • Bagcilar

Cost of Living in Istanbul

Living in Istanbul with generally high living standards is possible with a normal budget. If we interpret it as a single person, it is quite possible to earn a living in a beautiful house, devoting time to entertainment and yourself, shopping, and eating out from time to time, getting together with friends, and do a celebrate. You can do all of them with a budget from $1000-$1200. Furthermore, you can even enhance your money and build a nest egg. 

However, of course, you can maintain a modest way of living. It is also possible to live with a minimum budget of $500, again in a relatively nice house, meet basic needs. It depends on your choices. 

In Istanbul, everything has an equipollent. It offers an option for every budget with a wide range of products ranging from grocery shopping to clothing, furniture to hobby tools. For example, although grocery stores such as Migros or Carrefour are considered relatively more expensive, almost every neighborhood has BIM, SOK, Mopas, or A101. These grocery stores contribute to the household budget by selling products at very affordable prices, as each product has an alternative, the alternatives are diverse among themselves.

In addition to many shops and shopping centers in the fashion sector, it is also possible to come across small boutiques and local businesses. In addition, second-hand clothing shopping stores have been popular in recent years under favour of people who want to increase sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint and live a more minimal life.

Pros and Cons of Living in Istanbul

Although Istanbul appears to be a city surrounded by Islamist thought from the outside, it is a modern and European settlement. While some districts are more conservative and closed than others, places, where you feel close to people, are in excess. In Istanbul, which has its own colorful and diverse lifestyle, everyone can find what they are looking for and live in the way that suits them.

Advantages of Living in Istanbul

Turkey is a heaven for food lovers.
  1. One of the first features that come to mind is the weather. Istanbul is never cold enough to freeze people compared to the east of Turkey or the really cold regions of Europe. During the winter months, the weather is rarely snowy, usually rainy. Because of the excess moisture, it will not be frosty and freezing cold, especially since the coastline is always a little warmer. Istanbul, which is in a sweet temperature with a light breeze in the spring months, can sometimes be too sweltering due to humidity in the summer months. But the weather is always predictable and obvious, you will not encounter surprises and regret it.
  2. You can always find help in Istanbul. The hospitality of the Turkish people is already known, but indeed the indigenous people are made up of hospitable and kind people who always try to help. There are very few people who will turn you down when you need help with anything, so you will not suffer the difficulties of being a stranger and will not have trouble getting used to it.
  3. If you have come to live in Istanbul from a small city, you can set aside anything and watch everyone and everything in this crowd of people and the mess of life. There is nothing like being alone with your thoughts in a place where no one knows you and being invisible in the crowd, even for a moment.
  4. Turkish cuisine and street delicacies are other pluses of the city. Aegean and Mediterranean cuisine with olive oil vegetable dishes; Eastern cuisine with meat, kebab, and lahmacun come together in Istanbul. Istanbul, which has many restaurant options ranging from the most luxurious restaurants to friendly small restaurants, also offers many options for vegetarians and vegans. Istanbul, with its wide range of dishes, also offers many dessert options with its famous magnolias and baklavas.
  5. Istanbul is an attractive city with its ease of transportation to the provinces that can be traveled in Turkey. It is possible to go at any time with airports, intercity buses and trains.
  6. Because of its multicultural population, you can meet people of many nationalities in Istanbul, taste the traditional dishes of countries and participate in many events.
  7. Because Istanbul is a vibrant city 24 hours a day, you can always find an activity to do. You can attend many concerts and events, visit exhibitions and museums, attend festivals, go to art festivals and watch theatre. Or, before the pandemic conditions, you can spend time in entertainment venues that are open until morning, or even just explore the city.
  8. Of course, cats and dogs. Compared to other European cities, Istanbul may be the city with the most street animals. In Istanbul, neighborhoods often have food and water containers in front of the doors, cats are caught by volunteers, taken to the vet for checks, and neutered, their care and housing needs are tried to be provided. Indeed, it is possible to see people who have dedicated their lives to street animals, and these beautiful street animals have also learned to live intertwined with the people of Istanbul.

Disadvantages of Living in Istanbul 

Rush hour in İstanbul
  • Although the transport network is extensive, it is still quite difficult to get to the suburbs from any area in central Istanbul. If you have such a trip plan, we recommend renting a car daily.
  • In general, as in all major cities, Istanbul has traffic jams and special vehicle density. If you have an important meeting to catch, it is in your best interest to leave the house a few hours before the specified time to guarantee it.
  • Istanbul’s biggest difference from other European cities is perhaps it is heavy smoking. Tourists coming to Istanbul from abroad are usually not used to this, a number of problems can occur, if you have a sensitivity to smoking, we recommend paying attention.
  • If you have adapted to a relatively cold society where neighborly relations are less developed, the curiosity and endless questions of the people of Istanbul with unnecessary intimacy can be a problem for you. In addition, there is a general state of gossip among the public.
  • In Istanbul, the gap between rich and poor is very high. Therefore, prices also increase every day, if you have a plan to visit Turkey, we recommend that you make your arrangements in advance and make a reservation. Otherwise, last-minute holiday plans could cost extra.
  • Istanbul is constantly noisy with its crowded population and the feature of being a vibrant city 24/7. Although extreme situations are often not in question, car noises, laughter and conversations are always heard. If you want to live a quiet and calm life, Istanbul will unfortunately not be able to fulfill your request.
  • There are not many beaches available for swimming in Istanbul. Especially during the sweltering summer months, you can sign up for a private pool club or go to settlements close to Istanbul. On the other hand, you can go to Kinaliada, whose transport is provided by steamer, and discover its unique beauty, and for a small amount, you can go to the sea and the pool.
  • There are not many walking and running areas, so people usually prefer to run along the coast.
  • Too much taxes are doubling the price of products. In addition, since the price of foreign brands in the food, cosmetics, or clothing sector is very expensive compared to normal, you may usually have to shop from Turkish brands. Especially in electronics, such as phones and computers, the tax surplus makes itself feel too much. You have to pay taxes at the same price on top of the price you pay, the same applies when buying a car.
  • Another problem is that the internet is very slow in Istanbul compared to other European countries. Although most cafes and restaurants now have internet access on site, it is still not completely common.

In Summary

In short, Istanbul is a city that is relatively more cost-effective compared to other modern cities of the world and offers the opportunity to live with similar living standards. Adapting to a new culture, meeting the people of a place, and understanding its traditions is always a little difficult at first. But it is not easy to give up after getting used to Istanbul. Istanbul, with its business opportunities and different activity options as well as its deep-rooted history and heritage buildings, is a city that is possible to live a comfortable life with an affordable budget.

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.

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