Travelling to Turkey? Check out our guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card
Reduce your rates by using a local SIM.
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Turkey is full of history and culture, bridging the gap between Europe and the Middle East. Using your home phone network there can be expensive, so consider switching over to a local SIM card to take advantage of better deals and plans. Turkey has some of the best prepaid SIM cards, with deals that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Turkey’s leading telco provider for as little as TRY12 (about AUD$4). So, whether you’re planning a short trip, longer stay or tour of the region, check out the best SIM card options.
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There are three main operators in Turkey: Turkcell, Vodafone and Türk Telecom. All three operators go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. Their services have all been tried and tested by both locals and travellers, and they can be trusted. According to OpenSignal, Turkcell has the best coverage, followed closely by Vodafone. All operators offer good network coverage and Internet speeds in the main towns and cities, but that will suffer as you head towards the more remote regions. However, it’s not just a local problem. It will happen on any phone or provider you use there.
Turkey’s operators offer good roaming rates and sell prepaid credit, so users can take advantage of cheap local offers and deals. All three providers offer customers 2G, 3G and 4G services on a GSM platform. Locals call their SIM cards “SIMs” or “chips”, and there are rules and regulations when purchasing them. Prepaid SIM cards must be purchased using a passport, and a registration form will have to be filled out. Your handset IMEI number (identifying number) will also be taken for their records. Prepaid SIM cards are valid for a maximum of 120 days. There is also censorship over certain websites and content, so we advise you to download a VPN onto your device before you set off on your travels.
Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what’s available during your visit to Turkey.
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Turkcell is the largest operator in Turkey. It offers good network coverage, and Internet speeds are fast. They provide customers with 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores only, and as highlighted above, there are rules and regulations when purchasing the SIM cards. Credit can be found in most stores across Turkey.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for TRY50 and come with different credit variations, depending on promotions available at the time of purchase. Dial *123# to check your balance. Credit can be purchased in blocks of TRY20 for voice, data or combo packs.
The standard data rate is charged at TRY1 per 100KB. The following packages can also be purchased:
|Time||Volume||Price||Activation to 2222|
|7 days||1GB||TRY12||HAFTALIK 1GB|
|30 days||500MB||TRY14||YENI 500MBINTERNET|
Once you have sent your activation text to 2222, the word “EVET” must be sent in a reply text to the activation request before it can be finalised.
Turkcell’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.turkcell.com.tr/english-support
Vodafone is the second-largest operator in Turkey and Turkcell’s main competitor. It offers good network coverage, and its Internet speeds are fast, although the signal can suffer in the countryside. Vodafone provides customers with 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores only, and as highlighted in our introduction, there are rules and regulations when purchasing them. Credit can be found in most stores across the country.
The “Vodafone Holiday” prepaid SIM card can be purchased for TRY70 and comes with TRY50 of credit. This SIM card is only valid for tourists for 120 days, and locals aren't able to purchase these plans. The best place to purchase these offers is at the Vodafone store located in the airport arrivals area when you clear baggage claim.
Credit can be purchased in varying amounts. Dial 7500 to add credit, enter the 12-digit number, then press #, followed by the 5-digit number, then press #. Dial *123# to check your balance.
The standard data rate is charged at TRY0.12 for 10KB. The following packages can also be added:
|Time||Volume||Price||Activation to 3636|
|24 hours||150MB||TRY2||GUNLUK 150|
|7 days||250MB||TRY5||ABONE H250MB|
|30 days||250MB||TRY12||ABONE DEVAM 250MB|
|500MB||TRY16||ABONE DEVAM 500MB|
|1GB||TRY22||ABONE DEVAM 1GB|
|2GB||TRY30||ABONE DEVAM 2GB|
To check your balance, send a text containing “SORGU” to 3636.
Vodafone’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.vodafone.com.tr
Turk Telecom is the smallest operator in Turkey but offers some great deals and prices. It provides customers with good network coverage, and its Internet speeds are fast. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores only, and as highlighted above, there are rules and regulations when purchasing the SIM cards. Credit can be found in most stores across Turkey.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for TRY50 and come with TRY20 credit. You must dial 8090 to activate the SIM card before packages can be added.
The standard data rate is charged at TRY0.2 per 10KB. The following packages can also be added:
|Validity||Volume||Price||Activation to 5555|
|30 days||100MB||TRY9||AYLIK 100MB|
|30 days||250MB||TRY12||AYLIK 250MB|
|30 days||500MB||TRY19||AYLIK 500MB|
|30 days||1GB||TRY19||AYLIK 1GB|
|30 days||2GB||TRY39||AYLIK 2GB|
|30 days||3GB||TRY45||AYLIK 3GB|
|30 days||5GB||TRY55||AYLIK 5GB|
|30 days||6GB||TRY59||AYLIK 6GB|
|30 days||7GB||TRY64||AYLIK 7GB|
Send an SMS to 5555 to activate. Once you receive a reply from 2438, then you must respond with “EVET” to confirm your choice before it’s activated.
The following data packages can also be added:
- 3 days:
- 1GB: TRY3 – 3GUN 1GB
- 2GB: TRY5 – 3GUN 2GB
- 7 days:
- 1GB: TRY5 – HAFTA 1GB
- 2GB: TRY8 – HAFTA 2GB
- 14 days:
- 1GB: TRY8 – 2HAFTA 1GB
- 2GB: TRY12 – 2HAFTA 2GB
- 4GB: TRY15 – 2HAFTA 4GB
Text activation code to 5555.
Turk Telecom’s APN: internet, and website: http://www.turktelekom.com.tr
- The official language is Turkish. If you don’t know the language, then consider downloading Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. However, English is also widely spoken.
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM” or “chip”.
- Ask the sellers to set up the SIM for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to get advice.
- Remember, it’s always better to get things done early, before the shops get too busy. That way you are more likely to receive better assistance and avoid the crowds!
While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through which SIM cards have been tried and tested in Turkey.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
“You can buy prepaid SIM cards... but your phone/pad must be unlocked (fairly easy to organise) and the phone needs to be registered in Turkey and tax paid otherwise once you start using it the SIM card gets locked and stops working.”
“I would suggest that you buy a cheap phone, get it unlocked (you can unlock cheap Nokias yourself). And buy a SIM4travel SIM card from the carphone warehouse store. You must activate this before you travel.”
“No registration required for 60 days. So if you are not going to stay in Turkey more than 60 days, you do not need to worry about that.”
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible international phone. To double check you have this phone, or whether it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in stores
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Tough rules and regulations makes buying a SIM card difficult
- Turkey’s coverage can suffer in the outer regions
Q: Is the signal really that bad in the countryside?
A: All networks will suffer in the countryside, no matter what provider you use. Turkish networks offer a relatively reliable service that is no worse than you would get on a home phone network there, so it makes sense to opt for a local SIM card because the rates are relatively cheap.
Q: What shall I do if I lose my phone?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling around the Middle East. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated. If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you don’t have any luck, then report it missing. Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let this one out of your sight.
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