Traveling to Turkey soon? Don't waste money on high roaming costs or slow overseas data roaming plans. Getting a local prepaid sim card in Turkey or an e-sim card for Turkey is easy. This is a complete guide for the best ways to stay connected when traveling to Turkey. Find out where to buy a sim card, best 4G/5G network in Turkey in 2023, up to date prices as per May 2023, the best e-sim cards for Turkey, info about international sim cards, my recommendation and even a vlog about my experiences buying a prepaid sim card in Turkey.
When arriving in a new country I immediately look for the best ways to get connected and since I am on a journey to travel to every country in the world I get to a lot of different countries constantly. Local prepaid sim cards are ideal travel gadgets for those who use a lot of data, but e-sim cards are the easiest way to get connected in 2023.
Providing travelers with valuable travel tips is a passion and that resulted in writing already more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world. On my website you can find sim card guides from: USA, Europe, Germany, United Kingdom, Asia, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, Jordan, South Africa, Dubai, Qatar, Thailand, Bangkok, Indonesia, Bali, Malaysia, Kenya and many more.
Are you flying into Istanbul and want to buy a Turkey sim card straight away at the airport then I have the perfect guide for you for both airports: SAW and IST.
RELATED: Ultimate Turkey Itinerary for 14 days! Rent a car and explore this beautiful country.
Traveling to Turkey and in need of inspiration? Find here a list of the best places to visit in Turkey in 2023. What about the Switzerland of Turkey or Maldives-like beaches? Hidden Monasteries and well preserved UNESCO heritage sites? Click on the link to find them all around the country.
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Why buying a sim card for Turkey
All hotels and most restaurants and bars in Turkey have pretty good and reliable WiFi, so why getting a sim card for Turkey? A very easy question to answer! It simply makes traveling in Turkey so much easier. Like in general, having a data connection on your phone makes life much more convenient. Think about ordering a taxi from an app, or getting directions from Google Maps, finding nearby restaurants with good reviews or what about emergencies?
Getting a local sim card in Turkey is easy, fast and relatively cheap compared to Western countries. A Turkey sim card guarantees you a much more relaxing trip to Turkey.
Also don't rely on WiFi, because there is no guarantee! May be the signal in your hotel room is weak or the WiFi is so slow it hardly works. On top of that be aware that public WiFi's are UNSECURED networks, using a VPN is therefore recommended.
Not a fan of swapping sim cards and changing phone numbers? Then you should look into getting a portable WiFi device. How they work? Personally I am not a fan, but I will give you my HONEST opinion and tell you everything about it in my article: how to get WiFi on the road!
Traveltomtom recommends a Turkcell sim card for traveling in Turkey. They have the strongest 4G network and fastest data speed and for $13 you get 20 GB data.
If you just need a little bit of internet on your phone when traveling to Turkey then look into buying an e-sim card as 1 GB data already starts from $4.5 USD. But it also is a very convenient way to get a lot of data on your phone in just 2 minutes.
Traveltomtom also recommends global travel sim cards. Check out my comparison of the best international sim cards in 2023, we compared and reviewed them one by one and came to the conclusion that some of them are actually great sim card deals for traveling to Turkey.
Make sure your phone is unlocked before buying a prepaid sim card in Turkey, getting an international sim card or an e-sim card. If your phone is locked none of these options to stay connected will work. If you are unsure if your phone is locked or unlocked then contact your mobile provider in your home country before your trip to Turkey.
Best e-sim cards for Turkey
The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Turkey is an e-sim card. No more visiting a phone store and swapping sim cards. An e-sim card for Turkey is the solution! Order online, receive a QR code, scan it, follow the steps and voila you are connected within just a couple minutes.
Check out the following Turkey e-sim cards deals and order direct online:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $4.5 USD
- 2 GB data for 15 days = $6.5 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $8 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $12 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $18 USD
- 20 GB data for 30 days = $26 USD
Click here to order a Turkey e-sim card directly online.
The above Merhaba e-sim cards are data-only and are only valid in Turkey. They operate on the network of Turk Telekom in Turkey.
Another website offers other e-sim cards plans for Turkey:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $7.90 USD
- 5 GB data for 10 days = $17.90 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $29.90 USD
- 20 GB data for 30 days = $49.90 USD
Click here to order one of the above e-sim cards for traveling to Turkey directly online.
Make sure your phone is e-sim card compatible before getting an e-sim card for Turkey. With an e-sim card you keep your own phone number from home.
Where to buy a tourist sim card for Turkey
There are three mobile internet providers in Turkey and when you look at the prices for data plans in Turkey they are not as cheap as you may expect. In a country where you can have a sandwich, a tea and a bottle of water for less than $3 USD, you would expect competitive prices for Turkey sim cards. Unfortunately buying a Turkey sim card for tourists is relatively expensive compared it to its neighboring countries: Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia.
International Airports on arrival
The most convenient place to buy a Turkey prepaid sim card is of course on arrival at any of the international airports. Most people will start their trip to Turkey in either IST Airport or SAW Airport in Istanbul. For both airports I wrote a specific guide for buying a Turkey prepaid sim card on arrival:
Luckily all the other international airports like Antalya, Ankara, Izmir, Bodrum, Trabzon and Kayseri all have sim card stores from the main mobile internet providers in the arrival hall. So buying a tourist sim card in Turkey is easy.
However, expect tourist prices for tourist sim cards on arrival at the international airports in Turkey. The cheaper sim card deals for Turkey you find in the city center.
Phone stores in city center
If you want the best prepaid sim card deals and data plans then you have to buy your Turkey sim card away from the airport. Go where the locals go and get local prices. However, even here tourists pay a higher price for their prepaid sim card. There are plenty official retail stores around the city from one of the mobile internet operators. Locate them simply though Google Maps. Walk in with your passport and you can buy a sim card for tourists without a problem.
Traveltomtom recommends an official retail store of one of the mobile internet providers over a random phone store. At these stores they also sell prepaid sim cards for Turkey but at different prices. Always put your new registered sim card in your phone and wait till everything is working before you walk out of the store.
As already showed you above there are multiple ways to stay connected when traveling to Turkey and one of them is ordering a sim card for Turkey through the internet. If you buy an international sim card for Turkey it will be shipped to your home address before your trip and if you order an e-sim card for Turkey you arrange everything online within just a couple minutes.
If you travel to Turkey on a budget then sightseeing in Istanbul can be a lot cheaper than buying a sim cards for tourists. Check here for a free walking tour of Fener Balat and marvel at this hip up and coming neighborhood with its colorful houses.
Done with the standard things to do in Istanbul? Check this list of hidden gems in Istanbul and go off the beaten path. Other great recommendations in Istanbul are: Turkey's biggest mosque, Uskudar, Kadikoy, all in the Asian part of the city.
Mobile internet providers in Turkey
There are three different mobile internet providers in Turkey: Vodafone, Turkcell and Turk Telekom. They have stores all over Istanbul, Ankara Izmir, Bodrum, Bursa, Antalya, Trabzon, Kayseri and all the other popular tourist destinations in Turkey. You can also find them on most international and domestic airports. Finding a shop to buy a Turkey prepaid sim card is not that hard.
I recommend tourists to visit one of the official internet provider stores of either Vodafone, Turk Telekom or Turkcell. These are the ones you can trust, they should have the best deals and they activate your new Turkey sim card on the spot for you. Others phone shops are just resellers, if something goes wrong they send you to the official stores.
As a tourist or a non-resident you can only buy a visitor line sim card for tourists in Turkey. Meaning your sim card will be registered on your passport number and name. So always bring your passport when buying a sim card in Turkey. In the store they will take a copy of your passport.
As of 2023 a tourists can use a prepaid sim card and their imported mobile phone for a maximum of 3 months before it will be blocked. After 90 days you will have to pay an import tax based on the value of your phone.
If this is somehow inconvenient to you or you are looking for a way around it then buy an international sim card for Turkey or even easier: order an e-sim card for Turkey.
Prices Turkey sim cards in 2023
All the below information and prices are updated as per May 2023. The Turkish Lira fluctuates a lot and therefore most phone stores display their Turkey tourist sim cards in USD. As of May 2023: $1 USD = 19.5 TL and 100 TL = $5.15 USD.
Vodafone Turkey prepaid sim card for tourists
On my last visit in Turkey in May 2023 I checked out several Vodafone Turkey stores and all of them sell the exact same prepaid sim card for tourists:
- 20 GB data + 750 minutes + 1,000 sms = $40 USD
This Vodafone prepaid sim card is valid for 28 days and only for use in Turkey, not in the rest of the EU!
This Vodafone Turkey tourist sim card is also advertised on the Vodafone Turkey and it literally says: prices may vary from store to store. Yes, that is very true. Some official Vodafone stores in Istanbul tried charging me $50 USD.
Turk Telekom prepaid sim card
They claim to be cheapest prepaid sim card in Turkey and well according to the above prices that would be true. However, for Turk Telekom also counts that the prices they advertise with are NOT the real prices that you can find in the Turk Telekom stores around Turkey. They are now literally double as expensive!
- 25 GB data + 750 minutes + 750 sms + 5 GB social media valid for 28 days = 170 TL - $9 USD
- 50 GB data + 1,500 minutes + 1,000 sms + 5 GB social media valid for 28 days = 330 TL - $17.5 USD
- 75 GB data + 750 minutes + 750 sms + 5 GB social media valid for 15 days = 330 TL - $17.5 USD
A Turk Telekom prepaid sim card is valid for 28 days and only in Turkey. For more info check the Turk Telekom website.
Turkcell prepaid sim card
Don't be fooled by the above price of 169 TL for the following prepaid sim card plan for tourists:
- 20 GB data + 200 minutes + Free WhatsApp valid for 1 month
Turkcell adapted their prices for 2023 and took off their prices from their website because of the inflation of the Turkish Lira, just like Vodafone. They still sell the exact same tourist sim card but they raised the price now to 320 TL which is $17 USD.
For more info about this Turkey prepaid sim card check out the Turkcell website.
Check how much Turkcell credit you have left? Dial *123#
Turkey 4G/5G network in 2023
Turkey is a huge country and all those millions of Turkish people love mobile internet. For them it is much cheaper to stay connected than for tourists. Therefore the Turkey tourist sim card business is booming. Despite all those millions of users as of May 2023 there is still no 5G in Turkey.
The first 5G towers are recently constructed in Istanbul city center and at the IST Airport, but that is about it.
If you go off the beaten path in Turkey, 4G coverage can become rare. The country is simply too big. However, as you can see from the below Turkey 4G/5G mobile internet coverage maps all of the most beautiful places in Turkey are covered with a 4G signal.
Turk Telekom 4G/5G coverage map
Vodafone Turkey 4G/5G coverage map
Turkcell 4G/5G coverage map
Based on the 4G/5G coverage maps Turkcell has the best 4G network in Turkey in 2023. If you travel to the more remote areas in Turkey then Turkcell is the best Turkey sim card for you. You can also expect the fastest data speed in Turkey from Turkcell. Turk Telecom and Vodafone have a weaker network, but if you only stay in one of the famous Turkey tourist destinations then Turk Telecom and Vodafone will be just as good.
Looking for amazing hotels in Istanbul? Check out my best hotels in Besiktas on the Bosporus blog.
Mobile internet data speed in Turkey
With a respective 63th place on the world data speed ranking in 2022, Turkish mobile internet speed can be expected around 21.4 Mbps on average according to Wikipedia.
Best sim card for Turkey in 2023
My conclusion after my comparison of the Turkey prepaid sim cards for tourists is that prices fluctuate a lot these days and that is all due to the massive inflation of the Turkish Lira. The prepaid sim card plans you find online on the websites of the mobile internet operators are outdate or they won't show you any prices anymore.
For me it was a shocking surprise when I got to the official retail stores and saw the prices. When I asked the staff about the tourist sim card plans that are advertised online they said they were not able to offer them anymore for the price shown. Basically I felt like they made their own prices and they indeed differ per store.
It seems like Turkey sim card prices for tourists are going up with the years as where the prices for e-sim cards for Turkey are going down a lot. If you only need a little bit of internet to navigate around, check email and use WhatApp then Traveltomtom definitely recommends an e-sim card over a local prepaid sim card. For just $4.5 USD you already get 1 GB data for Turkey. Local prepaid sim cards start from $17 USD.
If you are a heavy data user then a local prepaid sim card is still cheaper. An e-sim card for Turkey with 20 GB data costs $26 USD and a Turkcell prepaid tourist sim card with 20 GB data costs $17 USD.
Also keep in mind that e-sim cards for Turkey are data-only and phone calls are NOT supported.
Based on the Turkey tourist sim card plans and the 4G/5G network coverage Traveltomtom ranks Turkcell is the best prepaid sim card for Turkey in 2023.
Below you can watch a vlog about all my experiences buying a sim card in Turkey.
Order a sim card for Turkey online
If you want to be online as soon as the plane lands then order an international sim card online and avoid all the hassle of buying a sim card in Turkey. The above international sim cards are valid in more than 70 contries around the world, including Turkey. They will be shipped to your home address before your trip.
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Click here to directly order an international sim card for Turkey online.
Here also another reminder that you can also order an e-sim card for Turkey and get connected within just a couple minutes and keep your own number from home. You arrange everything online and there is no need for swapping a physical sim card anymore.
RELATED: Ultimate Turkey Itinerary for 14 days, including all the best places to visit! Check it out and don't miss any of these Turkey top sights.
What to do in Istanbul? There is so much more than visiting the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Taksim. Click on the photos below to read see where to find the best viewpoint in Istanbul: Buyuk Valide Han will blow your mind! Or read about the best day trips from Istanbul and see what it looks like to climb the minaret of the amazing Edirne Mosque and dont forget to explore the colored houses in Istanbul.
Looking for a place to stay in Istanbul? I have now visited Istanbul about 15 times and my favorite areas are: Galata Tower/Beyoglu or Besiktas. Check here for a complete guide about where to stay in Istanbul.
May you have any further question please do not hesitate to leave me a comment below or check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom if you are in need of some serious travel inspiration or follow up on my road to visit every country in the world. As of May 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries, so many more to go still.
Enjoy your trip to Turkey!