Flying to Istanbul soon and arriving on the Asian side at SAW Airport? If so then this is your complete guide for buying a Turkey sim card on arrival at Istanbul SAW Airport. Find up to date prices as per November 2023, where to buy a prepaid sim card, the best e-sim cards for Turkey, info about the 4G/5G network in Turkey, a vlog with my experiences arriving at SAW airport, information about international sim cards for Turkey and many more tips.
If you didn't get a chance to buy a sim card at Istanbul SAW airport then don't worry, I wrote also a complete guide for buying a sim card for Turkey in 2023.
From my experience I can also already tell you that sim cards in Istanbul city center are much cheaper, but getting connected at the airport on arrival is just so convenient, not?
Getting an e-sim card or buying a prepaid sim card is the first thing I do when I get to a new country. Getting connected instantly makes traveling to Istanbul so much more convenient. Because I am also trying to visit every country in the world you can already find more than 200 prepaid sim card guides on Traveltomtom from all around the world: Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Medina, Jeddah, Europe, London, United Kingdom, Madrid, Barcelona, Portugal, Austria, Georgia, Egypt, Jordan, Oman and many more.
So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid sim card and e-sim card advice for your destination. Bookmark me!
Istanbul is full of amazing places to visit! If you like going off the beaten path a little I can recommend you a walking tour in Fener Balat with its many colorful houses in a vibrant neighborhood or visiting Uskudar, a charming neighborhood with many cool things to do. Click here for some other unique things to do in Istanbul or if you are interested I can recommend you this complete 3-day Istanbul itinerary.
In general Traveltomtom recommends a Turkcell sim card for Turkey. However, prices at SAW Airport in Istanbul are pretty ridiculous nowadays. Tourist sim cards got really expensive and the cheapest sim card for tourists you can buy at Istanbul SAW Airport is 930 TL which is $37 USD and you get 25 GB data.
Therefore Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for Turkey on the internet. Simply because it is easier and cheaper. E-sim cards for Turkey already start from just $4.5 USD and for $26 USD you get 20 GB data. See below for the best e-sim cards for traveling in Turkey.
We also recommend looking into buying an international prepaid sim card that covers Turkey. Check out my comparison of the best travel sim cards for 2023. There are some great deals for Turkey. However, the easiest way to stay connected when traveling abroad in 2023 is an e-sim card.
Best e-sim cards for Turkey
If you want to make it really easy for yourself then order an e-sim card for traveling to Istanbul. E-sim cards are by far the easiest way to stay connected as you arrange everything directly online and within just a couple minutes. After you order you will receive a QR code, follow the instructions and you are connected in less than 2 minutes.
Would you like to get more info about using e-sim cards when traveling to Turkey then read my complete guide including a detailed comparison in the link.
Check out the following Turkey e-sim cards deals from Airalo, a very reliable e-sim provider:
- 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 via Airalo.
The above Merhaba e-sim cards are data-only and are only valid in Turkey. They operate on the 4G/LTE network of Turk Telekom in Turkey.
SimOptions is a different e-sim card provider. The following Turkey e-sim cards are also data-only meaning calling and texting is not supported:
- 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 an e-sim cards for Turkey via SimOptions.
Before ordering an e-sim card for Turkey make sure your phone is e-sim compatible. With an e-sim card you keep your own phone number from home.
For much more detailed info check out my comparison of the best e-sim cards for traveling to Turkey in 2023.
Istanbul SAW Airport
Istanbul has two international airports, one on the Europe side (IST) and one on the Asia side (SAW). So check carefully where you will fly to. Both airports are about an hour away from the city center. Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW) is the smaller airport and is very easy to navigate when you arrive. Istanbul SAW airport has only one arrival hall.
Where to buy a sim card at Istanbul SAW Airport
There are two exits from the luggage belt, but whatever exit you take, as soon as you walk into the arrival hall you can’t miss the Turkey mobile internet operator shops. Vodafone, Turkcell and Turk Telecom are located just a few meters from each other, see the picture below.
Turkey sim cards and traveling in Europe
Although a part of Istanbul and Turkey is located in Europe, Turkey sim cards do NOT allow international roaming in other countries in Europe. If you are traveling onwards to Europe you might want to order an international sim card for traveling in Turkey AND Europe.
Prices Turkey sim cards Istanbul SAW Airport in 2023
Prices and info below are up to date as per November 2023. The Turkish Lira fluctuates a lot and therefore most phone stores display their Turkey tourist sim cards in USD as well. As of November 2023: $1 USD = 28.7 TL and 100 TL = $3.5 USD.
Turkcell Istanbul SAW Airport
At the Turkcell sim card shop they offer a wide array of prepaid sim cards for Turkey. Turkcell claims to have the best Turkey 4G/5G mobile internet network, which is actually true. They offer prepaid tourist sim cards with calling minutes and as well as data only packages.
There are 7 data packages available, see the price sheet above. These are the best Turkcell Turkey prepaid sim card for tourists at SAW airport:
- 20 GB data + 200 minutes = 970 TL
- 50 GB data = 1,150 TL
Turkell has a lot of options to choose from. All prepaid sim card plans are valid for 30 days for use in Turkey only.
Turk Telekom Istanbul SAW Airport
There are only 3 Turk Telekom prepaid sim cards for sale at Istanbul SAW airport. These are the available options:
- 25 GB data + 750 minutes + 750 sms = 930 TL
- 50 GB data + 750 minutes + 750 sms = 1,010 TL
- 70 GB data + 750 minutes + 750 sms = 1,165 TL
- 100 GB data + 750 minutes + 750 sms = 1,355 TL
All prepaid tourist sim card plans are valid for 30 days in Turkey only. Don't get fooled by the social media icons, only unlimited WhatsApp is included in a Turk Telekom prepaid sim card for tourists.
Vodafone Istanbul SAW Airport
They sell 4 different Vodafone Turkey prepaid sim cards at Istanbul SAW Airport:
- 25 GB data + 750 minutes + 1,00 sms = 970 TL
- 50 GB data + 750 minutes + 1,000 sms = 1,070 TL
- 70 GB data + 750 minutes + 1,000 sms = 1,170 TL
- 100 GB data + 750 minutes + 1,000 sms = 1,270 TL
As you can see Vodafone pretty much offers the same prepaid sim card plans for tourists as Turk Telekom. All prepaid tourist sim card plans are valid for 30 days in Turkey only. Don't get fooled by the social media icons, only unlimited WhatsApp is included in a Vodafone prepaid sim card for tourists.
Best prepaid Turkey sim card at SAW Airport
Most of the Turkey prepaid sim card plans for tourists at Istanbul SAW airport are pretty much identical. The least value for money is given by Turkcell, they however, have the best 4G/5G network in Turkey. Turk Telekom has the cheapest tourist sim card plan at SAW Airport and for 930 TL ($38 USD) you get 25 GB data.
Therefore Turk Telecom is the best Turkey prepaid sim card at Istanbul SAW airport in 2023. But Traveltomtom still does not recommend a Turk Telekom sim card. Why? Because an e-sim card for Turkey gives you 20 GB data for just $26 USD. Much cheaper!
Considering that every bar, restaurant and hotel has free WiFi as well 20 GB data is probably more than enough data for your Turkey trip. And great thing about e-sim cards is that you can also just buy a Turkey e-sim plan with just 1 GB data for $4.5 USD.
For more info about the best e-sim cards for Turkey and the best 4G/5G network in Turkey check out my guide for buying a prepaid sim card for tourists inTurkey in 2023, including 4G/5G network coverage maps.
But an easier way to get connected when traveling to Turkey is an e-sim card. Read Traveltomtom's complete guide for finding the best e-sim card for traveling in Turkey in 2023, including a comparison of all e-sims and an answer on all FAQ.
If you want to watch a vlog about my arrival at SAW Airport in Istanbul and buying a sim card then have a look below.
Order a prepaid sim card for Turkey online
If you want to be online as soon as the plane lands and your phone is not e-sim compatible then order an international prepaid sim card on the internet. These physical prepaid travel sim cards will be shipped to your home address and are pre-activated for you. Which means it is plug and play.
Check out the following international sim card for Turkey that you can order via SimOptions:
- 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 on the internet and keep your own phone number at the same time, no more swapping sim cards. Arrange everything directly online.
How to get from SAW Airport to Istanbul city
Buying a sim card at SAW Airport is pretty well organized and so is the public transportation from SAW Airport to Istanbul city center. When you exit SAW Airport you cross the road and go straight. On your right hand side you will see Havabus busses that have a couple fixed destinations around Istanbul center.
The bus to for example Taksim Square cost 80 TL, a little more than $3 USD per person one-way. The drive takes around 1 to 1.5 hours depending on traffic. Taking a normal yellow taxi (meter) will cost you about 700 TL which is around $25 USD. An Uber or a BiTaxi is about the same price.
I hope all the above tips for buying a Turkey sim card at Istanbul SAW airport were helpful. If you have any additional questions please leave me a comment below. Also for Istanbul travel tips I am more than happy to help you out.
If you are interested what it looks like traveling to every country in the world then check out my Instagram profile @traveltomtom for some serious wanderlust. As of November 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries around the world.
Enjoy your trip to Istanbul!
Some links in this article about buying a sim card for traveling to Istanbul are affiliate links. If you buy any of the products after using an affiliate link I will earn a small commission. This is at absolutely no extra cost to you.