All you need to know before moving to Turkey



Turkey has much to offer, except in the area of safety and security. Expats should know that the country has been a target of terrorism and political rebellion. Most recently, the country took a hit in July 2016 with suicide bombings at the airport and a violent attempt by the military to overthrow the government.

Populated since the Palaeolithic age, the country has been inhabited by some civilisations such as the Persians and Greeks. The country has a rich culture traced with Ottoman and Greco-Roman influences. Expats who are interested in working in such an exotic environment will find plenty of reasons to move to Turkey.

Lesser-known facts that will make you rethink Turkey

1. It is the only East-meets-West nation – literally

Turkey is the only nation that proudly straddles between two continents - Europe and Asia. One of its cities, Istanbul stands with one foot in Europe and the other in Oriental Asia.

Turkey is a Eurasian country, bordered by eight countries – Bulgaria, Greece, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq and Syria. As a result, Turkey is a massive blend of cultural diversity, with a wide range of nationalities living in the area.

2. Istanbul is not its capital

Ankara is. Istanbul, with a population of 12,697,164, is simply Turkey’s largest city. Most expats live and work in bustling Istanbul, leading to the common misconception in the community.

3. It has no official religion

Yes, this is despite the fact that 99% of the Turkish population are Muslims. Islam was the country’s religion but the provision was removed after constitution reforms between 1924-1937. At present, Turkey is a secular, democratic state. Other practised religions are predominantly Christianity and Judaism.

Best local bazaars

Bazaars are everywhere in Turkey but do a search online and you will see two names keep popping up: Spice Market and Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. There are many reasons why people go there – fascination with their history, the size and variety they offer, and of course, plenty of excellent souvenirs and Turkish delights. But, let’s face it, they are for tourists.

If you are an expat living in Turkey, you will probably want to go somewhere convenient where you can get your groceries and daily essentials. Below are some inside gems that locals frequent. Just remember they tend to open for business at dawn and close for the day in the early evenings. And, always bargain.

Bazaar Open Where What to buy
Çarşamba Wednesdays Kirmasti, Fatih Budget apparels, tablewares, and gadgets
Inebolu Sundays Toprak Tabya Sokak, Küçük Piyale Organic produce, staples, spices, nuts, and fresh flowers
Yeşilköy Wednesdays Yeşilköy Halkali Caddesi, Bakirköy Counterfeit branded goods, cosmetics, cafés, street food
Sahaflar Daily Çadircilar Caddesi, Beyazit Stationery, novels and other literature
Beşiktaş Saturdays Nüzhetiye Caddesi, Beşiktaş Fruits, vegetables, lingerie, accessories
Kadiköy Tuesdays and Fridays Hasanpaşa, Kadiköy Fruits, bed sheets, basic clothing

Rules of thumb on moving your belongings



Consider your options carefully as it may be more expensive to ship overseas than to buy household goods in Turkey. Every town in Turkey has shops that offer reasonably priced furniture or household goods.

"We drove ourselves with our animals from the island Cyprus by ferry and road and had a truck follow us with our goods. We had a very difficult time finding someone to help us, as we lived on the Greek side of Cyprus and the Greek truck drivers would not cross over to Turkey. The Turkish drivers were not allowed to come down to us in the Greek side. It was hell to sort out and cost us a complete fortune. Next time, looking back, we should have sold everything and just driven ourselves and bought all new stuff all over again."- Lulu Witt, Expat in Turkey

An international mover will usually take care of the logistics for you. If you are looking for one, you can browse your options and request for quotations here. Here are some things you should know if you are not engaging one:

1. Leave unnecessary electronics behind

Expats relocating to Turkey are restricted in importing machines or any telecommunications/satellite equipment. A banderole fee will be collected by customs when importing television (monochrome or coloured), radio, video, television satellite receivers, and all kinds of devices for broadcasting signals. Check the latest banderole fees as they are subject to change annually.

Remember that electrical goods will be dutiable if it is deemed too many for personal use, and if kept in original packaging. Only two pieces of the same type of electronic good can be imported.

2. Take note of the time windows

Overseas shipping and removals to Turkey must arrive within six months of arrival or from the date the passport has been stamped for entry.

Expats with a resident permit of minimum one year can import used household goods and personal effects with the condition that the items will be for personal use and owned for at least six months.

It will be brought through a system called "temporary import", where a deposit fee is charged at the customs. It will be refunded upon exit from the country.

If you are bringing your pet, make sure you read about the time frame for certifications and vaccinations.

3. Prepare the required paperwork

Documents needed for the goods to be cleared in customs are:

  • Passports
  • Resident visa or permit
  • Work permit (if applicable)
  • A detailed list of items being shipped with brand names and serial numbers for electrical appliances
  • A letter of guarantee from a Turkish employer, and
  • An authorisation letter for the removal company to clear all shipments

"Many things can be done online these days but often the system does not work properly and everything comes unstuck. As for work permits, it is not easy at all to get a work permit in Turkey although I have heard that they may be relaxing the laws slightly. It is still tricky and everything must be done by the book."- Lulu Witt, Expat in Turkey

Useful tips for expats

Turkey is a conservative country. While homosexuality is not illegal, it is often frowned upon by the society. Female expats should try to wear modest clothing, especially in mosques. Muslims are encouraged to stick to their traditional dress code. However, veils and theo-political outfits are forbidden by law.

During Ramadan, the selling and consumption of alcohol are discontinued. Expats should be sensitive towards local Muslims who are fasting.

The Turks are incredibly friendly, though they can come across as invasive sometimes. It is not wrong to have a healthy dose of vigilance initially as small crimes such as scams and pickpocketing are rampant. In the event of emergencies, here are the numbers to call.

Pick up some handy Turkish phrases and you will settle in just fine. Don’t forget to let your hair down and enjoy the Mediterranean delicacies while you are there!

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