If you’re visiting Turkey then you’re undoubtedly going to need a sim card. Having access to the internet when you’re travelling makes navigating new cities easy. You can find the best restaurants, directions to your accommodation, book a taxi and send photos back to your family – all whilst on the go.
Roaming is always an option, but the fees quickly add up when travelling internationally, so we always recommend either an eSIM or a local sim card to get access to local phone rates. Fortunately, getting either an eSim or local sim card in Turkey is super easy, but it helps to know which one is best!
We were recently in Turkey and were shocked to find the prices of sim cards to be amongst the highest we’d seen in any country we’ve visited. We quickly realised the stores in Istanbul are indirectly colluding to fix the price of tourist sim cards in Turkey high. Lovely.
This guide is designed to tell you everything you need to know about buying a sim card in Turkey, including up to date pricing and the absolute best sim card for you to buy.
Best Sim Card in Turkey for Tourists
The best sim card in Turkey is actually to not get one in Turkey at all. We visited all the different sim card providers in Turkey, we even visited numerous stores for each provider, and came to the conclusion that the prices are essentially fixed and they’re all ripping tourists off..
For this reason we recommend that anyone with an eSim compatible phone purchases an Airalo eSim here before arriving in Turkey or on arrival. Why? Well, Turkey is one of those unique countries where it’s actually significantly cheaper to buy an eSim than it is to buy a local sim card.
And it’s not just cheaper, it’s also way more convenient. The process of getting a local sim card in Turkey can be elaborate, requiring navigating the traffic to the nearest store and then waiting while they register your passport and set up your sim card – usually around half an hour. Your eSim can be up and running in minutes from the airport wifi or your hotel room.
We have an entire section later in this guide dedicated to eSims in case you need more information.
What about people without eSim compatible phones?
Most phones produced these days are compatible with eSims (including all iPhones produced since 2018). But some aren’t. If you’re not yet one of the lucky people with an eSim compatible phone then your only option is to purchase a local sim card.
The good news is you can use any of the three sim card providers in Turkey: Vodafone, Turk Telekom and Turkcell. Though we’d give the edge to Turkcell if you get to choose.
Unless you are a Turkish citizen, you will not get to choose your sim card. You will have to purchase their tourist sim which will be registered with your passport.
Turkey Sim Card Prices
A Tourist Sim Card in Turkey costs around $30 USD, or 28 EUR, but they can easily cost as much as 40 USD, or 37 EUR, depending on the store you visit. A Turkey eSim will cost between $4.50 USD and $26 USD depending on how much data you require, but for most travellers the $12 USD eSim is perfect.
As you can see, sim card prices in Turkey are extortionate. We enquired at the airport, as well as Turkcell, Vodafone and Turk Telekom stores all around Istanbul and received similar prices from each store. An Airalo is undoubtedly your best option right now and we highly recommend this option.
Note on Currencies: Turkey has extremely high inflation which causes all the prices you see online to be out of date within a matter of weeks. Even though we just visited recently, the price in Turkish Lira has likely already changed so it is more useful for us to provide the price in USD or EUR, even though you will need to pay in Turkish Lira once you arrive in Turkey.
Turkish Sim Card Providers
Turkey has several prominent SIM card providers that offer reliable services and extensive coverage.
Turkcell, as the largest mobile network operator, provides a wide range of prepaid and postpaid plans with flexible options for data and calling.
Vodafone Turkey is known for its strong network infrastructure and appealing package deals, including affordable international calling rates.
Türk Telekom, the national telecommunications company, offers reliable service and diverse plan choices.
Other notable providers include Avea, which provides competitive rates and package options, as well as MVNOs like Turk Telekom Mobile and PTTCell.
With these providers, customers in Turkey have a variety of options to choose from based on their preferences and needs.
Turkcell Tourist Sim
Turkcell provides excellent tourist SIM cards in Turkey, ensuring seamless connectivity during your visit. With wide coverage and fast internet speeds, you can navigate, communicate, and share your experiences effortlessly.
Turkcell offers flexible data plans to suit your requirements, allowing you to stay connected throughout your journey.
You’ll experience reliable and convenient communication with Turkcell’s tourist SIM cards.
Turkcell Turkey Tourist Sim Price
The price of a Turkcell tourist sim card in Turkey varies between $30 and $40 USD, or 28 and 37 EUR. It is not possible for a non-Turkish resident to purchase any other sim plan from here.
The plan offered by all Turkcell stores includes 20 GB data + 200 minutes + Free WhatsApp valid for 1 month.
Vodafone Turkey Tourist Sim
Vodafone offers exceptional tourist SIM cards in Turkey. With extensive coverage and high-speed internet, you stay connected throughout your journey.
Enjoy affordable data plans tailored to suit your needs, allowing you to browse, share, and explore hassle-free. Plus, Vodafone’s reliable network ensures uninterrupted communication, making it the ideal choice for tourists.
Stay connected and make the most of your Turkish adventure with Vodafone tourist SIM cards.
Vodafone Turkey Tourist Sim Price
The price of a Vodafone tourist sim card in Turkey varies between $30 and $40 USD, or 28 and 37 EUR. It is not possible for a non-Turkish resident to purchase any other sim plan from here.
The plan offered by all Vodafone stores includes 20 GB data + 750 minutes + 1,000 sms + unlimited whatsapp valid for 28 days.
Turk Telecom Tourist Sim
Turk Telekom offers reliable tourist SIM cards in Turkey, ensuring uninterrupted communication while you explore the country.
With extensive coverage and high-speed internet, you can stay connected, browse, and share your experiences effortlessly.
Turk Telekom’s flexible data plans cater to your needs, providing a seamless connectivity experience for tourists. Enjoy a hassle-free stay with Turk Telekom tourist SIM cards.
Turk Telekom Tourist Sim Price
The price of a Turk Telekom tourist sim card in Turkey varies between $30 and $40 USD, or 28 and 37 EUR. It is not possible for a non-Turkish resident to purchase any other sim plan from here.
The plan offered by all Turk Telecom stores includes 25 GB data + 750 minutes + 750 sms + 5 GB social media valid for 28 days.
How to Get a Sim Card in Turkey
Although we recommend purchasing an eSim, if you need to buy a local, prepaid sim card in Turkey here are the steps to follow:
- Identify mobile providers: Turkcell, Vodafone, and Turk Telekom are your only options in Turkey.
- Find a store: Locate a store or retailer by searching on Google Maps for your nearest store or asking at your hotel reception. They can be found in major cities, shopping centers, or tourist areas.
- Bring necessary documents: Carry your passport or identification documents for registration purposes. We’ve provided additional details on this below.
- Choose a plan: Consult with the staff in your store to select the right plan for you. In Turkey they will only be able to offer you their tourist sim package.
- Pay and activate: Pay for the SIM card and plan, and the staff will activate it for you.
- Test: Check you can access the internet before you leave the store.
When visiting Turkey as a tourist or non-resident, it’s important to note that you can only obtain a travel sim card specifically designed for tourists. These SIM cards are registered under your passport number and name, so don’t forget to bring your passport when purchasing one. The store will make a copy of your passport for registration purposes, ensuring compliance with the regulations.
As of 2023, there is a maximum usage period of 3 months for prepaid SIM cards and imported mobile phones before they may be blocked. If you exceed this timeframe, you will be required to pay an import tax based on the value of your phone. It’s essential to keep this in mind to avoid any inconveniences during your stay.
If you find these regulations inconvenient or are looking for a workaround, there are alternative options available. You can consider purchasing an international SIM card specifically designed for use in Turkey. Another convenient solution is to order an eSIM card for Turkey, which eliminates the need for a physical SIM card and provides seamless connectivity.
Where to Get a Sim Card in Turkey
When it comes to purchasing a Turkey prepaid SIM card, you have various options available. You can buy one in person at international airports, mobile provider stores, convenience stores, or online. However, it’s important to note that buying a SIM card at the airport can be pricey and may offer limited data options, so it’s generally not recommended.
While SIM card shops may not be available at every airport, it’s advisable to consider alternative options. Opting to buy a SIM card directly from a mobile provider store is often a better choice. Keep in mind that you may need to present your passport during the purchase process.
It’s worth noting that buying a SIM card from a provider store means you may not have immediate data upon arrival. If you prefer constant connectivity, you can explore using an eSIM or purchasing a European prepaid SIM card online. Many Europe SIM cards also offer coverage in Turkey.
At the Airport
The most convenient option for purchasing a prepaid SIM card in Turkey is undoubtedly upon arrival at any of the international airports.
IST Airport and SAW Airport in Istanbul are the common entry points for most travelers visiting Turkey. The good news is that sim card stores from major mobile internet providers can be found in the arrival halls of other international airports as well, including Antalya, Ankara, Izmir, Bodrum, Trabzon, and Kayseri.
This ensures easy accessibility to tourist SIM cards at Turkish airports throughout the country.
However, it’s important to note that purchasing a SIM card at the international airports in Turkey typically comes with higher prices geared towards tourists.
For more affordable SIM card deals, it is advisable to explore options in the city center, away from the airport premises. By venturing into the city, you can often find better deals on SIM cards specifically tailored for tourists visiting Turkey.
For the best prepaid SIM card deals and data plans in Turkey, it is advisable to purchase your SIM card away from the airport. Seek out locations frequented by locals to obtain better prices. However, even in these places, tourists may still encounter higher prices for their prepaid SIM cards.
Fortunately, there are numerous official retail stores of mobile internet operators scattered throughout the city. You can easily locate them using Google Maps. Simply visit one of these stores, present your passport, and purchase a tourist SIM card without any issues.
We recommend opting for an official retail store of a mobile internet provider rather than a random phone store. These stores offer prepaid SIM cards for Turkey at varying prices. It’s important to insert your newly registered SIM card into your phone and ensure everything is functioning properly before leaving the store. However, fitting all this into your busy Turkey itinerary can be a pain, hence the online option below!
If you like to be prepared and would prefer to arrive in Turkey with your sim card all sorted and your phone ready to connect to the internet immediately then you should look into purchasing a sim card online.
The first option is to buy your sim card in advance via SimOptions, which is a company that will prepare and ship a sim card directly to your door. It’s a reliable and effective service, but with the invention of eSims it’s becoming obsolete.
The better option is to purchase an eSim online. We’ve written more on that below!
An eSim is a digital version of a traditional sim card and is most likely the future of connectivity for mobile devices. The convenience of no longer visiting a store, handing over your passport and purchasing a physical sim card is quickly making physical sim cards obsolete in favour of eSims.
We recommend Airalo’s eSim when travelling to Turkey. The Airalo Turkey eSim offers fast internet speeds, wide coverage and extremely competitive prices making it a far more compelling option than purchasing a physical sim card from any of the local sim card providers.
In order to get set up with an Airalo eSim, all you need to do is visit Airalo here and purchase the eSim online (the $12 USD plan is suitable for most travellers). Once you’ve purchased the sim card Airalo will email you instructions and a QR code. Following these instructions should take just a couple of minutes, then you’ll have a sim card in Turkey without having to venture outside.
eSim Providers in Turkey
None of the local networks currently offer eSims in Turkey, however, Airalo and Holafly are market leaders globally when it comes to eSims. We’ve used both numerous times around the world, including in Turkey, and can genuinely recommend them both.
Our preferred eSim provider in Turkey is Airalo. We used them, alongside a local sim card on another device, for our most recent trip to Turkey and found the service to be equal to the local sim card but without the hassle of acquiring a sim card in a store.
Airalo’s Turkey eSim uses the Turk Telekom network to provide data and connect users to the internet. Turk Telekom’s network has very wide coverage and reliability as the second best mobile network provider in the country.
Here are the plans and prices for Airalo’s Turkey eSim:
1GB data valid for 7 days – Price: $4.50 USD
2GB data valid for 15 days – Price: $6.50 USD
3GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $8 USD
5GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $12 USD
10GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $18 USD
20GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $26 USD
For most travellers we recommend the 5GB data plan for $12 USD which is valid for 30 days. Some travellers may prefer a larger plan, whilst travellers visiting for just a couple of days may be fine with a smaller plan.
An alternative eSim provider we can recommend is Holafly.
Holafly’s eSim is a suitable option for travellers who require large amounts of data, such as digital nomads and people who work online while they travel. All of Holafly’s Turkey eSims offer unlimited data.
Holafly’s Turkey eSim uses the Avea / Fital networks to provide data and connect users to the internet. These providers are two of the smaller companies, however, they should still offer similar connectivity and download speeds.
Here are the plans and prices for Holafly’s Turkey eSim:
Unlimited data valid for 5 days – Price: $19 USD
Unlimited data valid for 7 days – Price: $27 USD
Unlimited data valid for 10 days – Price: $34 USD
Unlimited data valid for 15 days – Price: $47 USD
Unlimited data valid for 20 days – Price: $54 USD
Unlimited data valid for 30 days – Price: $64 USD
Unlimited data valid for 60 days – Price: $84 USD
As you can see these plans are a lot more expensive than Airalo, so unless you require unlimited data we recommend Airalo over Holafly.
What is an eSim?
An eSIM, short for embedded SIM, is a digital SIM card that is built into a device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch. Unlike traditional physical SIM cards, an eSIM does not require a physical card to be inserted or removed from the device.
Instead, the eSIM is integrated into the device’s hardware and can be activated and programmed remotely by a mobile network operator. This allows users to switch between different mobile networks or plans without needing to physically swap SIM cards.
eSIM technology provides convenience, flexibility, and ease of use, especially for travelers or individuals who frequently switch between different mobile networks or travel internationally. It eliminates the need to purchase and insert physical SIM cards, making it more convenient for managing multiple mobile connections on a single device.
To activate an eSIM, users need to scan a QR code provided by their mobile network operator or manually enter the activation details. Once activated, the device can connect to the chosen mobile network and enjoy voice, data, and messaging services as with a traditional SIM card.
Why Use an eSim?
There are several reasons why using an eSIM can be beneficial:
Convenience: With an eSIM, you don’t need to physically insert or remove a SIM card when switching between mobile networks or plans. This convenience is particularly useful for frequent travelers who may need to switch networks or use local SIM cards in different countries.
Dual SIM functionality: eSIM allows you to have dual SIM functionality on your device, meaning you can have two active mobile numbers on the same device. This can be useful for separating personal and work numbers or for managing multiple phone lines.
Space-saving: As eSIMs are embedded within the device, it eliminates the need for a physical SIM card slot. This frees up space within the device, allowing manufacturers to make devices smaller or use the extra space for other components.
Remote provisioning: With eSIMs, activation and management of mobile plans can be done remotely over the air. This means you can activate or switch to a new mobile plan without needing a physical SIM card or visiting a store. It offers greater flexibility and convenience for managing your mobile connectivity.
Future-proofing: As eSIM technology continues to gain traction, more mobile networks and service providers are offering support for eSIMs. By using an eSIM-compatible device, you ensure that you can take advantage of new services and offerings as they become available.
Overall, eSIM technology provides flexibility, convenience, and future-proofing for mobile connectivity, making it a compelling choice for many users.
eSim Compatible Phones
eSIM technology is becoming increasingly popular and is supported by a growing number of smartphones and other devices. Here are some examples of eSIM-compatible phones:
Apple iPhone series (iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 13, etc.): Apple was one of the early adopters of eSIM technology and offers support for eSIM on various iPhone models.
Google Pixel series (Pixel 3, Pixel 4, Pixel 5, etc.): Google’s Pixel smartphones also support eSIM functionality, allowing users to activate and use eSIMs.
Samsung Galaxy series (Galaxy S22, Galaxy Note 20, etc.): Many of Samsung’s flagship devices now come with eSIM support, enabling users to utilize eSIM technology.
OnePlus devices (OnePlus 7, OnePlus 8, etc.): OnePlus has included eSIM support in some of its smartphone models, offering users the flexibility of using eSIMs.
Motorola Razr (2020): The latest iteration of the iconic Motorola Razr features eSIM compatibility, enabling users to use eSIMs for cellular connectivity.
These are just a few examples, and the list of eSIM-compatible phones continues to expand as more manufacturers embrace this technology. There’s a very strong chance your phone supports eSims so if you’re unsure we recommend looking it up on Google to confirm before purchasing one.
How to Use an eSim
Using an eSim is new for many travellers, however, the good news is it’s surprisingly easy to get set up – even for the technologically challenged!
Here’s a general guide on how to use an eSIM:
- Check eSIM Compatibility: Ensure that your device supports eSIM functionality. Many newer smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and other devices are eSIM compatible including all iPhones produced since 2018.
- Obtain an eSIM: There are multiple ways to acquire an eSIM. You can purchase an eSIM online from a provider like Airalo (which we recommend) or directly from a mobile network operator. Some devices also allow you to scan a QR code provided by your carrier to download the eSIM profile.
- Activate the eSIM: Your eSim provider will send you instructions to activate the sim. This will usually involve scanning a QR code, entering an activation code, or downloading the eSIM profile directly onto your device.
- Set up the eSIM: Once activated, your device will guide you through the eSIM setup process. This typically involves selecting the eSIM as your preferred mobile plan, configuring settings like data roaming, and entering any necessary authentication details.
- Enjoy the Connection: Once the eSIM is set up, you can use it as you would with a physical SIM card. Make calls, send messages, browse the internet, and use data services as needed. You can also switch between eSIM profiles if you have multiple eSIMs installed on your device.
European Roaming in Turkey
Turkey is not a member of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA), although it is a Potential Candidate Country for EU membership.
Due to this, the EU/EEA Roam Like At Home regulation, which enables free roaming within EU/EEA countries, does not apply in Turkey. Therefore, if you have an EU/EEA SIM card, you should not expect to roam for free while traveling in Turkey.
Additionally, it’s important to note that with a Turkey SIM card, you cannot enjoy free roaming in the EU/EEA either. The roaming benefits provided by the EU/EEA Roam Like At Home regulation are specific to EU/EEA member states and do not extend to Turkey.
There is, however, a solution to this if you are planning to travel around Europe!
Airalo EuroLink eSim
If you’re visiting other European countries alongside your trip to Turkey then you should consider purchasing a single eSim that will work across multiple countries.
That is where Airalo’s Eurolink eSim comes in. This eSim offers data that can be used across 39 countries in Europe with plans ranging from 7 days to 180 days. By purchasing this eSim you can travel all across Europe without losing connectivity at all.
Really, I can’t stress how amazing this is!
Here are the plans and prices:
1GB data valid for 7 days – Price: $5 USD
3GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $13 USD
5GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $20 USD
10GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $37 USD
50GB data valid for 90 days – Price: $100 USD
100GB data valid for 180 days – Price: $185 USD
Mobile Network Performance in Turkey
Mobile Network Coverage
Turkey has extensive mobile network coverage throughout the country, including urban areas, towns, and even rural regions. The major mobile network operators in Turkey, such as Turkcell, Vodafone, and Türk Telekom, provide comprehensive coverage across the country, ensuring reliable voice and data services.
In urban areas and popular tourist destinations, network coverage is generally excellent, offering high-speed 4G LTE and even 5G connectivity. You can expect good coverage in cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya, and Bodrum.
In more remote or rural areas, coverage may be slightly limited compared to urban regions, but it is still available in most areas. It’s worth noting that some remote or mountainous regions may have weaker signals or intermittent coverage.
Turkcell offers the best mobile network coverage of the three providers in Turkey, however, all three providers cover every location that you will realistically expect mobile network coverage as a traveller.
Mobile Network Speed
According to Speedtest, Turkcell has the fastest mobile download speeds of the three main networks in Turkey with 51.76 Mbps median download speed. This was followed by Turk Telekom at 28.4 Mbps and Vodafone at 16.83 Mbps.
Turk Telekom has the lowest multi-server latency at 38ms compared to Turkcell at 41ms and Vodafone at 45ms.
This means that Turkcell will allow you to download large files faster than the other networks, such as for video streaming, whilst Turk Telekom will have a shorter lag between actions you take online, which is beneficial for general browsing.
Mobile Network Experience
OpenSignal has awarded the best mobile network experience to Turkcell, followed by Turk Telekom and then Vodafone. You can view the results below: