We have been living here for 1 year now and the cost of living in Istanbul in 2020 has remained mostly the same. The USD/TL exchange rate, however, has been constantly changing. Istanbul is a huge city with so much variety but we think that it is currently a cheap and safe place to live comfortably.
For me, I found that the cost of living in Istanbul, Turkey is very different from my hometown in South Africa. Read more about the cost of living in South Africa.
If you are not interested in my long stories and just want a list of what common things cost in Istanbul then I have listed them here. i have 2 columns, one for the averages and the other for what I actually pay for these items currently.
Accomodation and utilities:
- Rent: 1200-3000TL What I pay: 1700TL
- Water: 25-80TL What I pay: 40TL
- Electricity: 50-300TL What I pay: 140TL (electricity has gone up a bit since last year. I used to pay 100)
- Levies or Aidat:50TL+ What I pay: 270TL (this really depends on where you live. We live in a secure complex)
- Iskander Kebab Meal: 40-60TL
- Public Transpor daily: 2-6TL per trip (depending on mode of transport)
- Public transport monthly Pass: 275TL What I pay: 275TL
- Cost of car rental daily: 120-200TL
- Cost of car rental monthly: 4000+ TL
- Cost of the cheapest new car: 142 900TL (cost of Fiat Egea as at April 2021)
Cost of Public Transportation in Istanbul
Public transportation is efficient and affordable in Istanbul. People that use public transportation every day spend around 10-20 TL ($1,3-$2,60) per day depending on how many buses and trains they use. A monthly transport card will cost you $36. This will give you 200 swipes monthly on any bus, train, tram, or ferry line. This is really affordable and works out to 10 TL $1,3 per day.
Students, the elderly and people that belong to certain professions (like teachers, healthcare workers and military personnel) get discounted cards. Check the Istanbulkart website to see if you qualify for any additional discounts. For more details about transportation lines see our public transport guide.
What about Taxis ?
All taxis are metered or should be. The meter starts at 5 TL which is around 70 cents with a minimum charge of 13 TL ($1,68). Taxis are a convenient and reasonable option for short trips. However, longer trips can be costly. For example, a trip from the new airport to anywhere, say Taksim, will cost you over 150 TL ($20). We recommend using an app like Bitaksi, which gives you an estimation of your trip charge, to avoid being over-charged.
On the whole, we recommend exploring the public transport routes before considering taking a taxi because they are often quicker and easier, due to Istanbul traffic.
Cost of vehicles in Istanbul
The cost of vehicles in Istanbul and Turkey, in general, is literally going up by the day. Statistics have revealed that it is so comparatively expensive that fewer people are driving now in Istanbul than there were 10 years ago. According to my research, the price of the cheapest car in Turkey, the Fiat Egea, went up by 10000 TL from March 2021 to April 2021. Also, this has driven the prices of used cars through the roof.
Cost of food and groceries in Istanbul
Despite everything, the price of essential foods has remained affordable. And to give you an idea of how much it could cost you for grocery shopping in Istanbul, here is a list of a selection of essential items with prices.
- Turkish bread: 1,50 TL ($0,2)
- Loaf of bread (800g): 4,50 TL ($0,6)
- Milk (1L): 6 TL ($0,8)
- Tomatos (1kg): 4 TL ($0,6)
- Onions (1kg): 3 TL ($0,4)
- Potatoes (1kg): 2,50 TL ($0,4)
- Apples (1kg): 7 TL ($0,9)
- Turkish Rice (1kg): 10 TL ($1,3)
- Bananas (1kg): 14 TL ($1,8)
- Cheese (100g): 10-20 TL ($1,3-$2,6)
- Lipton tea (25 bags): 10 TL ($1,3)
- Sugar (1 kg): 5 TL ($0,7)
- Sunflower Oil (1L): 13 TL ($1,7)
- Boneless chicken (1kg): 20 TL ($2,6)
- Ground Beef (1kg): 60 TL ($7,8)
At the Café
You can get enjoy your favourite hot beverage at a local café for as little as 2 TL for a cup of Turkish tea while international Franchises like Starbucks naturally cost more. You can get a decent cup of filter coffee from MacDonalds for 2 TL. For more info about Turkish Coffee and where to buy it see our post about Tukish Coffee.
- Turkish tea: 2-4 TL
- Turkish Coffee: 6-8 TL (about $1)
- Filter coffee: 6-10 TL (about $1,5)
The cost of eating out ranges from cheap to expensive, depending on where you go. For example, there are several local fast food sandwiches that can be enjoyed for under 10 TL ($1,3). A McDonalds burger meal will cost around 20 TL ($2,6) and a steak meal at a moderately priced restaurant can cost around 60 TL ($8). There are several reasonably good Turkish meal options that can be found for between 20-40 TL ($2,6-$5)per person.
Cost of accommodation in Istanbul
The nightly rate at a cheap hotel or Airbnb is around 100 TL ($13). An international hotel can cost about 500 TL ($65) and upwards, the sky is the limit.
Apartment rentals vary due to the huge geographical area of Istanbul, which occupies parts of the European and Asian sides. In suburbs that are farther away from the city center and historical areas, the apartment buildings tend to be newer and more affordable. In these areas, a basic 2 bedroom apartment can cost between 1500-2000 which is between $130 and $220.
Some of the most densely populated areas are located West of the historical district, Fatih. Therefore, you may be able to get an affordable new apartment on the outskirts.
Cost of utilities
Electricity: The monthly cost of electricity for a small family is from 60- 150 TL ($8-$20). Water is a little cheaper at around 40-100 TL ($5- $13) per month. Heating charges vary depending on the system in your apartment. You can expect to pay around 150 TL a month in the Summer and up to 500 TL a month in the Winter for a card charging based system like ours.
Cost of mobile and home internet in Istanbul
Mobile internet is not expensive in Turkey. You can pay around 10 TL per Gigabyte. There are also good monthly deals that include free talking minutes. I usually get a monthly package for 50 TL that includes 12 GB and 500 talking minutes.
Home internet costs between 70 and 100 TL a month for an unlimited internet package at a good speed.
Cost of Local and Imported Items in Turkey
There are currently high taxes levied on all goods that are imported. Therefore, imported items are much more expensive than locally produced products. For things like clothes and food, it is sufficient to purchase local items because they are available at good prices. On the other hand, electronics like mobile phones and computers are very expensive because they are imported. In addition, cars are very expensive in Turkey.
If you are considering moving to Turkey, I suggest purchasing your small electronics and smart devices before coming here. Unfortunately, bringing a car to Turkey is a little more difficult, perhaps we need to devote a separate article to this topic.
Cost of living in Turkey
Istanbul is by far the largest and most important city in Turkey. It is the heart and soul of Turkey. Therefore, while I do not know for certain how the cost of other cities measures up against Turkey, I think using Istanbul as a guide would be a good idea, especially in the absence of other data. From personal experience and talking to people that live in smaller cities and towns, the common perception is that things tend to be cheaper than in Istanbul. Again, this is merely a perception.
My information about the cost of living in Istanbul is based on personal experiences and daily life in istanbul. I think that Istanbul has something for everyone. Whether you are on a tight budget or seeking a life of luxury, Istanbul can be the right place for you. Let me know about your opinions and experiences in Istanbul. Is the cost of living in Istanbul lower or higher than your city?