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Internet and Mobile Applications: On What Conditions Can Foreigners Use Them in Turkey?

The Turkish citizenship-by-investment program has been gaining popularity since the price became more reasonable. The Turkish passport is medium-priced at the moment: Caribbean passports as well as the passport of Vanuatu cost less while acquiring citizenship of Montenegro or Malta, for example, requires a more substantial investment. Turkey sits right next to Europe (part of Istanbul is actually on the European continent) and the geographical position of the country is one of the factors that attracts foreign investors buying Turkish passports.

Mobile communication and Internet in Turkey

While some of them simply want to have a spare passport ‘just in case’, others become Turkish citizens in order to have the right to reside in the country. If you are thinking of joining the latter group, the information below is going to be of interest to you. We would like to describe how things stand in Turkey as far as access to the Internet and the use of mobile devices are concerned. A great number of people in the modern world could not imagine life without the Internet and the smartphone. Are these amenities available in Turkey? Of course, they are but the country has some specifics that you should know about before you relocate there.  

What immigrants need to know about the Internet use in Turkey

In the 2022 world press freedom ranking, Turkey is ranked 149th among 180 countries. Journalists’ arrests are quite common there. Recent breaking news is as follows: in November 2022, a well-known blogger tried to criticize the Government’s economic policies that lead to depreciation of the local currency. She filmed flushing a 100-lira bill down the toilet and put the video on the Net. The problem was that the bill carried a portrait of Ataturk, an unquestionable idol in Turkish society. So the blogger was detained and now she faces a seven-year prison sentence for insulting the memory of the national hero.  

Thus, you have to be aware that censorship is harsh in Turkey and this applies not only to citizens of the country but also to foreign tourists. Please abstain from criticizing the local authorities or their policies in open media when you are in Turkey.

What immigrants need to know about mobile telecommunications in Turkey

Illegal entry of mobile phones is banned in Turkey and all mobile communication devices must be registered. This does not concern tourists who stay in the country for limited periods. They are free to use their phones if they are happy with the roaming charges. If you stay in Turkey for more than three months, however, you have to buy a Turkish sim-card and preferably a mobile phone too.

You can buy a Turkish sim-card showing your foreign passport to the mobile service operator. If you have a residence permit, you will find that the tariffs for local citizens and residents are more attractive than those for foreigners.

Your ‘tourist’ sim-card will remain functional only for 90 days and it will stop working when the period expires.

If you would like to continue using the mobile phone that you brought with you when you came to Turkey, you have 120 days to register it with the local informational technologies and telecommunications authorities. You have to have a residence permit to be able to do that. The fee payable when registering a foreign telephone in Turkey is US$ 150 and you have to pay this sum every year.

This might be a good reason to buy a mobile phone from a local retailer. You should bear in mind, however, that phones in Turkey cost more than they do in Europe and America. The Turkish iPhone tax, for instance, is the highest in the world: 45% of the phone cost goes to the local budget. An iPhone 14 PRO will cost you 40,000 liras in Turkey, which makes US$ 2,146 compared to US$ 999 in the USA.  

Some immigrants in Turkey buy sim-cards in neighboring countries such as Bulgaria, Georgia or Armenia and use them in Turkey paying for the roaming. Probably, they save a few pennies in this way but not very much anyway.

What immigrants need to know about corded Internet in Turkey

When you sign a rental agreement with the property owner, you have to bear in mind that no communications are functional in the apartment or the house where you are going to stay. Every new tenant has to contact gas, electricity, and water suppliers as well as an Internet service provider and sign agreements with them.  

Do you have to have a residence permit in Turkey to sign an agreement with an Internet provider? This depends on the provider: some of them request documents that legalize your extended stay in Turkey while others will be satisfied with your foreign passport. Thus, you had better have a Turkish residence permit that is called İkamet izni.

The WI-FI speed in a Turkish apartment is also a matter of luck. It does not depend on the service provider so much as it depends on the quality of the cords that the building has. Your subscription fee will depend on the Internet connection speed.

Internet in Turkey: questions and answers

Below please find the answers to the questions that our clients who are thinking of relocating to Turkey frequently ask us.

Is VPN forbidden in Turkey?

The Turkish regulators try to combat virtual servers but they are simply too plentiful to be beaten. If you are bringing your notebook to Turkey, you will be well advised to have a VPN already installed on your computer to have access to your favorite websites at all times.

Can I use Instagram in Turkey?

The Internet service providers block access to certain platforms or slow them down when a socially or politically significant event takes place. For instance, after the explosion in Istanbul in November 2022, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Telegram, and some other platforms were inaccessible or slow. In a few days, things were back to normal again. You have to be prepared for such unpleasant situations because a number of popular Internet platforms are regularly blocked in Turkey from time to time.    

Is YouTube restricted in Turkey?

This is a hard question to answer! Why? Because YouTube has been restricted or blocked in Turkey several times since the service became available to the public. As things stand for now, YouTube is not restricted in Turkey.

Is WIFI good in Turkey?

As we have pointed out above, it depends on how lucky you are. Free Wi-Fi is available in some public places but not in all of them.

Is Paypal legal in Turkey?

The service has been blocked for Turkish citizens since 2016. Foreigners theoretically can use PayPal in Turkey if they are able to meet certain conditions. In particular, the bank account added to your PayPal account has to be located outside Turkey. Besides, if you want to send or receive a sum of money that exceeds US$ 500 through PayPal, the system may request client identification.  

What apps are blocked in Turkey?

The Turkish authorities are totally intolerant to all LGBT-related websites, pornography, and oppositional political channels. The first ‘hostile’ website was blocked in 2007 and by 2022, hundreds of other websites have had to join its company.  

But if you are not interested in politics and you have immigrated to Turkey just to enjoy the sun and the sea, you have nothing to worry about. Most of the applications that you regularly use such as Adobe Photoshop, Spotify, Netflix, Zoom, Microsoft, Slack, and hundreds of other IT products are readily available in Turkey.

Does IPhone work in Turkey?

Yes, it does and we have discussed above how you should go about legalizing your iPhone in Turkey. Some newcomers try to ‘outwit the system’ by using the black market to purchase sim-cards registered in the names of local citizens or by finding a whiz who can unlock the phone. The consequences of such actions are unpredictable so please don’t do so.  

Which app is mostly used in Turkey?

In addition to the internationally available social networks, messengers, and other applications, Turks use a number of local IT products that include, but are not limited to, the following ones:

  • E-Devlet – digital Government service system.
  • Online banking from Akbank, Ziraat, Yapı Kredi, Garanti BBVA, and other banks.
  • Turkish Department of Health application of the ‘hospital in the phone’ type – e-Nabız. MHRS for doctor appointments and HealthPass for acquiring vaccination certificates.
  • To survey the positions of public transportation vehicles they use Mobiett and Trafi.
  • IBB CepTrafik – information about the traffic.
  • Bitaksi and iTaxi to call a taxi.
  • Getir, Yemeksepeti and Migros for food delivery.
  • Sahibinden, Emlakjet, and Hepsiemlak for finding residence accommodations and various products.
  • Trendyol, Hepsiburada, and Dolap for online shopping.

Does Turkey use Amazon?

Yes, Amazon has opened a logistics center in Turkey and delivery of products to Turkey is now fast and duty free.

What is the Turkish version of Amazon?

It is amazon.com.tr

Is Google available in Turkey?

When Google opened an office in Turkey, it soon faced sanctions from the local Government. The Turkish authorities found that Google algorithms violated the competition laws. Thus, you will not see ads and if you are looking for a bar or a hotel, those in close proximity to you will not be found at the top of the page. The Turkish authorities provide for fair competition in this way.

Is the internet free in Turkey?

You can find free Wi-Fi in major Turkish cities and in resort areas. However, the connection quality is often far from perfect. Many Internet providers offer free test periods before you sign an agreement with them. The test periods can be two to three months long. 

Is Skype blocked in Turkey?

No, it is not blocked anymore. As we have noted above, some applications such as Skype, YouTube or WhatsApp, for example, can be blocked in times of political turbulence for a while but they become fully available after a couple of days.    

Which mobile network is best in Turkey?

The choice of mobile networks is not great in Turkey. Only three cell phone companies work in the country: Turkcell (having the widest coverage), Vodafone, and Türk Telekom (covering mostly large cities). The costs of services are approximately the same with all three companies and the amount you pay will mostly depend on the tariff that you choose. According to the local people, Turkcell outperforms other operators in terms of coverage, connection stability, and download speed.  

As you can see, there are some factors that you have to bear in mind when using the Internet or your cell phone in Turkey. There is censorship in the country but if you do not engage in politics, living in Turkey is quite safe and comfortable.

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