As a big fan of the internet there is no way I can go without being connected so as soon as I arrive in another country I check out the cell phone providers to see what they can offer me. Most of the times I buy a local sim card as roaming costs are outrageous, so as I arrived at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul I straight away checked out what they could offer me when I asked for a Turkey tourist sim card.
Tourist SIM card Turkey
If you are looking for a tourist sim card, Turkey has not that many options to be honest. There are only three providers and when I started looking around I was a little shocked. In a country where you can have a sandwich a tea and a bottle of water for less than $3 I expected competitive prices for getting connected to the internet. Unfortunately a Turkey sim card is not really cheap.
Sightseeing in Istanbul is a lot cheaper. Check here for a free walking tour of Fener Balat and marvel at this hip up and coming neighborhood with its colorful houses.
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4G coverage sim card for Turkey in 2018
I always ask if there is a 4G connection across the country, just to be sure. But when I did that in Turkey they looked like they were offended. Sorry guys, some countries have no 4G network yet Even in 2018, like Bangladesh where I just came from. n 2015 and 2017 I traveled in Turkey and used Turkcell just because my Turkish friends recommended me to use this provider. According to them it had the best coverage.
4G coverage in Western European countries is normal, but even with a German sim card there are a lot of places with no 4G. The same counts for Turkey's neighbor and buying a sim card in Greece will not guarantee a 4G connection everywhere either.
I just uploaded the new 4G coverage maps for you from Opensignal.com from March 2018. Quick conclusion: basically all the touristy areas are covered by all 3 mobile internet providers in Turkey, see the maps below. Based upon the network coverage in 2018 it seems that Vodafone is starting to win the race for the best SIM card for Turkey. But there is more than only coverage!
4G coverage Vodafone
4G coverage Turkcell
4G coverage Turk Telecom
Based on the 4G coverage maps Turkcell still has the best 4G network in Turkey in 2018, but comparing the new coverage maps with the ones from beginning of 2017, Vodafone is doing a tremendous job catching up. I even think that in the main tourist areas Vodafone has a tiny bit better coverage, but if you go to the more remote areas, Turkcell still is the best. Based on the 4G coverage maps I would not choose Turk Telecom as they have the smallest 4G network, but if you only stay in like Istanbul, Izmir or Antalya then Turk Telecom will be just as good.
Looking for amazing hotels in Istanbul? Check out my best hotels in Besiktas on the Bosporus blog.
Mobile internet providers Turkey in 2018
There are three different mobile internet providers in Turkey: Vodafone, Turkcell and Turk Telekom. They have shops all over Istanbul, Izmir, on most international and domestic airports and randomly in other tourist places. Finding a shop to buy a Turkey prepaid sim card is not that hard. What to bring when you buy a sim card in Turkey? Your passport. With a proper photo ID you won't be able to get a sim card.
I roamed around Istanbul Ataturk Airport to find out the prices for all three mobile internet providers in Turkey. More about getting you sim card in the city later on.
The guy at the Vodafone stand was helpful spoke good English but did not really have a pricelist for me. When I kept on asking what the different options were he pulled out a piece of paper that was barely readable but at least it said whatever was available. The cheapest option was 110TRY ($30) but that was only 1GB, for 2GB we were already looking at 160TRY ($45). Don’t go for Vodafone they are way too expensive!
As I approached the Turk Telecom stand I tried to see if they were displaying a pricelist for a Turkey sim card for tourists but I couldn’t find anything here either. When I asked the guy he said they didn’t have a list of the available options. He told me that texting and calling were unlimited and free in all packages and that it started from 3GB onwards for 100TRY. 6GB would be 130TRY and 10GB 160TRY. Turk Telecom was already way cheaper than Vodafone.
A blessing as I arrived at the Turkcell stand! Prices were displayed all around and the friendly guy helped me explaining the rest. The standard option for a Turkey sim card for tourists was 3GB data, 500 min calling and 1000 text for 95TRY, the cheapest option so far. Plus they even offered me a little gift, see the photo.
Best sim card for Turkey in 2018
Regarding the above I would say that for traveling the best sim card for turkey is Turkcell. They still have the best network coverage in 2018 and the lowest prices. Vodafone is catching up regarding its 4G network coverage, but packages for Turkcell are the best for travelers. It is therefore a pretty simple conclusion who wins the award for the best Turkey sim card for tourists: Turkcell! This is your best buy. A prepaid data sim card in Turkey is not cheap and therefore you might wanna consider temporary internet service without a contract. Check the link and read my article about a portable wifi device to take with you while traveling.
Is buying a Turkey sim card too much hassle for you? Or you simply don't want to change sim cards in your phone? Take a look at a Teppy, they offer unlimited data for a couple dollars per day in more than 100 countries!
Internet speed Turkey
With a respective 33th place on the world ranking, Turkish mobile internet speed can be expected around 30 Mbps. While researching the best sim prepaid sim card for Bulgaria I found out that the internet speed in this Turkish neighbor is even slightly faster with 32 Mbps.
Buying a Turkey sim card for tourists at Istanbul airport
If you have read my guide for buying a sim card in thailand or Indonesian Prepaid sim Card for data then you may know I am not a big fan of buying a sim card at an airport. Prices at airports are always way higher than the ones in the city. Here in Istanbul I bought my Turkey sim card in a Turkcell shop in Besiktas. I paid 80 TRY ($22) for the standard tourist sim card turkey package where at the airport this was 95TRY. The problem in the city is that English is not spoken everywhere and for example in the Vodafone and Turk Telecom shop they could not even give me information as their English was insufficient.
On an onward journey into Europe? Go island hopping on the nearby Greek Islands and check out what is the best data sim card for tourists in Greece. Did you know that there are cheap ferries from Turkey to for example Lesbos Island, Greece?
Have you already signed up for an Airbnb account? I can get you $30 off if you register through this link. It only takes 1 minute and you get instant travel credit. For $30 you can easily stay 1-3 nights for free in Istanbul. If you already have an account register with a new email address. Every registration is $30 travel credit. What are you waiting for?
What to do in Istanbul? There is so much more than visiting the Grand Bazaar, the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Taksim. Click on the photos below to read see where to find the best viewpoint in Istanbul: Buyuk Valide Han will blow your mind! Or read about the best day trips from Istanbul and see what it looks like to climb the minaret of the amazing Edirne Mosque and dont forget to explore the colored houses in Istanbul.
TEP Wireless portable WiFi
The disadvantage of buying a new SIM card is that you always get a new number with every country you go to, which of course can be annoying. Therefore I also use Tep Wireless if I go only a couple days to a certain country. A portable WiFi device that lets you connect your smartphone, laptop or tablet wherever you go for just a couple bucks per day. Check it out!
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