Planning a trip to Turkey and flying to Istanbul Airport? Get yourself a local prepaid sim card on arrival to avoid high roaming charges or may be easier for you an e-sim card for Turkey. This is a complete guide for buying a prepaid sim card for Turkey on arrival at Istanbul IST Airport.
Find out where to buy a sim card, up to date prices as per November 2023, best 4G/5G network in Turkey, opening hours, my recommendation, a vlog about my experiences and even info about international and e-sim cards for Turkey.
Getting connected is the first thing I do when traveling to a new country. Mostly buying a local prepaid sim card is the cheapest way to get a lot of data on your phone but e-sim cards are nowadays very convenient as well. As I am trying to travel to every country in the world I get to a lot of different places and to help fellow travelers saving money I write sim card guides about every country and international airport I visit. That is why on Traveltomtom you will find more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world: USA, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Thailand, Bangkok, South Africa, Kenya, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Europe, Asia, Sydney, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Germany and many more.
Rather order an e-sim card for Turkey on the internet then click on the link for my complete Turkey e-sim card guide.
Traveltomtom recommends getting an e-sim card for Turkey when traveling to Istanbul. Why? The Turkey prepaid sim cards at Istanbul airport are ridiculously overpriced! E-sim cards for Turkey are much cheaper and already start from $4.5 USD and you get 20 GB data for just $26 USD from Airalo, on top of that you can arrange everything online within just a couple clicks.
Buying a prepaid sim card for Turkey on arrival at Istanbul Airport is very expensive. The cheapest prepaid sim card plan at Istanbul Airport as per November 2023 costs 1,000 Turkish Lira which is $35 USD.
Buying a sim card at Istanbul Airport is super easy and convenient, but you pay a price for that convenience! The tourist sim cards they sell at Istanbul Airport are ridiculously overpriced and therefore Traveltomtom recommends e-sim cards for traveling to Istanbul.
Another option is to wait until you get to Istanbul city center and buy your Turkey prepaid sim card there. You will find the same plans as at the airport but then almost 30% CHEAPER! Read more about it in my article about buying a sim card in Turkey in 2023.
Another way of staying connected when traveling in 2023 is an international sim card. Some of these travel sim cards are great deals for visiting Turkey! Check out my review and comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling abroad in 2023 and pick the one that suits your trip.
Keep reading for more info about Turkey e-sim cards, the easiest way to stay connected to the internet when traveling to Turkey in 2023.
Istanbul is a mind-blowing city and I am sure some Istanbul travel tips will help you make the most of your trip. I recommend you to stay in Besiktas, Taksim or Sultanahmet, check out the amazing things to do in Uskudar on the Asian side of Istanbul or one of these 10 hidden gems in Istanbul.
Best e-sim cards for Turkey
The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Istanbul is an e-sim card. It takes just a couple minutes to get connected and you can do it right now online. There is no need of swapping sim cards or visiting a phone store anymore. You order an e-sim, receive a QR code, scan it, following the instructions, apply the settings and you are all set in just a couple clicks.
Check out the following e-sim card deals for Turkey from Airalo:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $4.5 USD
- 2 GB data for 15 days = $6.5 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $8 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $12 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $18 USD
- 20 GB data for 30 days = $26 USD
Click here to order your Turkey e-sim card directly online.
The above Merhaba e-sim cards are data-only and are only valid in Turkey. Merhaba oprerates on the 4G/LTE network of Turk Telekom in Turkey.
SimOptions is another reputable e-sim card provider:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $7.90 USD
- 5 GB data for 10 days = $17.90 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $29.90 USD
- 20 GB data for 30 days = $49.90 USD
There is also Nomad e-sim cards for Turkey and they give you 10 GB data for just $15 USD. Click here to order an e-sim card for Turkey from Nomad.
With an e-sim card you keep your own phone number, but make sure your phone is e-sim card compatible before ordering an e-sim card for your trip to Istanbul.
This is just a summary of Turkey e-sim cards. In my complete guide you will find everything you need to know about using e-sim cards for traveling to Turkey in 2023. Much more e-sim card plans, a comparison of the best e-sim cards for Turkey, all FAQ and of course my conclusion what is the best e-sim card for traveling to Turkey in 2023.
Why buying a sim card for Turkey
I can come up with a ton of reasons why being connected to the internet makes traveling to Istanbul much easier. Ordering a taxi, using translation apps, getting direction from Google Maps, looking for nearby rooftop bars and so on. Disconnecting is the new luxury and I totally agree, but not when visiting a city!
Yes, your hotel has free WiFi and so do bars and restaurants in Istanbul, but do you want to rely on others? What if the WiFi isn't working or the signal in your room is too weak, the internet speed is super slow? Also keep in mind that public WiFi connections are UNSECURED networks. Using a VPN is recommend.
Getting a local sim card in Turkey is easy and done fast. The most convenient place to buy a Turkey sim card on arrival is of course at the airport.
When not a fan swapping sim cards and changing phone number have a look into pocket WiFi devices. These travel gadgets are a great way to stay connected while traveling, but I am not the biggest fan. Read my HONEST review in the link.
Istanbul Airport IST
Welcome to the 'new' Istanbul Airport with the ambition to become one of the biggest airports in the world in terms of handling passengers. Istanbul Airport IST is obviously ultra modern and super spacious. Seems like a great airport to arrive for your Turkey trip, but I am NOT a fan.
The airport is insanely huge, walking distances are legit far! Having a stopover in Istanbul Airport then fingers crossed you are going to make the connection. Loads of times I missed my connection flight with Turkish Airlines and there is NO compensation as they changed the Terms & Conditions in such a way that they don't have to pay you any compensation. Although having an Elite Plus status with Turkish Airlines I do NOT recommend then, neither do I recommend flying through IST Airport.
Most cringe about IST Airport is that they only offer 1 hour free WiFi and after that you will have to pay. However, you are probably just arriving at Istanbul Airport and starting your Turkey trip. So never mind, my extra info! :)
When arriving it is very easy to navigate and there is only one International Arrival Hall. After you went to passport control you get to a huge Baggage Claim Hall. There are ATM's, money changers and Duty Free shops, but no sim card shops. There is only one exit from the Baggage Claim Hall into the Arrival Hall, so you can’t get lost at least.
Where to buy a Turkey sim card at Istanbul Airport
When walking from the luggage belts into the arrival hall you can go either right or left. There are 5 different shops, they sell more or less the same prepaid sim cards for Turkey, but the prices are different. Keep reading and I tell you the up to date prices as per November 2023.
If you walk to the right you see Burger King on your right hand side and in front of you you will see: Njoy Local SIM and Vodafone (former WIFIST) Njoy is a Turk Telekom store and the 'Vodafone' (former WIFIST) sells Vodafone prepaid sim cards of course but also Turkcell, but is NOT an official Vodafone store.
If you walk to the left you will see the original Turkey mobile internet provider shops: Turkcell, Vodafone and Turk Telekom. Also there is an Airport WIFI rental company. I told you the Turkey prepaid sim card business is booming. Never have I seen an airport with so many mobile internet shops.
Be aware that prices for Turkey sim cards at Istanbul Airport are MUCH higher than in Istanbul city center.
Prices Turkey sim cards at Istanbul Airport in 2023
As I said in the beginning of this article, all information is up to date as per November 2023 and everything is based on my own experiences buying a sim card for my Turkey trip. As I am a full time nomadic world traveler and use Istanbul often as a base I fly to IST airport all the time.
Also another reminder to always pay in Turkish Lira, the exchange rates some of the store offer are outrageous. Don't be fooled! All stores accept international credit cards. So pay by car when buying a sim card at Istanbul Airport. Prices below are in Turkish Lira and as of November 2023 $1 USD = 28.7 TRY and 100 TRY = $3.5 USD.
All sim card shops at Istanbul Airport are open for 24 hours. None of the sim card shops sell e-sim cards, only physical prepaid sim cards for tourists are available. If you want an e-sim card for Turkey then check out my complete guide with the best e-sim cards for Turkey in 2023.
Njoy Sim Istanbul Airport
Njoy is an official Turk Telekom reseller and they offer the following Turk Telekom prepaid sim card plans:
- 25 GB data + unlimited calling, texting and social media apps = 1,500 TL
- 40 GB data + unlimited calling, texting and social media apps = 1,600 TL
- 70 GB data + unlimited calling, texting and social media apps = 1,900 TL
- 90 GB data + unlimited calling, texting and social media apps = 2,050 TL
- 125 GB data + unlimited calling, texting and social media apps = 2,200 TL
- 300 GB data only = 2,800 TL
At Njoy they only sell prepaid sim cards, e-sim cards are NOT available as of November 2023.
The cheapest sim card for tourists at the NJOY/Turk Telekom store is 1,500 TL = $52.3 USD.
All packages are valid for 30 days in Turkey only. Please pay in Turkish Lira’s or use your credit card to pay in Lira. Their exchange rate is very off, but that counts for every store at Istanbul Airport. Always use local currency whether you pay cash or card.
WIFIST/WIFI 5G Vodafone Istanbul Airport
WIFIST is an official Vodafone Turkey reseller and they sell several different Vodafone Turkey prepaid sim cards valid for 30 days:
- 20 GB data + 750 minutes + 250 sms + unlimited social media = 1,500 TL
- 50 GB data + 750 minutes + 250 sms + unlimited social media = 1,750 TL
- 70 GB data + 750 minutes + 250 sms + unlimited social media = 1,900 TL
- 100 GB data + 750 minutes + 250 sms + unlimited social media = 2,100 TL
These Vodafone prepaid sim card plans are only available as a physical sim card and not as an e-sim card. Unlimited social media is included, but TikTok and YouTube is NOT included.
They now also sell Turkcell sim cards, yes this 'Vodafone' store! Here are the data-only plans.
- 12 GB data only = 1,200 TL
- 50 GB data only = 1,700 TL
- 100 GB data only = 2,050 TL
- 200 GB data only = 2,400 TL
- 400 GB data only = 3,950 TL
And they also have Turkcell prepaid sim cards for tourists including calling and texting.
- 20 GB data + 200 minutes = 1,500 TL
- 50 GB data + 1,000 minutes + 200 sms = 1,750 TL
- 105 GB data + 1,000 minutes + 200 sms = 2,100 TL
These Turkcell prepaid sim cards for tourists are available as physical prepaid sim cards as well as e-sim cards.
If you have read my best Turkey prepaid sim card for tourists in 2023 article then you know that the prices for Turkey prepaid sim cards at Istanbul Airport are MUCH more expensive than at official Vodafone or Turkcell stores in Istanbul city center.
Again a reminder to NOT pay in another currency, always pay in Turkish Lire, the above conversion rates are stupid!
EXAMPLE: at the time of updating this articles in November 2023 --> 1,500 TL = $52.3 USD, they charge you $58 USD for 1,500 TL! Again do NOT pay in USD.
Vodafone store Istanbul Airport
Vodafone Turkey at Istanbul Airport definitely listened to my critics from the last years. Their prices went down drastically. Vodafone Turkey was a no-go at first, but they now got much more affordable prepaid sim card plans for tourists. Still though, very expensive compared to e-sim cards for Turkey.
The cheapest Vodafone prepaid Turkey sim card at Istanbul Airport is now 1,250 TL around $24 USD, see the price sheet above.
- 20 GB data + 750 minutes + 250 sms = 1,250 TL - $43.6 USD
- 50 GB data + 750 minutes + 250 sms = 1,350 TL - $47 USD
- 70 GB data + 750 minutes + 250 sms = 1,750 TL - $61 USD
The Vodafone store at Istanbul Airport has more sim card plans for tourists, see the photo above.
Turkey is a pretty cheap country for tourists, but the prices for tourist sim cards are through the roof. Therefore another reminder to buy a prepaid sim card for turkey on the internet or get yourself an e-sim card for Turkey.
All the above Vodafone Turkey prepaid sim card plans are valid for 30 days and are for use in Turkey only. The Vodafone store at Istanbul Airport only sells prepaid sim cards, as of November 2023 e-sim cards are still NOT provided.
Turk Telekom store Istanbul Airport
These are the update prices as per November 2023 for Turk Telekom prepaid sim cards at Istanbul Airport, also see the picture above:
- 10 GB data + 750 minutes + 100 sms = 1,100 TL
- 20 GB data + 750 minutes + 100 sms = 1,200 TL
- 40 GB data + 750 minutes + 100 sms = 1,300 TL
- 50 GB data + 750 minutes + sms = 1,400 TL
- 100 GB data + 1,500 minutes + sms = 1,600 TL
They also have data only plans:
- 30 GB data = 1,100 TL
- 100 GB data = 1,300 TL
- 200 GB data = 1,500 TL
- 300 GB data = 1,800 TL
All Turk Telekom prepaid sim card plans are valid for 30 days and are only for use in Turkey. The Turk Telekom store at Istanbul Airport sells all prepaid sim cards as physical sim cards as well as e-sim cards.
Turkcell store Istanbul Airport
Turkcell sells a lot of prepaid sim card plans for tourists at Istanbul Airport valid for 30 days, including free WhatsApp:
- 20 GB data + 200 minutes = 1,000 TL
- 50 GB data + 1,200 minutes + 100 sms = 1,100 TL
- 80 GB data + 1,200 minutes + 1,000 sms = 1,400 TL
- 105 GB data + 1,200 minutes + 1,000 sms = 1,600 TL
All Turkcell prepaid sim card plans are valid only in Turkey. The Turkcell store at Istanbul Airport sells physical prepaid sim cards as well as e-sim cards for tourists for the same price.
As you have seen some of the mobile internet providers and sim card shops at Istanbul Airport provide e-sim cards. But reminder that if you buy an e-sim card for Turkey on the internet you can find much better deals. For example the Airalo e-sim card for Turkey with 20 GB data for just $26 USD.
Best sim card at Istanbul Airport in 2023
Unfortunately it seems that prices for Turkey prepaid sim cards for tourists at Istanbul Airport are not getting cheaper, but in fact getting more expensive. This is the conclusion after updating this article in November 2023 when I visited Turkey again for the 700th time.
Prices for tourist sim cards at Istanbul Airport skyrocketed in the last months and it is hard to recommend a specific prepaid sim card as all of them are overpriced.
The cheapest prepaid sim card for tourists at Istanbul Airport is a Turkcell sim card with 20 GB data and 200 minutes for 1,070 TL. That is $36 USD.
Because Turkcell also has the BEST 4G/5G NETWORK IN TURKEY they are considered the best prepaid sim card for traveling to Istanbul and therefore it is a simple conclusion that Turkcell is the best sim card at Istanbul Airport. But be sure you buy it in the Turkcell store and not at the 'Vodafone store' called WIFIST as here the exact same sim card costs 1,500 TL, 50% more expensive.
However, a reminder that an e-sim card for Turkey with 20 GB data for 30 days only costs $26 USD and you can order it directly on the internet and you are online as soon as the plane lands.
I am sure you now understand what I meant when I said: Traveltomtom does NOT recommend buying a prepaid sim card at Istanbul Airport. Instead order an e-sim card for Turkey online. Read all about using e-sim cards in Turkey including a comparison of the best Turkey in e-sim cards in 2023 in the link.
How I know about the best 4G/LTE network in Turkey? Check out my recently updated article about the best Turkey sim card in 2023, including all the information and a comparison of the network coverage maps of all the mobile internet providers.
Remember that the prices for a Turkey sim card at Istanbul Airport are much higher than the official retail stores in the city. If you want the best deal (up to 30% cheaper) you have to wait until you reach Istanbul city center and you will find much better Turkey sim card deals for tourists.
Turkey sim cards and traveling in Europe
Although Turkey is partially located in Europe, it is NOT part of the EU and therefore you can NOT use your Turkey sim card data for traveling in Europe. The other way around you might be lucky that your Europe sim card allows you free roaming in Turkey.
If you want to buy a Europe sim card that works in Turkey I can recommend you the following: Orange prepaid sim card with 10 GB data valid in more than 30 European countries + Turkey for $49.90. You can order online, get it shipped to your home address. This international prepaid sim card for Turkey is already pre-activated. Simply plug and play! Click on the link above for more info.
There is NO international roaming included in any of the prepaid sim cards in Turkey. Looking for the best sim card for Europe travel in 2023? In the link you find my complete guide with first hand information from more than 20 countries and 25 airports.
Also another reminder that you can order an e-sim card for Turkey, you keep your own number and you don't need to swap physical sim cards.
Pocket Wifi for Turkey
On your left-hand side when you walk into the Arrival Hall you will also find a store Airport Wifi Rental shop. Here they rent out Pocket Wifis and for $13 USD per day you get unlimited data. You can connect up to 10 devices at the same time. Sounds cool, but keep in mind that you all share the same connection, so data speed will drop drastically the more devices you connect. You will have to pay a $50 USD deposit for the pocket WiFi.
For some people, especially those with locked phones this is a solution to stay connected when traveling to Istanbul. Check out my HONEST review about these portable WiFi devices. I am not a fan! This is so old school! The easiest way to stay connected when traveling abroad in 2023 is an e-sim card for Turkey as described above.
I hope all the above tips for buying a Turkey sim card at Istanbul Airport were helpful for your upcoming Turkey trip. May you have any specific questions hit me up and leave me a comment below. Also happy to help you find some cool photos spots from around Istanbul.
Buy a prepaid sim card for Turkey online
Does buying a prepaid sim card for Turkey in Istanbul sound like too much hassle and your phone is not e-sim compatible then check out the following option.
You can order an international physical prepaid sim card for turkey online and get it delivered to your home address. These pre-activated travel sim cards work like plug and play. You put the sim card in your phone in the plane and as soon as the plane lands you are online.
Check out the following international prepaid sim card for Turkey that you can order via SimOptions:
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Also a last reminder that with an e-sim card for Turkey you will get online within just 2 minutes and you arrange everything online. No need for swapping a physical sim card anymore or visiting a phone store.
How to get from IST New Istanbul Airport to Istanbul
You can take a regular taxi which will cost around 600 TL ($20 USD) and takes between 40-60 minutes depending on traffic and where you go in the city. If you bought a Turkey prepaid sim card already then I recommend you to download Bitaxi, the leading Taxi App in Turkey, but Uber also works. A ride to Taksim, Galata, Besiktas, etc will cost you only 600 TL ($20 USD).
There are of course also busses and damn they are convenient. Go to the -2 floor and get one of the HavaIST busses. They have several stops in the popular tourist districts of Istanbul and you only pay 50 TL ($2 USD) for a ticket. You can buy a ticket in the bus with your credit card.
In need of some more Istanbul travel inspiration then check out this 4-day Istanbul itinerary and don't miss a visit to Turkey's biggest mosque: Çamlıca. Or go check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom for some serious wanderlust inspiration. As of November 2023 I have been to more than 155 countries on my way to visit every country in the world.
Enjoy your trip to Istanbul!
Some links in this article about buying a sim card for Istanbul are affiliate links. If you buy any product after clicking on an affiliate link I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry this is at absolutely no extra cost to you!