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 June 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.
Of course I also wrote a complete guide for buying a sim card in Turkey in 2023 as well as buying a sim card at Istanbul SAW Airport, the other airport in Istanbul.
RELATED: the Ultimate Turkey Itinerary for 14 days. See all the hidden gems and don't miss any of the top sights in Turkey. Or check out my list of 19 beautiful places to visit in Turkey.
Why buying a sim card in 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.
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, 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 June 2023 costs 855 Turkish Lira which is $43 USD and you only get 12 GB data.
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 40% 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:
- 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.
There are multiple e-sim card operators and the above ones are from another 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
Click here to order one of the above e-sim cards for traveling to Turkey directly online.
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.
Istanbul Airport IST
Welcome to the fairly new Istanbul Airport with the ambition to become one of the biggest in the world in terms of handling passengers. Istanbul Airport is obviously ultra modern and super spacious. Seems like a great airport to arrive for your Turkey trip, but I am not really a fan. However, it is very easy to navigate and there is only one International arrival hall and one exit from the luggage belts 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 June 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, 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 June 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!
As of June 2023 $1 USD = 19.8 TRY and 100 TRY = $5.05 USD.
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 = 1,150 TL
- 60 GB data + unlimited calling, texting and social media apps = 1,300 TL
- 85 GB data + unlimited calling, texting and social media apps = 1,450 TL
- 120 GB data + unlimited calling, texting and social media apps = 1,700 TL
- 170 GB data + unlimited calling, texting and social media apps = 2,300 TL
At Njoy they only sell prepaid sim cards, e-sim cards are NOT available.
All packages are valid for 30 days in Turkey only and with some packages you get a free gift. 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 = 1,150 TL
- 12 GB data only = 900 TL
- 50 GB data only = 1,300 TL
- 100 GB data only = 1,650 TL
- 200 GB data only = 2,000 TL
- 400 GB data only = 3,250 TL
At the WIFIST/WIFI5G store they only sell prepaid sim cards, e-sim cards are NOT available.
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 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 June 2023 --> 1,150 TL = $58 USD, they charge you $68 USD for 1,150 TL, that is 20% commission basically! 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 got much more affordable prepaid sim card plans now however, still very expensive compared to e-sim cards for Turkey.
The cheapest Vodafone prepaid Turkey sim card at Istanbul Airport is now 610 TL around $32 USD, see the price sheet above.
- 50 GB data + unlimited social media/calls/sms = 1,100 TL - $55.5 USD
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, e-sim cards are NOT provided.
Turk Telekom store Istanbul Airport
These are the update prices as per June 2023 for Turk Telekom prepaid sim cards at Istanbul Airport, also see the picture above:
- 36 GB data + 750 minutes + sms = 1,100 TL
- 65 GB data + 750 minutes + sms = 1,190 TL
- 90 GB data + 1,500 minutes + sms = 1,350 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 only sells prepaid sim cards, e-sim cards are NOT provided.
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 = 1,100 TL
- 35 GB data + 1,400 minutes + 600 sms = 1,200 T
- 50 GB data + 1,400 minutes + 600 sms = 1,280 TL
- 65 GB data + 12,200 minutes + 6,000 sms = 1,555 TL
- 100 GB data + 25,200 minutes + 12,000 sms = 1,800 TL
All Turkcell prepaid sim card plans are valid only in Turkey.
Turkcell also offers data-only prepaid sim cards:
- 25 GB data only = 1,050 TL
- 50 GB data only = 1,120 TL
- 100 GB data only = 1,180 TL
- 200 GB data only = 1,500 TL
And then last but not least, the cheapest prepaid sim card at Istanbul Airport is also from Turkcell:
- 12 GB data only = 855 TL - $43 USD
The Turkcell store at Istanbul Airport only sells prepaid sim cards, e-sim cards are NOT provided.
As you have seen none of the mobile internet providers and sim card shops at Istanbul Airport provide e-sim cards. You can only buy an e-sim card for Turkey online, click on the link to find the best Turkey e-sim card deals.
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Best sim card at Istanbul Airport in 2023
Prrices for Turkey prepaid sim cards at Istanbul Airport are more or less the same when I updated them in June 2023. Since prices skyrocketed in the last months, it is hard to recommend a specific prepaid sim card. The cheapest prepaid sim card for tourists at Istanbul Airport is a Turkcell data only sim card with 12 GB for 855 TL, which is already $43 USD.
An e-sim card for Turkey with 20 GB data for 30 days only costs $26 USD. I am sure you now understand what I meant when I said: Traveltomtom does NOT recommend buying a prepaid sim card at Istanbul Airport.
Because Turkcell also has the BEST 4G/5G NETWORK IN TURKEY they are considered the best prepaid sim card for traveling to Istanbul.
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 40% 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 sim card for Turkey online
Does buying a prepaid sim card for Turkey in Istanbul sound like too much hassle than check out the following option. You can order an international prepaid sim card for turkey online and get it shipped 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 cards for Turkey:
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
- 10 GB data for 14 days = $49.90 USD
Click here to directly order an international sim card for Turkey online.
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 150 TL ($7.5 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 150 TL ($7.5 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 40 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 June 2023 I have been to more than 155 countries on my way to visit every country in the world.
Enjoy your trip to Istanbul!