Based on Travel October – November 2014
Find a Turkcell store (they’re everywhere) buy a SIM and hope that your luck is good, or rely on the country’s very good Wi-Fi coverage.
Easy*, there are Turkcell stores everywhere and you can easily get a SIM card and connect. The asterisks is for the risks mentioned below.
Providers and Networks:
Turkcell, AVEA, Vodafone
All providers GSM 850/900/1800/1900/2100
World Phone Compatible
First off, you should know that Turkey is more developed than you may think, cheap, and full of wonderful people. But if you are reading this, you already know and want to find out how to post photos of your food on instagram wherever you want (the food is awesome). Before moving on though, and this if it wasn’t important it wouldn’t be at the top, you should know that there is WiFi EVERYWHERE in Turkey, and the restaurant/coffee shop/hotel/etc will be happy to share the password. For even more convenience, read on.
So getting a SIM in Turkey isn’t the most straight forward thing. From what I can understand, due to increasing phone theft in Turkey, the government instituted a new law that all mobiles phones purchased outside Turkey using a Turkish SIM card must be registered (by IMEI number) with the government. In general this sounds like a pretty good idea and I think more countries should adopt it to limit theft. The registration is included on new phones purchased in Turkey, but for foreign phones this registration costs money, from 100-300 TRY ($44 – $132 USD) depending who you talk to. So you may be thinking, screw that, I don’t want to pay it, can I still get a SIM. The answer is yes, but it comes with a consequence. There is a grace period of 1-2 weeks (but apparently that can be as short as 2 days), after which the phone will be blocked for the Turkish SIM and can no longer be used in Turkey. Note that the SIM will continue to work so you can put in another phone if you have it. So if you plan on staying in the country for a short time, it is a reasonably safe bet that the grace period won’t end so picking up a local SIM without registering your IMEI is a viable option. If staying longer, you can take the risk or look at alternative options like:
- You can swap the SIM between different phones in your travelling group.
- You can buy a cheap local Turkish phone. You don’t have to pay the registration fee on new phones.
- Bring a dual-SIM phone (like the recommended Moto G) as it hasy two IMEI numbers. so you will have to be blocked twice.
- Buy a new SIM every time you get the message.
- There are certain coastal areas where a Greek island is close enough for you to use their mobile networks (and thus also gain from the cheaper intra-Europe rates). However, these are very limited.
- North Cyprus prepaid SIMs can work while roaming in Turkey, seemingly without additional charge. [was able to use an IMEI blocked phone in Turkey with KKTC Telsim SIM card with no issues. 04/2014]
Companies and Coverage:
There are three major providers – Turkcell, AVEA and Vodafone. Turkcell is the biggest with the best coverage, followed by Vodafone and AVEA. The rates vary, but Turkcell is recommended for the speed and coverage with competitive rates. Head to a Turkcell store (there are many of them) to purchase a SIM card. Prepaid cost seem to be coming down, and in my case I paid 55 TRY ($24 USD) for a SIM with 100 MB data, 30 minutes of calling and a bunch of sms. I immediately topped up the data with 250MB for 14 TRY ($6 USD) because I could. To see rates check out the links below (Use the Turkish site, and translate with Google Translate, if you switch to english, the site only gives you roaming information):
I ended up topping up again with 1GB of data for 25 TRY (as I accidentally made a video call on 3G). I did receive the dreaded message on day 4 which will look like this:
Which basically says “XXX SIM not recognized and on 18.12.2014 your phone will be deactivated. More info call 4440532” (What my Turkish hotel manager told me) So, against what I was told and feared, I had over two months to use the SIM without issue. So that goes in favour of grabbing a SIM and not concerning yourself with registration of your phones IMEI.