Living in Istanbul

Istanbul is the largest city in Turkey, constituting the country’s cultural, economic and historical heart. With a population of 15 million, the city forms one of the largest urban agglomerations in Europe and is among the largest cities in the world by population within the city limits.

Istanbul is a transcontinental city, straddling the Bosphorus—one of the world's busiest waterways—in northwestern Turkey, between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies in Europe, while a third of its population lives on Asian side.

Founded on the Sarayburnu, promontory around 660 BC as Byzantium, the city now known as Istanbul developed to become one of the most significant cities in history. For nearly sixteen centuries following its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 AD, it served as the capital of four empires: the Roman Empire (330–395), the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), the “Latin Empire” (1204–1261), and Ottoman Empire (1453–1922). It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans Conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the last Caliphate.

Although the Republic of Turkey established its capital in Ankara, palaces and imperial mosques still line Istanbul's hills as visible reminders of the city's previous central role.

Furthermore the city of Istanbul is a fantastic place to visit famous monuments which are spread in the city: The church ‘Hagia Sophia’, ‘the Blue Mosque’, ‘the Palace of Dolmabahçe’, ‘the mosque of Suleiman the Magnificent’,’ Valens Aqueduct’, ’The Hippodrome of Constantinople’, ‘The Walls of Constantinople’ and the “Topkapi Palace” are only a few attractions of Istanbul.

Most expats looking for accommodation in Istanbul tend to choose to live in the areas on the European side of the city, although there are plenty of housing options on the Asian side as well.
 
Two popular areas on the European side include Besiktas and Taksim, where a number of foreign consulates, schools and hospitals are located.

There are options for furnished and unfurnished apartments and houses in Istanbul. Most expats tend to live in ‘Sites’. The ‘Site’ (pronounced seet-ay), or housing estate, is a very common concept in Istanbul. Expats can find sites containing housing options to suit every budget and taste, ranging from large villas with private gardens and swimming pools to apartments with a communal pool, gym and garden. 

Traffic congestion can be a real problem in Istanbul; expats should therefore consider the proximity of their house or apartment to public transport and the distance they will have to travel to get to work, as well as schools, shops and entertainment. 

The average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in Istanbul can range from 1,000-2,500 TRL, while a three-bedroom house can set you back around 2,000-5,000 TRL per month. Utilities, including water, gas and electricity are normally included in the rental price for short-term leases, while those in long-term rentals may be expected to pay for these utilities. The deposit is normally the equivalent of around one to two months rental. An agency fee may also apply if you have gone through an agent.

In order to rent property in Istanbul, expats will need to provide a number of documents, including their passport, a letter from their employer or school, and proof of income. Other documents may also be needed, depending on the landlord or agent.

*1 Euro =  3,13 Türk Lirası (TRL)

Turkish citizens speak various languages depending on their education level, it will be always a plus if you can speak some basic Turkish to get around and to be appreciated by locals.

To enter Istanbul, or Turkey for that matter, most tourists will need some kind of visa. However, there are a few visa types, several ways to obtain your visa and different fees to pay. It all depends on your passport type, country of origin and the purpose of your visit.

Go to the site of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, find your country, and follow the instructions.

Accommodation/Housing
One-bedroom apartment in city centre     1,000 TRL
Three-bedroom apartment inside city centre    1,775 TRL

Shopping
Dozen eggs     4 TRL
Milk (1 litre)    1.75 TRL
Rice (1kg)     4 TRL
Loaf of white bread    1 TRL
Chicken breasts (skinless, 1kg)    10 TRL
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)    8 TRL

Eating out
Big Mac meal    12 TRL
Coca Cola (330ml)     2 TRL
Cappuccino    5.5 TRL
Bottle of beer (local, 500ml)    6 TRL
Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant    30 TRL

Utilities/Household
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)    0.38 TRL
Internet (Uncapped ADSL or Cable – average per month)    50 TRL
Utilities (water, elec, gas - average per month for standard household)    215 TRL

Transportation
Taxi rate/km    1.6 TRL
City centre public transport fare    2 TRL
Petrol/Gasoline (per litre)    4.60 TRL

1Euro = 3,13 Türk Lirası (TRL)

Turkey doesn’t have reciprocal health-care arrangements with other countries.

Foreign students are required to purchase a health insurance to study in Turkey. Some students may be already entirely or partly covered by their national or private health insurance.

The most efficient and cheapest way to get from A to B in Istanbul is undoubtedly by metro, tram, funicular and/or ferry. These means of public transportation are very efficient, quick, and punctual and they don’t suffer from Istanbul’s constantly clogged streets.

It is very easy to get around the enchanting city of Istanbul. 

If you stay in Sultanahmet neighborhood. The place is full of historical monuments to see in terms of museums and the famous Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Hagia Sophia and Topkapi Palace (some require entrance fees between 10 and 20 TL). These are all in walking distance around the Blue mosque area.

Legally you can’t work as a student, but you can be involved in a few projects as a freelancer.