Are you planning an extended stay in Istanbul? Wondering how much you can expect that to cost? Turkey’s largest city has lots to offer in the way of historical sites and activities for longer term stays. It’s a large modern metropolis that is surprisingly affordable. It’s also a common destination for digital nomads. Here we’ll share with you our cost of living for one month in Istanbul.
When we decided to travel the world full-time, we set a monthly budget for ourselves of $2000 Canadian dollars (about $1,580 USD) per month. We know that it will vary depending on where we are in the world, but we plan to stick to it as best we can and hope it all evens out in the end.
All figures below will be in US dollars and we’ll also convert to Euros in the conclusion. All costs are for both of us combined as a couple, not per person.
Let’s see how our cost of living compared to our budget:
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We use AirBnb for most of our accommodation for a few reasons. First, hosts tend to give substantial discounts when booking for at least 28 days. Our plan is slow travel so this AirBnb discount works great with our plans. Second, when you use AirBnb, your internet, electricity, gas etc. are included in the total cost paid, so there are no surprises. Finally, booking with AirBnb allows us to earn credit card reward points (we love free travel points! learn more here) and we can book in our home currency on AirBnb.ca to avoid paying any foreign transaction fees.
Our AirBnb in Istanbul was great. It was a fully equipped one bedroom apartment (though it was listed as a studio on AirBnb?) We had an equipped kitchen, bathroom, washing machine, amazing wifi, everything we needed. The only negatives to mention were no air-conditioning and the 5th floor walkup seemed long on some nights (though we probably need the exercise.) The apartment was in the Kadiköy neighbourhood of Istanbul. We were surrounded by local cafes, restaurants and shops galore, and really enjoyed the local feel of the area. Click here to see the AirBnb listing.
Total cost for accommodation for the month: $499.60USD
If you’re looking for a hotel, hostel or resort here are some other great places in Istanbul
- Luxury Accommodations – Ritz Carlton Istanbul
The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul is located in the heart of the city overlooking scenic views of the city and the Bosphorus. This brand name speaks for itself. You will be immersed in luxury throughout your stay
- Mid Range Accommodations – Novotel Istanbul Bosphorus
Novotel Istanbul Bosphorus Hotel is located in the heart of the trendy Karakoy to explore the artistic and cultural activities, as well as the Golden Horn, historical Sultanahmet and Galata.
- Budget Accommodations – Hotel Peninsula
Located conveniently in historic peninsula, just 300 m from the sea. Topkapi Palace is 700 metres, Hagia Sophia is 450 m and Basilica Cistern is 550 m from the property. Guests will also enjoy the delicious free breakfast
- Budget Hostel – Bahuas Guesthouse
If you are on a tight budget and don’t mind a hostel, this one is not to be missed. With private rooms as low as $25 per night and shared dorm rooms as low as $9 per night. This hostel even organizes their own events every day of the week. From pub crawls to attractions.
- Or search a broad range of accommodations here
There is so much to do In Istanbul! Our goal was to soak up as much history in the city as possible. And to not blow our budget doing it! We saw the Haiga Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, a Bosporus cruise and more. Exploring many of Istanbul’s neighbourhoods on foot was our favourite way to spend our days. You could spend several days exploring Kadiköy alone! Istanbul has so many free or inexpensive things to do that we had to write a whole other post about it! 11 Absolutely Free (or Really Cheap!) things to do in Istanbul.
Total Cost for Activities for the month: $29.63
If you don’t want to go through the trouble of planning excursions while in Istanbul check out these great deals
- Bosphorus evening cruise on a luxury yacht
- Essential Istanbul Group Tour
- Private Full Day Tour of Istanbul
Dining and Groceries
During our month in Istanbul our dining experiences covered a wide range of price points. From cheap street food to really nice restaurants. The vast majority of the food we ate, was absolutely delicious with only a few just “meh” experiences. I would have no issue saying that Istanbul is a foodie’s paradise. Interested in Kadiköy food at multiple price ranges? We have you covered here and here.
Total Cost for Dining for One Month: $419.42
While we love the dining out experience, we also have work to do. Therefore, we did a good amount of cooking for ourselves in our AirBnb. Having a fully equipped kitchen helps tremendously on these days. We made simple dishes like pasta, sandwiches, salads, eggs, etc.
Total Cost for Groceries for the Month: $187.34 USD
Cell Phone Plans in Istanbul
Before arriving in Istanbul we did a lot of research on local sim cards. For longer term travel, local sim cards are the best option. You’ll save loads of money on the roaming charges and high rates charged by your home carrier.
During our research, we discovered that (due to Covid) we needed an HES code upon arrival in Turkey. HES is a contact tracing number and is assigned to you with your health entry form. The HES code is needed for public transit (more on this below) as well as entering museums, major shopping malls, etc.
We wanted to use public transportation to get from the airport to our Airbnb so we opted to buy SIM cards at the airport. Know that usually you pay more for SIMs at the airport than anywhere else in the city, but for what appeared to be a minimal additional cost didn’t bother us for peace of mind of having the proper health code.
Cell Phone Providers in Turkey
We chose Turkcell as our provider because we would be travelling throughout Turkey and heard that they have the best coverage available. HUGE MISTAKE! They ended up charging us double the advertised rate for the tourist welcome pack. Additionally, the Turkcell representative outright lied to us. When purchasing the largest data package available, we wanted to be sure that the the package would be valid for our entire 90 day stay in Turkey. The Turkcell employee assured us that it would, several times. We found out the following day via text message from Turkcell that our package would only be valid for 30 days.
The second time we topped up at Turkcell was also a very unpleasant experience in which inexplicable charges were added to our account. Our advice if you’re visiting Turkey is to stay as far away from Turkcell as possible. Save yourself the headache and try another carrier, Vodafone or Türk Telecom are some other options, though we have no experience with either.
Total Cost for Phone and Data for one Month: $75.51x USD
We did not use a single taxi or ride share app while in Istanbul. Walking was our preferred method of transportation. When travelling longer distances, we opted for public transportation. Istanbul has a fantastic transit system and their ferries, subways and buses were great. Extremely clean, punctual and oh so easy to use from anywhere in Istanbul. I cannot say enough good things about the public transportation infrastructure in Istanbul.
The easiest way to ride the system is to buy an Istanbulkart. These cards are loaded with cash at any major station within the city. In 2021, your IstanbulKart card must also be linked to the HES code we discussed above. This can be accomplished at any major metro station with an information desk. They will link it for you. Without your HES and Istanbulkart linked, you will not be able to board public transportation.
Total cost for Transportation for One Month: $24.84 USD
Both of us required Visas to enter Turkey. For some reason, Angela’s cost more than mine did. We can only assume it has to do with her being Canadian and me being American. Visas are valid for 180 days from the date of issue. Unfortunately, you can only be in country for 90 of these days.
Obtaining a Visa is a straightforward and pretty process. In this article, we are pro-rating the Visas as we intend to be in Turkey for the full 90 days. Additionally, you pay the same price for the Visa whether you are here for 90 days or 14 days.
Total Cost for Visa for one month (pro-rated): $38.77
This category covers pretty much everything that’s not included above. We choose to include alcohol in miscellaneous, because we do enjoy a beer or a bottle of wine from time to time while hanging around the Airbnb. You might not drink and if you are planning a budget you can easily omit this cost. For us, alcohol makes up about 65% of this category.
Other miscellaneous expenses included the purchase of a fan. We arrived in Istanbul in mid August and it was extremely hot. Even overnight was quite warm. To sleep better we purchased a fan for our AirBnb. This is not a reflection of the AirBnb, we knew going in that there was no A/C and booked it thinking it wouldn’t be a problem. Turns out we were wrong. Second, I dropped and broke the shower head in our AirBnb, so we purchased our host a new one. Oops, lol.
Total Miscellaneous Costs for one month: $125.49
Fortunately for us the flight to Istanbul was very inexpensive. We have accumulated a lot of points in airline and hotel reward programs, mostly through credit card sign up bonuses. We flew business class on Turkish airlines from Toronto to Istanbul for total out of pocket cost of $150CAD or about $120USD. These two seats had a cash fare of more than $10,000CAD ($7940USD). We have not added these flights to our Cost of Living for one month in Istanbul.
If you would like to learn more about how to acquire travel points and rewards you can read through some of the articles we have written here. If you want even more info and live in the USA or Canada, leave a comment below and I’m happy to tell you more about it.
Cost of Living for One Month in Istanbul
Looking at the table above, you can see that we came in almost $180USD under budget. Can’t beat that cost of living for one month in Istanbul. We are extremely pleased with this outcome. It feels great to confirm what we always expected – living abroad can be much cheaper than in your home country. These numbers were about 1/3 of what our typical expenses would have been in Canada for month.
Have you lived in Istanbul for any length of time? Were you numbers similar to our cost of living for one month in Istanbul? Do you have any other tips for potential travellers? Leave a comment and let us know. We would love to hear from you.