Living in Istanbul as an Expat

There are many challenges when moving to a different country; you may rightfully have concerns about living in Istanbul or Turkey as an expat.

You have to go through countless procedures in different steps ranging from finding accommodation to enrolling in school, getting health insurance and meeting your special needs. It is like a new world with new rules. Therefore, while adapting to the life in a new country, it is important to start working with leading experts and an experienced company in order to come through this complex process. We can say that the relocation process is similar to pregnancy; while the natural process is the same for everybody, families may have different experiences.


Choosing the right neighborhood to live in is the first rule of living in Istanbul as an expat. It is one of the most important tasks before the relocation process. Istanbul is one of the most preferred cities by expats in Turkey due to the career and educational opportunities it offers. Since the city is situated on two continents (Anatolian and European sides), it is highly important to know which side to live in before your arrival. While the life on Anatolian side is cheaper and more comfortable, expats feel obliged to live on the European side because of the job opportunities and international schools. Especially, the families who have school-age children prefer living on the European side, otherwise they have to spend around three hours in traffic every day.

When Relocating to Turkey: Neighbourhood


It is important to note that Istanbul has become one of the most expensive cities in the world, relating to real estate market. Even though it is hard to find a new apartment that is built after the earthquake in 1999 in the most popular districts, such as all Bosphorus area, Etiler, Ulus and Levent, the prices never go down. Almost all the buildings over there are more than 30 years old, some are renovated (in terms of infrastructure and interior design), and some are to be renovated. The maintenance/compound fees of A+ compounds in the European side (such as Maya Residence, Sari Konaklar, Platin etc.) are almost equal to a regular 1+ apartment. In most of the buildings, there is a “doorman” who provides some kind of convenience services to the tenants.

There are also “new” emerging districts such as Bomonti, Elmadag, Sishane, Balat and they have newer properties which are built according to the new construction law but they are not considered very affordable either.

There are 2 other “suburban” districts on the European side, called Kemerburgaz and Zekeriyakoy. Both of them are 15 min drive to the new financial district Maslak; both are very “modern villages” that mostly have houses, not tall buildings and they are also the only two neighborhoods that have security clearance from US and UK Consulates. You may also consider such neighborhoods as an expat who considers living in Istanbul.

That means we have to limit our expectations and budget to focus on the best decision since it’s very easy to get lost in the options in Istanbul as an expat. It’s bigger and deeper than it seems and there’s no “average” in Istanbul’s real estate market. It works like a stock market, what is available today is not available tomorrow, so our housing team needs to check the updated status of our portfolios according to the expat’s feedback.

Some Comparisons:

Washington=Ankara: The general atmosphere and the city order are similar in both cities.

Istanbul=New York: The prices of food and housing are more or less the same.


After choosing the neighborhood, the next step is finding the house and dealing with the renting procedures as an expat who considers living in Istanbul. As Turkey Relocation Management Services, we help you with the all rent contract procedures. Although the English documents are not valid in Turkey, we prepare the materials both Turkish and English for you to understand all the articles but it is important to know that the contracts must be in Turkish.

When Relocating to Turkey: Housing


If you don’t have the chance to come to Turkey before moving, we can provide you some visual help as well. For example, we send you the pictures of houses and show you how to reach the main places such as schools, hospitals and shopping centers. We can also suggest you some locations for business and give you recommendations for public transportation. As an expat who plans living in Istanbul, such information may come in handy in the first place.

Life for Persons with Disabilities

Unfortunately, life is very difficult for persons with disabilities in Turkey. Although there have been significant efforts to make the cities more disability-friendly places, there is still much progress to be made. People with disabilities especially face difficulties in terms of accessibility, education, employment and health. So, if you have any disabilities, it is necessary to think twice before coming to Turkey. Especially as an expat in Istanbul or Turkey, you may have more difficulties since you’ll have a language barrier as well.

Medical Issues

If you have a personal health insurance in your country which has international coverage, you can also use it in Turkey. According to Law on Foreigners and International Protection, Law No. 6458 that is updated in April 11, 2014, expats who plan to living in Istanbul or Turkey are obliged to get health private insurance specific to his/her age and risk group in addition to getting residence and work permit.

There are special packages for expats that cover private hospitals. The amount of default coverage is generally 80% but it can reach up to 100%. However, only some of the private hospitals have agreement with the social security institution. Therefore, only the “by law coverage” may not be enough. The fact that whether your children and your wife will benefit from your health insurance or not is related to its coverage. If you have the family pack, they can also benefit from your health insurance.



Unfortunately, in Turkey there is no emergency service available in English; this may be a handicap for an expat who plans living in Istanbul or Turkey. Our 7/24-expat support services will assist you on any issue. In any case, the contact number of the emergency service is 112.

As for the prices, the medical services in Istanbul are cheaper in Turkey than in many European countries. The hospitals also carry out many successful operations. Do not worry about it. Turkey is a country where the medical tourism is very common and it is one of the most successful countries in terms of medical operations.

In order to have a smooth process and overcome language barriers, we suggest you to get medical assistance from us. When we look at the most preferred hospitals by expats in Istanbul and overall Turkey, they are the American Hospital, Acıbadem Group and Medikalpark.


You can also find very successful educational institutions in Turkey that provide education in English. It is also possible to find institutions that provide pre-school education in a foreign language.  Here, it is important to benefit from the equivalence between schools. The equivalence between private schools exists but it depends on the country and school which the student is coming from.



In order to enroll in high schools and universities, the students need to pass some English exams. Universities also have special quotas for foreign students in Turkey. Almost all of the universities provide education in foreign languages. And if you have started MBA or doctorate in your country, you can continue them in Turkey as long as the equivalence is accepted between universities.
The schools that provide education in a foreign language are mostly situated in Etiler, Ulus, Hadımköy, Rumelihisarı, Zekeriyaköy, Kemerburgaz, Yeniköy, Selamiçeşme, Akatlar and Levent. It is possible to find many successful examples as well. As an expat who plans living in Istanbul or Turkey, you can get a consultancy service from us in terms of education and school decision.

If you want to attend the Turkish courses, we have some agreements with language courses. We also offer private lessons for the people who are working. You need to learn basic Turkish to live in the country. You can benefit from the body language while talking to your friends but you will need to speak Turkish with other people in the street. On request, we can also open a conversation club in order to improve your Turkish.


If you have a pet, you can also bring them to Turkey. Most of the animals are accepted without any problems, but dogs and cats are the easiest ones. In some minimal cases, animals apart from dogs and cats may be put in quarantine. There are some bureaucratic processes before bringing your pet. You have to start the procedures 3 months before; otherwise your pet may not be accepted to the country at the same time with you.

Veterinaries are very common in Turkey but you can have some language problems. We also provide assistant services in this issue for expats living in Istanbul.

Your pet may create a problem while renting a house in the city but in the suburbs, there are no such limitations. The choice of the house owner and the size of the animal are important and you need to take this into consideration before you move.



Dog walking is also very common. Therefore, you can freely take your dog to a walk in any neighborhoods. We provide dog boarding & training services with our business associate Von Bakachan Hundesport & Hundeplatz, and can assist you to our colleagues who can walk your dog. This service is limited for expats living in Istanbul.

You will see many stray dogs and cats in the streets but the municipalities vaccinate them all. So, they are not dangerous.


Relocation brings a lot of experiences and opportunities but at the same time the process might be a little bit tiring. Like other countries, Turkey has its own regulations and you have to be careful and selective about choosing your neighborhood, house, school etc. In order to overcome all of the unexpected problems, have a smooth relocation process and reach all the services easily, you can always trust our services. For more information, please consult us.