Many digital nomads seek a combination of four factors when choosing a temporary base: top-notch infrastructure, low costs of living, a vast cultural and culinary offer, and fellow nomads to connect with. Turkey excels in all of those. On this basis, here is a comprehensive guide to Turkey for digital nomads.
Welcome to Turkey: a Melting Pot of Cultures, Mentalities, and Civilizations
If there’s one word that characterizes modern Turkey, it’s diversity.
With more than 83 million inhabitants spread over two continents, Turkey is the meeting point between East and West – the place where ideas, mentalities, and cultures clash.
Turkey has been the cradle of various civilizations throughout its history – being part of the Greek, Persian, and Eastern Roman empires before becoming the epicenter of the immense Ottoman Empire. At its peak, the Ottoman sphere of influence extended from just south of Vienna to modern-day Algeria, Egypt, and Iran.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923), Mustafa Kemal Atatürk founded the modern Republic of Turkey as a secular state – always looking forward, and most importantly, westward.
Turkey had its fair share of military coups, political unrest, and identity crises in the 20th century, and these social tensions have continued in the last two decades. In short, Turkey is a highly polarized nation – now more than ever.
One thing to understand from the country’s multifaceted history is that modern Turkey has always tried to combine its Ottoman heritage with Atatürk’s secular, liberal, and pro-Western values.
Today, around half of the population consider themselves “liberal,” whereas the other half sees themselves as “conservative.”
The divide usually coincides with election results and also has a regional component. Some areas – like the Aegean, European region, and southern coast – have a much more liberal and pro-European vibe than the Black Sea region, the East, and Central Anatolia.
In the 15 million-plus megacity of Istanbul, the contrasts even show when you explore different neighborhoods.
All in all, Turkey is both progressive and reactionary. It is both religious and non-religious. And most importantly, it is much more than what you see in the media.
All of these cultural clashes make Turkey such an intriguing place to visit. After exploring Turkey four times as a tourist and spending two months there as a digital nomad in 2021, I can safely say that it’s an excellent destination for remote workers.
It is today a safe and developed country – with first-rate infrastructure and a high HDI rank. Better still, its weak currency has considerably lowered the cost of living for digital nomads, and its countless attractions offer plenty of things to do when you’re not working.
So, now you know a bit about the country, it’s time to get into my ultimate guide to Turkey for digital nomads.
Where to go in Turkey as a Digital Nomad
The first question you’ll ask yourself is which places are most suited for digital nomads in Turkey. The answer is simple, but there are also alternatives.
Istanbul: the Obvious Choice
Istanbul is by far the best city for digital nomads in Turkey for various reasons.
First, it has the best infrastructure, the largest airport in the country, the best public transportation network, the highest English levels, the highest number of fellow nomads, and the most co-working spaces and nomad-friendly coffee shops.
Secondly, it’s often seen as a “microcosmos of Turkey,” as people from all over the country move here. In other words, you’ll see Turkey’s diversity firsthand, and you’ll find restaurants and cultural institutions that showcase every region’s singularities. That’s without mentioning the infinite number of world-class tourist attractions and nightlife options that will keep you entertained.
Are there drawbacks? Well, Istanbul can be a bit overwhelming for first-timers. With more than 15 million people and a vast area stretching over two continents, the megacity isn’t for people who don’t like crowds.
In addition to that, it’s a bit more expensive than other Turkish cities, and the never-ending tourism influx can become tiring in the long run.
- For more info, read our Istanbul Digital Nomad Guide.
Fethiye and Antalya: the Beach Destinations
If you’re visiting during the summer months (May to late September), the southern beach towns can be favorable options.
Fethiye is a resort town with around 190,000 inhabitants in the Muğla Province. The area has fantastic beaches, lots of historic sites, and a laid-back vibe.
If you’re a digital nomad in Turkey who doesn’t like big cities, this is a great region to spend some time in summer, but I would avoid July and August, as those months bring hordes of packaged holidaymakers to Fethiye.
Home to over two million people, Antalya is the largest city in southern Turkey and a mix between business hub, sea resort, and international port city.
Antalya has a lot more to offer than Fethiye, especially when it comes to digital nomad infrastructure. The city also has one of the best nightlife scenes in Turkey and many authentic neighborhoods. By and large, it’s an excellent choice if you want to be on the beach and don’t mind big cities.
The Izmir Region: a Great Allround Choice
If you’re looking for a year-round destination with relaxing beaches for the summer months but also lots of intriguing historic sites – as well as a liberal atmosphere, head to Izmir.
Many people describe the third-largest city as a “bastion of Turkish liberalism” and a highly livable metropolis. The city is modern, as many old areas didn’t survive the Turkish War of Independence, but its never-ending bar streets and laid-back atmosphere make up for its lack of tourist sites.
Not to worry, though. The city might not have a lot of tourist attractions, but the region of Izmir has several impressive ancient cities, notably the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Ephesus and Pergamon. Better still, close to the city of Izmir, you’ll find Çeşme, a sought-after beach town.
Bursa, Eskisehir, and Ankara: the Offbeat Options
Finally, if you’re a digital nomad in Turkey looking for some off-the-beaten-path locations, the following cities offer top-level digital nomad infrastructure without a lot of tourists. Be aware that you won’t find a lot of English speakers in these regions.
Bursa is the fourth-largest city and probably the most underrated location in Turkey. Its Ottoman-era structures are spectacular, and it’s arguably the cleanest city in all of Turkey. On the flip side, it’s a lot more conservative than other large cities.
Eskisehir is an 800k-inhabitations student city in Anatolia. It’s a highly livable place with great nightlife, a beautiful riverfront, and a charming old core. The population is young and hip, and the city is a liberal island in a conservative region.
Finally, I should mention the capital Ankara. It’s not beautiful – as most of its neighborhoods consist of grey 70s blocks – but it does have a small Ottoman-era core and a shiny new business district. It also has Atatürk’s Mausoleum, one of the most spectacular locations in all of Turkey. If you’re into staying in a city with no tourists but a high-rate business infrastructure, Ankara might be an option.
Cost of Living
Being a digital nomad in Turkey has many perks, and one of those is the low cost of living. The Turkish lira has been in freefall for the past few years – creating favorable conditions for remote workers who earn euros or dollars.
How much does it cost to be a digital nomad in Turkey?
According to personal experience and other nomads’ accounts, I would budget around 1,000€ (1,200 USD) per month in Istanbul if you’re cooking your own food and lodging in apartments.
The other cities are a little bit cheaper, but not much. Bump that up by 500€ (650 USD) if you plan on traveling a lot and doing tourist activities like balloon tours, skydiving, and renting cars.
Here’s a breakdown of the month I spent in Istanbul in 2021:
- Airbnb in Taksim: 450€ (small but charming one-bedroom in a great area);
- Food and drinks: 300€;
- Public transport: 25€;
- Tourist activities: 50€;
- Taxis and other miscellaneous expenses like Sim cards and barber appointments: 75€.
Total: 900 €
As you can see, I was below the 1,000€ benchmark. I was living together with my partner, so we split quite a lot of expenses. Nevertheless, you can get by with that sort of budget.
All in all, you can get a lot of bang for your bucks in Turkey since everyday expenses – like non-imported food, accommodation, and public transport – are considerably cheaper than in most European and Middle Eastern countries.
Infrastructure and Connectivity
Turkey’s infrastructure has seen tremendous development in the last decade, with new roads, railway routes, airports, bridges, residential “model cities,” and American-style shopping malls springing up everywhere.
In short, you could say that apart from the East and some rural regions in the center, Turkey’s infrastructure has caught up to most of Europe, and it keeps getting better. The same applies to healthcare.
Wifi is fast and reliable in most of Turkey.
Accommodation, Sim Cards, and Transport
When it comes to digital nomad accommodation in Turkey, Airbnb is your best bet. Renting a conventional apartment as a non-resident foreigner is tricky and often requires Turkish language skills. No matter, every town in Turkey has Airbnbs, and many of them are suited for long-term stays. Check with your host when it comes to Wifi speed and other amenities.
You can find Sim cards in every market street in Turkey. Turkcell and Vodafone have great deals for foreigners. Don’t forget to take a copy of your passport. Sometimes, they also ask for a copy of your entrance stamp.
Most large cities in Turkey have excellent public transportation networks. Because cars are insanely expensive – owing to huge taxes – public transport is a national priority.
In most cities, you’ll need a public transit card before boarding a train or bus. You can usually buy that card at the station and recharge it at every stop.
Alternatively, you can take buses. Kamil Koç (connected to Flixbus) and Pamukkale are two companies I can recommend. Both offer safe and convenient transport in all corners of Turkey. The high-speed rail network is fast and convenient, but it only covers a few routes.
Finally, renting a car is easy. All the international rental companies are present in the cities, and you can rent a car with an EU or International driving license. If you’re in a remote area, you can find smaller companies. Check their reviews before booking as some of them aren’t trustworthy. Aside from that, make sure that your rental car has the automatic toll payment system installed since many highway toll boots won’t let you pay on the spot.
Turkey for Digital Nomads: Remote Working Locations
In Istanbul, you’ll find plenty of co-working spaces, especially around the major universities like Istanbul University and Istanbul Technical University. In that same vein, the Levent business district is home to various co-working locations that offer everything remote workers need.
In the other cities, there aren’t as many bespoke co-working spaces. Nevertheless, you can take advantage of Turkey’s century-old tea house and coffee shop culture.
In most cities, you’ll find coffee shops and tea houses with fast Wifi and comfortable couches. Espresso Lab – a chain that’s all over Turkey, is a recommendable choice in this regard. If all else fails, head to Starbucks.
Culture and People
As previously mentioned, Turkey is a highly diverse country with lots of cultural clashes happening within Turkish society.
It is a Muslim country, and you should respect Islamic customs when visiting a mosque or a conservative city/neighborhood (like dressing low-key and avoiding public displays of affection).
In contrast, alcohol is available in most places – and you can party all night in cities like Istanbul, Izmir, and Antalya.
With lots of personal connections in the country, I am a bit biased. Nevertheless, I’ll say that Turkish people are some of the friendliest souls on this planet. Hospitality is a massive part of Turkish culture, and “the guest is king” is a prevailing mentality.
Don’t skip out on making local friends. It’s undoubtedly one of the most rewarding aspects of spending more time in Turkey than the average traveler.
Turkey for Digital Nomads: FAQ
Is Turkey Safe?
Yes. Turkey is generally safe for foreigners, and apart from petty theft in crowded areas, crime isn’t an issue. There were quite a few terror attacks in the mid-2010s, but that problem isn’t as prevalent anymore.
Aside from that, some regions in the East have problems with insurgent groups. Always check local and international advice.
Do I Need a Visa?
Turkey is one of the most visa-friendly countries in the world. Most nationalities can enter for 90 days within 180 days without a visa – or using the simple e-Visa procedure.
Working remotely on a tourist visa is somewhat of a legal grey zone. Nevertheless, the tourist visa doesn’t explicitly prohibit you from carrying out home-tied work for a non-Turkish business on your laptop. Find more information on visas here.
Do I Need to Learn Turkish?
Outside of Istanbul’s tourist hotspots and other touristic regions like Cappadocia, English levels are low. Knowing a little Turkish will be helpful everywhere and essential in offbeat places. Here are some useful Turkish phrases.
Are There Many Fellow Nomads in Turkey?
You can find a thriving community in Istanbul, with many digital nomads and ex-pats working for international companies. That’s not the case for the other cities, so if connecting with other nomads is your priority, Istanbul is your best bet.