Cost to Retire in Istanbul Turkey

In this report, I will share the Cost to Retire in Istanbul Turkey including rents, utilities, groceries, restaurants, transportation, and other expenses for low to middle-range living costs.

After completing our retirement research in Sri Lanka, we flew north to Istanbul Turkey. I have always loved the Turkish beaches and culture and many of you wanted to know what it would cost to retire here on a tight budget. So here we are.

Although we started our tour of Turkey where we landed in Istanbul, in the coming weeks we will also be putting our feet on the ground in a few of the beach towns on the Mediterranean Sea. So, please subscribe and hit the notifications bell in case you want cost estimates there also.

If this is the first you have heard of us, you can browse hundreds of retire cheap reports all over the world according to your favorite countries on our Vagabond Awake YouTube Playlist.

Istanbul has amazing public transportation so you will not need a car to get around. But we stayed in the historical cultural center of Istanbul so we could show you some of the highlights in this video.

But we will also show you one of our favorite neighborhoods where we would like to live if we retired here. It was only about a 10-minute tram ride from the historical center to our favorite neighborhood.

In this report, I will share my retirement desirability factors such as Visa, Medical, Walkability, Internet, Food, Weather, Things to Do, Social considerations, Expat Community, Real Estate, and My Overall Retirement Desirability Score.

But first, I want to share my estimated costs of living converted into US dollars if the two of us moved to Istanbul Turkey year-round on a tight budget. We will also include more typical expenses we have heard from other expats to give you another data point.

Estimated Cost Retire in Istanbul Turkey

Rents: I found this furnished studio apartment for rent $556 USD per month right next to my favorite area in the city for the long term. If you rent for a shorter period on Airbnb it would be much more expensive.

If you rent a larger home or townhouse long term the rent would be higher, starting around $800 per month on up depending upon area and size.

Here is the process we use to find great apartments. So, we will show you a table of all expenses in a moment. We will use $556 per month for our lower rent estimate and $800 per month for the middle cost of living estimate for expats who want more space.

Utilities: We estimate that the year-round average for our utilities would be about $60 USD per month. The utilities would cost more for the larger space, starting at around $80 USD per month.

Groceries: When possible, we would purchase fruits and vegetables from small shops and street vendors to save money. But we would also shop in grocery stores for nonperishable foods and other things like shampoo and detergents. We estimate about $270 per month for groceries. Other expats are likely to shop more often in expensive grocery stores often spending more than $375 per month on groceries.

Restaurants: We would eat out twice per week mostly in more local-style restaurants averaging about $10 USD per meal per person and one or two splurges per month of $15 per meal per person. If you add all that up, we would spend around $220 per month for the two of us. We may have a beer here and there, but that is covered below in alcohol.

Other expats are likely to eat more Western-style foods in expensive expat-style restaurants and less in local-style restaurants, so they would likely spend more like $300 per month for 2 people in restaurants. It is lifestyle-dependent.

Cell Phone Data: The cost to get a prepaid sim card for you unlocked smartphone is about $10 USD per month. My Android phone will act as a hotspot so we can both be on the internet at the same time when we are out of the house together.

Other expat couples are likely to buy two prepaid SIM cards so they would send $20 per month.

Laundry: A 5kg machine at a laundromat is about $4 USD wash and dry. So, we would spend about $25 USD per month on laundry.

Drinking Water: We didn’t see reverse osmosis delivery in 20-liter jugs here so we would probably get a Brita water filter for the refrigerator. The filter refills would be about $5 USD per month.

Internet: 60 MBPS up and down is about $12 USD for in-home wifi.

Transportation: The buses and trains in Istanbul were charging us 18 TTL ($0.50 USD) each way per person. We estimate about $30 per month for transportation. Other expats might spend more riding taxis or Uber, and less on public transportation, so I estimate $60 per month for them.

Alcohol (Optional): Domestic beer in grocery stores in Istanbul is about 50 TL ($1.50 USD). In bars and restaurants, domestic beer ranges from about 70 to 100 TL ($2 to $3 USD). So, we estimate would spend about $120 per month on alcohol for the two of us.

Many other expats would spend a higher amount for imported foreign or craft beers in expat bars, so about $200 USD per month for 2 people assuming they are not into imported whiskey or wine.

Entertainment (Optional): We would budget about $200 per month for entertainment for the two of us. We generally enjoy doing more do-it-yourself kinds of entertainment so expats would spend a little more, maybe $300 per month, for 2 of them?

Estimated Costs Retire in Istanbul Turkey



















Cell Data






Drinking Water


















Optional Total









Optional Total



The above lower estimated cost of living would be if the two of us lived in Istanbul Turkey on a tight budget. The middle estimate is just an example of what other expats might spend if they moved here.

To understand what it would cost you to live here, you must put your feet on the ground, see how you would choose to live, eat, and entertain yourself, and add it all up. It doesn’t matter what anyone else spends because we are all different.

Where would we live in Istanbul?

We loved this area of Istanbul. It is more expensive than other areas of Istanbul that are further from the center, but we just really loved this area.

Google Map


It has amazing nightlife, restaurants, and shopping. It also had a funky hip crowd that hung around this area so the people watching was amazing. Plus it is a short distance from public transportation so you could get all over Istanbul quickly and cheaply.

Istanbul Turkey Livability Factors

Before you move anywhere outside your home country, make sure to create a list of things that you must have for your happy retirement. Here are my livability factors and I will rank each as high, medium, or low before assigning an overall retirement desirability score to Istanbul.

Walkability: High. Unless it is raining, we would walk everywhere in Istanbul within 2 kilometers. When we wanted to go further, we would just hop on public transportation. To find out how to use public transportation, go to Google Maps, type where you want to go, and then select the public transportation icon at the top. Google will tell you where to go to catch the bus or train and when to get off. The prices are reasonable and you don’t have to worry about where to park when you arrive.

Internet: High. In-home wifi is about 30 MBPS down and 20 MBPS up. Good enough for us to do Zoom calls, upload YouTube videos, and watch Netflix. We were also able to use our cell phones as hot spots all over Istanbul Turkey without paying anything extra.

Food: High. Once you get out of the oldest part of town which is anywhere within 2 kilometers of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the food is often amazing. There are foods from all over the world in Istanbul and the Turkish food is also amazing. However, the prices can be very high so do your research to find your budget. You will find small family-owned restaurants in neighborhoods with dishes for $5 to $9 USD. If we lived here, we would have a tendency to cook more than we would in other parts of the world in order to keep our total food budget within reason.

Weather: Medium. If you like seasons, but not snow, then I would rate it High. Daily highs average from 48 F (9 C) in January up to 85 F (29 C) in July. Nightly lows average from 37 F (3 C) in January to 69 F (21 C) in August. The oceans surrounding the city keep it cooler than interior cities in the summer. If you only plan to visit, the best time to come is April, May, and September, October. The rainy season is October through February.

Things to Do: High. is the capital of Istanbul Turkey and there are endless things to do here. Museums, live music, people watching, cultural tours, coffee shops, shopping, malls, studying its ancient history, photography. You are also just a bus ride away from some of the most beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean. Plus you are a short flight to Europe and Asia. But if you would prefer to live at the beach, stay tuned, I will be showing you those soon.

Social Considerations: Estimates are that around 49% of the people living in Istanbul speak at least some English. We found that to be a conservative estimate during our visit. The people are very friendly and helpful here. I don’t believe you will face any additional challenges because you are a foreigner.

Safety Considerations: The most common petty crime in Istanbul is pickpocketing and is often carried out by children. Nothing valuable should be in an unsecured pocket, front or back. Here are my thoughts on how to remain safe all over the world. Also, the US State Department issues travel advisories for each part of the world which you should be aware of. Turkey is level 2 right now, “Excercise Increase Caution.” We often travel to level 2 locations, so this was not a concern for us, but you should be aware nevertheless.

Expat Community: You will see ex-pats from all over the world here. About one million of the 16 million people living in Istanbul are foreigners. Here are a few Facebook pages that cater explicitly to English-speaking expats living in Istanbul: 1, 2, 3. These online expat communities are great for learning all about things that expats want to learn when they first move overseas. But do check each before asking any specific questions. You will often find that someone has answered your questions recently so don’t waste their time by asking it again before reading. That way they will be willing to answer any new questions you have that have not yet been answered.

Medical: I have never needed healthcare in Turkey. But we have read that the healthcare in Turkey is as good as the EU or USA, but is as much as 70% cheaper. But my personal experience all over the world is that even in places with excellent healthcare and prices, you should take an active role not only in understanding your care and getting second opinions but also in picking the doctors you consult based upon advice from others who have used their services. The Facebook Expats pages shared above are often a good source for that kind of information from someone with personal experience.

Tourist Visa: The Turkish Government now has an eVisa webpage that both Qiang and I used to determine that we did not need an eVisa before flying to Turkey. But you should check before you fly because rules change all the time. Many countries including Americans and Malaysians can stay in Turkey 90 days upon entry. We had an exit flight and accommodations ready to show officials upon entry but they did not ask to see either. They stamped both of our passports allowing 90 days upon entry.

Retirement Visa: There is no retirement visa for Turkey. On paper, there are several visas available, but the one that seems to be still working efficiently is called the property purchase visa. But you have to be very careful to make sure that you pick a property that fulfills the minimum purchase price and is in an area that qualifies. According to this source, the minimum purchase price is now $200k USD. If you decide to use the source link shown, please complete your due diligence because I do not know this source personally. But this other source says you need to pay $400k USD but that entitles you to citizenship after a time.  Plus laws are subject to change.  So talk to a lawyer before risking any money.  

Turkey also has marriage visas, family visas, student visas, work visas, language course visas, and business visas, but they are delayed and refused often so do not seem as dependable. However, the right immigration lawyer may be able to thread that needle for you.

Real Estate: Apparently, foreigners can own real estate in Turkey. However, I do not recommend buying real estate in a foreign country until you have lived there for an extended period of time making sure you love it. If you decide to buy, you should also get your own lawyer that has no conflict of interest with you. For example, do not use a lawyer recommended by your real estate broker or local lover.

Istanbul Turkey Overall Desirability Score: High. I love the energy and excitement that I feel walking around Istanbul. It is a vibrant culturally rich town filled with people from all over the world. But I am more of a city person. Qiang is more of a small-town or beach person, which I also love. So we would probably live in a beach town if we decided to retire in Turkey. So subscribe so you will get our beach town reports for Turkey.

What would it cost you to live in Istanbul Turkey?

To get a better understanding of things you should add to our estimated cost of living watch this video: 9 Reasons You Can’t Retire on $1000 Month Overseas.

Most people will likely be unable to retire for the lower range estimate above. I give example reasons why in this report. Plus, this other report explains how to avoid coming home early with your tail between your legs.

Also, if you are going to try to retire cheap offshore, make sure to read my report, the Two Biggest Risks of Retiring Early for Cheap Offshore, which explains why you should have emergency funds available for unexpectedly large expenses.

You should also add anything to the above table that you spend money on in your home country that is not listed in the above table. Presumably, you find those things necessary in life. To do that, visit the Numbeo Istanbul and add anything not mentioned in the above table.

Never move anywhere until you have visited first personally to verify the living costs for your lifestyle and needs. I am not guaranteeing these prices. These are just my notes and estimates from the time of my visit and this post. Your costs will likely be drastically different depending on your lifestyle and the time since this post.

Many of the expats we meet living overseas are self-insured for medical care. That means that not everyone buys health insurance when they move overseas. That probably sounds crazy to many of you.

I didn’t carry medical insurance for most of my first 17 years living overseas. But last year I bought medical insurance. If you are wondering what it costs and what it covers, watch my medical insurance video is at this link. This is not an affiliate link.

More typical expat living costs in Istanbul Turkey range from about $1500 to $3000 per month. But people spending that much often have higher savings, incomes, or pensions. They often report spending more on accommodations, entertainment, eating out more, traveling, and alcohol. Many also have more expensive cars, houses, or apartments.

Istanbul Old Town Walking Tour

Google Map

The first and last stops on this tour are public transportation to get you there and back. Here are the other stops and a short description in the order given.

The Obelisk of Theodosius is the Ancient Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Thutmose III (1479–1425 BC). It was brought to Istanbul to the 4th Century Hippodrome of Constantinople by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in the 4th century AD.

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul is an Ottoman-era historical imperial mosque located in Istanbul, Turkey. It was constructed between 1609 and 1617 during the rule of Ahmed I and remains a functioning mosque today. It also attracts a large number of tourists and is one of the most iconic and popular monuments of Ottoman architecture.

The Hagia Sophia was erected here by the Eastern Roman Empire in 537 AD. The site was an Eastern Orthodox church until Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. It served as a mosque until 1935, when it became a museum, and in 2020, it was converted back into a mosque.

The Topkapi Palace Museum is a large museum now but served as the administrative center of the Ottoman Empire, and was the main residence of its sultans, until the completion of Dolmabahçe Palace in 1856.

The Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul. It was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine emperor Justinian I. Today it is kept with little water, for public access inside the space.

The Grand Bazaar, built in the 15th Century AD by the Ottoman Empire, is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 4,000 shops attracting between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. The Grand Bazaar is often regarded as one of the first shopping malls of the world.

Favorite Neighborhood Walking Tour

Google Map

The first and last stop on this tour is the tram stop, Tophane. All od the other stops on the tour are not recommended for spending money, they are just there to make sure you follow a really cool path. But feel free to wander off the path when you see something interesting. I recommend doing this tour on a date night and stopping at the Bable Cafe (4th stop) for a romantic dinner.

Where we stayed in Istanbul Turkey (and Transfers)

We stayed at this hotel ($36 USD/night) because I wanted to be within walking distance of everything I wanted to show Qiang in the above Istanbul Old Town Walking Tour. Once you book, send a message to the hotel manager Yousif. He booked a taxi to pick us up from the airport and it turned out to be a high-class limo/van with water and wifi that was cheaper than the taxi we took back to the airport. So have Yousif book you both ways. Spend at least one night with a bottle of wine on the roof watching the sunset.

Taxi Apps

Use Uber or local taxis. Do not use the Bitaki Taxi App. If you decide to use a local taxi, negotiate the full price before getting inside, and do not allow a meter to run. Some of the taxis are rumored to have tricky meters (you never know which ones).

Restaurants, Services


Ayasofya dürümcüsü Kadir: best cheap price for food in the tourist area, near our hotel.

Gülüm pide lahmacun salonu: 210 Turkish Liar ($6.50 USD) – vege pizza. Middle Eastern flatbread topped with minced meat, and/or minced vegetables, and herbs including onions, and garlic.

Babel Café Restaurant: Wine 1175 TL ($36 USD), maze mix plate for 2 people 385 TL ($12 USD), Service 10%

Mundo Novo Cafe Cihangir Tea 30 TL ($0.93 USD), Great people-watching.

Wegain: Vegan dishes, $5-$8 USD

Nevizade Kokoreç – Erdal Usta: Mussels with rice , 8 TL ($0.25 USD) each

McDonald’s: Brew coffee 66 ($2 USD), french fries 55 ($1.70).



Official Turkey eVisas: Check before buying a flight since some countries need a formal visa process.

Vodafone simcard

Bim Market: Super market

Migros Jet: Super market

A101: Super market

Istanbulkart: Public Transportation: 17.7 TL ($0.56 USD) each time. Cards at many bus/tram stops. One card can be used by 1 to 3 people at the same time.