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July 22, 2012, Sunday

Frequently asked questions from expats in Turkey

After expats arrive in Turkey many questions arise for them. Advice from others with experience is appreciated. Questions about phone service, insurance and shipping are common. Perhaps you are wondering about these too or can offer some tips.

Here are some questions recently asked by expats:

“Hello! I am checking into purchasing an unlocked iPhone in the US for use in Turkey. Do you have any suggestions on the model to buy? Is it better to get a pre-paid or contract plan? Are both possible? What are pre-paid usage charges for data, texting and calling? What company would you recommend to get pre-paid usage? Is it possible to switch between English and Turkish on the phone? Will it be possible to switch Siri's language between English and Turkish? Do you have any suggestions on whether buying an iPhone in Turkey would be advantageous?”

Here is some very helpful information from a member of an expat group:

“The most important thing you need to realize about purchasing a phone in the US is that you can only use it here if you have entered the country less than 30 days before trying to register the phone. As a foreigner you have a right to register one imported phone -- actually one imported SIM slot (i.e., if you have a two-SIM-card phone only one will work!) -- every two years. If you do not have an ikamet (residency), the phone's IMEI code will be locked to the physical SIM card and you cannot use any other Turkish SIM card with the phone, period. No switching carriers, etc. If you have an ikamet, the phone will be registered so you can pick and choose and move and breeze between providers as you wish. …

“You will only be able to get a pay-as-you-go plan (at least with Turkcell). If you want to get a line with an agreement (faturalı hat), Turkcell wants a TL 2,500 letter of guarantee (tazminat mektubu) before they will sell you their line. I can't tell you what Vodafone or Avea want. However, Turkcell's data plans are very inexpensive. Turkcell has excellent coverage. I get at least HSPDA [3G] coverage just about everywhere and never lower than Edge even in the most remote locations; my friend has Vodafone and an iPhone 4S and she regularly has problems even getting an Edge stream outside the city. Another important point is the ability to use the line outside the country very easily (which is useful if you do banking here). You can switch the iOS interface between Turkish and English. However, I don't know how that will affect Siri. I would strongly recommend thinking long and hard about actually purchasing the phone here. Yes, it will cost about twice what it does in the US, but you won't have to mess with getting it registered here. The questions regarding Siri and the interface will be more easily taken care of and you'll have less of an issue getting the warranty to work here … When you purchase a phone, you will be paying in time or in money. In this case you'll have to decide if you want to spend the time (getting the phone in the US, making an exit and then going through the bureaucracy and dealing with recalcitrant warranty providers here) or simply paying up front and having peace of mind.” From: JW (Turkey)

Expats often ask about shipping furniture to Turkey or shipping personal belongings back to their home country. Here is a note from a New Zealander:

“Hi! We need to ship some of our things back to our home country and were wondering if anyone knows of a good shipping agent that we could use. Thanks for any recommendations!”

Another popular topic is insurance coverage for expats in Turkey:

“Hello! I'm wondering if anybody has purchased the insurance for foreigners, and had any experience using the insurance at private hospitals. Over the past few weeks, we have had appointments at two private hospitals, both of which we have visited previously. However, this time, we were charged higher ‘foreigner' rates -- a significant increase over what we were paying earlier for the same services. I'm thinking that if this is going to be the case going forward (apparently it's due to a new policy implemented by the Sağlık Bakanlığı three-four months ago), we may be better off getting the insurance and paying the reduced rates at private hospitals. Please explain the difference in rates …” From: GC (Istanbul)

Keep the questions coming… 

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