Bridging two continents and with more than 15 million residents, Istanbul is generous enough to offer the perfect expat life.
As Turkey's largest city, Istanbul offers so much including a relatively lower cost of living compared to many other European cities, a unique blend of cultures, endless touristic and historical attractions, best nightlife, shopping scenes in the country. Not to mention the amazing cousine!
Moving to Istanbul is a great decision for foreigners who are seeking to further their career, and for retirees who plan to have a temporary base abroad. The city with its history of 2.600 years, Istanbul has always been and is still amongst the best places to live in the world. Considering the vast size of the city, we thought it'd be helpful to list some need-to-know information for foreigners who wish to live in Istanbul.
Obtaining a residence permit in Turkey is mandatory for foreigners who wish to extend their stay in the country after the expiration date prescribed in their visa. Foreigners who need a visa exemption or plan to stay for more than ninety days are required to obtain a residence permit. For online Turkish visa application, please visit the Turkish Government's Electronic Visa Application system at evisa.gov.tr.
Please note that as of 2013, foreigners who purchase a property will be granted a yearly residence permit which is renewed every year until the person keeps the ownership of the property.
Read more about the Turkish residence permit and visa information.
Primary decision is to make is whether to live in European or Asian (Anatolian) side. Whilst the more of Istanbul's commerce, finance and corporate side based on the European side, Anatolian side has more of the relaxed feels thanks to its old neighbourhoods, less-touristic attractions and fewer hotels.
Neighbourhoods in Istanbul get calmer and more exclusive the further up the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea. Expats in Istanbul often enjoy the Bosphorus neighbourhoods in European side such as Bebek, Emirgan, Arnavutkoy, Tarabya and Istinye. Whereas Karakoy, Cihangir and Beyoglu are the hottest spots surrounded by art galeries, antique shops, roasting coffee shops and hip clubs. Uptown neighbourhoods such as Gokturk and Beykoz are often preferred by expat families because of them being relatively safer, quiter and better schools for their kids.
Let's take a look at some of the selected neighbourhoods below!
Beyoglu is one of the most central districs in Istanbul, on the European side, that is separated from the old city (Fatih district) by the Golden Horn sea. Because the actual historic city is Fatih district (historical peninsula) and Beyoglu being on the otherside of the Golden Horn sea, the area was used to be called as Pera, literally "other part" in Greek language.
Beyoglu comprises a number of neighbourhoods as Galata, Karakoy, Tophane, Cihangir, Sishane, Tepebasi, Tarlabasi, Kasimpasa and Dolapdere and is connected to the historical peninsula across the Golden Horn sea via the Galata Bridge, Golden Horn Metro Bridge and Ataturk Bridge.
Beyoglu is known to be the heart of cultural life, as it hosts the most of art galleries, live theaters, a century-old cinemas and entertainment/nightclubs.
Historical peninsula, officially the Fatih district dates back to 2.500 years and it had been capital city for a number of empires. Due to its historical background, the most of the historic places such as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern and Grand Bazaar are located in Fatih district.
The provincial authroties as governor's office, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB), police headquarters, Directorate General of Migration Management, tax office are located in this area.
Fatih comprises a number of neighbourhoods as Eminonu, Suleymaniye, Beyazit, Aksaray, Alemdar, Ayvansaray, Aksemsettin and Balat.
When you think of The Asian side of Istanbul, the first neighbourhood of Istanbul that pop-ups in mind is Kadıköy.
In the Ottoman times, Kadiköy used to be called as the Land of The Blind - as the residents of Kadiköy were not able to see the beauty of the European Side of Istanbul. Kadiköy is large, cosmoplitan district of Istanbul, located on the northern shore the Sea of Marmara, facing the old city, where is only a beautiful ferry ride away from any part of the city. It's is also famous for its murals, as well as fish market, restaurants and Turkish baths.
Kadikoy comprises a number of neighbourhoods as Acibadem, Bostanci, Fenerbahce, Goztepe, Kosuyolu, Kozyatagi, Suadiye, Erenkoy and Moda.
Besiktas, evethough is known best for the football club, is one the vivid neighbourhoods of Istanbul, with its large student population as it hosts numerous universities.
Besiktas comprises a number of neighbourhoods as Levent, Arnavutkoy, Bebek, Etiler, Ortakoy, Ulus, Yildiz, Balmumcu, Asiyan and Kurucesme. Each of these serve to different preferences. Such as Levent is considered to be the business districts, while Bebek is an old bosphorus neighbourhood. It has been one of the most popular areas in Istanbul with its lovely streets and cafes and restaurants are never dull, and Bebek’s location means it has so far escaped the crush of the city that you’ll find in many other parts of the town.
The metro runs 24 hours on Friday and Saturdays.
If possible avoid taxi at all times and rush hours. Always rather use public transportation especially as the tram, metro and ferries. You'll need transportation card that is called Istanbulkart. You may use it for any type of transportation. You don't have to have one, but in absence of the istanbulkart, you are required to purchase one-way pass for each ride, quoted double the fare.
Currently, there has been an ongoing project to extend the Istanbul metro. The first step of which was completed in 2013 with the construction of Marmaray which connects the European and Asians sides of the city via a railed tunnel under the Bosphorus sea.
There are two tram lines operating in the European side, the T1 runs between Kabatas (Dolmabahce Palace) and Bagcilar, and T4 between Topkapi District (not the Palace!) and Mescidi Selam. T1 also allows you to easily get to the Old town (Sultanahmet area). The tram operates from 06:00 to 23:00, they are very clean and air-conditioned.
The main stations along the T1 line are:
The T3 runs between Kadikoy - Moda in the Asian side. The main stations along the T3 line are:
The main stations along the T4 line are:
New tramline T5: Along the Golden Horn
It's the second oldest metro in the world after London. It allows easy and quick transprtation between Karakoy and Tunel on Istiklal Avenue. It operates from 07:00 until 22:00.
It operates between Taksim Square and Kabatas. It's the most convenient means of transportation if you are travelling from Beyoglu down to Kabatas, where there is a ferry port, bus stop, and the T1 tram line.
There are 400 bus lines operating in Istanbul, most of them works until midnight. Buses go all over the city except for Sultanahmet area. For detailed information and time tables, click here.
Ferries are surely not the regular ones as in any other city in the world. Ferries in Istanbul not only offer a beautiful, airy and fast trips but also moves you between continents. The ferries (vapur in Turkish) are very popular amongst locals as it saves substantial time by avoiding traffic. The main piers (iskele in Turkish) on the European side include Kabatas, Besiktas, Eminonu, Karakoy, and Uskudar with Kadikoy on the Asian side. The ferries are also useful to get to the Princes' Islands. Keep in mind that on the weekends the islands are very crowded.
For further information and time tables, please visit here.
Metrobuses run on separate lanes designated solely for them to avoid traffic jams. It operates between outskirts of the city and only Istanbulkart is accepted as the only payment method.
For further information and time tables, please visit here.
Since few years, the inflation rate has been rising and the Turkish currency has been devaluating drastically. Although this may seem favorable for expats who are paid in major currencies, however it surely makes the cost of living in Turkey for locals higher.