digital nomad in Istanbul, tours and travel for expats

Istanbul is a true metropolis. A vibrant city with people full of life and a bustling atmosphere. It offers an affordable lifestyle with modern conditions in a historical place. 

Here is our founder’s experience travelling to Istanbul as a remote worker in October 2020

Nestled in the Bosphorus, Istanbul is connecting the European or Thracian and Asian or Anadolian continents. This unique makes it a great point for traveling, or it would make it if we were able to travel more free

The value you get for the price is amazing! The food is fresh, tasty and Turkish hospitality is one of the best in the world.

It is easy to make friends  in Istanbul. Most of the people are talkative, easygoing and love to meet up for tea or beer or walk around with you, showing you the wonders of their city.

The people have an enterprising mentality and a hands-on attitude which is evident in the daily life here. They have a strong personality and can be very assertive, provoking at times but all with a warm aura and a friendly spark in their eyes

In the central areas people speak English, but the majority of people can’t. Even though you can communicate via google translate, you will get a much fuller experience if you make an effort to learn some Turkish phrases.

Istanbul is as safe as any other European metropolis. Walking around in the night time alone is not something you should scare away from but should always be aware of your surroundings and keep a healthy level of alertness, avoiding putting yourself in dangerous situations.

The streets are filled with small restaurants, shops and cafes, with cats at every step playfully running around or casually lying around on rooftops, chairs and sidewalks.

Escaping the loud, busy streets of Istanbul is easy, with forests, mountains and islands just an hour away. The region is sunny, the climate is Mediteraniean with mild, humid and rainy winters and hot, dry summers. July tends to be the warmest month while February is usually the coldest.

Istanbul feels like it is the center of the world and at the same time existing in a world of its own.

Rich culture at an affordable price

I started my journey with Support Adventure and was relocated to Istanbul with our founder Eric, accompanying me for a few days at the start of my new life in Turkey! He was as impressed as I was with Istanbul during coronavirus

Remote working was not unknown to me but it was a challenge to be a digital nomad for the first time and in such a large city. 

However, now that I got a taste of Istanbul I do not wish to go back to my old environment as long as the situation allows it because:

  • The people are welcoming
  • The culture is not extremely different from other European cities
  • Everything is organized and functions well
  • Food is fresh and eating habits healthy

The pros of living in Istanbul as a digital nomad are that the city is so rich in culture and really friendly, while the basic cost of living is fairly cheap.

The most interesting con about living in Istanbul I’ve heard was that the experience didn’t bend the person out of their comfort zone enough. 

Ofcourse, this is not all there is to it. Istanbul is a loud, busy place, harmonious in its chaos, working like a clockwork made out of millions of people breathing life and character into it.

One sentence my friend used to describe it was “If you love life, you will love Istanbul” and I believe it to be true.

Traveling and working at the time of a pandemic – finding opportunity in crisis

fishing in İstanbul grandma on the bridge

Living in the time of a pandemic has created the notion of the “new normal”, a place where our elementary needs, processes and routines are put on a line, examined and modified.

One of the biggest impacts Corona has had was on our jobs and our work environment.

Many people have unfortunately lost their jobs altogether and a big majority drastically changed their working hours, environments, habits or professions, turning to new ideas in these uncertain times.

More and more, people are feeling the benefits of remote working, with some workers expressing their desire to never return to the office again

That is why working remotely can be the best way to have more stability and freedom. Even if you are new to this idea and don’t have experience, finding remote jobs in Europe can transform your life for the better

It is even more clear now that there is a demand to work harder and way smarter than before, taking risks and consulting different sources for motivation when it comes to the direction we want the project that is our life to take.

Moving to a different city or country can bring out the best in you

Happy traveller girl in the street

The changes in the economy and everyday life have transformed cities around the world. Examples like New York show us the decline in the quality of life and the struggle to maintain our basic needs.

Many places are definitely not as they were before, and that goes for the cities around the world. However, now is a good time to be bold and find opportunity in crises and, at the same time, satiate your desire to travel

At Support Adventure, we have great experience in remote working and expat living, with around 50 members living on 4 continents and supporting these digital nomads wherever they might choose to reside. 

At these times, airport testing can make travel more widely available again. We are seeing adjustments and changes that will, hopefully, tip the scales a little bit more to the benefit of travelers.

Make yourself happy and raise your standard of living

The first step you can take if you are considering moving to a different country is to get an idea which countries are open during corona and check the corona cases count to have a general feel of the situations and make an effort to find out if there are any restrictions in place.

Next, you can compare the cost of living in your current environment to various cities around the globe to find out if it will be more sustainable for you to move to a particular place.

Then, you can orient yourself in different time zones of your potential new home.

If you’ve figured out where you would like to live, and what would your expenses in this foreign country be, you have to have an idea of how to sustain yourself there.

First steps:

  1. Check which countries are open and what are the Corona cases
  2. Be aware of the Visa requirements
  3. Compare prices
  4. See the time zone

Applying for jobs in the middle of a pandemic can be a nightmare

But don’t despair. If you have some experience in accounting, social media, CS, marketing, graphic design, content writing, or IT, you can find full-time or part-time remote jobs and start your journey as an expat!

If you are looking for a job in the tech sector, you can apply with us! We are a business that has over 40 members living outside of their home countries. Support Adventure has a solid experience and great working culture and we are always hiring new members.

Once you’ve landed a job you are free to travel and the good news is that some countries offer long-term digital nomad Visas!

Getting into Turkey at the end of September was easy and straightforward, with no tests nor quarantine required

For most countries in Europe and the UK Visa is not required when entering the country, while the citizens of the US and Canada are eligible for an eVisa.

You can check out the Visa requirements for each country, to be sure.

At the time of my arrival, at the end of September 2020, there were no tests required for entering, and the only thing connected to the current Coronavirus was the form that was handed on the flight to fill out, regarding your location in the previous 2 weeks, whether you have any symptoms and the address you will be residing in.

The airport is crowded, so you are often reminded to keep your distance and wear your mask at all times.

Passport control, getting your luggage and finding transportation to the city is well organized and straightforward.

The transportation costs are cheap and the city is well connected

ferry in Istanbul, transportation

It takes around 30 minutes by bus to get from from Sabiha Gökçen International Airport to get to Kadiköy, the center of the Anadolian side of the city and it costs only about 2USD (16TL)

From there, there are regular ferries and busses to the European side

Metro is frequently used in Istanbul as well and is really easy to navigate. However, I was discouraged to use it because it is a closed space and the risk of catching any virus is higher

If you want to have more comfort and avoid crowds then getting around with a taxi is the best way for you. Taxi is cheap and scam-free. However, it might be better to install the BiTaksi app, an uber-like taxi service, so you would know how much a certain ride would cost and avoid being overcharged.

Ferries are the most enjoyable means of transportation for me. They are frequent, connect the European and Asian side well and offer amazing views while traveling! It is not rare to see people feeding seagulls that are flying above the ferry, catching the pieces of bread mid-air.

The transportation fee for each type is around 5TL to 10TL (0.6USD-1.2USD). However, if you buy an Istanbul card, it will be even cheaper and save you a lot of money. You can buy it at all the major stops in the city. All you need to do is to find the card machine, select the type of card you want to get and feed around 10TL (1.2USD) to the machine. Loading the card with money is also easy. You place your card on the box on the machine, put your money in and you’re done!

Types of transportation:

  1. Metro (Network connecting the city on both sides of the Bosphorus)
  2. Fery (connecting the European and Asian side)
  3. Buses (public and private busses a.k.a “dolmuş”)
  4. Taxi (catch it on the street or book via app)

Driving a car can be a challenge in Istanbul’s narrow and busy streets. Parking can be an issue and traffic in between regions seems like it is always at peak. However, there are some neighbourhoods that are more suitable for cars.

International communities and expat neighbourhoods

international communities in Istanbul, ex-pat districts and lifestyle

Istanbul is a city spreading on two continents, with a long coastline and beautiful neighbourhoods. Since it is an international city, ever growing and expanding, you can be sure you will find a place for living that will suit you best.

On the European side some of the neighbourhoods to take into consideration are:

  • Eminönü
  • Beyoğlu
  • Şişli 
  • Beşiktaş

Eminönü

A conservative place with a great arabic population, middle eastern expats and cuisine. It is affordable, peaceful and full of life. The Grand Bazar is located in that area as well. Beautiful Fatih mosque is something not to be missed and Sultanahmet, home to the Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque is just at your reach here.

Near Fatih,in Eminönü, there used to be a Greek neighbourhood called Fener. With narrow streets and peculiar houses, radiating times long passed.

You can find a 100m2, two bedroom apartment for around 300-400USD per month.

Beyöglu

Touristic area, pricey with trendy, European expats living here. It is close to Taksim square, Istiklal street and Galata tower. It is a historical part of town with mostly old but beautiful buildings and busy, narrow streets intersecting each other.

You can find a two bedroom apartment here for around 600USD per month

Şişli

An upscale district in Istanbul where you can find a lot of foreigners. A lot of 5 star hotels, reflecting a contemporary life. Cevahir mall is there, Ataturk museum, as well as more than 300 shops, a lot of cinemas and rooftop restaurants.

Şişli used to be a Jewish, Armenian and Greek neighbourhood in its early formation.
Bomonti, a part of Sisli, is very organized, driver friendly, trendy, with a lot of entertainment and close to big touristic centers.

Nişantaşi, as another part of Şişli is very fancy, with all the highest fashion shopping centers around.

You can rent an apartment in Sisli from 400-700USD, in regard to the part of the district you want to live in.

Beşiktaş

Beşiktaş center is full of young people, nice bars and cafes. A historical district with old buildings and with beautiful views of the sea and a lively nightlife.

Levent is part of Beşiktaş with a lot of major corporations settled there. On the one side of Büyukdere avenue there is a lot of greenery. A fancy place and expensive. The other is more populated and cheaper.

Ortaköy, as another part of Beşiktaş, is where the Bosphorus bridge is located. Touristy place, a lot of handicraft stores. There is a strong international expat community here. Great views of the Bosphorus but with old flats for a higher price

Bebek is Luxury in one word. It will satisfy your expensive taste with high-class restaurants and fashion centers. 

Prices here vary, with a two bedroom apartment in Beşiktaş center starting from 550 dollars and moving higher or lower for 100 or 200 USD depending on the districts.

Life on the Asian side is more peaceful, less crowded and cheaper. 

Kadiköy

A region that is most popular on this side of the Bosphorus. There is a vibrant nightlife and mostly students and young people occupy this area, especially Moda where you can find a great community of expats. 

Üsküdar 

A traditional place, more family oriented but with colorful scenery and interesting architecture. There are activities for young people as well and lots of cosy cafes and restaurants near the Bosphorus.

Kadiköy and Üsküdar are located close to the sea, with easy access to metro or ferry stations to get you anywhere around Istanbul. The price of two bedroom apartments can be from 300 to 500 USD, depending on the location.

DistrictDescriptionPrice for 2 bedroom flat
EminönüConservative, historical place300-400 USD
BeyoğluModern, expats, center600 USD
ŞişliDriver friendly, contemporary400-700 USD
BeşiktaşNight life, historical, view400-700 USD
KadiköyStudents, less crowded300-500 USD
ÜsküdarFamily oriented, Bosphorus300-500 USD

Finding an apartment in Istanbul can be stressful but there are ways to make it more comfortable

First thing you can turn to to make your flat-hunt stress-free is airbnb.com It’s widely used and you can get some pretty good deals with an option to stay and pay monthly!

Couchsurfing is usual in Istanbul. A lot of amazing, hospitable people willing to share their home, food and stories with you, and – it’s free!

From websites like sahibinded.com, you can rent apartments straight from owners but the renting period is usually from 6 months to 1 year minimum. 

A lot of real estate agencies offer their services but the catch is that you need to pay them for their service the amount of your monthly rent. Deposit is often asked from you as well, that can be used as the final rent. 

A lot of facebook groups offer flats to foreigners, or can connect people looking for roommates. It is easy to find them and there are a bunch of them! Typing “Flats in Istanbul”, optionally adding “international”will bring you a lot of results. 

Don’t be shy to meet new people in Istanbul and ask around for places to stay! It is easy to form friendships and people are always happy to help you!

CouchsurfingShort term stay, free
AirbnbShort term or monthly, pricey
SahibindenFrom owner, usually long term
EmlakAgency, pay provision
Facebook groupsA lot of different informationö requires effort

You can pay with a credit card in 99% of the places

This goes for restaurants, shops, transportation services and so on. Contactless pay, through your phone, is also available in some places but they are the happiest when you pay in cash.

Sharing bills, and each person paying their own expenses is usual. Splitting bills with cards or cash is easy and fast since people working in the hospitality industry know how to utilise these methods.

Leaving tips is not a must, but people certainly appreciate it and it is an integral part of the culture here.

There are easy ways to get paid abroad

Using services like paypal, payoneer or, our favorite, transferwise will make your expat experience more comfortable.

Getting cash from ATMs is easy and most of them have a low transaction fee, with Ziraat bank, which is state owned, having the lowest.

Exchange offices offer fair deals and you can get the best rate easily, as long as you are aware of the daily course of your currency for that day. 

If you are getting paid in USD or EUR, you need to know that, at the time of this article was written which is at the end of October, one USD equaled 8 TL, and one EUR 10 TL. That gives these foreign currencies a lot of power.

Internet is good and you can get a lot of GB of data for your phone

Service providers you can choose from are:

  1. Turk Telekom
  2. Vodafon 
  3. Turkcell 

They all have their expositories everywhere and the process of getting a sim card, with enough data is pretty straightforward. 

I chose Turkcell as my provider and my experience with getting a sim card was troublesome.

Learn from my mistakes, and keep in mind some important things you need to be aware of when going to buy a sim card in Turkey:

  • Bring your passport with you
  • Go to official Service provider stores
  • Be sure that the package is installed properly before leaving the store
  • The price of sim card and 20GB of data is around 150 – 200TL (20-25USD)
  • The package is renewed on a monthly basis

Finding work in Turkey is possible for English speakers

Now that you have all the information you need and you’ve made yourself at home in Istanbul, you might consider a change in career or some additional work.

Jobs in the textile industry are easy to find and working as an English teacher in schools and colleges is available for English speaking individuals. It takes a TEFL certificate at least, and in some cases, a bachelor’s degree.

The salary varies from palace to place and you can choose to work full or part time!

Wanting to make Turkey your new home for good!

İstanbul, Bosphorus bridge

If you are like me, and became enchanted with Istanbul ‘s people, cats, food, music, nature, markets, streets, language and daily life you might want to make Istanbul your second home.

This is possible as well!

Applying for residence permit is possible online and there are agencies that can help you in the process of collecting documents and starting your application process.

The important takeaway from this story is that calculated risks in time of crisis can bring about great opportunities and success!

Don’t be afraid to change your working habits, don’t scare away from changing your living environment because if you plan well and go for it with all of your heart you will reap invaluable benefits for you and your community.

Categories: Lifestyle