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Choosing an eSIM or SIM card in Turkey

Choosing the best option to stay connected to the internet in Turkey

Nestled between the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey boasts a culture and ambiance that are truly unique. Spanning vast and varied landscapes, this country offers an abundance of experiences to travelers, catering to a wide array of interests and preferences.

Blue Mosque in Istanbul

Whether you find yourself marveling at the architectural wonders of the Aya Sofya or the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, soaring above the surreal landscapes of Cappadocia in a hot-air balloon, or simply unwinding amidst the tranquility of one of Turkey’s many Mediterranean resorts, you’ll quickly discover that the challenge lies in fitting in all the sights and activities you desire!

While Turkey is generally an affordable destination for travelers, ensuring connectivity during your visit can sometimes pose a hurdle. Acquiring a Turkish prepaid SIM card can be a costly affair, particularly as few vendors are willing to offer them to foreigners at the official rates.

In light of this, many travelers recommend opting for an eSIM instead, provided your device supports this technology and you don’t require a local phone number. Once you’ve buy an eSIM, you’ll find that coverage is reliable and data speeds are satisfactory, particularly in urban areas, towns, and along highways.

Here’s everything you need to know about procuring a prepaid SIM card or eSIM as a tourist in Turkey, ensuring seamless connectivity throughout your journey.


⭐ Some travelers who want a physical SIM recommend Turkcell.

🌟 An eSIM and free WiFi from WiFi Map is the best option if you only need data

In Turkey, travelers have three main mobile operators to choose from:

  • Turkcell
  • Vodafone
  • Türk Telekom.

Turkcell stands out with its extensive coverage and large customer base, making it the preferred choice for most visitors to Turkey.

Vodafone, while trailing behind Turkcell in coverage and subscribers, offers larger prepaid data packages, making it a viable alternative for those requiring substantial data usage.

Türk Telekom, the smallest operator, has limited coverage outside major urban areas. It may be considered only if your travels are confined to larger cities and if you chance upon a particularly attractive pricing option.

It’s important to note that foreign phones will cease to function 120 days after their initial use in Turkey unless they are registered at a tax office for a significant fee. While this may not affect short-term visitors, it’s worth considering for future trips with the same device.

Technically, it’s the IMEI number that gets blocked, which is assigned per SIM card slot.

Travel eSIM for Turkey

For travelers seeking only data connectivity, travel eSIMs offer greater flexibility and affordability compared to tourist SIMs available at airports.

Purchasing and installing eSIMs entail far less hassle, often completed within minutes from the comfort of home. This eliminates the need to contend with aggressive vendors or potential scams encountered at airport kiosks.

For newcomers to eSIM technology, its advantages for travelers are substantial, including swift, effortless, and often cost-effective connectivity upon arrival in a new destination. Most modern smartphones readily support eSIMs.

In instances where minimal data usage is required or to avoid potential scams, travelers strongly advocate for opting for eSIMs over traditional physical SIM cards. 

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Turkey

All three operators maintain stores in the arrivals lounges of both the main Istanbul Airport and the more remote Sabiha Gokcen. Therefore, if you require a physical SIM card, you can secure one without delay upon arrival.

However, this convenience comes at a price. Rip-offs are prevalent, as operators tend to levy significantly inflated prices at the airport compared to elsewhere. Travelers are often directed towards tourist SIM packages, which not only exceed standard local rates but are also susceptible to overcharging.

Even beyond the airport premises, vendors won’t offer anything other than prepaid SIM packs tailored for tourists. Additionally anticipate a relatively high registration fee to be included.

Presenting your passport is mandatory for enrolling in any plan. The sales representative, typically proficient in English (as was the case with all the individuals I conversed with), will handle the paperwork on your behalf onsite. If required, they will also assist in installing the SIM card into your device.

Costs of Prepaid SIM Cards and eSIMs

Please be aware that due to the high inflation rate in Turkey, the prices of SIM cards, as well as other goods and services, are subject to frequent changes. Therefore, the prices and exchange rates provided in this post are likely to differ from what you encounter upon arrival. It’s advisable to verify the current prices before making a purchase.


At Istanbul Airport (IST), the Turkcell booths provide a limited selection of tourist SIM packages. The options range from a 20gb data plan with 200 local minutes to a 105gb package inclusive of abundant calls and texts. Each package has a validity period of 30 days.

Despite the generous data allowances offered, particularly with the smallest plan, many visitors may find themselves paying more than necessary. Regrettably, similar to other vendors and SIM cards available at the airport, the pricing is inflated.
For instance, the 20gb package is priced at 1000 TRY (approximately $32),
while the 105gb version comes at 1600 TRY (nearly $50).

Vodafone and Türk Telekom

The range of options offered at the Vodafone booth is somewhat broader, albeit at even higher prices. It’s quite a feat to surpass the already inflated rates of Turkcell at the airport, yet Vodafone manages to do just that.

For instance, a call/text package with 20gb of data from Vodafone (reportedly the smallest available) is priced at 1250 TRY (approximately $39). Opting for the largest 500GB package will set you back a staggering 10,900 TRY (around $335)!

Meanwhile, Türk Telekom’s airport prices for a 10gb data package are 1100 TRY (approximately $35), or 20gb for 1200 TRY (about $38). While slightly cheaper than Vodafone, and more expensive than Turkcell, the smaller coverage area of Türk Telekom is often overlooked by tourists.

Outside the Airport

You’ll find more budget-friendly rates for all carriers by waiting until you reach the city and purchasing from a mobile store there. However, the exact savings you’ll enjoy will vary depending on factors such as your destination, bargaining skills, and any additional fees imposed by the vendor. It’s advisable to explore multiple stores and brace yourself for potential frustration!

Visiting a Turkcell store outside the airport will likely result in being steered towards the same tourist SIM package offered at the airport. This package typically includes 20gb of data, 200 minutes of calls, and unlimited WhatsApp usage. While there are several other local plans available, tourists often encounter reluctance from staff members to offer them, even at official stores.


Choosing an eSIM provider can be challenging, especially with numerous companies offering this service. Tourists often advise prioritizing providers with wide coverage, high-speed connections and competitive pricing for moderate data usage.

For example, the WiFi Map service works with the Turkcell operator, providing reliable coverage and high data transfer speeds.

If you’re visiting Turkey for a short period or require less than 5gb of data for an extended stay,
the WiFi Map service is worth considering. Since you will save significantly on data usage by connecting to one of the 560,000+ free WiFi hotspots in Turkey.

Additionally, any remaining data allowance can be used in 85 other countries without the need to change your eSIM card, ensuring seamless travel experiences at reasonable rates.

The package is also valid for 30 days, and upon purchase, you also gain access to features available to premium users.

Trust in the service can always be checked by honest reviews in the App Store and Google Play.

For our users, we offer an 11% eSIM discount using the promo code: ESIMBLOG.

If you are still in doubt, the eSIMDB is an aggregator of eSIM services, allowing you to explore offers tailored to your preferences through convenient filters.

How to refill your Data


To top up your data on Turkcell, you can purchase a voucher from supermarkets or official provider stores across the country. 

WiFi Map:

To top up your data with WiFi Map (or any other eSIM provider), simply log into the website or app. From there, select the desired data package for your eSIM and click on the top-up button. You can also activate the auto-refill option.

All top-up packs come with the same pricing and duration as the original eSIMs. There’s little difference between topping up your current eSIM and buying a new one, except that you won’t need to activate it again.