How much money should I bring to Turkey?
May 3, 2011 8:52 AM   Subscribe

How much pocket money should I bring to Turkey?

I'm spending a week in Turkey later this month (a few days in Istanbul, then moving down the Aegean coast, and then back to Istanbul-- yes, I'm a lucky lady) and I have no idea how much cash in lira I should bring with me. My hotels and most of my meals are already paid for. I'll definitely need to pay for a ~20 km cab ride to the airport on my last day in Istanbul. I'm not big on souvenirs, but might like to pick up some postcards or have the occasional meal outside my hotels. I'd like to change all the cash I'll need before leaving the States. Any advice?
posted by oinopaponton to Travel & Transportation around Turkey (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I strongly recommend just using your ATM card once you're there, especially if your card doesn't carry high fees.

- you'll get the best exchange rate of the day that you withdrew money
- you'll certainly get a better exchange rate than you'll get once you're there
- you won't be carrying tons of cash on you (which is just not a good idea)
posted by k8t at 9:02 AM on May 3, 2011

I was about to echo k8t, but googled to see which system Turkey used (Cirrus, etc.) and found this.

First paragraph: Because bank card fraud is a big problem in Turkey, there is a chance that your home bank may limit or deny use of your ATM/cash/debit card in Turkey. Some travelers report that after one use in Turkey, their cards were ineffective. Talk to officials at your bank—in particular the Card Fraud Division—to make sure this does not happen to you. (Also, see the Cautionary Tale below.)

Hmm. So I guess, check with your bank, first of all. And maybe traveller's cheques are still an option, though a pain (showing my age, here)?
posted by likeso at 9:14 AM on May 3, 2011

As to amount, I'd say $250, just to be on the safe side for emergencies (big & small). Less, $150 say, if you have a credit card.
posted by likeso at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2011

If you're going to be using an ATM card as suggested by the posters above make sure you have a backup plan. When I was abroad recently an ATM ate my card on the 2nd day there, which was not something I was really prepared for, though it worked out fine in the end.
posted by ghharr at 9:23 AM on May 3, 2011

I'll definitely need to pay for a ~20 km cab ride to the airport on my last day in Istanbul.

If its the Ataturk airport, I remember seeing signs for shuttles from the Sultanahmet area for about 10 lira per person. We used the much further Sabiha Gocken airport and that was around a 40 lira shuttle fare each, picked up from the hotel. The cab on the way in [in rush-hour traffic] was around 100 lira.

I'd like to change all the cash I'll need before leaving the States.

FWIW i found the local exchanges to actually have better rates than what I changed before heading there.

You've got meals and the hotel covered, a couple of hundred as suggested should be enough, with an ATM card as a fallback.
posted by xqwzts at 9:38 AM on May 3, 2011

I had no problem using ATMs all over Turkey, but I did have a backup plan - I brought dollars to exchange in case of ATM problems. Also I brought two different ATM cards. And I told the bank I was going to Turkey before I went.

I think if most of your meals and your hotel are paid for, a couple of hundred USD will be more than enough for postcards etc. You might want to ask your hotel how much cab fare is likely to be. Meals can range from $1-2 to $$$, so it really depends what you're planning on doing.

You should plan on paying cash for EVERYTHING, since lots of places in Turkey do not take credit cards, but on the other hand, you don't want to end up with a lot of TL that you need to change back to USD.

My inclination would be to get the bare minimum of TL that you think you will need, since chances are if you run out of TL you will be able to either get money at an ATM, exchange USD, or find someone who will accept USD.
posted by mskyle at 9:49 AM on May 3, 2011

If you tell your bank that you're going to Turkey, you should be able to avoid any problems with using your ATM card, which is what I would also recommend. I had no problems using my ATM card to withdraw cash last year when I was in Turkey. I also was able to pay for some things in both USD and GBP, which I also had with me so I don't think you'll have any issues.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:55 AM on May 3, 2011

I'd like to change all the cash I'll need before leaving the States.

We're told in general your exchange rate's always better if you convert your money once you're "in country." When I was in Turkey in 2008, I converted some cash upon arrival at the Istanbul airport, then used ATMs with no troubles.
posted by Rash at 9:57 AM on May 3, 2011

What xqwzts's said -- there is relatively inexpensive shuttle service from Ataturck & Sabiha airport. Shuttles will take you to Taksim Square (and perhaps several other areas). Shuttles are also very easy to identify outside the airport.

I was in Istanbul in December and used ATMs with no issue.

Unsolicited advice -- Definitely don't pay for a cab with a 50 lira bill as some less than honest cab drivers will take this opportunity to extract a bit more money from you.

Memail me if you want more trip notes.
posted by countrymod at 10:02 AM on May 3, 2011

Unless you're planning to shop, I'd plan on $50/day. Exchanging money before the trip doesn't really make much sense; most foreign ATM transactions offer as good a rate as anywhere else these days. One of our debit cards was eaten by an ATM in Istanbul (yes, the bank had been called in advance), but Visa replaced it by overnight courier after we called.

You can ride the light rail (Hafif Metro) from and to Atatürk Airport; it's reliable and much cheaper than a cab. Public transport is overall very easy to navigate.
posted by halogen at 10:13 AM on May 3, 2011

Talk to officials at your bank—in particular the Card Fraud Division—to make sure this does not happen to you.

These days, this is good advice no matter where you're going.

Follow up question: does Turkey use chipped cards? Or do they use old-school US-style mag stripe ones?
posted by gimonca at 1:12 PM on May 3, 2011

Basically I'm just saying the same thing as everybody else, lovely wife and I were just in Istanbul back in February. No problem using my credit union ATM card ( accel, the exchange, plus, and star networks, not even cirrus at all). ATMs are easy to find in the airport (near the exits), and although they're few and far between in Sultanahmet, there's huge banks of them across from Hagia Sofia. are planning on seeing Hagia Sofia, I hope!

I would recommend bringing some money just in case there's some kind of ATM kerfuffle, but you're going to get much better rates from the ATM than you will from places that exchange money. In a pinch, your hotel should be able to exchange small amounts (ours did, and was very upfront about how they wouldn't give us the best rate, and what that rate SHOULD be at an honest moneychanger).
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 10:39 PM on May 3, 2011

gimonca, Turkey uses the chipped credit cards, but mag stripe card will work here too.

The best advice is to have at least a credit card, an ATM card and some cash. As Rash said, it's best to exchange money when you get to Istanbul. I would get Turkish Liras from an ATM at the airport for the taxi or shuttle. Once you're in the city, you can go to a money changer or continue withdrawing money from ATMs.
posted by hoca efendi at 11:39 PM on May 3, 2011

Just to add, there are exchange bureaus in both airports in Istanbul, but there are ATMs only in the Ataturk Airport. Sabiha Gokcen Airport still doesn't have ATMs (as of last week).

Having a couple hundred (up to 300TL) on you in cash would be useful, since lots of small vendors don't take credit cards. But, especially in Istanbul, they will work with you to figure out how to sell you something. Some will also take USD.

I would exchange once already in Turkey, better exchange rate and better denominations of banknotes that way. Smaller vendors really dislike taking the 100TL bills, even the 50TL bills are subject to negotiation.
posted by copperbleu at 1:29 AM on May 4, 2011

When I flew through Sabiha in December there *were* ATMS and I had no problems with them. ATMS at Sabiha were before visa/border crossing/customs & seemed well placed in order for folks to pull out cash to pay for their incoming visa.

Also the shuttle service bus from Sabiha would take euro or lira.
posted by countrymod at 11:14 AM on May 5, 2011

Thanks, guys. I need to meet colleagues pretty much immediately after my plane lands (at Atatürk), but if it's really that much better to get cash once I'm there, I'll make time. As for the airport shuttle, that's good to know about, but I'll be heading back to the airport with other people and will have figure that out with them.

One more question- are euros as widely accepted in Turkey as they seem to be? Just in Istanbul?
posted by oinopaponton at 7:19 PM on May 5, 2011

@counrtymod: Oooh, I looked for them at the gate area, and asked around as well. Good to know.

Back on topic, Euros are accepted by larger vendors (such as hotels, mid-to-expensive restaurants, etc) but generally not by street vendors or for small purchases. If you are heading to touristy areas, there is more flexibility, of course.

Here is more information on the shuttle from Ataturk Airport: Havas Shuttle Service. Scroll down to the Taksim shuttle route (I am not sure why I think that's the relevant route for you, though).
posted by copperbleu at 1:04 AM on May 6, 2011

« Older Funny Battle Website/Game?   |   Please identify this plant for me Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.