Having spent over a year traveling around Southeast Asia, Nepal, and India, I was always on the lookout for a place where I might stop and settle down for more than a couple months at a time. Arriving in Turkey almost 3 months ago, I’ve discovered it has a unique set of conditions that makes it very easy and very friendly for potential expats.
Working from my laptop as I do, I can go wherever there’s a good Internet connection. Turkey has very good speeds with much cheaper and easier availability compared to Western Europe, but the country also has many things that others I’ve visited lack.
Those looking for a permanent expat situation and a formal work visa plus a local job should find this one of the easier countries as well. Those who are retired or have their own source of income will find Turkey to be among the best and easiest countries in the world to try things out.
1 – Visa renewals are easy
This is a critical issue for any country you might be considering for expat life. Some countries actually make it fairly cheap and easy to stay there, even without a proper work visa, and other countries make it expensive and/or nearly impossible. For example, the Schengen group of countries (most of Western Europe) only allow 90 days of stays in any 180-day period, making it impossible to legally settle anywhere there for more than 3 months at a time.
Turkey, however, is one of the easy ones. Though it could change for the worse at any minute, it currently issues 90-day Tourist Visa for US$20 at any border, and it’s possible to keep getting them consecutively. In other words, you can just keep getting new Tourist Visas every 3 months for just hopping over to a Greek island off the coast, or popping on a flight for a weekend break in Europe.
2 – Europe conveniences at Asian prices
The city of Istanbul itself has actually gotten somewhat expensive in the past decade or so, but everywhere else in Turkey is still quite cheap compared to anywhere in Western Europe. Even Istanbul is moderately priced, probably similar to Berlin and definitely cheaper than London or Paris, and you get all the European conveniences as part of the package.
The real bargains can be found in the smaller towns and along the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts. In the lovely and historic city of Antalya you can get a 2-star hotel in the heart of the pedestrianized Old City for under US$20 per night, including a big breakfast. The same is true in smaller towns like Kas, which is where I’m currently based.
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3 – Language isn’t impossible
Having spent the entire last year in Asian countries where the script looks like nothing more than squiggles to me, it’s a pleasure to at least be in a country where I can read, recognize, and sound-out the words. Some people catch on to languages quickly, and even the tonal languages of Asia don’t slow them down much, but most of us really struggle when things are completely unfamiliar like that.
The bad news is that far fewer Turks actually speak English than you might expect. However, at least the Turkish language uses the alphabet we all know, plus a few extra letters with dots and umlauts. Better yet, the pronunciation is free of surprises (unlike English itself) so learning to read and start speaking is quite straightforward.
4 – Pleasant weather for the most part
Those mainly considering Istanbul might be surprised to learn that it’s on the same latitude as Chicago, and it has similar weather as well, with long winters and relatively short summers that can be miserable. On the other hand, the southern coast gets something like 300 days of sun and only 2 or 3 months where you may not want to spend time outdoors.
Compare this to other expat hotspots like Thailand or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Through that entire region it’s hot and steamy almost every day of the year, and the tropical rainstorms can become problematic if you are on a set schedule. Southern Turkey has a climate that nearly rivals Southern California, at a fraction of the price.
5 – Cheap flights to Europe and much of Asia
Whether you are from North America, Australia, or Europe itself, you’ve got to admit that there is an endless list of things to see within 1500 kilometers or so of Turkey. Those on their 90-day visa runs can choose from Italy, Germany, Croatia, France, Spain, Jordan, and many others, with cheap flights going to nearly all of them. A place like New Zealand might be great on its own, but getting anywhere else is very costly and time consuming by comparison.