- Download our Moving to Turkey Guide (PDF)
The quality of healthcare in Turkey varies from region to region. Expats moving to Turkey will be happy to know that healthcare in the country is generally cheaper than elsewhere in Europe and that there are many private and public hospitals across the country.
Expats moving to one of the major urban centres in Turkey, such as Istanbul or Ankara will have access to high-quality private hospitals with experienced doctors and medical staff, most of whom can speak English. Those living in more rural areas, however, will find access to healthcare still quite limited.
Expats should note that health insurance is a requirement for all visa holders. After a year in Turkey, expats can sign up for the public healthcare system.
Health insurance in Turkey
It's compulsory for all residents who are under 65 and living in Turkey to have either public or private health insurance.
Expats who have been residents in Turkey for more than a year with a valid residence permit can apply to Turkey's public health insurance scheme (GSS), which is administered by the state-run Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (SGK). Expats must contribute to the SGK for at least 30 days before requesting access to healthcare services, but many employers contribute to public health insurance on their employee’s behalf, so expats needn't worry about this.
Despite this, many expats opt for additional private medical insurance to supplement their public insurance and to cover medical care at private institutions. It’s worth noting that the European Health Insurance Card, relating to free medical treatment in EU countries, is not valid in Turkey.
Several international companies offer private expat health insurance. Local Turkish companies also offer competitive rates and services. International health insurance can cost thousands of US dollars per year, depending on one’s policy and benefits. Local Turkish health insurance is equally effective and far cheaper.
Public healthcare in Turkey
Though most expats prefer to opt for private care, public healthcare in Turkey has seen improvements in recent years that have led to an increase in the quality of public institutions.
Public healthcare is largely free to those in the system, though some costs are subsidised rather than fully funded. Out-of-pocket expenses tend to be minimal, but expats can also get additional private health insurance to cover these additional expenses.
Private healthcare in Turkey
Private hospitals in Turkey are relatively cheap and offer good quality care. In fact, Turkey is beginning to make a name for itself as a medical tourism destination, particularly in the areas of cosmetic surgery, dentistry and fertility treatment. It’s normally easy to make an appointment at a private hospital as many of them have English-speaking call centres. Although private facilities and services in Turkey are cheaper than in other countries, it is still necessary to get private health insurance to cover medical expenses.
Medicines and pharmacies in Turkey
Pharmacies (eczane) are plentiful in the main towns and cities. Expats living in Turkey will find that accessing medicines at pharmacies is relatively easy. Many prescription medications are available cheaply and over the counter. Most neighbourhoods in major cities have a duty pharmacy that is generally open 24 hours a day.
Health hazards in Turkey
While Turkey's water is officially declared safe to drink, it often has a chemical taste, so it is recommended that expats only drink bottled water. Malaria is present in the southeastern regions of Turkey, and prophylaxis is necessary if travelling to the affected areas. May to October is the highest risk period for Malaria, so expats should take further precautions during these months.
Pre-travel restrictions and vaccinations for Turkey
There are no specific vaccinations required for entry into Turkey, although those coming from a yellow fever infected area should have a yellow fever certificate.
It’s also recommended to have a rabies injection, especially if travelling outside the main urban areas, as Turkey has one of the highest incidences of rabies in Europe.
Emergency services in Turkey
Turkey has a public ambulance service, which can be contacted by dialling 112. Some hospitals in the major cities offer private ambulance services which can be accessed directly through them. These are often better equipped and have faster response times than public ambulances.
►See Healthcare in Istanbul for a list of recommended hospitals in the city.
►Read Banking, Money and Taxes in Turkey for money matters in the country.
Expats share their experiences with healthcare in Turkey
"The healthcare system in Turkey is impressive. I had private health insurance with my job and, when I became seriously ill, I had two hospital stays over the years. I had private rooms, more like 5-star hotel suites, and can’t fault the treatment I received. I can highly recommend the Güven Hospital in Kavaklidere and the Acibadem Hospital in Çankaya.
More recently I have switched to the Turkish national health insurance system and, as I have a chronic illness, am regularly visiting a hospital for check-ups. I never have to wait for an appointment to see my consultant, and I can get all tests, X-rays and procedures done, and receive the results within a day. Plus, they pay for all my medication. The UK National Health Service could learn a lot from the system here!" Learn about Faye, a British expat, and her move to Turkey.
Are you an expat living in Turkey?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Turkey. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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