Istanbul has a high cost of living relative to other Turkish cities, but it's fairly cheap when considered in a global context. It was ranked 185th out of 227 cities worldwide in the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey. The country's recent struggle with inflation has depreciated the value of the lira, but expats earning in stronger currencies will have higher purchasing power in Turkey.
New arrivals in Istanbul will find that accommodation is their biggest expense, while fresh produce is affordable compared to Western Europe. That said, an expat's choice of lifestyle will have the biggest influence on their monthly expenses.
Cost of accommodation in Istanbul
Accommodation will be a large expense in Istanbul – though costs can range tremendously depending on location and accommodation type.
Houses and apartments with a view of the Bosphorus are available on both the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, but housing is generally pricier on the European side. Most quoted rental prices also don't include monthly maintenance and utility costs, so expats should expect some additional expenses.
Cost of groceries and goods in Istanbul
Petrol in Turkey is particularly expensive when compared to Europe and the US, as are imported goods and alcohol. This includes electronic items, such as cameras and computers, as well as typically Western foods such as maple syrup.
Istanbul is mostly cheaper than most Western countries for daily groceries and domestic help. Fresh vegetables and fruit can be bought at bazaars (weekly markets) for low prices, and the local equivalent of many Western brands will be considerably cheaper and often equally satisfying.
Cost of entertainment and eating out in Istanbul
The cost of entertainment in Istanbul can be difficult to predict, as it varies greatly depending on the type of activity and location. Expats in Istanbul can expect prices to be mostly lower, however.
The city offers expats a chance to delve into its vibrant heritage by visiting historical landmarks or soaking up the energy of the bustling bazaars. For a unique experience, expats can catch a traditional Turkish performance like belly dancing. Meanwhile, the city's lively nightlife scene offers a range of options, from intimate bars to high-energy nightclubs. For those seeking a touch of home, Western-style entertainment can also be found in Istanbul, particularly in tourist areas and international venues.
The cost of eating out in Istanbul as an expat can vary greatly, with a range of local and international cuisine options available that cater to different budgets and tastes. Although the quality of dining experiences can vary at times, Istanbul is known for its rich culinary heritage that offers delicious and authentic dishes. From street food vendors to fine dining establishments, expats can discover a wealth of dining options in the city.
Cost of transport in Istanbul
Public transport in Istanbul is highly efficient, extensive and affordable. Most expats find that they don't need a car, especially as reserved parking spaces are expensive. Despite this, the cost of buying a car is not especially pricey in Istanbul, but petrol and maintenance fees will significantly set back expats who choose to drive.
Cost of education in Istanbul
The cost of education in Istanbul varies depending on the type of education that parents opt for. Public education may be more affordable compared to private or international schools, but the language of instruction is Turkish, and the quality of education and resources may differ.
Private schools in Istanbul can provide a higher quality of education and resources, but they come with a higher price tag. On the other hand, international schools in Istanbul offer a globally recognised curriculum, but fees can be high. These schools also offer exceptional facilities, a wider range of extracurricular activities and an opportunity for students to connect with others who share similar cultural experiences.
Cost of healthcare in Istanbul
Healthcare in Istanbul is generally affordable, especially when compared to much of Europe. Public healthcare is subsidised, and even private healthcare is reasonably priced. Costs can add up over time, though, so we recommend that expats take out a health insurance policy.
Cost of living in Istanbul
Prices may vary depending on the product and service provider. The list below is based on average prices for Istanbul in February 2024.
|Accommodation (monthly rent)
|Three-bedroom apartment in city centre
|Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment in the city centre
|One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre
|Milk (1 litre)
|Loaf of white bread
|Chicken breasts (1kg)
|Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)
|Big Mac Meal
|Local beer (500ml)
|Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant for two
|Mobile phone monthly plan with calls and data
|Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)
|Utilities (average per month for a standard household)
|City-centre public transport fare
|Petrol/gasoline (per litre)
What do expats say about living costs in Istanbul?
"Fresh fruit and vegetables are much cheaper than in Australia, while wine is more expensive. For those on restricted diets (gluten-free etc.), substitute products are expensive and hard to find." Find out what else Lisa, an Australian expat, has to say about her life in Istanbul in her interview with Expat Arrivals.
►For what to see and do in the city, see Lifestyle in Istanbul
Are you an expat living in Istanbul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Istanbul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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