People visiting Turkey usually want to know about the money first. After all, it makes the world go round and whether or not, you have a budget, knowing about the currency, exchange rates, fees, and charges, means you will spend wisely. So let’s get started by discussing the relevant facts about using money in Turkey first.
What is the Currency of Turkey?
The currency is Turkish Lira, and this is recognized by the symbol, although you may still see some places using the old abbreviation of TL, and banks, credit card companies may also use TRY. Known as the new Turkish lira, it replaced the old currency that automatically made everyone a millionaire. Be aware that some old Turkish people still refer to millions of Turkish Lira purely out of habit.
Turkish lira banknotes come in six denominations of 200, 100, 50, 20, 10, and 5. Each has their own colour but be careful because the 5 lira and 50 lira are remarkably similar. Coins known as kurus are in denominations of 5, 10, 24, and 50. It then progresses up to the 1 lira that is a coin.
Best Place to Exchange Money in Turkey
The exchange rate fluctuates every day but currently foreigners are getting a good deal. I use Yahoo Currency Converter that shows up to date exchange rates as they happen. Avoid changing money at the airport in your home country because the commission rates are heavy, and you will get less than if you exchange money in Turkey.
So, when you get here, there are three options. Banks, currency exchange shops and occasionally jewellery shops or travel agents also do it. For the first two, you need to show identification, which is usually your passport, but these places generally offer a better rate. It depends on how much money you are exchanging as to whether it is worth your time to use them instead of the local jewellery shop or travel agent that are fast, open every day and are convenient.
Can I use Euros, Dollars, or British Pounds?
Touristic shops, restaurants, and travel agents will accept most currencies. The Antalya region that is popular with Europeans even display prices in Euros while on the Aegean, prices are sometimes shown in pounds because it is popular with Brits. Touristic places in Istanbul seem to take any currency as long as it has value. Just bear in mind that these establishments will often use their own exchange rate if the bill is in lira.
Using Money in Turkey : ATM / Cash Machines
Known in Turkey as bankamatik, it is far safer and easier to rely on ATMS / cash machines to withdraw Euros, USD, Turkish Lira, and British pounds. However, before you depart from your home country, inform your bank that you are travelling to Turkey otherwise they may block your account because of suspicious activity.
Likewise, also ask about charges for using your cash card abroad. Some banks don’t charge for foreign transactions while others do. The daily limit you can withdraw is still the same stipulation as in your home country.Some ATMs have the English language option on the keyboard, while others don’t and likewise, some cash machines do not give foreign currency.
Most importantly though is that some areas have a high case of fraudsters hanging around machines. Don’t accept help from anyone or let them see your pin number. Also, check the keypad to make sure it is not removable. Clever fraudsters are able to replicate a keypad that is placed on the original, and it records all your details including your card number and pin.
Using Travellers Cheques and Credit Cards in Turkey
Avoid using traveller’s cheques in Turkey. They are old-fashioned, many places do not accept them anymore, and with the advance of cash machines, there just isn’t a need for them. Most places in Turkey accept credit cards (Visa, Master, and American Express) but likewise; notify your credit card supplier that you are travelling to the country. Establishments like hotels, shops, and restaurants have the swipe and pin number cash machines, as do travel agents, but while the former do not charge commission, some travel agents do, so check before booking.
Transferring Money in and out of Turkey
One of the growing ways to transfer money in and out of Turkey is through a specialist FOREX (foreign exchange) transfer company. These companies are able to transfer your funds between bank accounts but at a much lower cost than just using your bank that is a relatively expensive option.
The main advantage is that instead of being charged 5% and sometimes more to move your money, costs are usually 2% or lower. That 3% or more is a lot of extra Turkish Lira arriving in your bank account.
To choose the best company to transfer money to Turkey, it helps if they have an office in the country you are sending money from. Most companies have an operation in the UK because of the relatively friendly regulatory environment (and it is London – the financial capital of Europe), but the options quickly diminish if you are moving money from other parts of the world like USA, Australia and other parts of Europe.
If in doubt, choose a reputable company that has a physical operation in a country like the UK, USA, or Australia because they will be regulated in those countries. For more information, check out this page which shows where some of the bigger transfer companies have their offices.
Taking Cash Out of Turkey
Originally, the limit of taking money out of Turkey has always been $5000 USD, however, this report by Al-Monitor says there was an amendment to this law in December 2015. Quote…
“Under the Dec. 30 amendment, travellers exiting Turkey with cash of more than 25,000 lira ($8,263) or more than 10,000 euros or an equivalent sum of foreign currency are now obliged to declare the money to customs at airports and border crossings. A newly added provision says that in cases where the money is not declared, or incorrect or misleading declarations are made, the money in question will be taken by customs and considered suspicious. Customs officials will then notify MASAK and refer the case also to prosecutors on charges of trafficking.”
Tax, Refunds, Receipts, and Invoices
All goods sold in Turkey already have 18% tax added onto them. If you need a receipt for your purchases, ask for a fis (fish) or a fatura if you want an invoice. If you are a non-resident of Turkey and have spent less than 6 months in the country, you are eligible for tax refunds on purchases over 108 TL, as long as they are from a registered tax-free outlet.
Claim the refund at the airport when you are leaving Turkey and Global Blue, the company operating the scheme have offices in most international airports. (Find out more here.) Once you have signed up for one of their cards, you can also use it in other countries around the world.
Save Money While in Turkey
If you are sticking to a budget, there are certain ways to grab yourself a real bargain or save money while here, and I’ve listed them in a separate article. Alternatively, this article talks about means to fund your lifestyle if you want to travel extensively or live here.