Mobile phones

How to get a mobile line in Turkey

Mobile phones

Though mobile calls are expensive, they offer convenient calling that fixed lines do not. Turkish mobile operators offer both prepaid and contract payment plans.

Most Turks have a mobile phone, though they use them so often that they might actually seem to have two! Turkish mobile operators are planning to move to an advanced 3G (third generation) network, which will eventually allow mobile internet access all over Turkey, provided you own a capable handset.

Prepaid phones

Prepaid phones allow you maximum flexibility since you pay as you go. Once you sign up and buy a handset you can recharge your mobile with prepaid cards available at most shops and newsagents. The prepaid card system is more expensive than a mobile contract, but it prevents you from racking up high bills without realizing it.

Contract phones

Mobile contracts are another option. Besides delaying payment until the end of the month, the benefits of a contract include lower calling rates (quite significant in some cases) and discounts on new handsets. Contract bills, like utility bills, can be paid at a post office or through a direct withdrawal from your bank account.

You are eligible to open a contract account if you are a resident in Turkey. If you are not a resident and still want a contract phone, see if a Turkish friend will open an account for you in his name.

Mobile providers in Turkey

There are three major mobile service providers in Turkey

Bringing your mobile phone to Turkey

Turkish mobile phones operate on a SIM-based GSM network. If you have a GSM phone, it should work in Turkey as long as you buy a Turkish SIM card.

If you plan to use a mobile phone from your home country, however, be aware that there is a Turkish law requiring all mobile phones to be registered with the government. This includes both the SIM card and the handset. The Turkish government claims that registration helps prevent terrorist acts (terrorists are known to use mobile phones to detonate bombs).

To use your phone and a Turkish SIM card, you need to register your International Mobile Equipment Identities (IMEIs) with the Turkish Information Technologies and Communications Authority.

Do not assume that registering your phone will be quick or easy. Registry backlogs are common, and if your phone is not registered within one or two months of your arrival it will be excluded from the Turkish network. Once a phone is excluded from the Turkish network it is nearly impossible to have it reactivated.

Renting a Phone

For short-term visitors who cannot buy a Turkish phone and do not want to deal with the hassle of registering a phone, renting is probably the best option. All of the major Turkish mobile operators offer rental plans on their websites, and depending on where you are staying it may be possible to arrange for a rental through your hotel.

Try to avoid renting a phone from an “international” rental company. While these companies offer competitive rates and compatible GSM phones, their phones are not registered with the Turkish government and will eventually be excluded from the network (unless they are registered). Save yourself the hassle and rent from a Turkish mobile provider.

Further reading

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