Your home mobile phone company may offer international roaming plans which you could use while you travel in Turkey, but the rates for this service may be relatively high.
If you have an "unlocked" or
"jailbroken" GSM mobile device
capable of operating in
the 900 Mhz and/or 1800
Mhz bands, or 3G 2100 Mhz band, you may be able to remove your home mobile company's SIM card and replace it with one that offers less expensive service while you travel in Turkey, either an international roaming SIM, or a Turkish mobile phone company's SIM.
International Roaming SIM
You can buy an International Roaming SIM from a provider of mobile roaming services and use it in Turkey as well as in other countries. You can install the SIM just before leaving home, and it will be ready to connect as soon as you arrive in Turkey. Also, you can keep and use an international roaming SIM for future trips in other countries.
Many companies around the world offer these roaming SIMs.
On a tip from TTP traveler Bruce Gibson I purchased a Woolworths Global Roaming
SIM. It works on any of the three Turkish mobile phone networks: Avea, Turkcell and Vodaphone.
You purchase your Woolworths Global Roaming SIM
from the company in Austraila (in person if you're there, online if you're not). Setup is quick and easy, and rates are reasonable.
I used one on my October 2015 trip to Turkey and, as Bruce advised, it was easy, hassle-free, and cost-effective. I'll keep it after my trip and use it when I travel to France for work on FranceTravelPlanner.com. There's no monthly charge—I only pay for the times I use it.
Upon arrival in Turkey, you can find a mobile phone shop, decide on a short-term mobile plan, purchase a SIM, have it installed, and use it for up to 120 days while you travel in Turkey. The local rates, almost always cheaper than international roaming, may save you money. But you probably won't be able to use the SIM on a future trip to Turkey, nor in other countries.
Take your mobile device and your passport to a shop of any of the three mobile telephone operators in Turkey. There are even mobile phone shops in the largest airports, so you may be able to do it as soon as you arrive in Turkey.
The clerk will photocopy two pages from your passport: the personal information and photograph page, and the page with the Immigration stamp showing the date of your entry into Turkey.
The clerk will insert a newTurkish SIM in your device and pair the SIM's unique identification number (MSISDN) with the identification number (IMEI) of your mobile device, meaning that the SIM can only be used with that device (at least in Turkey).
There is a charge for the SIM and account set-up. (In spring 2015 I paid TL41.)
You then select the mobile service you want, often offered as a paket (package) with a defined maximum number of telephone minutes, SMS messages and, if you wish, Internet data (in Megabytes or Gigabytes), for a certain price.
In spring 2015 I chose a paket offering 200 minutes of voice use, 1000 SMS text messages, and 2GB of Internet usage for TL25.
Within a few days after you begin using your Turkish SIM, you may receive an official government message (in Turkish) on your device informing you that, because your device is not registered with the government (and the tax paid), your device will be blocked from Turkey's mobile networks after 120 days. The message will contain an end date for your service, and will look like this:
123456789XXXXXX IMEI no'lu cihaz kayit disi listesinde oldugu icin 26.08.2015 da kullanim disi birakilacaktir. Hattiniz acik kalacaktir. Bilgi icin 4440532.
Here's a translation:
Because the device with the IMEI 123456789XXXXXX is on the list of unregistered devices, it will be blocked from service on 26.08.2015 [26 August 2015]. Your mobile line will remain open. For information, call 4440532.
"Your mobile line will remain open," but it will do you no good, as your device will be blocked, and the SIM, paired with your device, cannot be used in any other device.
What is a SIM?
A SIM (Subscriber
Identity Module) is a small electronic
chip and memory card that stores
information on a mobile device customer, the device's
account, and country of usage. It may also store data such as SMS (Short
Message Service) messages, phone numbers of your contacts, etc.
When you turn on your mobile device, the
SIM tells the device which network to connect to, who
you are (so people can call you), and your phone usage
SIMs come in three forms: Standard, Micro, and Nano. Older phones may use the largest (Standard) SIM, many newer models take the Micro SIM, and the newest Apple iPhones and iPads require a Nano SIM, the smallest.
With an adapter, you may be able to use a smaller SIM in a phone designed to use a larger SIM, but you cannot use a larger SIM in a phone that requires a smaller SIM. For example, you may be able to snap a Micro or Nano SIM into an adapter for your phone that accepts only a Standard (large) SIM, but you cannot use any SIM but a Nano SIM in the iPhone 6.
Locked or Unlocked?
phones are either "locked" (you
can't change your SIM card), or "unlocked" (you
can remove your SIM card and replace
it with a different one).
If you phone is unlocked,
you will be able to remove (and save)
your current card, buy a new
Turkish SIM card, insert it
in your mobile phone, and use your
local Turkish rates for calls.
This is usually much cheaper than international
In Turkey, a mobile
phone shop—they seem
to be everywhere in the cities—may
be able to "unlock" or
kiliti kırmak) your "locked"
GSM phone so that you can put in
a different SIM. They may charge TL10
for this service.
Important note: unlocking your phone will void its warranty, and may cause problems with your home mobile phone company. Both of these are good reasons not to unlock your phone.
In Istanbul, the beating heart of
the mobile phone market—white, grey
and black—is the Doğu
Bank İş Hanı building, Hamidiye
Caddesi 10 [map].
Go here to buy, sell, crack/jailbreak, repair
or accessorize your phone. Not a lot
of English spoken, but they'll figure
out what you want.
No matter how you access the Internet while traveling, you should consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to prevent hackers from stealing your sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, credit card and bank account details, etc. VPNs are easy to set up, and basic service is free. More...