Turkey is a vast country, and if you’re looking to settle permanently you’re going to be spoiled for choice. The coastal regions in the South are the most popular spots for expats searching for a home in Turkey, with incredible weather and great value for money. We’ll look some of the best places to live in Turkey as an expat.
Whether you are choosing to settle in Turkey for a new job, change in pace or scenery or are looking to retire in the sun, there are hundreds of options. From cosmopolitan cities and towns like Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya and Izmir through to tourist resorts such as Fethiye, Bodrum and Didim. You can be in the thick of buzzing city life, or enjoy quiet walks in a peaceful harbour village. Turkey has everything.
With all this choice it can be overwhelming so we will endeavour to help you choose with some rough guidelines and suggestions from Expat Facebook communities.
Whilst it isn’t as binary as this, there are two major choice to make.
On one hand, if you’re looking for:
- a well-established expat network that can serve as a support mechanism
- year-round sun, beach sunsets, and turquoise waters
- very little rain and no snow
- a relaxed, unhurried pace of life
- beautiful natural setting ideal for a variety of sporting activities
- historical ruins and bucketloads of culture
- you don’t mind learning some of the basics of the Turkish language
…then you’ll want to consider the southern or south-west coasts of Turkey. These are the area that the majority of retirees or pre-retirees come to from rainy Europe in search of amazing value property in the sun.
On the other hand, if you like:
- a fast-paced metropolis which rarely sleeps
- a significant number of business professionals with which to network
- and endless schedule of art and history exhibits, and streets brimming with culture
- ‘proper’ seasons including snow in the winter, rain the autumn and scorching summers
- vast academic opportunities
…then the North-West or West of the country may be better for you. In Central Turkey, the obvious choice would be Ankara, the capital city. In the North-West there is only one city to live in – Istanbul. These areas tend to be preferred by professionals and ‘younger’ people!
What is the South-West of Turkey like?
As we explained about, the Southern and South-West regions of Turkey are most popular with holiday makers and those looking for a quieter life; often retirees.
Swimming is feasible in most places around the Mediterranean and lower Aegean coasts from April to December. If you don’t mind a few goosebumps, you might also take a dip in February like the locals do!
There are a number of expats who choose to stay in these southern towns year-round for a relaxing lifestyle, but most people only stay for 4 to 6 months of the year.
The sunny south is often compared to the Mediterranean coasts of France, Spain and Italy. Arguably there is a more authentic atmosphere and lower cost of living.
Apart from the likes of Izmir and Antalya, coastal towns and villages have relatively few high rise apartments. Most villas have gardens or courtyards. Mula and Antalya are both common destinations for expats looking to purchase second homes or holiday properties.
For leisure, there are a huge variety of seaside cafés, pubs, bars, and restaurants to choose from.
Understandably these places tend to be busier in the season, as most expats and local vacationers flock to the beaches to escape the stress of the year.
Expat community or local immersion?
Different areas will appeal to different budgets. Gümbet in Bodrum, for example, is a budget-friendly party spot. At the same moment, Yalkavak is reserved for the wealthy, with a million-dollar marina attracting the world’s most opulent yachts, HNW individuals and celebrities.
Marmaris, Datça, and Dalyan, to the south, have flourishing expat populations, but they are far quieter than Bodrum.
British expats feel at home in Fethiye, especially the promenade leading to Lüdeniz Beach, with its fish and chip shops and football matches shown on TVs. Fethiye is also known for its adrenaline-pumping water sports and activities. If you’re searching for kilometre-long mountain hikes, paragliding across sparkling waters after leaping off Babada, or looking down from dizzying heights in the Butterfly Valley, you’ll find it all here. Fethiye has fantastic weather. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 6°C to 33°C and is rarely below 1°C or above 37°C.
The next major city to the east where expats reside is Antalya. In Antalya, the summers are hot, humid, arid, and clear and the winters are long, cold, wet, and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 5°C to 35°C and is rarely below 1°C or above 39°C.
A popular resort area close to Antalya is Side, which is a beacity about an hour from Antalya airport.
The lovely beaches between Konyaalt and Lara are extremely popular, so property buyers might want to be within 30 mins of these locations. Kalkan and Kaş are common choices for those pursuing a more secluded lifestyle. Many expats choose these areas for peace of mind, despite the fact that they are more costly than many other locations along the coast.
Where should I live in the North West of Turkey?
There really is only one choice – Istanbul.
Istanbul is Turkey’s biggest, most developed, and densely populated metropolis. It is the only city in the world with a foot in two continents, Europe and Asia. Istanbul was once the centre of the world, when the Roman Empire under Constantine relocated here from Rome.
It is also the country’s commercial, cultural, and historical core for both locals and tourists. You could say Istanbul is to Ankara as Sydney is to Canberra.
It is without a doubt here where the greatest number and concentration of expats in Turkey can be found. Importantly, there are a large number of professionals or students in Istanbul.
Summers in Istanbul are hot, humid, dry, and sunny, while winters are cool, windy, and partly cloudy. The weather usually ranges from 4°C to 29°C during the year, with temperatures seldom falling below -1°C or rising above 32°C.
What makes it so attractive?
You have the incredible Bosphorus which divides the region from the European and Asian continents. What’s more, the city’s multiple distinct neighbourhoods and communities are what make it so appealing. There is a place for everyone in Istanbul, no matter your background, ethnicity or profession. On the other hand, you do need to do your search and be careful which one you settle on. Don’t just ask one person, or rely on one agent’s word. There are 39 different districts in Istanbul, and maybe only a handful will tick all your boxes. Take the time to be picky.
Taksim and Istiklal Avenue, Cihangir, the artistic centre for artists and filmmakers, as well as boho Moda and vibrant Kadköy. Expats generally prefer the upscale Bebek and Arnavutköy neighbourhoods to rent or buy in.
Meanwhile, depending on the district you choose to reside in, Izmir also offers opportunities.
Expats that want to be by the water, beach, and sun choose Alaçat, Eşme, or Foça, while Konak and Alsancak provide more career opportunities.
What about other cities in Turkey?
Citizens of numerous nationalities have their beloved cities as well. For decades, the British have preferred Bodrum, Marmaris, or Fethiye. Marmaris has plenty of residential areas which are quite and far from the crowds of the main resort. Dalaman is also an interesting choice with its’ new international airport (with direct London to Dalaman flights). Russians and ex-Soviets have preferred Antalya as a whole, and especially Alanya.
Is Ankara not worth considering?
Ankara, the capital of Turkey, sits much further inland and so is often overlooked by people looking to relocate to Turkey. That said, it is safe, economical , great value for money and there are not many tourists! On the downside, the weather is less settled. Summers in Ankara are mild and bright, winters are bitterly cold and partially gloomy, and the city is dry all year. The weather normally ranges from -5°C to 30°C during the year, with temperatures seldom falling below -13°C or rising above 35°C.
To summarise where some of the best places to live in Turkey are:
- Istanbul is a vibrant, exciting city which exists on two continents and is both beautiful and chaotic.
- Izmir is the Aegean’s pearl and a land steeped with history.
- Ankara is Turkey’s capital and bureaucratic centre, with lots of tradition.
- Fethiye is a land of discovery and the perfect holiday resort.
- Bodrum has a multitude of chic resorts.
- Marmaris is known for its lush vegetation (olive and pine trees) and clear waters.
- Antalya – the pearl in the Mediterranean.
- Alanya has its lemon and orange gardens and wonderful weather
- Kalkan is a luxurious resort town and a yachting mecca.
- Kaş is a charming fishing town that has become a famous tourist destination.
- Dalyan is known for its unspoiled habitat and loggerhead sea turtles.
- Konya is one of the oldest cities on the planet.