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Cell phone service- SIM card questions

Hello

We are thinking of buying SIM cards in Turkey (as opposed to buying international service from our cell phone carrier). Has anyone had any recent experiences with this? Thoughts?

Wouldn't a SIM card bought in Turkey give us a different phone number, so that we would not receive text messages sent to our domestic number? Does anyone have any experience on this?

Thanks!

Posted by
1856 posts

Your understanding is correct. Getting a local SIM card generally gets you a local phone number. Some plans are data only and will not have one. But you would not get texts from your domestic number. But also note that

  • Some phones have dual SIM capabilities that allow more than one plan to be used. So settings can be set up to allow texts to your US(?) number to show up. Check with your carrier as to how much they charge
  • On iPhones iMessages from other apple devices will be received. It depends on what you have established in your settings. For example I have my regular phone number and 2 emails set up on my iPhone.
Posted by
11 posts

Thanks for your helpful response.

Our next questions are: which wireless provider in Turkey do people recommend, and where in Istanbul is the best place to sign up for cell service? We have heard it's more expensive to buy at the airport, but convenience is a factor too.
Thanks again!

Posted by
4945 posts

I bought a Turkcell Tourist SIM in Istanbul, which worked great throughout my Best of Istanbul and Best of Turkey tours in 2022.

https://m.turkcell.com.tr/en/aboutus/traveling-turkey/local-sim-card-for-your-vacation

I bought mine at a little shop in the underground pedestrian walkways near the New District end of the Galata Bridge, across the water from Old Town.

Address from Google Maps: Azapkapı, 14 Yeraltı Geçidi Karaköy, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye
Hours: 9am - 7pm except Sundays

We had a driver take us to our hotel, so we didn't feel the necessity to get it at the airport, though it would have been easy to do so. When it didn't work right away, I liked being able to walk back to the shop to get them to change the settings and make it work.

Posted by
4945 posts

There's a Vodafone store in the same pedestrian subway. And I see at least a dozen Turkcell stores around Old Town Istanbul, so you can search for one near your lodging.

Yes, true, you'll get a Turkish phone number. If your contacts at home use WhatsApp, you can message with them using that on the same account you use with your US phone number. When I bought my Turkcell SIM, the tourist package included free WhatsApp messaging.

Posted by
4945 posts

Here's a great article if you want to read your options:
https://www.traveltomtom.net/destinations/europe/turkey/turkey-sim-card-for-tourists

And in this article about buying a SIM card at the Istanbul airport:
https://www.traveltomtom.net/destinations/europe/turkey/turkey-sim-card-istanbul-airport

he says it costs 480 TL there, about $25, for the same package:

"Buying a sim card at Istanbul Airport is super easy and convenient, but you pay a price for that convenience! Turkey sim card deals in Istanbul city are much cheaper: almost 50% CHEAPER!"

ETA: although it is supposed to be cheaper in the city, I just checked my notes and it really wasn't by the time I paid the "one time service fee" and who knows what else. I would caution against buying a SIM from any of the guys wandering around the airport touting them. I'd buy one from a Turkcell, Vodafone or other authorized vendor kiosk.

Posted by
31 posts

Newer phones like the iPhone 14 have an ESIM, so I bought a digital one online, I’ll be activating it in 48 hours.

Posted by
11 posts

We are staying with the RS group in the Acra in Istambul. Anyone know whether there is a Turkcell shop near the hotel?

Posted by
4945 posts

The nearest TurkCell I found is:
Alemdar, Sultan Ahmet Cad., 34122 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye

Here's a walking map from the Acra.

That's about 850m / 12-15 min walk from the Acra Hotel, very near the main road where the street trams run. If you walk to the Blue Mosque / Hagia Sophia and continue through those grounds to the main street that runs along the opposite side, then turn left, you should find it.

It's near the Cistern of Theodosius, about 180m, if you're planning a visit.

Posted by
2267 posts

When I did this in 2019 I printed off TurkCell's just in case of a language barrier. The guy that greeted me kind of froze when I asked if he spoke English, but relaxed when I pulled the paper out. The hard part over, we managed the actual transaction easily.

Edit to add:
-Bring your passports. Don't remember if I needed mine, but many countries require it.
-I have eSIM set up for my home number, physical SIM for my travel number. There are settings to turn on or off data use for the two accounts. Properly set up, I can receive texts to my US number, but if I reply I trigger Verizon's expensive travel plan. Answering a call from the US does the same. (This is limited to actual SMS messages. Blue messages on iPhone or WhatsApp are fine.)