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Currency for Turkey

Hi there
We will be in Turkey for 2 days.
What is the dominate currency? Is it Lira or EURO, I'm not sure which one to get? What do merchant prefer?

To get money ahead of time vs at your destination:
I've read Rick Steve's blog on currency and he recommends getting your money via ATM but the bank will charge me fees for not using their ATM plus the an exchange rate fee--any recommendations?


Posted by
21667 posts

It is the Turkey Lira. Merchant will often accept dollars and Euro but they will set the exchange in their favor by a good margin. Even if your bank charges your fees, the cheapest and most convenient way to obtain local currency will be, absolutely, a debit card at a bank owned ATM. Period. There is no argument or discussion on this point. And, of course, it is even better if your card issuer did not charge currency conversion fees. Lots of banks and card issuer do not - look around.

Posted by
6858 posts

Look for the best ATM card you can with minimal fees - not only for this short trip but for others (it will pay off in the long run if you travel every year). My credit union charges 1% of each withdrawal and no other flat fees. I used the ATM (not Travelex ATM, not exchange bureau, but a regular bank ATM) at Ataturk Airport upon arrival several times with no problems.

Posted by
24 posts


The dominant currency is the Turkish lira. Having just returned from Turkey, most merchants prefer cash in Turkish lira. Especially if you want to haggle! Don't bother with Euros - they were accepted mainly at hotels or large businesses catering to tourists.

Get TL before you leave from your own bank to minimize fees and to have cash on hand when you arrive. ATMs are convenient and found everywhere in Turkey. I used them several times and found that the fees charged by my bank were minimal and not outrageous at all- Just get enough cash for a few days at a time. Enjoy Turkey- it's an amazing place!

Posted by
6858 posts

Get TL before you leave from your own bank to minimize fees

That is not the way to minimize fees - the way to minimize fees is to use a local ATM in the destination country. Ordering money ahead of time always costs more because it requires human intervention.

Posted by
2422 posts

And there are easy to use ATMs before you exit the Istanbul airport which do not charge fees. The ATMs will be found before you would access the surface transportation areas.

Posted by
3487 posts

Yes, your bank probably charges fees to get any foreign currency out of an ATM. But that'll still be less than what you will get charged if you get some before you leave the US. Depending on who your bank is, they may or may not do foreign exchange at your branch. Your other options are a service like what American Express provides or the exchange booth at the airport. Each of these options has fees associated with it. Whether that is a jacked up exchange rate in favor of the company selling you the currency or delivery charges, it can add up to a significant percentage over what the real exchange rate is. Last I checked with the airport exchange booth, they wanted 18% in fees for Euros for example (less popular currencies, if available, had even worse rates). American Express will sell you $1,000 worth of Turkish Lira today but keep 320 Lira from what you would get at an ATM in Turkey in addition to their $25 delivery fe for standard slow delivery..

When you use a bank operated ATM (that is one physically attached to a bank usually with the bank's name on it) you do get the best rate possible. Your bank will probably charge you 1% to 5% for a foreign transaction fee plus their normal fee for not using their ATM. Still better than the fees noted above.

If this journey is part of a longer trip, it might be worth it to look into getting an ATM/Debit card that has not fees. My choice would be the one from Capital One 360 which has absolutely zero fees for anything. You open the account online and can fund it with free funds transfers in from your regular account. Others suggest the Charles Schwab account that does not charge international fees for ATM use.

Posted by
5777 posts

Take a look at each of your options and then consider safety and ease of use.

For example, what is your bank charging to use an ATM? Many report having to pay $5 for using an out of network ATM plus a 3% Foreign Transaction Fee. Currency exchange will be at interbank rates plus about 1% typically. What this means is that if you take tout the equivalent of $200 of TL, you will pay about $12 or 6% ($100 would cost ~9%, $300 about 5%)

How does that compare?

An ATM card with no bank fees and no Foreign transaction fees would only cost about 1%
A credit card with no foreign transaction fees would only be about 1%
A Credit card with Foreign Transaction fee is typically 3%
Getting some TL here in the states would cost at best 5%, up to about 8% if you go to a bank. You would however have to estimate what you might need, risking over or under planning, and you have to carry all cash with you.
Taking US Dollars and exchanging there is not a bargain. You might be able to get as good as 4%, 6-10% would not be unusual, again, you have to have the cash with you.

In the end, it would certainly be best that you have a better ATM card. If you have a Credit Card with no Foreign Transaction fee, or even if it does have, use that for larger transactions and really any time you can.
For cash however, using your ATM card even with the fees is the best option.