Where is the best place to change money in Istanbul? What is the best way to pay for goods and services in Istanbul? Where to change money in Istanbul without interest?
Money is one of the main issues if you are going to visit a foreign country for the first time. And even though today, with any bank card, you can travel freely without worrying about cash (provided that there is something on the account), it would not be superfluous to find out in more detail what the Turkish currency is and what to do if you have only USD or EURO on your hands.
Key facts about Lira
The Turkish lira was put into circulation at the end of October 1923 after the reform carried out by Mustafa Ataturk.
Since 2012, the currency has its own officially registered symbol – ₺.
The symbol resembles a strikethrough Latin capital letter “L” meaning “Lirası” from Turkish and “Lira” from English, as well as a small “t” from Turkish “Türk”, and “Turkish” from English.
The designation TL and the code TRY are also relevant.
What does Lira look like?
The modern Turkish lira replaced the gold coins of the Ottoman lira, which were in use until 1927. In the new version, only commemorative coins were minted from gold and silver, the rest got more mundane metals.
For the manufacture of coins in 1 kuruş, an alloy of copper and zinc is used. For the rest of the coins, an alloy of copper, zinc and nickel is used in different percentages.
The denomination of 50 kurush and 1 lira is bimetallic with a more complex design. Although they use the same composition of copper with the addition of nickel and zinc, but by varying the proportions, this made it possible to highlight the central part and the ring with different shades.
On one side of the coins, Ataturk’s profile and the name of the state flaunt. If before the reform of 2009 the faces of the Ataturk were different, now they have become the same everywhere.
On the back is the denomination, part of the national ornament and the year the coin was minted.
They also differ in size, and the higher the dignity, the greater the mass:
- 1 kurush – 2.2 g.
- 5 kurush – 2.9 g.
- 10 kurush – 3.15 g.
- 25 kurush – 4 g.
- 50 kurush – 6.8 g.
- 1 lira – 8.2 g.
With banknotes, it is more interesting, because with the growth of number, the political leader is increasingly turning his face from profile to full face. However, he has not yet turned around completely, prudently saving a couple of degrees for the future.
On the reverse side, outstanding representatives of the arts, crafts and sciences of Turkey were honored to decorate the national currency.
The size of paper money does not differ much, and therefore it is easier to select them from a pile by color:
- 5 lira – brown.
- 10 lira – red.
- 20 lira – green.
- 50 lira – orange.
- 100 lira – blue.
- 200 lire – pink.
Exchange rate in Istanbul
Compared to Ottoman finances, the Turkish lira is today very unenviable. It must be said that the monetary unit of Turkey in the world has a very low rating, and since the beginning of the 21st century it has repeatedly entered the Guinness Book of Records as the least significant of the current world currencies.
However, there is always room to fall, and in connection with the global pandemic of 2020-2021, when the economies of all countries suffered in one way or another, the national currency of the former Ottoman Empire lost even more in the rankings.
With what currency to go to Istanbul?
One important topic for a tourist is: what is the best thing to do – buy a Turkish lira at home or upon arrival at the place?
If you look at the advice of experienced travelers, then there is no unanimity of opinion. Some argue that it is much more profitable to stock up on it before the trip, others are categorical, stating that it is more reasonable to do this on land off the coast of the Bosphorus.
From this we conclude that there is not much difference. The only thing is that it is better not to change currency at the airport and hotel, because there is the worst exchange rate.
If you go to the Turkish financial site Doviz and compare exchange rates using a currency converter, you can see that the official home and Turkish rates are about the same (difference in cents).
How to proceed?
The Turkish lira is the official currency of the country, and it is in demand everywhere. You can’t do without it when paying for a hotel room, buying a Museum Pass Istanbul museum card, pay for taxi, buy tickets for public transport, in pharmacies and supermarkets. If you prefer to pay for goods in cash, you cannot do without the national currency.
But if you are used to operating with a bank card, you need lira in a small amount and some small amount to give out for tea in a taxi, cafe or to buy a souvenir on the street. At the same time, you won’t have to do any additional operations – the conversion from your native currency to TL is done automatically.
American dollars and euros in the form of cash in the tourist part of the country in most cases are accepted very willingly, you can also pay part of the amount in lira, and part in foreign currency, but other currencies are not so popular.
And now about the pitfalls
Payments in Euros or US Dollars can be twice higher than in Turkish Liras, although the difference is not immediately obvious. For example, where you can pay ₺6, you will be charged €2. Another example: the price of orange juice is 5 lira, 1 dollar or 1 euro.
From this it is easy to come to the conclusion that you can carry dollars and euros, but it is always more profitable to pay in lira. If you plan to pay by card, you don’t have to worry about the financial issue at all, the main thing is that there is a needed amount on the account.
Currency exchange in Istanbul: where and how best to do it
In Turkey, currency exchange, as well as in Istanbul itself, does not stand out with anything remarkable. Banks, ATMs and exchange points are scattered throughout the city, where you can sell or buy currency. In common tourist places the exchange offices are also available.
In the airport. Plus – you will arrive in the city already with lira, and there will be something to pay for a trip in a taxi or in municipal transport. Minus – unfavorable exchange rate and interest for the operation. If there is no urgent need, postpone the procedure until a better moment so as not to overpay.
In hotels. Plus, you don’t have to go far. Minus – the rate can be overestimated.
At a bank branch. Plus at the most favorable rate. Minus – banks are open only during working hours, a passport is required, there are queues.
At post offices (PTT). Plus – in tourist places at the post office a good exchange rate. The downside is that you will have to look for the nearest branch, stand in line, present your passport and adjust to the working hours.
On the street in exchange offices. Plus – do not require a passport, easy to find in any part of the city, there is always cash. There are almost no cons, but pay attention to the exchange rate and the additional commission.
At any ATM. Plus in the round-the-clock work and do not need a passport. Minus – during the operation, a failure may occur, and the card will be blocked or remain inside.
All major shopping malls of Istanbul. Most shopping centers accept payments in foreign currency, and many use it. For example, when buying a product, you can give 100 USD or EUR, and ask for change in lira. The course in such cases is very pleasant and without markups, and you will have the necessary small amount of cash.
The course differs depending on the location where you try to change. Lira is overvaluated at airports, hotels, the city center and large markets that attract tourists.
Tips for exchanging money in Istanbul
Since Istanbul is a tourist city, local exchange offices have a large selection of currencies. If you want to exchange hryvnias, Georgian lari, Polish zlotys, etc. to Turkish lira, this will not be a problem.
Although the official rate of Turkey is almost the same as your home rate, the rate depends on the bank and its location. It is always the most favorable for the euro and the dollar, but the ratio of the Turkish lira to the rest of the monetary units sometimes promises losses of up to 40% of the amount that you can get when buying TL at home.
If by the time you return home there are lira left, it is better to change them for dollars or euros in Istanbul. The reason is the same – they are not the most popular currency, which affects the course.
Do not change money on streets from hands, even if the transaction looks very tempting. Fraudsters are everywhere, and Turkey is no exception.
Where to withdraw cash from a bank card in Istanbul
When traveling, it is preferable to take VISA and Mastercard cards (both options), but the latter is a little more profitable. American Express, Union Pay, JCB and Maestro cards are also accepted.
All ATMs, in addition to Turkish, offer English, and sometimes other languages. If a choice is not prompted immediately, the language may switch automatically as soon as you enter your PIN.
For one operation at an ATM, you can get an amount in lira equal to $400 or €350. Also, some ATMs allow you to withdraw dollars and euros, but not all. This information is displayed in large print or written directly on the case itself.
Since almost everywhere there is a cashless payment, do not rush to withdraw large amounts. It is enough to have a little change in your pocket for tips and shopping at street stalls. This is not only convenient, but also financially beneficial.
How much money do you need in Istanbul for a pleasant trip?
It all depends on the planned entertainment scenario, but definitely not less than 30 € (about 550 Turkish lira) per day. This includes several trips in public transport (from 10 lira for 1 trip), street food without frills and cheap tickets to 1-2 museums.
Expecting to spend 2 days in Istanbul, you will have to think about accommodation and double the cost of food. If you want to sign up for a tour of historical sites, this is also an additional expense.
Budget rooms in hotels overlooking the Bosphorus in will cost from 25 EUR. To cut costs but still have fun, take advantage of the free entry to the Blue Mosque (Sultanahmet), explore the Egyptian Market and the Grand Bazaar, or visit some inexpensive museums on Sultanahmet district or have a walk tour on Istiklal street on Taksim square.
For three days in Istanbul it is 90 euros without accommodation and excursions. Here you can already think about buying the Museum Pass Istanbul, which costs around 40 EUR, and designed for 5 days and includes 14 museums.
Going to Istanbul for 4 days, by simple mathematical calculations (30 x 4 = 120 €), you can determine the minimum budget without the cost of a hotel and excursions.
However, in practice it is practically impossible to sustain an ascetic existence for so long. There is always a temptation to buy a souvenir, to eat something more nutritious and exotic than balyk ekmek (fish bread), roasted corn and chestnuts.
Don’t know what to buy as souvenir? We prepared the list of best things to bring from Istanbul trip.
Feel free to add another 50 € + the cost of the museum card to the minimum amount, and you get a total of 220 € excluding the cost of housing.
Similarly, it is easy to calculate how much money you need for 5 days in Istanbul and a week.
There are too many temptations around, and since you went on vacation, it is important to take with you a weighty baggage of pleasant impressions.
1) Pay for goods and services with a card so as not to lose interest on cash withdrawals.
2) To feel safe, get several cards from different banks. VISA and Mastercard are both international payment systems, with which there will definitely be no problems.
3) It is undesirable to carry large amount of money with you, as well as to leave them in a hotel room. Using the card is not only more convenient, but also safer.
4) It is preferable to take Turkish lira with you, but you can also take dollars and euros.
5) Outside the tourist areas (in villages and cities unpopular among travelers), payment is accepted only in national money.
6) It is better to exchange the remaining lira for your currency in Istanbul, since it will be much more difficult to do this at home.