The cost of living in Turkey – revisited.

Last week I met up with my friend who lives in Turkey. While we were chatting, she said something that I’d been thinking for years, – “I can’t believe how cheap everything is in England now”, she said.

The most popular, most read post ever on my blog is one regarding the ‘cost of living’ that I wrote last August. (click here to read that) I received mixed comments in response to the post, some agreed that living in Turkey isn’t cheap, others said it was if you learn to live like villagers, some people made me feel as if I wasn’t entitled to an opinion, because I didn’t work there and lived purely off Berkay’s wages, which obviously means things are tougher.

As mentioned, my friend lives in Turkey. She has for years. She has children in school there, a husband with his own business and a kimlik and full time job herself – they are just a normal family, and on her visit to the UK if she notices how ‘cheap’ things are in the UK in comparison, surely that must mean something?

Like for like, things may be cheaper in Turkey, but compared to wages, they’re not really. Things take up a bigger proportion of a monthly wage which means they’re not really cheaper at all.

One of the things which prompted the discussion was the price of cinema tickets – I know, going to the cinema is a luxury, but just for comparison – an adult cinema ticket in the UK is around £10, an adult cinema ticket in Turkey is around 20tl (around £4.60 at today’s exchange rate). On first glance it seems cheaper, but when you compare wages, it’s not – minimum wage in Turkey (1000tl a month) would buy 50 cinema tickets. Minimum wage in the UK (£910 a month) would buy 91 cinema tickets – a big difference.

The same goes for a lot of everyday things, for example – 1kg chicken breast in Tesco is roughly £6, in Turkey’s Kipa 1kg of chicken breast is around 11tl, this means on minimum wage in the UK you could buy 151kgs of chicken, in Turkey you could buy just 90kg.  In Tesco, 1kg of diced beef is £7.50,  in Kipa the same beef is 36tl – which means on minimum wage in the UK you could buy 121 kgs of beef, in Turkey just 27 kgs.

In Tesco, their own brand newborn nappies (pack of 58) is £4, whereas in Turkey, Kipa’s own brand of newborn nappies, back of 60 is 20tl – which means in the UK you could buy 227 packs a month, in Turkey just 50. A huge difference.

In Tesco, a mid range 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner is around £3, in Kipa it’s around 9tl, which means you could afford 303 bottles on minimum wage in the UK and just 111 bottles in Turkey. The same prices apply for a mid-range fabric softener. Big differences, again.

In Tesco, a 1lt bottle of own brand olive oil (which is used ALOT in Turkish cuisine) is £3.45, in Kipa, the same own brand 1lt bottle is 23tl. This means you could afford 263 bottles on minimum wage in the UK, and just 43 bottles in Turkey.

My own experience shows white goods, cars, petrol, household items, pet items and baby items are mostly all most expensive in Turkey than the UK.

I could carry on with the comparisons all day, and most of the time the same result would be seen. Day to day items, and luxuries, are all more expensive in Turkey than the UK in comparison with wages, the everyday necessities take up a larger proportion of the monthly wage in turkey, than in the UK.

Of course, there are cheap alternatives for things, but there are too in the UK. Lidl or Aldi instead of Tesco or Sainsburys, Bim and Sok instead of Kipa and Migros… growing your own fruit and veg instead of buying it, eating pulses and cooking from scratch in big batches instead of store bought things and ready meals, no days out and living on the bare minimum – but that’s not ideal, in either country is it? I believe in the UK there is more of a conscious choice to live a certain way, whereas in Turkey you don’t have that option – if you are trying to live off minimum wage you have no choice but to be frugal.

There are things that are cheaper in Turkey, like fruit and vegetables – there were often times when we’d walk around the market for hours frugally trying to find the cheapest deals, even if it meant saving a few kurus or lira, and I still remember the shock on Berkay’s face when he came to the UK and saw one pepper for 45p.

Rent is also undoubtedly cheaper in Turkey, but then I guess it depends where you live, village or city, and whether you have a mortgage or rent. And then there’s the issue of taxes, which are lower in Turkey. Perhaps, with this considered, the cost of living in both countries does even itself out in the end, then?

One thing is for sure, in my eyes, it’s not cheaper to live in Turkey, at all. When people say how cheap all the supermarkets, clothes and shoes are I have to rub my eyes in disbelief and think ‘really?’, and I’m always very pleasantly surprised when I find people who agree with me, especially those who are in a relatively good position in Turkey and still notice this.

Perhaps the cost of living is no cheaper in Turkey, but the quality of life may be higher? Less materialistic and more family orientated, more freedom for children to remain children for longer?

What do you think?

28 thoughts on “The cost of living in Turkey – revisited.

  1. If you are retired here and getting an English pension then because of the high exchange rate we find it is much cheaper to live here than in the uk.

  2. I do agree with you, it just depends. But I compare US to Turkey, and in the US we have an unlivable minimum wage and also things are expensive. So…. I find Turkey to be better lol! But it is true that consumer goods are quite expensive in Turkey compared to like…food (besides meat) and it all depends on your wages. In the US I was raised in a single parent household and then moved to living on a pitiful students stipend… So a different standard of living in Turkey still is luxurious to me!

  3. Turkey is definitely no longer cheap. Elektrik and water prices are through the roof. Running a car is prohibitive. Alcohol is also very expensive. I know neither the car or drink is necessary but for many people that is what they want. Given all that and the other problems massing there I don’t think it is going to remain a ‘go to’ place for the average Westerner for much longer.

    I keep thinking about Berkay and hoping he will not be posted anywhere bad before he finishes his national service. Take care Danni. xx

    • Yes, agree. I think people go without those things because they have to. People say to me ‘live like a Turk, eat vegetables and no meat, bulk it out with beans’ etc, well yes, I did live like a local, didn’t even have an electric shower so boiling the water on the gas and a bucket and jug job it was in winter, and we never had meat everyday, but that wasn’t a choice, it was because we couldn’t afford them. I could live off rice and beans in England and make my wages go further but really who would chose to do that?

      I think I agree, sadly 😦

      Thanks x

  4. I agree with you, it only feels cheaper because we have holiday money to spend that we have saved up to enjoy the life and culture of Turkey. If we had Turkish wages it would be a different matter. We come to Turkey to our apartment when we can but don’t eat out every single night. We are quite happy to eat in our local Lokantas in Tasyaka or near the harbour or perhaps get a cooked chicken, bread and salad from local Lokantas which can last couple of days sometimes. Our Turkish neighbours have grape vines growing up to our balcony and we are more than welcome to share their fruits, which is very kind of them. We each pass on gifts of food to each other too. Thank you for your blogs, keep up the good work.xx

  5. When I visited Turkey 4/5 years earlier as a student I thought it´s pretty cheap country (living from scholarship, comparing to the Czech Republic). Now I came back, found a boyfriend who is a branch manager and got a job in a kindergarden. Working conditions were just terrible. My salary 1200TL (10hrs/day, working every second saturday, frequently asked to do additional jobs for free). For me slavery (but still better than sitting on my butt lonely at home). What I´m trying to say is… comparing to my lifestyle back in the Czech Republic and in Turkey I spent a lot of nights crying we are poor. Even our earnings together are above turkish avarage (not thanks to my salary :-))

  6. I guess it depends on what’s in an individual’s weekly ‘basket’. A vegetarian smoker does well when compared to the UK whereas a carnivorous drinker would struggle!

  7. I do very much agree with you……it depends on your individual financial budget. I’m from Canada and I find when I go to Izmir to see my husband’s family everything seems so much cheaper to me then here……especially the fruit and veggies. I noticed that when we have about 10 people over for dinner one time and I bought chicken for 10 people….my husband said some friends told him he should watch me spending money….because I had bought so much expensive chicken……. for me it was normal.
    On the other hand my daughter lives in the UK foe school and when she shops at Sainsbury and charges it…we get the bill and whatever she purchases is double in dollars here. YIKES!!!! She also said the products come in size and quantity a lot smaller and are more pricey….
    Take care and I hope you and Berkay and Boncuk get together forever soon. XX

  8. I’ll never understand how anyone can think electric and water is expensive (or not cheaper) here in comparison to UK. My electric bill last month was 62tl and thats for everything as I have no gas, all cooking, which I do every day, all fans/air con/heating running all day every day/night. so £16 in uk. When I lived there for the same thing I was paying more than 4 times that and my kids still are doing. My water bill here was 15tl so £4 – who pays £50 a year in uk???

  9. I am from Slovenia, and things are definitely a lot more expensive in Turkey. The only exception are fruit and vegetables, but this varies (for example, in Slovenia potatoes, onion and garlic are cheaper than here, while the other produce depends on the season and is sometimes still cheaper than in Turkey, even when its organic)

    I make a very good living here, but we are still shocked at how expensive things are. Living in Antalya can get really pricey, household items are expensive, unless you buy the lowest quality Chinese products (which I can buy for cheaper anywhere).

    We bought our computer and phones in the US on a business trip, because the difference was huge.

    Another thing I can remember being cheaper is the public transport, but it must be, when you look at the price of cars.

    When I first came to Turkey, services like hairdresser were very affordable. Nowadays, good salons in Antalya charge the same as some London salons. Cheap salons employ untrained staff that I wouldn’t trust with highlights or perm.

    If I were choosing a place to live based on the expense, I would definitely not settle here. I’d probably go back to Slovenia, Croatia or Italy.

  10. I have now lived in Turkey for 6 years and I have seen the cost of living increase tremendously compared to the salary increases.We have a daughter now at kindergarten a rather large expense. we have to employ a helper as we cant be there to send her off school, and receive her back from school. Another rather large expense but this is the expected norm in Istanbul,Work and travel times make this impossible. My conclusion is it is not cheaper to live here its not easier to live here with all the restrictions and permissions put on us as foreigners. Both myself and my wife work and have good jobs and a fairly modest income. The current turbulence with the exchange rate does how ever throw a different light on things we keep away from imported goods and are social home drinkers.We are both paid in TL where as some people we know are paid in Dollars or Euro so at present they are so happy, but yet I can remember them moaning and groaning not so long ago.

  11. I agree with you, Turkey is not cheap any more. When I was there last month I was shocked at the prices in the supermarket. I spent a good few hours making comparisions because we were talking of moving over. I have a lot of cheaper options locally than the prices you are paying.
    The olive oil was a shocker to me. Ali’s parents grow olives and I know how little they get paid for them, so I was expecting the oil to be way cheaper. But its more than I pay for it at home and its been exported.
    Also the cost of eating out is getting ridiculous in Turkey. Here we have a lot of pub chains that do two meals for £8-10. Couldnt see anything like that in Alanya in the evening. It was a good job we went half board, otherwise we would have been eating our main meal on the lunch time menus.
    It definitely made me rethink our options.
    I feel for you, especially if you are in a 1 wage family. Here it takes 2 wages to keep things going, but at least there is child tax credits for childcare if needed.
    The world is changing very fast!

  12. Love the last paragraph Danni that is so true it’s what I love about the country. As to the main subject I think the main problem is people are only going there for a holiday and they take there wage from UK and see what they can get for there money in a fortnight,so they automatically think one there loaded and two the country is cheap. Easy way to show people I find is I tell them how much it costs to fill up the car and look of disbelief as they also think But Your Near The Oil Fields um no your thinking of Saudi. Keep posts coming Danni we love them x

  13. My husband and I both work full-time in Istanbul and although we have more expendable income here than we would in the US (mostly because we learned how to live very cheaply as students in Bursa), I do agree with you that life here is expensive if you consider the percentage of one’s total income. Going out to eat, cinema, entertainment in general is pricey, and therefore, not a luxury afforded to much of the population. Also, just saw an article today about how the price of food is set to rise in Turkey due to the falling exchange rate, and groceries, esp. fruits & veggies (not meat) was the one thing I could always count on being cheaper than in the US

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