Is retirement in Turkey really still an option? We think so! Here’s why…
Good news for fair weather (and grilled meat) lovers! Turkey remains a very solid retirement haven option. The main reason we came and stuck around? The prices, of course!
Topping anyone’s retirement list, the cost of living is a prime reason to relocate here. Not the only reason, but a BIG one! Overall it is a far cheaper destination than nearly all of Europe. The dollar, pound, and euro stand strong against the Turkish lira, with no signs of curbing their ascent in the near future. Although this is clearly NOT GOOD for many businesses in the local economy, it does at least help entice ex-pats here, so they can exchange and spend their foreign currency–which IS good for the local economy!
So as they say, it is a WIN/WIN!
After my twenty-one career was over, my wife and I made the decision for me to retire, take the money, and run! And she, being originally from Istanbul, couldn’t be happier to be back in her homeland.
Not everything is cheaper in Turkey, though.
Cars and fuel have stayed, inexplicably, in the ridiculous range. Indeed automobiles are very cost-prohibitive, with used cars going for up to three times what you might pay in other countries. As my friend explained to me, one reason for this is that the government generates tax revenue more from car sales than from businesses, which often under report their earnings. I can’t verify that claim, but it sounds possible. Many Turkish businesses still operate in more of a “Mom and Pop” fashion, especially outside the major cities. Prices are negotiable, cash is king, and sales aren’t always “rung up.”
Still, as far as transport goes, in the towns and cities cheap public transportation abounds. The population needs some way to get around, and it is generally by dolmus (a type of shared taxi van with set routes), which will take you across town for well under a dollar or euro. Taxis were once inexpensive, but due to fuel costs, they can only go so low price-wise. Fuel costs, like cars, remain very high compared to elsewhere.
That said, many companies around touristy destinations will put out signs listing fares to local attractions. These are generally tourist (“yabanci”) prices, or what I call the “yabanci discount,” meaning it is higher than if you paid by the meter. But even going by the meter can be pricey. The average taxi driver will negotiate, so my advice is to ask for a price upfront.
If it sounds high, say thanks and ask the next guy. Most likely the first driver will call you back and make you a counter offer. I’ve had fares as high as 120 lira cut down to 70 lira or less. But I’ve also (rarely) had drivers act like they can’t make change (probably true if you pull out a 100 lira note).
My advice is to find and stick with a couple of good taxi drivers. And they are hip to that as well, which is why if you like them and they like you, they’ll offer a card. Take it and plug the number in your phone!
Anything imported to Turkey is essentially costly.
Electronics, foreign brand clothing or toys, English language books—these things seem to have globally-set prices, thus, you are going to pay the same as you would back home, plus the import taxes and fees. So that’s not where the savings kick in, either.
Where ex-pats really get their bargains is in housing, groceries, locally-made items, and labor…basically the main expenses of daily living. Rentals apartments can run as low as one-third of the cost you’d expect for a comparable place in your homeland. That standard “3 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,200 square foot apartment?”
In most Aegean Coast towns, for example, you can find one with a sea view balcony for under $500 a month, and that generally comes with security and a swimming pool. Cheaper options abound, if you don’t need the sea view. One decent 3-story home we looked at rented for $200. But as with anywhere, location matters and prices go up accordingly.
Food from the Turkish markets is low cost.
Fresh baked bread is practically free, and most local produce nearly so. Local clothing brands such as LC Waikiki and Koton are the equivalent to America’s Old Navy brand, but with prices in lira versus dollars, a basic shirt or pants can be bought for next to nothing, and higher quality items are very reasonable.
Labor remains perhaps the lowest-cost commodity on the market.
Essentially, most people work for very little, thus services ranging from movers, haircuts, lawn maintenance, handymen, etc., are all quite affordable. To put it into perspective, the average fulltime shop or service worker brings home perhaps 2,000 lira a month, or less. A career government employee friend of mine, who has worked for 20 years, has a take home of 3,000 lira a month.
You can check out XE Currency Converter for an idea of how much that makes in your currency: http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/
Apart from cost of living, there are ample other reasons to stick around, from the beaches to the culture and history, and of course the cuisine! Especially on the western Turquoise Coast as it is called, along the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, life is fairly liberal and relaxed. Europe, it is not, but several beach towns house thousands of ex-pat pensioners for good reason—there’s fair weather nearly year around, with miles of clean beaches kissed by clear blue waters.
Turkey is also a treasure trove of delights, for the casual sightseer or the serious historian (I’m somewhere in the middle; my bachelor’s was in History). Culture and lifestyles can be quite different in Turkey, admittedly.
But isn’t that part of the adventure? It has been for me!
Not convinced? Here’s 99 more reasons to at least visit Turkey!
If you would like to read a bit more about my ex-pat life, it’s all here in my short Amazon Kindle eBook, currently on sale for only .99 cents! 🙂 May not be available in all regions…