Istanbul is a large, sprawling city, and it can be overwhelming for new arrivals seeking accommodation. Most expats looking for accommodation in Istanbul tend to choose the areas on the European side of the city, although there are also plenty of housing options on the Asian side.
Areas and suburbs in Istanbul
Istanbul boasts a whopping 39 districts, with the European side claiming 25 and the Asian side hosting the remaining nine. All new arrivals in Istanbul can find a neighbourhood perfectly suited to their needs, lifestyle and budget.
Young professionals and singles who want to be close to their workplaces while having quick access to some of Istanbul's trendiest restaurants, attractions and nightlife spots should consider neighbourhoods in the Beşiktaş district. Beşiktaş, Arnavutköy, Ortaköy and Levent are some of the most beautiful and popular neighbourhoods in the Beşiktaş district, but accommodation in these suburbs comes at a premium. The Beyoğlu district is also an excellent base for young expats, boasting lively cafés, restaurants and bookshops.
Şişli is a central district that caters for both young professionals and families alike. The district is home to diverse neighbourhoods, such as Teşvikiye, Nişantaşı, Esentepe and Gayrettepe, that have exceptional public transport links. Located on the Asian side of Istanbul, Kadıköy is a peaceful waterfront district that is typically home to retirees and families.
Expat families who have a few bucks to spend and are looking to enjoy seaside living will love the Sarıyer districts. It is perched on the northern tip of Istanbul, and the accommodation here generally comes in the form of luxury villas, but if expats search hard enough, they can also find budget options.
See Areas and Suburbs in Istanbul for more detailed information on the city's different neighbourhoods.
Types of accommodation in Istanbul
There are numerous accommodation options in Istanbul, including apartments, houses, condominiums and luxury villas. The price of property in the city varies according to the type and quality of the residence, as well as its location, age, and whether it has parking facilities.
There are options for furnished and unfurnished apartments and houses in Istanbul. Many expats choose to live in housing estates, which are becoming increasingly common.
Finding property in Istanbul
There are many online property portals that cater to all budgets and tastes. There are also many real-estate agencies (emlak) throughout Istanbul. Some of these specialise in the expat market, which is useful in limiting language barrier issues.
Traffic congestion can be a real problem in Istanbul. Expats should, therefore, consider the proximity of their house or apartment to public transport and the distance they will have to travel to get to work.
Renting accommodation in Istanbul
Most landlords and estate agents will not be able to speak English, and most rental agreements are written in Turkish. It's therefore best that expats have a trusted friend or colleague who speaks Turkish to accompany them on their house hunt.
Leases, fees and deposits
Leases in Istanbul are usually signed for a year, and a deposit equivalent to one or two months' rent is typically required to secure the property. An agency fee will also need to be paid if working through an agent.
To rent property in Istanbul, expats may need to provide a few documents, such as their passport, a letter from their employer and proof of income. Other documents may also be requested, depending on the landlord or agent.
Read Accommodation in Turkey to learn more about national rental processes.
Utilities, including water, gas and electricity, are normally included in the rental price for short-term leases, while long-term rentals may require tenants to pay for their own utilities. This is often dependent on the landlord and may be negotiable. Expats renting in Istanbul will find that the utilities for most accommodation will be pre-registered in the name of the landlord and that it is the responsibility of the tenant to settle the bill monthly.
Household services are widely available in Istanbul at a generally cheaper cost than in the West. Both Turkish and Filipino domestic cleaners are commonly available. Although Filipino domestic cleaners typically charge higher prices, as they are more likely to speak English.
Electricity and gas
Turkey's energy market is deregulated, meaning there are many companies supplying electricity in the country. Istanbul's main suppliers are Electricity Generation Company (EÜAŞ), Istanbul Energy and CK Energy. There are different companies supplying the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. For gas, customers rely on state-owned Istanbul Gaz Dağıtım (IGDAŞ).
If expats need to transfer accounts to their name, it's best to visit the local branch of their supplier with their proof of identity, earthquake insurance policy, meter number, rental contract copy and statement of registered residency. It's recommended that expats take a Turkish-speaking friend or colleague to assist them with the process, as most branches will not have English-speaking services.
Officially, the drinking water in Istanbul is perfectly safe to drink, but most locals and expats choose to drink bottled water as tap water has a strong chemical taste. The drinking water in Istanbul largely comes from surface water collections stored in reservoirs and dams.
The Istanbul Water and Sewage Administration (ISKI) purifies and distributes water throughout the city, and expats can visit their website or a local office to transfer the subscription contract to their name. Like electricity and gas, expats must submit their meter number, rental contract, population registration code and current meter reading online or in person.
Internet and telephone
Setting up a landline telephone is an easy process, as is buying mobile pre-paid SIM cards, but only Turkish residents can get mobile phone contracts unless they are provided by their company.
Most companies will help expats arrange telephone connections. This is useful as telephone company agents might not speak English. When dialling within Istanbul, remember that the prefix for the European side is 0212 and for the Asian side is 0216. This must be dialled before the number when calling from one side to the other.
Bins and recycling
Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality is responsible for waste management in the city. The municipality provides large dumpsters for residents to use for curbside collection on demarcated days in different neighbourhoods. Istanbul is still developing its recycling practices, but the city has several recycling depots across its districts where residents can drop off their recyclable materials. Residents are also encouraged to sort and separate their waste before leaving it in the municipal rubbish bins.
Most housing estates and apartment blocks will have a kapıcı or doorman. In most cases, the kapıcı acts as the handyman and will collect the rubbish and take care of minor repairs. The drawback is that expats will be hard-pressed to find a kapıcı who speaks English. Therefore, most expats will need to rely on secretaries or other office staff to translate for them in their initial days in Istanbul.
- Expats can visit EÜAŞ, Istanbul Energy, CK Energy and IGDAŞ's websites to learn more about connecting electricity and paying their bills in Istanbul.
- ISKI has more on water connections, fault reporting and bill payments.
- Residents can contact Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality to learn more about their neighbourhoods' rubbish collection days.
►Read Areas and Suburbs in Istanbul for specifics about expat favoured areas.
►For more on finding accommodation in Istanbul, read Finding an apartment in Istanbul: Advice from a real estate expert.
What do expats say about housing in Istanbul?
"Things to note are that if you want to rent an unfurnished apartment it means exactly that – no light fittings, window coverings, whitegoods and sometimes no floor coverings..." Read more about Lisa's experiences in Istanbul.
Are you an expat living in Istanbul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Istanbul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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