If you use a foreign mobile phone, with a Turkish SIM card, it will work for 60 days. Within that time, you must pay a tax and register it or it will be cut off.
Turkish mobile phone systems work on either the 900 Megahertz (Mhz) or the 1800 Mhz band. Your mobile phone must be able to operate on one of these. A UK and European models will work, but not a US models, unless it has multi-band capability. The iPhone and other smart phones will work in Turkey.
The three leading mobile service providers in Turkey work on one of two different frequencies. Your phone must be a GSM phone working on the same frequency as one of these cellular network providers:
- Turkcell: 900Mhz (market share 52.4%).
- Vodaphone: 900 Mhz (market share 27.9%).
- Avea: 1800 Mhz (market share 19.7%).
A Subscriber Identity Module, or SIM card, is the brain of your mobile phone. It is a small plastic chip about the size of your thumbnail, which tells the phone which service provider to connect to, who you are, and what your phone number is. It also has memory to store your saved telephone numbers and your user preferences.
If you use a Turkish SIM card with a foreign mobile phone, it will be blocked after 60 days.
Locked and Unlocked Phones
Your phone will have to be an "unlocked" model, or it will have to be unlocked to work with a Turkish SIM card. A locked mobile phone is one which can only be used with one provider and one SIM card. They are typically sold by the provider themselves, along with a subscription package, so you can't change to another provider.
If your phone is locked, you can ask someone at a Turkish mobile phone shop to unlock your phone. It costs less than 50 TL. Check your local laws and your warranty before doing this. Unlocking your phone may be illegal in your country, and will probably void the warranty.
Mobile network providers outside of Turkey usually offer international "roaming" plans, where you can use your foreign phone in Turkey, without using a Turkish SIM card. It's expensive, since you're using not only the Turkish network, but also your own provider's network. But you can use roaming in Turkey without having to register your mobile phone.
60-Day Period to Register a Foreign Mobile Phone Using a Turkish SIM Card
If you buy a Turkish SIM card and use it with your mobile phone, you have 60 days from the day of your arrival in Turkey to pay a mobile phone use tax, and register your foreign mobile phone in the Central Equipment Identity Register. Once your phone is blocked, you will only be able to access emergency numbers.
Mobile Phone Registration Cost
The total cost is 165 TL: 115 TL to pay the tax, and 50 TL to register it.
Registering Your Mobile Phone in Turkey
1. Save Your Phone Numbers from Your Foreign SIM Card to Your Phone.
While the SIM card's memory stores phone numbers, your phone itself also has a memory where you can store the numbers for later transfer to your Turkish SIM card.
2. Find the telephone's IMEI number.
This is a unique number which identifies the mobile phone. There are a few ways to get it:
b. Turn off your phone completely, open the battery access panel, and remove the battery. The IMEI number will be displayed in the battery compartment.
3. Write this number down.
Keep your IMEI number in a place separate from your phone. If your mobile phone is ever lost or stolen, you can give that number to your mobile service provider and they will disable the phone, making it useless for anyone using it unless you ask them to re-enable it again.
4. Go to a local tax office.
Take your phone, its IMEI number, and your passport with you to a local vergi ofisi, or tax office. Ask for a mobile phone registration certificate, or just point to your mobile phone and say "vergi." Pay the tax (as of 2014 it is 115 TL). You can also do this at a PTT (Turkish post office) or at a bank.
5. Go to a police station for an entry and exit document.
In some provinces, you may be required to then go to the police station to get a document showing the dates you have entered and exited Turkey. It is an additional hassle, but at least it's free.
6. Go to the Shop of a Turkish Mobile Network Provider.
Go to a shop operated by your chosen service provider (Turkcell, Vodafone, or Avea). If they can't register your phone, you may need to go to their central telecommunications center.
Pay 50 TL for the registration. The clerk will check your documents and passport/residence permit, then register your phone, which should be activated within a day or so.
Reasons Not to Register
1. You're only going to be in Turkey for a few weeks.
2. You buy a Turkish mobile phone. You can buy a cheap Turkish phone from one of many mobile phone sales stores, paying around 80-100 TL for the cheapest model. The starter kit is extra.
3. You have a handheld computer device with Skype. You can download a Skype application and use Skype to make calls over the internet. The iPhone, for example, is a mobile phone and a computer-two different systems in the same device. If you download the Skype application for your smart phone, it works with the computer in your smart phone, not with the mobile phone. So you will not be using the cellular telephone system at all. If you go to a cafe or other business with WiFi access, you can use Skype to make calls. It's free for calls to other Skype users, and you can also call land-line telephones at cheap rates.
Registering After the 60 Day Period
If you decide to not register your mobile phone and change your mind after the 60 day period, you will have to leave the country and come back with a new entry stamp in your passport. A tourist visa is a 90-day multiple-entry visa, so you won't need a new visa, just a new entry stamp. It works the same if you have a residence permit.
How Many Phones You Can Register
You can only register one foreign mobile phone every two years. The registration links a single IMEI number to your name, so if you change from one foreign mobile phone to another, you will have to de-register the old one, pay the tax again, and register the new one.
Checking the Registration of a Mobile Phone
If you buy a used mobile phone, there is a chance that it has already been registered by a foreigner within the last two years. To check a mobile phone's current registration, go to the MCKS website (link below), and click "IMEI Sorgulama." You need only to enter the IMEI number and a Captcha code to learn who the phone is registered to.
IMEI Number Checker: Check an IMEI number to see if it's registered in Turkey. Just enter the IMEI number and the security code, then click the "Sorgula" button.