Utilities in Turkey

Utilities: not the most exciting part of a move, but definitely vital. It's best to learn what to expect before you come to Turkey.

Electricity in Turkey

Electricity is supplied and administered by a local monopoly company, which differs from region to region. However, the electricity itself is provided by the government. There is no alternative supplier.

Most electricity is generated by (Russian) gas and by coal-fired thermal power plants. Hydro-electric is also common. Nuclear power is on the way. Solar and wind power plants are becoming more common.

Prices depend upon the amount that you use. For an average two-bedroom apartment with air conditioning but using gas heating, electricity is likely to cost about TRY150 (£33/€38/US$42) per month.

If you use electric heating, it could be TRY500 (£110/€126/US$141) in the winter and about TRY300 (£44/€50/US$57) in the summer.

Your electricity bills are paid monthly. There is no initial payment when you are connected to the service.

Few of the electricity supply companies’ employees speak foreign languages.

Water supply in Turkey

A piped water supply serves the whole of Turkey except some very remote areas. Piped water is safe to drink but can sometimes taste of chemicals, and Turkish people prefer to drink either filtered water or bottled water. Filters and bottles of water are available from almost all food shops and supermarkets. A common way to obtain drinking water for a household in Turkey is ordering by telephone: 19-litre drinking water bottles are available in almost all towns and cities.

The arrangements for the supply of piped water are similar to those relating to electricity.

It is charged by the cubic metre.

Typical cost per month for a two-bedroom house might be TRY40 (£8/€10/US$11) for combined water and sewerage.

Gas supply in Turkey

There is a piped natural gas supply in Turkey. It covers 78 of 81 provinces. It doesn’t cover some regions in the hottest climates (in the South-West), or under-developed regions (in the South-East).

Gas is subsidised by the government and, therefore, cheap.

In areas where there is no piped gas, and in many other parts of the country, people use gas cylinders. Cylinders are readily available from supermarkets and other shops.

A 12kg refill cylinder will cost about TRY85 (£19/€21/US$24), though this will vary slightly from city to city. Check your local prices here (just pick the city and size of container from the two drop-down lists).

Sewerage arrangements in Turkey

Only about half of the houses in Turkey are connected to a proper system for the collection and treatment of sewage. Some of these systems (again, about half) are municipal systems. This means that they’re provided by the town or village in which you live and that you can simply connect to them upon payment of any connection charge and an ongoing annual charge for the use of the system.

The cost of municipal sewerage is included with your charge for water.

Other systems were built, and are operated by, a particular development project or community. In these communities, your home will already be connected to their system and you will have to pay for the cost of running it as part of your normal community fees or charges (see page 380).

The cost of running a community sewerage system will not usually be shown separately in your community charges.

The other half of the properties in Turkey are either served by an individual septic tank or they are connected to a sewerage system which simply discharges the outflow into the sea.

Septic tanks are perfectly legal, and they can work well, but it is your responsibility to maintain them and to arrange for the periodic emptying of the tank.

Arrangements that discharge the sewage directly into the sea are now completely illegal and they should have all been replaced. However, some have not. If your property has such a system, you will need to factor in the cost of replacing it, as you will need to do so immediately. The installation of a septic tank typically costs about TRY3,000. Your lawyer should check the existing arrangement if you are buying a property.

Waste (rubbish/garbage) collection in Turkey

Waste (garbage) collection is provided everywhere in Turkey and it is paid for by way of a municipal charge, paid at the same time as your normal municipal taxes. It is a very minor portion of the Real Estate Tax, which needs to be paid annually to the local municipality. It is calculated using the property’s annual Real Estate Tax.

Garbage collection varies depending on the municipality. It can be a daily service, weekly, or something in between.

Recycling

General household waste collected in the usual way is not recycled. Most is placed into landfill.

Partly as a result of this, Turkey has one of the worst recycling rates in Europe, with a little over 2% of all waste being recovered.

Telephone services in Turkey

The telephone service in Turkey is supplied by one leading company (Türk Telekom) but other cable suppliers are now entering the market under the license and using the infrastructure of Türk Telekom.

Until a few years ago, there was a shortage of telephone lines and so you may have heard that it is difficult – and might take months – to obtain a connection to the service. This is no longer true.

You can arrange a telephone connection online, by phone (tricky if you don’t have a phone!) or by calling in at one of the Türk Telekom offices.

Unless you live in the middle of the countryside, you are likely to be connected within 48 hours. Even if you live in the countryside, and a new line needs to be taken to your home, you are likely to be connected within seven days.

There used to be special numbers used for special purposes in Turkey. But all the emergency lines like fire, ambulance and police recently merged under 112. However, the old numbers can still be used for those who like tradition. They are:

  • 155 – emergency policeline
  • 156 – Jandarma (rural military police)
  • 110 – emergency fire line
  • 112 – emergency ambulance line
  • 158 – coastguard
  • 121 – telephonebreakdowns

Mobile phones

It feels like mobile phones are available from almost every shop in Turkey. There are three main operators, of which the biggest (just) and oldest is Turkcell (40%). The others are Vodafone (38%) and Türk Telekom (12%).

There is a mass of tariffs available for mobile phones depending on your expected usage and the length of your contract. They change all the time so it’s pointless setting them out here.

As in most countries, you have the choice of taking a monthly contract (typically for a fixed period of two years) or a ‘pay-as-you-go’ contract.

Even if you intend to use your foreign mobile phone and number in Turkey, you will almost certainly find it a good idea to take a pay-as-you-go contract with a Turkish company and use that phone alongside your usual phone. This is because the cost of making calls (both within Turkey and internationally) will be much lower. Some phones can be used with adapters to hold two SIM cards at the same time, meaning you won’t need two phones to use both your old number and your new Turkish one. Alternatively, if you are in the market for a new phone, twin SIM phones are very good and much cheaper than comparable big-brand (but single SIM) products.

The contact details for Turkcell can be found here.

Public phones

Phone boxes are almost impossible to find now. I have not seen one in 5-10 years. As in most countries, they have reduced in proportion to the number of people who now have mobile phones.

The few that do exist take both cash and credit cards.

Call rates are roughly twice what you would pay from your own landline.

If you can’t find a public phone you will find that, if you ask nicely, most bars will allow you to use theirs – but they will expect you to make a small payment (or have a drink) in return for doing so.

Turkish postal service

As in most countries, people make much less use of the post today than they used to, but it is still an important means of communication in what is still a very rural country. It is, in particular, used widely for the delivery of packages and parcels as there are far fewer courier companies than you might find in Western Europe.

There are regular complaints about the quality of the Turkish postal service: about the speed of delivery and its charges. However, most expats living in Turkey find it to be at least as good as the service in their own country.

There is a post office in every town and many small villages. In small places, they are often co-located with bars. You will also find them in airports and railway stations. They are normally open from 09:00-18:00, Monday to Saturday.

You can only buy stamps from a post office.

The postage charge depends on the weight of the item.

The cost of posting an ordinary letter (up to 100g) within Turkey is TRY5. The cost of sending a 500g parcel is TRY15.

The cost of sending a regular letter from Turkey to anywhere in Western Europe is TRY20 and the cost of sending a 500g package from Turkey to anywhere in Western Europe is TRY50.

Post boxes are bright yellow. They are relatively few and far between. Most people will deliver their post, in person, directly to the post office.

There are an increasing number of courier services, who advertise ever more widely and who are quite a lot cheaper than the post office so – as in other countries – the post office’s future may be limited.

Turkish couriers (such as Inter and Yurtiçi Kargo) and international couriers (such as FedEx and DHL) will be able to give you specific quotes for international delivery.

The Internet in Turkey

Internet can either be supplied by Türk Telekom, as part of your telephone package, or by your mobile telephone operator, who will provide a 3G or 4G connection.

A Türk Telekom connection will cost you about TRY70 per month for unlimited usage. Most mobile connections are more expensive, and the charge varies with the amount you use.

The broadband bandwidth, except in the most rural areas, is a minimum of 25mbps and can rise to 50mbps, depending upon where you live (although a very high-speed connection is, of course, far more expensive). The average download speed in Turkey in 2016 was 16mbps in Istanbul, about 11mbps in other big cities and less elsewhere. Overall, an average of 14.2mbps. This is about on a par with Germany (13.9mbps) and the UK (14.9mbps) but well behind the US(18.75mbps).

Both services – broadband and mobile – are reliable. Both services tend to slow down when the children get back from school. No change there then!

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