Living in Turkey – A Guide for PhD Students
Written by Chris Banyard
Situated at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, postgraduates looking to study a PhD in Turkey will find a truly unique experience. One of the world’s most popular travel destinations, with large numbers of international students, Turkey is a hospitable and exciting place to research for your doctorate.
The guide covers useful information about moving to Turkey for your PhD, including student life, accommodation, living costs, work permits, setting up a bank account and getting around in during your Turkish doctorate.
The rich and diverse history, geography and culture of Turkey means that life during a Turkish PhD will be a unique experience. There’s no shortage of things to do, see and experience while you study.
Turkish culture and its people are an eclectic mix of East and West. As well as Western opera, ballet and architecture, you’ll be able to discover experience traditional Turkish folk music and dancing. You’ll also have the chance to visit beautiful Ottoman temples and mosques or shop for traditional arts and crafts in the country’s many bazaars. This diversity is all part of the unique Turkish identity that welcomes visitors and travellers from around the world.
Like everything else in Turkey, the available sports and activities are wide-ranging. There are many water and mountain sports, and winter pursuits in the mountainous areas during the colder months. Football is popular, and you can expect to find many passionate fans. There are also lots of traditional restaurants, shops and markets to visit, and a bustling nightlife.
Turkish cuisine is both distinctive and traditional. As well as trying an authentic Turkish kebab, you can discover the other famous foods of Turkey like the unique manti ravioli, white bean stew, many traditional Turkish soups and the renowned Turkish desserts like Turkish delight (lokum), baklava and ice cream (maras). In the summer, you might like to try the Turkish yoghurt drink ayran, and in the winter the hot and sweet salep drink.
As a PhD student in Turkey, there are several forms of accommodation available. Turkish housing is usually affordable and relatively easy to find.
The types of accommodation for PhD students in Turkey are as follows:
- University residence – on-campus student dormitories, providing single or shared rooms and shared facilities
- Private renting – private rented rooms and apartments from a landlord or letting agent
- Hostels – affordable hostels and youth hostels, many of which are state-owned, offering useful options for temporary residence with both private rooms or shared rooms, with shared facilities
For more assistance with student housing, you should contact your university’s international office.
The cost of accommodation in Turkey is considerably lower than in the UK, and most of Europe. For university and hostel housing, you can expect to pay around €11-17.18 per month and for privately rented accommodation you can expect to pay around €30-126 per month.
The overall cost of living in Turkey is relatively low. You can expect to pay around €345 per month, budgeting around €100 for accommodation, €175 for food and €70 for miscellaneous costs.
The following table gives an indication of prices for some common expenses during a PhD in Turkey:
Student Cost of Living in Turkey - 2023
|Monthly Travel Pass
|Based on crowdsourced data published by Numbeo.
All international students need to apply for a work permit from a Turkish consulate or embassy from your home country to carry out any part-time work. You may also need to update your study visa and residency permit.
Be aware that it can be difficult for non-Turkish speakers to find employment in Turkey. The work permit application process can also be lengthy – it may be a good idea to seek advice from your university before you begin applying.
Employment contracts with your university
Many Swiss doctoral students are considered university employees, undertaking teaching and administrative work. Therefore, you may be subject to foreign workers’ regulations and must apply for relevant immigration and work documents. Your university’s international office will be able to provide more guidance.
The Turkish currency is the Turkish lira (₺ or TL).
To open a student bank account in Turkey, you will usually need to visit your local branch and provide the following:
- your passport
- your proof of Turkish address
- a completed signature form
- your residency permit
Bank accounts are normally set up very quickly and offer useful online banking options.
As the crossroads between East and West, transport is important in Turkey. Most public travel is affordable and regular, and the various transport networks often offer student discounts.
The train networks in Turkey tend to be based within the country, and there are very few trains travelling to the rest of Europe. Most Turkish trains are managed by the General Directorate of Turkish State Railway (TCDD), which provides a student railcard for discounted rates.
All of Turkish major cities host airports that offer cheap and direct flights to many cities across Europe. Most journeys to and from Turkey are by plane, and there are several Turkish airline companies.
A unique way of getting around Turkish cities is getting a trip on a dolmuş (taxi minibus). Most towns and cities have frequent and affordable bus networks, and some larger cities also have tram and metro transport services. Most offer discounts for students.