Will my phone work in Turkey? OR Why the hell has my phone stopped working in Turkey?
Posted on April 24, 2013
On arrival in Turkey we did the usual thing of buying new (Turkish) SIM cards (I bought Turkcell and the Ginger got Avea). After a few hours they were active. We then had to go back to the shop to buy credit (the store attendants hadn’t pointed out that the cards came without any pre-loaded credit). Nevermind, we got the credit. Mine worked perfectly (I have an iphone 4) but the poor Ginger couldn’t use the data on his phone – something to do with it being stuck on the NextG system and Turkey has another system.
In any event we now had one phone that worked perfectly and one that could only be used for actual telephone calls and text messages. This was more or less fine as I could just set up a hotspot and we could both use the data – the plan was to swap the cards after my credit was used up and then use his data on my phone.
Being that he needed the data to get online to work and it is incredibly handy to have google maps when you are lost in a new and big city, we were quite happy with the set up.
After two weeks both SIMS stopped working. After a bit of googling and visiting several Turkcell shops it emerged that the Turkish government now has an incredibly irritating registration system for foreign mobile telephones. Allegedly this is part of an effort to stop terrorism, however being that turkish phones seem to be unusually expensive it seems certain that the registration system is also a protectionist measure for those inflated sales.
The registration used to be quite confusing but only cost 5TL. It is now a convoluted but reasonably easy to follow system – you must go to an approved bank or tax office within 30 days of your arrival in the country, get your phone registered – at the outrageous price of 116TL, return to the phone shop (where they enter the registration payment data on some important index that is obviously too important for the bank that takes your money to be able to access) and then your phone will theoretically work again. If you choose not to do this your new SIM will stop working between 2-30 days after you start using it. Also, you cannot register more than one phone to your name.
So, basically, unless you are staying for a very long or very short while, there is no point in wasting your money on SIM and credit in Turkey. Just use free wifi and write info you need down on paper. You could even be super retro and buy a map.