The local currency in Turkey is the Turkish lira (TRY).
This guide covers all you need to know about the local currency in Turkey. We’ll also introduce a smart way to spend and withdraw cash at ATMs while you travel - the TransferWise multi-currency account with debit Mastercard.
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The official currency of Turkey (and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) is the lira.
If you’re in a tourist area or a large city, you may spot prices marked up in euros - or even US dollars or pounds. Euros may well be accepted by some stores, hotels and restaurants - although if you’re headed to the countryside, you’ll definitely need lira to pay your way.
However, the rates won’t be great - and you’ll likely pay for the convenience.
If you choose to pay with euros, the merchant will choose the exchange rate they apply. That will often mean they add a markup to the mid-market rate to boost their profits, making it more expensive than paying in local currency. More on that later.
|Lira Symbols||TRY, TL, ₺|
|1 TRY||Each lira is divided into 100 kuruş.|
|TRY coins||The coins you find in circulation are 5, 10, 25 and 50* kuruş*, and 1 lira. There are also smaller 1 kuruş coins, but aren’t usually used. If a store doesn’t have enough small coins to give you all your change, you might be offered a few sweets to make up the difference.|
|TRY banknotes||Banknotes are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200* lira.* Both the notes and the coins have images of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on them.|
If you want to spend lira, you could choose to use your ATM card to withdraw cash when you arrive at the airport, or visit an exchange office to buy the currency, either at home or once you’re safely in Turkey.
Using an ATM once you arrive is usually the best of these options, based on convenience and cost. However, you need to be careful that you don’t fall foul of Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) - more on that later.
Beyond that, it’s a question of your personal preferences. If you’re worried about showing up in Turkey with absolutely no local currency, you could always exchange some of your spending money before you leave. It’s worth noting, though, that the exchange rates at home are often not as good as the rate you’ll get upon arrival in Turkey.
Get familiar with the mid-market rate, so you can check the rate you’re being offered is fair. If it’s not, choose an alternative like the multi-currency debit Mastercard card from Transferwise.
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The best place to buy Turkish lira will depend on the exchange rate that providers offer, and the fees they charge. You’ll need to carefully consider all of the options available, to decide which provides the best value for your money.
When you're deciding where to change your cash, it’s important to understand the mid-market rate. This is the only real exchange rate - and tourist rates are derived from this number by whatever formula the exchange service chooses to apply. Even if an exchange service claims ‘zero commission’, their cut will be rolled up in the rate they offer you.
This means that there is usually an upfront fee that providers charge for their service, and then the markup they add to the exchange rate that is used to convert your money. As this markup is rarely stated, it may be that the rate offered to you contains a hidden fee.
The mid-market rate moves around all the time due to fluctuations in the global financial market. Find out the live mid-market rate by using a currency converter. You can then compare this to the lira exchange rate you're offered and make sure you’re actually getting a fair deal.
As long as you avoid the airport, and other high-fee exchange services like hotel front desks, you’ll get a better deal if you buy your lira in Turkey. If you're nervous about turning up with no cash in your pocket, exchange a small amount at home and seek out the best deals after you arrive. Alternatively, you can use an ATM (not an exchange bureau) in the airport to get some quick cash until you reach your destination.
In Istanbul, heading to an exchange office near the Grand Bazaar is a good idea. There, the competition drives a decent deal for travellers.
If you're bringing cash with you to change when you arrive, then make sure the banknotes you're carrying are in good condition. Any that are torn or marked are likely to be refused by the exchange service.
Credit and debit cards are widely used in Turkey. Visa and MasterCard are accepted in most places, with American Express payment available in high-end hotels and restaurants.
If you’re travelling off the beaten track or shopping in market stalls and Souks, then it’s a good idea to have some cash on you. Or, if you get stuck without any, use one of the ATM locators in the next section to find a nearby bank machine and withdraw cash immediately.
Before you arrive in Turkey, you’ll need to notify your bank that you’re travelling. If not, then the bank’s anti-fraud detection software might kick in and block your account - a sure way to ruin your trip.
While you’re talking to your bank, it’s also worth taking some time to find out if your home bank works with any partner banks near your destination in Turkey. If they do, you might be able to get cheap or free ATM withdrawals from some ATMs while you’re visiting.
Using a credit or debit card to pay for your travels is a popular, and often good value choice. However, you do need to avoid something called Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) in order to get the best exchange rates on your purchases.
When a traveller pays for a transaction, DCC allows the tourist to see the cost shown in their home currency. You’ll be asked if you want to pay in your home currency or the local one - lira.
You should always choose to pay in the local currency - otherwise the payment provider or ATM will make up an exchange rate for you. This is never as good of a deal, and should be avoided.
ATMs are very common in Turkey. You’re advised to use the ones attached to banks where possible, rather than those in free-standing booths on the street. These tend to be safer, and less prone to tampering.
To find an ATM near you, you can use one of these locators:
Withdrawing lira from an ATM in Turkey rather than bringing physical currency to exchange means you’re not carrying large quantities of cash during your travels. It can also be a good deal, as the exchange rate used on the cash withdrawal is usually fair. There will be fees applied by your home bank for a foreign withdrawal (and maybe also by the ATM provider), but despite this, withdrawing cash directly is a good choice for many.
The banking network in Turkey is extensive, covering retail and private banks, and those offering tailored services such as Sharia-compliant banking. The largest of the retail banks (listed below) have subsidiaries and networks that operate far beyond Turkey’s borders. There are also many foreign-owned banks with a presence in Turkey, especially in the larger cities.
- Agricultural Bank of the Republic of Turkey (Ziraat)
- Türkiye İş Bankası
Alternatively, check out this list of foreign banks with branches in Turkey:
- HSBC Turkey
- Citibank Turkey
- Deutsche Bank Turkey
- Société Générale Turkey
- Sberbank (Denizbank in Turkey)
Another great option, for simple access to your money abroad, is to use TransferWise. You’ll always get the real exchange rate, with no hidden fees - so you can spend like a local wherever you are.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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