Ankara, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 09/19/18
Personal Experiences from Ankara, Turkey
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I have also lived in Pakistan, China, and Iraq.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
USA. Door to door to west coast was about 20 hours, and to east coast about 15 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
A little over a year.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
High-rise aparments. I think they are nice, although that depends on the person. We have a four bedroom for a family of three. Commute here is great, because traffic is never that bad. Worst travel time from home to embassy is 30 minutes. If there is no traffic, 15 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Availability is great. Between the local markets, local grocery stores like Macro, Metro, and Kipa, as well as the commissary, you can get everything you need. Pork products are not widely sold except at the commissary. What you cannot get through these means you can usually order through DPO. However, a new rule has been put in place and we are no longer allowed to ship liquids via DPO (this rule is specific to DPOs in Turkey).
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
We have everything we need.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Tons of options both American fast food (Burger King, McDonalds, Arby's, Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, Dominoes, etc., and Turkish restaurants. Some good Italian places like Mezzaluna, and great steak places like Gunaydin.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Great post for insects. You deal with very little here. It helps you are in high-rise apartments, but even outside there are not a lot.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Typical rate is US$10/hour for babysittes/housekeepers. Would be less if it was full time, then the rate is usually US$1000/month.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Most the apartment complexes have larger gyms. There is also a small one at the embassy.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Yes, most places have little machines they bring to your table. ATMs are generally safe here. Very little crime.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are a few churches that people use.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can get by with very little Turkish. However, knowing it always helps. Post has a language program and it is easy to find a tutor.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, there are many places with no elevators or ramps.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. Metro is not that widespread, but taxis, buses and vans that work like buses called dolmuses are easy to use and cheap.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Any vehicle is usable. We have a sedan and use it no problems. If you care about which tires you use, I would suggest bringing your winter tires. You can get decent ones here too though. Crime is very low, no reports of car break-ins or car-jackings here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, and we have had no issues with internet. We are able to stream everything we want.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use my T-mobile from home. Many people get local SIMs as well, not too tough to do. You can pay the bills through your ATM.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
I don't know a lot, but here there are plenty of places for pets.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Most spouses either work at the embassy or at the international schools. Mostly full-time. A good amount of EFM jobs, and there are four major schools where one can work. The bilateral agreement allows for teaching and medical professionals to get work visas easily.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Plenty working with refugees.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Typical US business attire.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Terrorism is the main concern here, however, the local security forces are very capable and have been doing a good job of thwarting attacks.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Not really. Medical care here is good. Numerous women have delivered here, people have gotten knees replaced, and going through the ER is bliss compared to the USA. Many folks get dental work done here because it is quality work and cheaper.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Not bad at all. Some people have allergies due to the plants, but minimal.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Nuts are in most desserts, so watch out for that.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Ankara is at about 3000 ft elevation, so it is a little cooler and dryer here than other places on the coast. You get all four seasons here. Usually mid-90s in the summer, and snow in the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Four main schools: BLIS, DODEA, DODEA is a typical DOD school, and BLIS is a PK-12 school created by Bilkent University. OASIS is a Christian school with a US curriculum, DODEA is a typical DOD school, and BLIS is a PK-12 school created by Bilkent University. BLIS has gone down hill for expats, as the school seems to be 95% wealthy Turkish kids, and even though it is an IB school and English immersion, the kids do not seem to learn English as well as they should. The administration also does not seem to be great, especially for PK-K, which is horrible in my opinion.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
BESA is the only school that does a good job withe behavior management. There are not a lot of resources for special needs.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Tons of preschools available, such as KIPS, BLIS, OASIS, etc.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
They have them, but the ones in English are mainly through the schools. Not nearly as many sports/clubs for younger kids.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It is very large here, and I would say great morale.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are bars, clubs, parks, restaurants, house parties, shopping malls, movie theaters, arcades, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Our community tends to be "family-heavy." However, I have not seen single people having a hard time finding dates.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Not too bad for LGBT. Cant be totally open, but pretty big community here.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Some issues especially with Kurds and Syrians.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Traveling is easy within the country and region, people are great, weather is great, and things are very modern but cheap. Great place to work/live.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Tons of historic sites like Ephesus, beautiful places like Cappadocia, Bodrum, Izmir, Fetiye, etc. You have the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts to travel across and even the Black Sea is fun to visit.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Great weather, cheaper than USA, modern city, and tons to do.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That it would be so hard to save money. Not that that would have changed my mind to come here.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
In a heartbeat.