Ankara, Turkey Report of what it's like to live there - 01/27/23
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. Mauritius, Beijing.
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?
DC area. If you want to fly Turkish Airways, there is a non-stop to Istanbul (about 10 hours) and then a 1 hour flight to Ankara. Otherwise, United connects through Frankfurt (8 hours) and then a 3 hour flight to Ankara.
Flying through Germany can be a nightmare because of the additional security check, so allow plenty of time between connections.
3. What years did you live here?
2021- for a three year tour.
4. How long have you lived here?
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
All housing are in high rise apartments. There used to be three choices, but I have heard the third is being phased out. So, your choices are Park Vadi and Park Oran.
We live in Park Oran in a spacious 4 bedroom plus den (one of the larger choices). It is a great place to live if you have kids and or a dog. The green space is very well-kept. The complex is surrounded by fencing and has guards at the to entry/exit points, so it feels safe.
There are three large shopping malls with in walking distance with lots of restaurants, arcades and moving theaters.
The Embassy provides the usual furniture. And there are parking garages to protect your car from the elements.
The only negative is that cars speed through the inner complex street, so you need to be careful when walking!
Commute time to the Embassy (via a large, well-maintained highway) is about 20 mins from Park Oran.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Recently, the price of groceries has gone up to almost American prices. It depends on what you are buying. Imported foods are obviously going to be higher. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are reasonably priced. You can find equivalent "American" items like baking products and household supplies at the local markets. Turkish wine prices vary, but you can get a decent bottle for around $10. The big grocery store here is Migros and their fancier company store called Macro Center.
There is a decently-sized commissary and exchange on the military base near the DOD school that is well-stocked with lots of American goodies.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Between the commissary and Amazon, I cannot think of anything.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
So many Turkish restaurants to choose from! Many places that specialize in grilling, kebabs, mezza, deserts, coffee, dondurma (Turkish ice cream). There are also many restaurants that sell western style food like pizza and burgers as well as western restaurants like McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, etc...
There are several grocery and food delivery platforms. Some do not allow you to pay cash or use a western credit card, so you will need to sign up for a Turkish bank account.
I have also heard you can use the Turkish Amazon, but I haven't tried that yet.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
None. Ankara sits at a high elevation, so not many bugs.
The worst thing are the pigeons who sit on the balcony railings and poop allow over the place. Seriously consider bringing some bird repellent fencing or owl decoys in your HHE.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO/pouch. Takes the typical two to three weeks for packages to arrive. I have not used the local postal facilities.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
There are many Turkish and foreign household help to choose from. Most want to be paid in USD and most want around $10/hour.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
At Park Oran, there is a nice (and free) gym with an indoor swimming pool, basketball and tennis courts. There is also a private gym with an outdoor swimming pool, but I do not know the fee.
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?
Credit cards are widely accepted and safe to use. ATMs are common and seem safe to use. We also have a Turkish bank card which makes it easy to have Lira on hand.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I know there is a church at the Air Force Base. Otherwise, I do not know.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It is good to know basic Turkish, but you can also get by with google translate and gesturing. The Embassy offers Turkish classes for EFMs.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Our apartment has wheelchair accessible sidewalks and ramps to the apartments, but getting around anywhere else in the city would be difficult.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are all of the above and all are safe and affordable.
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?
You see all sorts of cars here. It is more practical to have a smaller car so you can fit down the tiny local streets and tiny parking spaces. We have a mini van that needed to have the axel and brake pads replaced. We had to order everything through the pouch, but we found a local mechanic who fixed everything for next to nothing.
Ankara is VERY hilly, so you need a car that can handle that. Snow tires or all-weather tires are mandatory for the winter season. We have never had any problems with burglary, but we also don't leave expensive things in our car.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Ours was installed with help from our social sponsor before we arrived.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Turkcell is the big carrier here and the plans are cheap! I would definitely recommend using the local provider. You will have to register any phone within 3 months from arriving at post, but the Embassy can help you do that. Also, you can only have two
numbers per adult passport with Turkcell.
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?
There are may vets to choose from. We have a fantastic vet who speaks English and also charges American prices, but it is worth it in my opinion. Dogs and cats do not need to quarantine upon entry. You do need to register your dog/cat with the Turkish authorities (the vet will help) and have your dog/cat get yearly rabies vaccinations.
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?
I believe some EFMs work at the international or DOD schools. Otherwise, there are jobs available (full-time and part-time) at the Embassy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
I know some people who volunteer at refugee shelters and dog shelters.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Work is business casual. Even though there are many Muslim people in Turkey, you will see the full gambit of dress attire here.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Basic situational awareness. The Embassy is very good about keeping people aware of upcoming protests, elections or any other situations.
In my opinion, the most dangerous part about living in Turkey is the bad driving. Fast and careless on all streets and highways.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No particular health concerns that I am aware of. There are two main hospitals where expats go and they are both excellent. From what I have seen-mostly illness that are frequently changing and are long term (like cancer) need to medivac.
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?
Park Oran is a the top of a giant hill and the air seems pretty clear. However, when you drive down the hill into the city center you can see how bad the pollution is. It seems to be worse in the winter.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
I am sure there is a local allergist to be seen if need be. Common sense for people with food allergies is probably all you need, but I am not an expert on that subject.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
I do not know. The weather is pretty sunny most times of the year.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Due to elevation, the air is very dry in Ankara, but we do enjoy all four seasons.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I can only speak for middle and high school aged children. I will start off by saying, if you have older children, and because of the school options, consider your assignment choice carefully and if you choose to come, manage your expectations.
The DOD school is small. 182 from k-12 at last count (with the older grades being the smallest). State Department and military families can attend, along with other children whose native tongue is not English (I think NATO families, but I am not sure). The teachers cannot bring spouses or families and the morale (right now at least) among teachers seems to be very low. In my opinion, the current administration is rigid and unwilling to listen to students or parents with their concerns.
There are only a few extracurriculars and sports which makes it hard to beef up your student's Common App for college.
Oasis International School is another choice. A lot of DOD students have switched to Oasis since we have been here. I am not sure about the curriculum, morale, etc.
BLIS is another choice, and it is supposedly a bilingual school. However, I have heard it is hard to fit in with the other students if you do not speak Turkish.
I have heard good things about the British School, but there is a waiting list and it only goes up to grade 8.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
At DOD, there is a speech pathologist. However, I know people who have been denied admission to DOD which children who have special needs.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There are some local things like soccer and gymnastics for younger kids.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large. I think most people enjoy living in Ankara. It is relatively quiet and feels safe. If you want something more lively, Istanbul is an hour away by plane or 5 ish hours by car. There is also a train, but the station is far away from the city center.
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 Whatsapp and Facebook groups to join. The Embassy puts on lots of teas, happy hours, cooking classes, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I can only speak for families. It is a nice place to live. The weather is good, the food is great and the sites are fantastic.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Being friendly and neighborly is always best. We have not felt any prejudices or felt uncomfortable here.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Same sex relationships are not recognized and you can do a quick Google search to see the current (posturing on the subject. I know many LGBT expatriates who have not been hassled and are enjoying their time here.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Probably? But, no more so than anywhere else in the world.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The coastline and the towns along the coastline are breathtaking! The food is also very good-especially the olives and the olive oil!
The Black Sea region is supposed to be lovely in the spring, and I have heard there is decent skiing.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are many museums and historical districts to see. I have heard there are some nice playgrounds for younger kids. Lots of people go to the symphony and that it is nice and very affordable. There is also a professional volleyball and basketball league here.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes! Rugs, Ottoman doors (that can be turned into any sort of furniture you want), antiques, Hammam towels, and more!
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The food, traveling in Turkey and culture for sure.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I would have talked to more people about the school(s). Other than that, it is very easy to live here.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
If I had kids that needed to go to school, no.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Everything. What you cannot ship here, you can buy on the local economy.
4. But don't forget your:
Your offensive driving skills!
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Your basic guidebook on Turkey should do.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Besides the school choices (currently) for older kids...Turkey is a beautiful country, the people are friendly and the food is fantastic!