Learning the Lira: Our Turkey Budget

Since many people often wonder how we pay for our extensive travels and for those who are about to take a RTW trip of their own, we have decided to start talking about how much travelers should expect to spend on certain things in each country so they can plan their own budgets.

Turkey uses Turkish Lira as their currency.

1 Lira (YTL) = .75 USD cents or .50 Euro at our time of visiting.

We don’t keep an incredibly detailed budget or log of our spending but we know when something is too much money and we have no problem seeking out a better deal. I would say that we fall into the category of budget travelers but we also didn’t travel halfway around the world to sit in our hostel room, eating bread and cheese so we make some sacrifices here and there so we can enjoy a really good meal or a really fun day trip.

Accomodation in Turkey

Istanbul- We stayed in a 6 bed hostel dorm at Bahaus hostel in Sultanahmet and paid about 27.00 Turkish Lira or 18.00 USD a night for 3 nights = 54.00USD per person. We also didn’t choose the cheapest hostel in Sultanahmet but rather one that had the highest ratings. Upon second look though, all are within the same range in this neighborhood.

Goreme- We stayed at Yasin’s Place (Backpackers Cave Hostel). We stayed in a private cave room that was not en-suite but was a fairy chimney room (one of those sacrifices that we really wanted). This cost us about 13.00USD/18.00 YTL each for four nights = 52.00USD per person. Our friends stayed in a dorm room for 7 USD/10 Lira a night, but they complained of its dampness due to it being on the ground floor and in a cave.

Back to Istanbul- We couchsurfed therefore spending nothing for accomodation for 3 nights.

Bodrum- We stayed in Kavala Studios for a total of 6 nights. Our first two nights, we stayed in a twin bed with kitchenette and en-suite bathroom for 12.00USD/16.00Lira per person. Our last 4 nights they moved us into the basement where there were three beds, a living room, a kitchenette and an en-suite bathroom also for 12.00USD/16.00 Lira  a night. We paid a total of 62.00USD/96 Lira per person for 6 nights. A pretty good deal considering that we were right near the beach and could self-cater.

Transportation in Turkey

This is where things get a little weird for us. We are very accustomed to traveling overland via public transport because it is good for our budgets and also good for the environment. We flew a total of 2 times over 4 months on our trip through Europe last summer. However, in Turkey, the flights we managed to find were cheaper than or the same as the public transport so we flew the entire time we were in Turkey.

We used Turkish Airlines and the budget airline Pegasus for all of our flights.

From Istanbul to Nevshir (main airport in Capadoccia): We spent only 50 USD for a return ticket each.

From Istanbul to Bodrum:We spent only 30 USD for a return ticket each.

The main catch with all of these flights are that airports are out of the way so we had to pay to get into the city center. Our first flight from London to Istanbul flew into Sabiha Gocken airport which is our of the way and it cost us 10 euros/15 USD/20 Lira each for a private transfer(this could have been done for cheaper, we later found out.) From Istanbul to Ataturk to fly to Nevshir, we spent 8 Lira/4 Euros/ 6 USD. Once we arrived in Nevshir, we paid 20 euros each/30 USd/40 Lira for a return airport transfer. Once we arrived back in Istanbul, we took the Havas shuttle from Ataturk which was 10 Lira/ 7 USD to Taksim square and then the subway to our hosts house. From Istanbul to Bodrum, we took the city bus for only 4 Lira/3 USD to Sabiha Gocken. Once at Milas/ Bodrum airport, we had to take a Havas shuttle for 15 lira/ 10 USD each way to get into the city center.

As you can budget airlines can be cheap at first, but with all of the transfer costs, we would have come out cheaper taking public transport. So we learn to check where the airport is located and how much transfers cost before flying again.

Food/Drink in Turkey

So here is the deal: We are vegetarians and often that means, we eat for MUCH cheaper but in Turkey this was not the case. Most fast food stalls in Turkey sell only doner kebaps, no falafel or anything cheap for us to munch. There are Turkish pides but neither of us cared for them too much. If you are a meat-eater, doner kebaps are usually 3-4 lira and will become your best friend. You can also get a fresh fish sandwich at the docks of Eminou on a gigantic hoagie roll for only 3 lira.

Food in Istanbul: If you stay around the tourist areas, you are going to be overcharged, which is normally the rule of thumb. This is true in Istanbul. On one meal we spent 40 Lira or 30 USD, just because we were so starving and happened to be so famished under the Galata Bridge.  The meal consisted of calamari and french fries and 2 beers. It was highly unsatisfying. On a whole, we normally spent about 13-15 Lira/8-10USD each for lunch/dinner at a sit-down restaurant. This is not too bad for Istanbul.

Drinks in Istanbul: Expect to pay about 3.5USD/5 lira for a pint bottle of local beer at a restaurant. We went to a fancy Beyoglu club on a rooftop where we got in for free because we went with a local and paid an astonishing 7USd/10 lira for the same bottle of beer. (Our jaws dropped.) So at nightclubs, the drink prices are extortionate. Turkish beer in every store in Turkey cost about the same: 2.50 YTL. It was more for imports like Becks and Miller, but who wants that in Turkey?

We didn’t ever seek out cocktail prices in Istanbul so no word on that, but wine is very simlar to beer prices.

For Coke at a convenience store, you will pay 2 Lira but at a restaurant, it was similar to the price of beer. Water was the best bargain drink. Only 50 lira cents for a liter of bottled water at a convenience store or normally 2-3 lira for the same bottle at a restaurant. Turkish beer in every store in Turkey cost about the same: 2.50 YTL. It was more for imports like Becks and Miller, but who wants that in Turkey?

Food in Goreme:

Goreme is much cheaper than Istanbul. The further East in you go in Turkey, the more affordable it becomes. We ate out for dinner nearly every night at a restaurant with live music and local food. We often treated ourselves to a meze starter, our own entrees(often Turkish ravioli and a gigantic falafel) and two large beers for 25 YTL/17 USD for two people. For lunch, we ate gigantic veggie burgers or gozleme for 5 YTL/3 USD each. We treated ourselves to a fresh juice for 7 YTL/ 5 USD. Goreme’s food was bargain central compared to Istanbul and the quality was leaps and bounds better.

Drink in Goreme:

Very similar to Istanbul. Not much difference to report except no extortionate 10 YTL beers to speak of, pretty much standard 5 YTL at bars/restaurants.

Food in Bodrum:

Bodrum was a rip-off. Being a coastal town popular with Brits and other Europeans, they sneakily put the prices into Euros which makes a gigantic inflation in prices. The food was knock-off Brit classics like Sunday Roasts or burgers or fish and chips, all starting at about 20 YTL. Nothing was very affordable and the prices seemed even more expensive than Istanbul. We did manage to find some semi-decent prices at one place along the water that seemed like a Turkish chain, serving salads and pastas and managed to pay only 14 YTL total for two meals and a lemonade.

Drinks in Bodrum:

The beer was often 4 YTL at bars and restaurants, some of the cheapest we found. The cocktails were outrageous though. Normally priced at something like 6 euros or about 12 YTL. We did have delicious fresh smoothies for only 5 YTL/ 3.5 USD. Water and soft drinks were similarly priced as everywhere else in Turkey.

Sights/Activities/Side trips

In Istanbul:

Hagia Sophia: 20 YTL/ 15 USD

Istanbul Modern: 7 YTL or 3 YTL wih student ID

Many sights such as the Spice Bazaar, the Grand Bazaar, Taksim Square and the Blue Mosque are free.

Subway rides in Istanbul cost 2 YTL and are only good for one ride on one form of transportation.

In Goreme:

Hot Air Balloon Ride: 110 Euros/ 220 YTL. This was not cheap but one of those sacrifices that we knew we always wanted to do and would be disappointed if we didn’t.

Open Air Museum: 10 YTL

There are lots of hiking paths and along the paths many free cave churches that can be visited.

In Bodrum:

Ferry to Kos, Greece: If you go on a day trip, it costs 25 euros/50 YTL but we went and stayed in Kos for a few days so it cost us 25 euros each way.

Boat Trip around Bodrum that stopped at 5 swim spots and included lunch: 20 YTL/ 10 euros.

Also, a Nargileh(water pipe) often costs about 10 YTL for those who love the hookah. Hamams normally run anywhere from 40 YTL to 85 YTL depending on the services and where the hamam is located, but we didn’t do one.

Overall, is Turkey a budget travel destination for Americans?

While it’s not as cheap as it once was, it still poses little financial strife against the dollar. I would say that a visit to Turkey is very similar to a visit to the US in what we spent, aside from accomodation. Accomodation is pretty affordable in Turkey, but the food and drink prices are similar to US standards. I am used to normally paying 3.50USD for a small bottle of beer back home in Florida. It’s about the same in Turkey except you get a pint. I am used to paying about 7-15 dollars for a sit-down meal and that’s also about the same. While Turkey is technically part of Eastern Europe/Asia, I don’t think it’s as cheap of some other Eastern European countries. Of course, the farther you get into the East of Turkey, the better for the dollar. Regardless, Turkey is MUCH cheaper than many other Western European destinations and for that, we were thankful.

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8 Responses to “Learning the Lira: Our Turkey Budget”


  1. 1 CB June 23, 2009 at 12:02 am

    that video was amazing. el, it made me think of our music video debut of “girls just wanna have fun.” love you both.

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    Wow! So much information! LOVE the videos! You girls are amazing! LOVE YOU!

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  4. 4 Kelli Garner October 2, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Thats very good to know… thanks

  5. 5 sultanahmet October 7, 2009 at 9:43 am

    We did an organised tour of turkey which included a one day tour of Istanbul. At least three days is needed.The food, the people, the place and ahhhh! the apple tea.
    We will return.

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