Warning: this page is no longer updated. My use of Turkcell ended in June 2012.
In 2011 and 2012 we cruised in Turkey. We now have two Turkcell mobile phone SIMs to access the internet. One is used for ‘tethering’ my Nokia tablet or a netbook (see the page on Greek internet weather about tethering.) The other is used in a Nokia N95 as a personal wifi hotspot for Elaine’s iPad (using the JoikuSpot app).
Buying the SIM
Note: In June 2012 the law changed to require anyone registering a phone to pay a 100TL tax. This can only be done at a tax office. The latest requirements should be on this official website (in Turkish: the English pages are out of date.)
To buy a Turkish SIM you need to show your passport as in Greece. In addition the Turkish government requires that any phone imported into Turkey and used with a Turkish SIM be registered against that SIM. You register the phone’s unique IMEI number against the phone number. So an imported phone will only work with one Turkish SIM and vice versa.
Big Turkcell shops will sell you a SIM and register the phone. It’s a computerised process. I bought the first SIM in 2011 in Marmaris and the second in May 2012 in Turgutreis.
In both these big Turkcell shops the assistants were very familiar with the process of registering a foreign phone. In neither did they speak good enough English to explain clearly what would happen.
I bought a Turkcell prepaid SIM – called ‘Hazir Kart’. It comes in an orange packet, costs 45TL, and includes 20TL of credit. Phone registration costs an additional 25TL.
In the past people have reported that Turkish SIMs have worked straight away but that the phone has been blocked after 1 to 2 weeks if not registered. But both my phones were already blocked when I bought the SIM. This may be because both phones had already been used in Turkey using Greek SIMs (so their IMEIs may have been captured) or the process may have changed.
So when I left the shop neither of my phones worked. But both had been unblocked by the morning after I bought the SIM so I assume that there is an overnight computer update from data collected in shops. The shop people had said this might take up to 10 days if there is a problem with the phone.
In 2011, once the phone worked, I had to dial 8090, opt for English, and listen to the message to the end: only then was the 20TL credited to the SIM. In 2012 I didn’t need to do that: maybe the shop had done it for me.
Using the SIM
Whenever you use the phone you get a message with the amount of credit used, and the remaining balance.
You can find your credit balance with a service message: type *123# and send.
You can top up by paying in a phone shop and quoting the phone number: that will credit that number immediately.
You can also buy topup scratch cards from a phone shop. Either ring 8090 and follow the prompts, or send a service message *122*nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn# Topup cards have an expiry date – check that if you don’t intend to use them soon.
The SIM expires 270 days after the last topup. After 180 days you can receive, but not make calls. To find the exact dates send a service message *166*5#
Roaming is not activated by default. To activate it send ‘ROAM’ to 2222. You need to do this to be able to topup when abroad using a topup card bought in Turkey. If you fail to activate roaming before leaving Turkey (as I did) then ring customer services on 0090 2124 4405 32
You can maintain your account online if you have a password. To get this send an SMS ‘SIFRE’ to 2222, but you must do this when in Turkey. I don’t know what facilities are available online. It may be possible to topup online from abroad but I haven’t tried it: it may need a Turkish credit card.
The internet bundles are listed on the Turkcell website – in Turkish:
(Link updated 4/2012)
All these packet-data bundles are buyable by sending a code in an SMS to 2222.
I subscribed to 250MB in one month (actually 30 days) by sending ‘ABONE 250MB’ to 2222. I got a confirmation SMS which explained how to get a data balance and cancel the subscription. (All messages are in Turkish.)
The APN is ‘internet’. There is no username, password, or proxy. I found no problems connecting and using it. I have found very few places without a good phone signal – just some remote bays. EDGE seems to be widely available where 3G isn’t.
You get a message after every data session with the remaining balance in MBytes.
You can also get a data balance by sending ‘KALAN’ to 2222. That also gives the expiry date.
It renews automatically on the expiry date of the previous period, which is 30 days (to the minute) from when the package was subscribed to. So make sure you have enough credit beforehand. To stop it, cancel the subscription by sending, ‘IPTAL 250MB’ to 2222. I don’t know whether that cancels the subscription immediately or at the end of the period.
According to the Turkcell website FAQ you can subscribe to the 250MB data bundle twice in a month – presumably if you use up the allowance.