Best travel money and currency options for Turkey

Learn more about the best card and currency to use, if you should use a UK debit card and other ways to take spending money to Turkey.

For Brits travelling to Turkey, it pays to know a thing or 2 about the right type of travel money to take with you.

What is the best currency to take to Turkey?

The best currency to take to Turkey is the local currency, the Turkish lira. It is the most accepted currency in Turkey. Although you can pay with euros in some places, you’ll always get a better deal paying in the local currency. Get Turkish lira from ATMs using your debit card or travel card. Visa and Mastercard cards are widely accepted, especially in the big cities.

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Can I use my debit card in Turkey?

Yes, you can use your debit card in Turkey. In general debit cards are accepted at most local businesses including shops, restaurants and bars. However it is always a good idea to carry a small amount of cash as certain smaller businesses may not accept card. Be aware that your bank may charge you overseas fees. It can be a good idea to open a separate account with a bank or e-money provider that has low or no overseas fees that are designed for travel.

Much like a prepaid travel money card, a travel debit card lets you spend your own money. You can use a debit card over the counter and to withdraw money from an ATM where Visa and Mastercard are accepted throughout the country.

Using credit cards

Credit cards give you a line of credit to use for emergencies, large purchases or over-the-counter transactions. Remember that your purchases will collect interest though, so either use interest-free days by paying your account in full each month or take up a card with a low or 0% purchase rate. Using your credit card at an ATM will cost you a high cash advance fee as well as interest and international ATM fees.

You’ll also want to pick a card that doesn’t charge currency conversion fees as these will add up each time you use your card to pay in a foreign currency. Credit cards designed for overseas use often come with additional perks such as complimentary travel insurance and rewards programs that could come in handy.

  • Tip: Some credit cards with no currency conversion fee also offer travel insurance when you pay for your return travel ticket, which is a further saving.

Using prepaid travel cards

A travel money card is a fairly safe way to take money abroad. However, unlike a debit card, it is not linked to your bank account to prevent identity theft. If it is lost or stolen, a replacement can be sent to your holiday address. Once you’ve received and activated your card, you can top it up and use it as you would a debit card in merchants and shops across the world. Once you are home, you can continue to use it or simply withdraw all the remaining funds.

  • Tip: Travel cards can be issued as dual card accounts, so you’ll get 2 cards. This can come in handy if your first card is lost or stolen, so make sure to keep the second card in a safe place.

Using traveller’s cheques

It’s far more convenient (and it can be cheaper) to use your travel-friendly debit card or prepaid travel card to make ATM withdrawals rather than a traveller’s cheque when you need cash. Traveller’s cheques must be cashed at banks and they are not accepted at exchange offices or businesses.

Paying with cash in Turkey

Always have lira on you when you’re out and about in Turkey as you’re bound to run into situations where a business won’t accept your card. Cafes, small eateries and tea houses are all cash-only. Larger stores are likely to take cards but some of the best experiences such as shopping in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar are largely a cash affair.

  • Tip: Avoid carrying large amounts of cash as tourists are often the target of criminals, especially in areas of Istanbul. Common sense is the best approach.

Using digital banking apps

If paying by cash or traveller’s cheque even is old hat by your standards, then you should consider using a digital banking app on your travels. These apps, including big names such as Starling, Revolut and Monzo, provide a straightforward way to make payments while abroad without incurring any transaction or withdrawal fees.

Most if not all of them are supported by Visa or Mastercard, so you won’t have to worry about your card being rejected. If this sounds good, all you need to do is download one from the App Store or Google Play and get set up.

If you’d like to know more about the quickly evolving world of mobile banking apps, read our guide here.

How much lira do I need to bring to Turkey?

Turkey is a value destination for British travellers. Like all places in the world, Turkey is as cheap or expensive as you want it to be.

IstanbulBudgetMid-rangeA royal experience
foodDürüm kebab (street) £3At a mid-range restaurant £6–12 per dish5-star restaurant, mains from £25 per dish
sleepHostel dorm £6+ per night2-star hotel £25+ per night5-star hotel £100–£500 per night
cameraStroll through the Grand Bazar free1-day sightseeing tour, £60 per person (includes lunch)Private photo tour of Istanbul £200 per person for 4 hours

*Prices are approximate and based on summer seasonality and are subject to change.

Exchange rate history

The pound sterling has strengthened against the Turkish lira in recent years. If you believe this trend is set to continue, you can take advantage of weakening lira by using your card for the card scheme exchange rate, which is close to the market rate.

YearAverage annual exchange pound sterling (GBP) to Turkish lira (TRY)
20186.4336
20197.2572
20209.0194
202112.2048
202220.3679
202329.6731
202439.115

*2024 rate is for 1 January to 21 March 2024.

Which exchange rate is the best?

Transactions on Visa, Mastercard and American Express branded credit cards and debit cards use the card scheme exchange rate. This is as close to the market rate as you’re likely to get when you exchange funds from pound sterling to Turkish lira. Travel cards use a different rate. The financial institution which provides the travel card applies a margin when you exchange funds between currency wallets.

Should you take a travel card, a debit card or a credit card?

Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Turkey. American Express cardholders may have issues with card acceptance, especially outside the major cities. There is an abundance of ATMs in Turkey and if you think you’re going to have an issue using your card in a particular destination, make a withdrawal and use cash instead.

There are debit cards that waive the currency conversion fee as well as the international ATM fee. This is preferable to using a travel card in Turkey as no prepaid travel cards support the Turkish lira.

A quick summary of travel money options for Turkey

Travel money optionProsCons
Debit cards for travel
  • Debit cards are smaller and safer to carry than cash
  • You can withdraw local currency from ATMs, and see the fees on your statement
  • Using an ATM won’t be free, unless you are using your own bank’s machines – you will be charged a fee for using a machine abroad as well as for the currency conversion
  • You will need to notify your bank, to avoid your card being frozen
Prepaid travel money cards
  • Hold different currencies
  • Save on currency conversion fees
  • ATM fees
  • Exchange rate fee
Credit cards for travel
  • Rewards program
  • Contactless payments
  • Interest-free period on purchases
  • Complimentary travel insurance
  • Cash advance fees
  • International ATM fees
Traveller’s cheques
  • Acceptance
  • Security
  • Can be costly with initial purchase charges
  • Not all merchants accept traveller’s cheques
Cash
  • Greater payment flexibility
  • Convenience
  • More difficult to manage expenses
  • Higher risk of theft

This table is a general summary of the travel money products in the market. Features and benefits can vary between cards.

Buying lira in the UK

While you can buy lira in most high streets or online travel shops, you will get a better deal if you wait to purchase lira in Turkey as the rate is likely to be worse than what you’ll get from an exchange office or ATM when you arrive. You can compare travel money services here.

Exchanging cash

If you have a no currency conversion fee and no international ATM fee card, ATMs are the best way to get lira in Turkey. When you use your card to withdraw cash, you’ll get the card scheme foreign exchange rate, which is a better rate than what you’ll get at exchange offices or banks. If you have cash to exchange, most exchange offices will buy pound sterling and sell you lira. You can find these businesses in tourist areas, for example, Taksim in Istanbul, and unlike banks, you may not pay a commission. Avoid exchanging cash at the airport, the rates are poor.

ATM withdrawals in Turkey

You can use a Visa or Mastercard debit card, credit card and travel card to get cash from Turkish ATMs. Most ATMs give you the choice of withdrawing Turkish lira or euros. Lira is the currency of Turkey, so you’ll need to use lira for cash purchases to avoid losing out by “over the counter” foreign currency exchange rates.

  • Tip: Turkish bank ATMs do not charge a local ATM operator fee. There are instances when the transaction times out, if this is the case, try a different ATM. If charges are applied for a transaction and you don’t get cash, contact your bank to have the situation rectified.

Why you’ll need a combination of travel money options to take to Turkey

You won’t have any problems using your Visa and Mastercard credit card and debit card in Turkey, but a thousand things could happen to your card when you’re away. So you should always have more than one way to access your money in Turkey, or anywhere for that matter. A debit card is ideal for ATM withdrawals, especially so if the product waives the international ATM fee.

Meanwhile, a credit card gives you a line of credit that can come in handy for large or emergency purchases. Remember that most credit card purchases will incur interest though, which can heighten your expenses.

Turkey is the gateway to Europe and the meeting point between the East and the West. Travel cards are not the best product to take to Turkey. However, if you’re travelling to the eurozone as well, these products may be worth comparing. Use the right product for the right situation and you’ll save yourself enough for an extra beer, meals, souvenirs or even a night out by the end of your trip.

Compare travel money products that let you spend in foreign currencies and make cheap ATM withdrawals so you can avoid giving your bank a slice of your budget that should be spent enjoying yourself.

We show offers we can track - that's not every product on the market...yet. Unless we've said otherwise, products are in no particular order. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations of these) aren't ratings, though we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it. This is subject to our terms of use. When you make major financial decisions, consider getting independent financial advice. Always consider your own circumstances when you compare products so you get what's right for you. Most of the data in Finder's comparison tables has the source: Moneyfacts Group PLC. In other cases, Finder has sourced data directly from providers.
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Written by

Charlie Barton

Charlie Barton was a publisher at Finder. He specialised in banking and investments products, including banking apps, current accounts, share-dealing platforms and stocks and shares ISAs. Charlie has a first-class degree from the London School of Economics, and in his spare time enjoys long walks on the beach. See full profile

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6 Responses

    Default Gravatar
    NickApril 23, 2019

    It’s our first time to Turkey. Could you please advise what currency or currencies to take with us?

    Thanks,
    Nick

      AvatarFinder
      JeniApril 24, 2019Finder

      Hi Nick,

      Thank you for getting in touch with Finder.

      You need to have lira with you as most businesses that accept cash only would ask you to pay in lira. Please note that most exchange offices will buy Pound Sterling and sell you lira.

      I hope this helps.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Jeni

    Default Gravatar
    MoiraAugust 29, 2018

    Does Turkey currently accept English notes

      AvatarFinder
      joelmarceloAugust 30, 2018Finder

      Hi Moira,

      Thanks for leaving a question on finder.

      Turkey accepts English pounds and Euros. Turkey uses the lira and although you can pay with euros in some places, you’re always going to get a better deal if you transact in the local currency. You can get lira from ATMs using your debit card or travel card — withdrawing cash on credit is not advised — Visa and Mastercard cards will work all medium to large businesses throughout the country.

      Cheers,
      Joel

    Default Gravatar
    BerylAugust 19, 2018

    We have been told not to take euro or dollars to Turkey when we go in 4 weeks on my lira and our British pound is this correct? My daughter is in Belek at the moment and said some places were not happy to take lira and put there prices up so they changed their money to euros.

      AvatarFinder
      JoshuaAugust 22, 2018Finder

      Hi Beryl,

      Thanks for getting in touch with finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

      Usually, it would be a good idea to have Lira, the local currency, as your money when in Turkey. However, at the time of this writing, the Lira currency has lost about 40% of its value for the last few weeks. Moreover, Turkey is on the brink of a financial crisis. This could be the reason that more and more merchants want to be paid with Euros and not Lira.

      I would recommend that you read more about this issue and know how to deal with it when you go to Turkey.

      I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

      Have a wonderful day!

      Cheers,
      Joshua

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