As remote workers, we are always looking for great nomad bases.
We favor cities with suitable remote working spots but also intriguing sites that satisfy our wanderlust.
Istanbul ticks all of those boxes.
Over the last few years, I’ve spent a combined three months in the Turkish metropolis, and I always love to return.
There are many reasons why tourists love Istanbul, and there are even more perks of living and working from here as a digital nomad.
Situated on two continents, its eclectic mix of cultures is second to none in the Western world. Better still, its liveability, low prices, and top-notch infrastructure make the megacity an ideal place to spend a few months as a remote worker.
On this basis, here are six reasons why Istanbul is an excellent base for digital nomads.
Diversity: the meeting point between East and West
Istanbul is the only city in the world that spans over two continents: Europe and Asia.
The city on the Bosphorus strait was founded in the 7th century BC by Greek colonists. They called it “Byzantium.”
Over the centuries, the Byzantine Romans turned the settlement into an important city and renamed it “Constantinople” in the 4th century AD after Emperor Constantine. Constantinople became the capital of the Byzantine Empire and a global cultural and trading hub.
In 1453, the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople and renamed it “Istanbul.” It remained a global powerhouse for centuries and became the economic and cultural center of the new Republic of Turkey in 1923.
Istanbul’s history is long and eventful, and the remnants of that multifaceted past are still ubiquitous in the 15 million-plus megacity.
Today, Istanbul is a melting pot of ideas, cultures, and architecture. To some extent, Istanbul is a microcosm of Turkey, a highly diverse country.
From conservative Muslim neighborhoods to hip bar areas full of nightclubs, you can find everything in Turkey’s largest city. It’s where East and West meet, ideologies clash, and people come together.
All of this diversity makes Istanbul such an incredible place to live and work as a digital nomad.
In short, you’ll learn something new every day, and you’ll encounter the real-world meaning of diversity — one of my cardinal reasons for traveling the world full-time.
An endless cultural and culinary offer
When it comes to cultural and culinary sites, few cities compete with Istanbul.
Heading to the old Ottoman center of Sultanahmet, you can visit the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern, and the world-class Archaeological Museum — all within a few hundred meters.
Away from the Old Center, there are huge palaces like the Dolmabahce, picturesque areas like Galata, and enticing oriental markets like the Grand Bazaar.
You couldn’t summarize Istanbul’s sites on a few pages, and it would take months to visit everything.
Aside from historic locations, Istanbul’s culinary offer is limitless. In this context, the areas of Taksim, Kadiköy, and Cihangir are favorites of mine when it comes to eating and drinking.
Istanbul is the 10th most-visited city in the world, are even in 2020, millions of tourists flocked to Turkey as the government kept the borders open with adequate measures in place.
All in all, Istanbul will undoubtedly guarantee the adventure aspect of your digital nomad lifestyle.
Great places to work from
Historic sites are great, but digital nomads naturally want to know about remote working locations.
Fear not, Istanbul has plenty.
Being the economic heart of Turkey, Istanbul attracts thousands of ambitious young professionals and entrepreneurs from all over the country and the Middle East. Better still, there is no shortage of coffee shops, coworking spaces, and other locations to work from as a digital nomad.
As a remote worker, the best choice is to rent an Airbnb in either Taksim or Levent, one of the city’s modern business districts. Both areas have lots of coffee shops, apartments with fast WiFi, and affordable coworking spots.
Infrastructure, friendly locals, and livability
Next, Istanbul’s infrastructure is passable in most areas and first-class in some.
You can find strong WiFi throughout the city, and SIM Cards are available at every corner. The malls are world-class and sell everything you would find in Western Europe or North America.
Istanbul does have some cleanliness issues, but these are limited to various areas.
All in all, the infrastructure is satisfactory, and you won’t miss any Western amenities — creating a highly livable environment.
English levels aren’t great outside of the tourist neighborhoods, but you’ll get around. Learning a few Turkish phrases will be helpful if you want to venture off the beaten track.
That brings me to the locals. Of course, it’s wrong to generalize, but Turkish people are some of the friendliest and most hospitable souls on this planet.
I have lots of personal connections in the country — creating a bias — but I have to say that I would characterize the locals as some of the most welcoming and charming people you’ll find anywhere. Learn a little bit of the language, and you’ll see the real Turkey, far away from negative media portrayals and politics.
When it comes to safety, Istanbul doesn’t have significant problems with crime. Most petty crimes are, in fact, opportunistic. Consequently, common sense will suffice to say safe in the Turkish megacity.
Cost of living
Most remote workers want to take advantage of geo-arbitrage by relocating to a cheaper city.
That’s where the downfall of the Turkish lira plays into the hands of digital nomads.
The city became more expensive for locals in recent years, and the prices of imported products rose, but Istanbul is still highly affordable for nomads who earn dollars or Euros.
Having spent some time here in early 2021, I can safely say that it’s the cheapest big city in Europe. Whether it’s rent, food, or cultural experiences, there are few places in Europe where you get as much bang for your bucks.
Compared to American cities of similar size, the cost of living is 63% lower than in New York City and 54% lower than in Los Angeles, according to Numbeo.
The public transport network and Istanbul Airport: the gateway to the world
The last substantial advantage of choosing Istanbul as a nomad base is its public transit network — and its shiny new airport.
Istanbul has a rapidly-growing subway network that connects the city’s main transit hubs. Better still, the streetcars connect the smaller neighborhoods, and the Bosphorus ferries make continent-hopping a piece of cake.
The last piece of the city’s excellent transport network is the brand-new Istanbul Airport. Opened in 2019, this is hands-down one of the best airports in the world.
I always like nomad bases that are well-connected with a vast offer of flights, and Istanbul excels in this area.
The new airport has flights to every continent and is one of the busiest on the planet. Whether you want to continue your journey to South America, Russia, Southeast Asia, or Australia, you’ll find a flight.
Here is my summary of why Istanbul is a great base for digital nomads:
- The city’s diversity, its cultural sites, and its culinary offer make Istanbul an ideal place to live and work as a digital nomad.
- Istanbul’s low prices, high livability, top infrastructure, friendly locals, and decent safety levels tick all the boxes for a remote working lifestyle — making Istanbul a popular digital nomad base with a vibrant nomad community.
- The city is well-connected through public transport and has one of the best airports in the world.
Sign up for our new newsletter to stay informed with up-to-date curations from our editors:👇