Istanbul has always been an endless source of fascination.
For centuries now, the mystery of its minaret-dotted skyline and bustling street bazaars has drawn in millions of travelers, and as much as it was the city of the world’s desire in ancient times, it is now one of the world’s top tourist destinations.
Other than the usual History buffs and Ottomanphiles, there is another category of visitor Istanbul seems to be attracting these days: digital nomads.
These country-hoppers are known to move swiftly across national borders and combine both work and leisure as they labor remotely, but somehow, a growing number of them have decided to make Istanbul a home, even if temporarily, or at least have become frequent visitors…
So much so that this year, it has topped a Solopress ranking of the world’s top digital nomad destinations.
If you have never been to Istanbul yourself, and you have not been exposed to its timeless charm, you may be wondering how the Middle Eastern giant has become so popular with this demographic.
In this article, we will give you the 5 main reasons why:
Istanbul Is Affordable
First of all, it is affordable to live in.
When making a move abroad or when constantly moving between countries, nomads tend to favor destinations where their hard-earned money will bump up in value, or in the very least, their quality of life will increase compared to their country of origin.
In case you were not aware until now, the Turkish lira is currently one of the developing world’s most devalued currencies, having reached a historic low against the dollar this year. Currently, one dollar buys as many as 27 liras; back in 2019, the conversion rate was roughly 6 liras to the dollar.
The national currency is plummeting due to the Turkish Government’s controversial monetary policies, and while this may spell some really bad news for Turkish locals and investors, Western nomads have found their haven in Istanbul.
As seen on Numbeo, a single person’s estimated monthly costs in Istanbul, without rent, are only $501 on average, making it 65.7% cheaper to reside in than New York, and 54.8% less expensive than Paris:
- A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs $6.62 on average
- A half liter of domestic beer is only $2.94
- A cup of regular capuccino at a cafe is estimated at $2.15
- 1 kg of apples is a mere $0.92
- 1 kg of bananas is a negligible $1.45
- 1 kg of potatoes will cost no more than $0.68 on average
- 1 kg of back leg red meat averages $13.95
On top of affordable food and consumer goods, a visit to the salon for a haircut and/or hair treatment will cost anywhere between $5 and $25, on average, with rates varying across districts, and you should be able to visit a hamman – the city’s famous spas – for as cheap as $20.
Though inflation has pushed prices up, and it is certainly more expensive than it was a few years back, Istanbul is still a steal of a deal, especially if you’re a nomad on a more limited budget.
Lots Of Coworking Spots
Secondly, one of the other reasons why nomads can’t seem to get enough of this exciting city is the high concentration of nomad-friendly cafes and coworking spots. The city is brimming with life (and expats), and it’s surely rising up to the challenge of accommodating them well.
Not to mention the countless quirky internet cafes that line the cobblestone, hilly streets of Beyoglu, perhaps the trendiest spot for nomads in Istanbul, the city itself amasses a whopping 114 coworking spaces, as gauged by NomadList.
They are scattered all over the vast megalopolis, whose arms stretch from the Anatolian peninsula, spanning the continental boundary that is the Bosphorus Strait, all the way to the Balkans in Southeastern Europe, but two areas are strongly recommended for nomads.
On the European side, the districts with the highest concentration of coworking spaces seem to be the aforementioned Beyoglu, close to Galata Tower, and Fatih, home to some of Istanbul’s most iconic landmarks, including the ancient monuments of the fallen Constantinople.
Over on the city’s Asian half, Uskudar takes the lead as the hottest area for digital nomads. Some of THE top-rated spots on Google include Fatih’s CoBAC WorkSpace, Kagithane’s Impact Hub, and Beşiktaş’ DAIRE Coworking.
Istanbul Is Liberal
The Middle East has a bad rep in the Western World due to its past History as a hotbed of religious warfare and rampant urban crime, but this certainly does not apply to Turkiye, let alone Istanbul, where there may be a Sunni Muslim majority, but secularism prevails.
Though they shouldn’t let their guards down and walk alone in deserted, poorly-lit districts, women have no reason to feel unsafe exploring Istanbul, nor are they expected to adhere to strict dress codes.
Women in Turkiye are free to dress and express themselves as they wish, and while the country is indeed more conservative at heart, and more religious Turkish women would likely refrain from doing so, it is not a crime to wear short skirts, tank tops, nor bikinis at the beach.
LGBTQ+ nomads are also in for a treat, as Istanbul has a bustling gay scene, with a myriad of bars, saunas, and gay-friendly bars to pick from. They may be hiding beneath the surface, but rest assured they are still there.
Granted, you won’t be seeing rainbow flags flying on a pole as often, nor venues openly disclaiming they are gay clubs, despite their clientele, as the Turkish law is not that permissive, but whatever you do behind closed doors is entirely your business.
Alongside Tel Aviv, Istanbul is perhaps one of the freer cities in the Middle East.
This Is A Very Safe City
Istanbul is incredibly safe, too.
It may suffer from scamming culture, with ill-intentioned cab drivers deliberately over-charging tourists the minute they realize they are coming from the more affluent Western World or pickpocketing in busy tourist areas, but you are extremely unlikely to fall victim to violence in the city.
Naturally, we would not recommend you visit certain run-down areas after sundown, especially some of the back streets of Beyoglu, just off of Taksim Square, but there’s no denying Istanbul is safe overall.
According to the Department of State, travelers should merely exercise ‘increased caution’ when visiting Turkey due to petty crime, as mentioned above.
Easy Links Everywhere
Finally, Istanbul boasts great connections to virtually the entire world. With two airports, one on the European side, the other in Asia, it is a major global hub you will inevitably transit at some point when crossing the East-West imaginary border.
Needless to say, basing themselves in Istanbul, even if temporarily, digital nomads will enjoy easy links to essentially all of Asia, including the recently-opened China, the Southeastern peninsula of the continent, India, and many more, Africa – not only North Africa but several Sub-Saharan states – and of course, Europe.
Flying out of Sabiha Gokcen, Istanbul’s local hub for low-cost airlines, travelers can just as easily reach European countries like Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and others at very affordable prices.
In a way, Istanbul is at the heart of the world, and there’s truly no better place to be or use as a starting point if you’re a remote worker looking to explore the world.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com