What is Turkish Lira?
Up until 2005 Turkey had a currency which was, like today, called Turkish Lira. In 2005 the decision was made to remove six 0’s from the currency so that 1,000,000 Turkish Lira became 1 Lira. This thankfully makes the currency much less confusing to tourists!
The Turkish Lira today is abbreviated to “TRY” which means Turkish Yeni = New Turkish. This New Turkish Lira has the following value in GBP, Euro & USD. This list is updated daily (thanks to some clever coding!).
Below you can see pound to Turkish lira as well as Euro and US Dollar.
- Great British Pound: £1 = 6.89₺
- Euro: €1 = 6.12₺
- US Dollar: $1 = 5.36₺
Where and how can you convert money
There are many options to purchase Turkish Lira for travelling in and about Turkey but they vary in exchange rates. There is no clear solution but I will try and outline the options with pro’s and con’s as well as tell you what I do.
The Information below is based on the site creators own experience and information from Money Saving Expert. Explore Istanbul can not be held responsible for the information on this page and it does not substitute your own research into your particular situation. View Full Disclaimer
My summary & Recommendations
For best rate possible
If you are confident you can keep your money safe and are happy carrying money around with you then either exchange in the UK (After checking a comparison website) or take pounds with you to Turkey and exchange there. However if you withdraw more than 100 lira each time you visit an ATM in Turkey then you are really not going to notice much difference!
For safety & convenience
If you are concerned that you may lose the money of it will be stolen then simply take a debit card with you and withdraw from ATM’s in Istanbul. You can even withdraw money in the Airports to pay for Taxi’s when you arrive etc. But remember, because banks charge fixed and variable costs, it is best to withdraw large amount & less often, than small amounts more frequently.
Expected actual exchange rate (based on 4.6 mid market rate & 100 Lira) -Fees as of August 2017
ATM withdrawal (including hidden fees): 4.11 (£24.33)
Conversion in UK: 4.466 (£22.40)
Conversion in Turkey: 4.55 (£22)
Below I discuss this all in more detail.
Purchase Travel Money in the UK to take over
There are many companies such as Thomson, Co-operative Travel Money & Euro Change who can convert money for you either online or in shop. Just before I started writing this post I actually bought some Turkish Lira from Thomson & the Co-operative (this was purely convenience, I did not chose them out of any kind of research or comparison). I bought from here to get some Lira as a gift for my family who will be Travelling to Istanbul in September.
Anyway, I digress! Usually If I am buying currency of any significant value in the UK I will use a comparison website such as Money.co.uk where you can put the amount of money you would like to convert and it will give a list of companies with the best exchange rate on top. You can choose to get the currency delivered or pick up in shop. The exchange rate you get will depend on how much you convert, usually the more money (>£300) you convert, the better exchange rate you will receive. I highly recommend this site or another similar, as today I received an exchange rate of 4.2, when the actual exchange rate is 4.6. If I had looked online first I would have found one for 4.5. To put this into context, at 4.2, 1,000 lira would cost £238, at 4.5 it would cost £222. So it is only a small difference, but in Turkey that £18 would get 9 pints of beer, 80 loafs of bread or entry to the Hagia Sophia twice!
Withdraw from ATMs in Turkey
Another option would be to withdraw money from an ATM in Turkey using a debit card. This is what I have been doing largely for the last 4 years. When you insert your card, the ATM will ask what language you would like (as it automatically recognises the card is not from Turkey). Following this, simply select how much you would like in Lira and proceed with on-screen instructions. Some ATM’s will tell you the advertised exchange rate, some will not. The advertised exchange rate does not factor in handling fees by your bank in England, including Fixed & Variable.
The graph below shows an example of what I call the “Actual Exchange Rate” which is the exchange rate you get after you include hidden fees and charges. As you can see, along as you withdraw more than 100-200 Turkish Lira each time you visit an ATM in Turkey, then you generally receive a similar exchange rate to one you would receive in a Travel Bureau. This coupled with not having to carry a large amount of money, means ATM withdrawals could be quite an attractive option. The graph below varies depending on current exchange rate, fixed and variable fees charged by your specific bank and any fees charged by the Bank in Turkey. I have no had any problems using ATM or any surprising fees, but I cannot guarantee that you will not.
To summarise: There is not a large difference between debit cards from different banks. As a rule of thumb, do not withdraw less than 100 lira as you will receive a very poor rate due to fixed costs. Due to fixed and variable costs you are unlikely to receive the mid market rate.
Bring GBP to Turkey and exchange at an exchange office
This in my experience is the way to get the best exchange rate. If the actual exchange rate is 4.6 then you can receive ~4.55. The problem with this method and exchanging money in England is that you are always either carrying around a lot of Turkish Lira or Pounds and it just depends how safe and confident you are that you will not lose it!