Country Guide

This guide was written by Francine Carrel (Assistant Editor) and John Howell (Editor & Founder) of Guides.Global (office@guides.global).

It was written on 3 July 2015. The law and practice in Turkey change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.

Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.

The advice and opinions contained in the guides are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Guides.Global.

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Flag of TurkeyTurkey is a massive country straddling Europe and Asia. For thousands of years, it's been the place where the Eastern world meets the western world for business.

Its history and culture are rich and fascinating, with links to vast empires from the Greeks to the Ottomans.

In the 1990s, foreigners started flocking to Turkey for pleasure as well as business. Millions of tourists visit Turkey each year and thousands decide to move there. Some are attracted by modest property prices, but most stay for the culture.

Despite an overwhelming majority of Turks being religious, Turkey is a secular country and was, for a long whlie, a liberal and progressive force in the region. Women got suffrage in 1930 and Turkey has very few problems with racism. Homosexuality is legal for adults (though widely frowned upon).

The Basics

The Country: Turkey (Türkiye)

Adjective: Turkish (Türk)

The Nationality: Turkish (Türk)

The People: Turks (Türkler)

Languages: Turkish (84.54%), Kurmanji (11.97%), Arabic (1.38%), other (2.11%). Furthermore, 17% of the population speak English, 3% speak French and 4% speak German (including expats).

Article 42 of the Constitution of Turkey says:

No language other than Turkish shall be taught as a mother tongue to Turkish citizens at any institutions of training or education. Foreign languages to be taught in institutions of training and education and the rules to be followed by schools conducting training and education in a foreign language shall be determined by law. The provisions of international treaties are reserved.

Human Rights Watch have claimed that this article restricts ethnic minorities.

Time Zone: UTC+2

Currency: Turkish Lira

Currency Code: TRY

ISO International Country Code: TUR

Internet Domain: .tc

Telephone Dialling Code: +90

The Geography

Capital City: Ankara: population 4.6 million.

Istanbul is Turkey's biggest city by a long way, with a population of over 14 million.

Area: 783,562 sq km (37 out of 252 countries in the world) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Coastline: 7,200km

Terrain: A huge variety! In Turkey you can find snow-topped mountains, rolling hills, barren rock, expanses of conifer forest and diverse coastlines.

Climate: As it's so large, Turkey has three different climate zones. Generally, one can expact a Mediterranean climate - hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. However, the huge plateau (Meseta) experiences colder winters, while the Basque Country has cooler summers but mild, dry winters. See our Climate Guide for more detail.

Fresh Water: Per capita consumption: 1500 m3 per year (US: 1583, France: 512; Cyprus: 164; China: 410).lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The People

Population: 80,274,604 (20 out of 238 countries in the world) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Population growth: 0.9% per year. (US: 0.81%; France: 0.41%; China: 0.43%). lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Median age: 30.5 years.

Life expectancy at Birth: 74.8 years

Urban population: 72.9% of total population

Expat population: 0.2% of total population

Religion: Muslim 99.8% (mostly Sunni), other 0.2% (mostly Christians and Jews)

Ethnicity: Turkish 70-75%, Kurdish 18%, other minorities 7-12%

UN Human Development Index: 71st out of 188 countries (2015). This index attempts to measure a country's achievements in education, healthcare, wealth generation and a number of other areas. In effect, it looks at the extent to which the people in a country enjoy a long and healthy life, a good education and a decent standard of living. It is a very useful indicator of what a country will be like as a place to live. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

UN Inequality Adjusted Human Development Index: 71st out of 188 countries. This index is a list measuring the lost development potential arising from all types of inequality in a country. With perfect equality this index and the HDI would show the same result. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Population Below Poverty Line: 16.9%.

The Medical System

The Turkish healthcare system went through a dramatic reform in 2003, significantly improving access to healthcare. However, Turkish healthcare still leaves a lot to be desired, especially in rural areas. Many people shun the state-run hospitals and opt to pay for private.

Health Expenditure: 5.4% of GDP (US: 17.1%; France: 11.5%; Singapore: 4.9%; China: 5.2%) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Doctors: 2.81/1000 people (US: 2.55; France: 3.23; Singapore: 1.91; China: 1.49) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Hospital Beds: 2.5/1000 people (US: 2.9; France: 6.4; Singapore: 2; China: 3.8) lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

World Health Organization ranking of health systems: 70 of 191 countries

The Government

Turkey is a "secular paliamentary representative democratic republic". This means that the Prime Minister of Turkey is the head of the government as well as multiple parties. The President has reserve powers but their role is largely ceremonial.

The Turkish government has come under fire for allegations of corruption - and some elections in Turkey have been clouded by accusations of sabotage.

However, Turkish elections are open and do lead to changes in power.

All citizens aged over 18 may vote.

See our guide to voting and politics for more details.

The Peace Index

Turkey is ranked 145 out of 163 countries included in the 2015 edition of the Vision of Humanity "Peace Index". This is similar to Egypt and Colombia. Syria comes last. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

The methodology may be open to some debate but this a a good snapshot of criminality, conflict, political attitudes and military expenditure.

The Global Terrorism Index

Turkey is ranked 14th out of the 162 countries in the 2016 edition of the "Global Terrorism Index". Low rank/high number is good. Iraq is number one. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

This is another interesting snapshot, from the same people.

The Legal System

(By John Howell, Editor of Guides.Global).

The Turkish legal system is based on the continental European civil law system. This, in turn, has its roots in the Roman law system of nearly 2,000 years ago but was later heavily modified by Napoleon and, via the Code Napoleon (1804), became the accepted model for the legal systems of many Western European countries.

From 1804 until the end of the 19th Century, various nations adopted and adapted the French Napoleonic code so civil law now exists in a number of closely related yet very distinct variants. 

Because Turkey was not established until 1923 it had the pick of these various European codes of law when it came to deciding the legal system it wanted to adopt.

It chose the version adopted in Switzerland as the main source for its legal system.

Importantly, at the moment the Turkish legal system contains no elements of Islamic law.

Turkey is ranked a poor 99/113 in the 2016 Rule of Law Index from the World Justice Project . The low ranking can, I expect, be put down to two reasons: first, over the last decade or so, there have been concerns that Erdoğan has been interfering with the rule of law (for instance, appointing judges that may rule according to his wishes or who are not adequately qualified). Secondly, the system in Turkey can be sluggish and not very transparent.

Turkey scored more encouragingly – but with plenty of room for improvement – on the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index from Transparency International , ranking 75 of 176 countries.

Going back 20 years, corruption was an issue of concern to many Turkish people. The corruption in question was not so much major institutional or political corruption but minor day-to-day irregularities: staff in town halls requiring ‘tips’ for performing their day-to-day duties, police officers seeking payment when they stopped you for a traffic offence and so on. As far as this type of corruption is concerned, the position has improved greatly in the last 20 years.

However, there is now a perception that large-scale corruption – both within politics and big business – has reached unacceptable levels.

The Economy:

Turkey's economy is an emerging one - newly industrialised and having experienced rapid growth in recent years.

Rather than being battered by the global financial crisis, Turkey came out of it racing - the Turkish economy grew 9.2% in 2010 and 8.5% in 2011. This rapid expansion has slowed down now, but Turkey is still experiencing positive growth.

Turkey's agricultural sector is huge. It produces vast amounts of fruits, vegetables, tobacco and tea and is responsible for nearly a third of employment in Turkey. Fishing is another vital part of the Turkish economy.

Turkey also exports clothing, automotives, weaponry and electronics.

Tourism is an important sector in Turkey. Whilst currently hugely successful, some commentators are worried about Middle Eastern unrest negatively effecting tourist numbers.

GDP (purchasing power parity ('PPP'): $1.67 trillion. Ranks 18th out of 230 listed countries. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

GDP per capita: $21,100. Ranks 85th out of 230 listed countries. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

GDP Growth 2014: 3.3%. Ranks 85th out of 225 listed countries. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Inflation: 8%

Public debt: 32.7% of GDP

Unemployment: General: 9.8%; Youth 23%

Currency: Lira (see our Currency Guide for more information and the exchange rate history)


See our guide to Guide to Transport & Transport Links for details.


Many Turks are conservative Muslims, so it's a good idea to stick to local dress codes and read up on the Islamic culture.

Turkish culture is very focused on hospitality. You're unlikely to make an acquaintance without being invited for tea, a meal or even a large gathering.

See our Guide to Cultural Differences for details.


Turkish business culture is quite formal and heavily orientated around meetings. Said meetings are usually organised a couple of weeks in advance. Presentations are short and to-the-point, but negotiations can be drawn out.

See our Guide to Starting a Business in Turkey for details. See also our Guide to Ongoing Business Issues and our various guides to running different categories of business.

Turkey ranks 55 out of 189 on the World Bank's "Ease of doing business index". lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Turkey is ranked 64 out of 175 countries included in the 2014 edition of Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index. lightbulb image - click here for more information on this subject

Our Guides

Our guides contain a mass of information about living, working, doing business, retiring & investing in Turkey. Check them out here.


When preparing this factsheet we made extensive use of:

In addition we would like to thank our colleagues, contributors and readers for their invaluable input.

Readers' Comments


Further information?

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.

Francine Carrel

3 July 2015


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