Istanbul Health Tips to Consider Before You Leave
Today we thought to share some useful information on Medical Care in Turkey and tips to consider before you visit & during your exciting stay in Turkey. We have also added some crucial information and a health guide for tourists/expats about health insurance that will prove useful for anyone wishing to move there on a more permanent basis. For most people, planning a trip to Istanbul doesn’t need any special medical precautions as it’s one of the most major cities in the world. Turkey is a well-developed and quite Western country with modern and advanced medical systems boasting all the latest technology. However, it’s always recommended to have proper travel insurance as it is wherever you decide to go in the world.
Vaccinations In Turkey
You don’t really need to get any special vaccinations for a holiday in Istanbul, it’s very likely you’ll be just fine. However, if you did want to look into recommended vaccinations in going to this region, then most travel agencies and governmental travel guides suggest for you to be immune to Hepatitis A & B, Tetanus, Diphtheria, Polio and Typhus.
These suggested vaccinations can be easily recommended due to the high number of stray cats and dogs that roam around freely in the cities. If you avoid close contact with these animals, this will minimize any of the above disease risks even further. Chances are you already received these shots before so you may be still immune. If you are worried about this, you can easily check with your doctor to see if you need any boosters.
Most medicines that require prescriptions in Europe or the US are freely available in any Istanbul pharmacy. So, if you’re in need of a certain medicine, there’s no need for a doctor’s visit first, you can enter any chemist or pharmacy and ask for it. The only exception to this is the real strong or addictive drugs. You will also be pleasantly surprised at the cost of medicines in Istanbul as they are generally cheaper than in UK and other European countries.
Actually, making the pharmacist understand what medicine you need may be your only struggle ;). Although pharmacists usually speak some level of English, different pronunciations may cause a communication problem. Writing the name of the medicine down maybe helpful, however, you have to bear in mind that sometimes medicines may have a completely different name. So, if you copy the generic or chemical name of your medicine to take along with you, other than just the brand name, this should prevent even more of an inconvenience.
To summarize, in the rare unfortunate event you get ill in Turkey, medicines you are used to take to cure the illness are readily available in any pharmacy at a much better price, even if you usually get them on prescription. If you are on any prescription drugs take them along with you, and write down their chemical name somewhere safe, in case you run out or they get lost.
Travel & Health Insurance
In most cases, travel & health insurance is mandatory if not already included in any package deal. Be sure to check your health insurance covers medical care in Turkey. Even though Europe is included in your policy, you have to remember Istanbul is indeed partly located in Europe, but the majority of Turkey is on the Asian side! Your health service may categorize Turkey as part of Asia regardless of the fact that Istanbul has a European side.
Private GP Clinics are rare in Turkey; however, it does have both public and private hospitals and private hospitals can be quite expensive if you don’t have any type of health cover.
Istanbul Health Tips While You’re There
Can I Drink Tap Water in Turkey?
In today’s modern-day society, the water is regarded as clean and drinkable, however, due to the filtering & cleaning process, it may have a distinctive smell & taste. Many locals have a sensitive taste & sense of smell, so they prefer bottled water to tap. Therefore, although technically you could, we still wouldn’t recommend it!
It’s perfectly safe to brush your teeth or cook food with the tap water in Turkey. However, for drinking purposes we would suggest sticking to bottled water which is very affordable and sold on every street corner. Also, it’s handy to know that the ice-cubes served in Turkeys cafes & restaurants are also made from bottled mineral water, so they are safe to consume too. If you are not sure you can always ask!
For more details on this topic please read our blog post: Is it safe to drink the tap water in Turkey
Istanbul Food Culture
Turkey is renowned by its delicious food, fresh & local produce and mouth-watering feasts. There’s no one I know that doesn’t compliment the tastes & flavours found in authentic Turkish cuisine. If we were to warn you over anything to do with the diet while in Turkey, chances are that the food you’ll eat in Istanbul would likely be slightly spicier and oilier than what you’re used to in UK.
This, together with the high summer temperatures that can sometimes reach up to 35+ can sometimes result in some diarrhoea. This is very rare but if you have a sensitive stomach it’s best to minimize the chances of suffering from diarrhoea by avoiding really greasy or spicy food during your stay. Dairy products and some types of Istanbul’s street food might be too much for you if your intestines are not used to it.
In the rare occasion you do get diarrhea, a combination of the medicines Ercefuryl (to restore the intestine flora) and Immodium (to stop excessive visits to the bathroom) should solve the inconvenience in a day or two. Don’t forget to read the respective medicines’ instructions carefully before taking them! Also, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
Avoid Petting Street Cats and Dogs
As mentioned before, Istanbul has plenty of street cats and dogs. These animals won’t bother you & may not even notice you at all. Nonetheless, we wouldn’t recommend petting them, no matter how cute and sweet they look. The municipality is putting in huge efforts to vaccinate them as you can indicate by seeing a tag in their ear, however, some of them may still be a carrier of diseases.
In the extremely rare case, you do get bitten by a dog or scratched by a cat, have a doctor or pharmacist examine the wound for you.
You can read more about this topic & other things to know about before moving to Turkey here.
Health Insurance For Expats In Turkey
For expats under 65 planning to relocate to Turkey, health insurance is compulsory. Without it, you won’t be able to gain residency in Turkey.
However, if you are over 65 years of age, you no longer have to have medical insurance in place.
The rules, as they currently stand, require any foreign citizen under the age of 65 to have health insurance if they want to have residency in Turkey.
The options open to each individual under the age of 65 are either:
- Buy your own private medical insurance
- Join Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (SGK) which is the state insurance scheme category open to expatriates. Note: you have to legally reside in Turkey for at least one year to be eligible for this.
To join SGK you have to have a health assessment and make monthly fixed payments. It is currently at 426.60 TL a month which is no more than 43.00 GBP. This premium will cover a married couple and any dependents under the age of 18.
Note: there is no discount for a single person and couples living together that are not legally married have to pay separate premiums.
There are plenty of private insurers in Turkey and internationally which offer health insurance policies to expats as an alternative. And in Turkey, there are both, state and private hospitals as well as modern & efficient medical facilities. Depending on which type of insurance you opt for, you will be eligible for care at either a state or a private medical facility.
Note, however, if you take out the SGK, some private hospital treatment may be covered. Never assume, always ask in advance.
If you do choose to join SGK you can’t opt to unsubscribe from it unless you leave Turkey permanently and give up your residency.
If you’re over 65 you no longer have to have compulsory medical insurance in place in order to be able to receive or renew your residency.
This is because those responsible for introducing the entire scheme became aware that it was restrictively expensive for many over the age of 65 to get private health insurance, or even afford SGK.
If you’re over 65 and can afford to do so, join SGK. It will mean that no matter what, any health issues will be covered, and you won’t be hit by spiralling costs as price increases are likely to remain within realistic and modest limits.
You can choose to pay as you go for treatment instead. However, bear in mind that a long-term, chronic or serious condition could incur seriously high costs. This might become unaffordable and leave you in an exceptionally vulnerable position at a time in your life when you can’t recover, financially speaking.
What’s more, British expats are reminded that they will not be covered for such conditions by the NHS either unless they are in receipt of a state pension or qualify in other ways.
Britons relocating overseas often struggle to accept having to pay out for health insurance or health care. However, when resident in the UK every tax-paying individual fund the NHS annually via their wage salary.
Therefore, we strongly urge anyone moving abroad to accept the need to continue to cover the protection of their health by buying appropriate health insurance.
We pray you have benefited from this information and hope you are now a little bit more informed about the medical care in Turkey. We kindly ask you to add any relevant details we may have missed out. Your experiences, thoughts, questions and comments can all help benefit others as well as keep us updated with recent changes