If you’ve been following our story then you know that we’ve traveled to multiple cities in Turkey (now called Türkiye). Yes, we came to enjoy the tourist activities a short term visitor would experience both as a short term visitor. But we also came to explore the idea having a place where we can come for the long term when we want to have a break from traveling. We are searching for a place where we can become a more permanent part of the community. And after visiting Izmir we know that it’s definitely a contender for the type of place we are looking for. Let’s take a look at the reasons why we are considering making Izmir our home.
(Go to this link if you would prefer to watch a video with the same information: IZMIR TÜRKIYE: The Best (and Worst) Things About Izmir.)
👍 The Waterfront
We think the waterfront is the most delightful thing about Izmir. The waterfront has a collection of walking paths, bike trails, parks, plazas, and green spaces that go along almost the entire perimeter of the city. Yes, a lot of cities in Türkiye have a waterfront with walking paths. But here in Izmir the waterfront has a very different feel. There are no beaches in the city itself so the waterfront doesn’t have a resort atmosphere. It’s just everyday citizens of the city hanging out at the waterfront. This seems to be the place where everyone comes together to have fun in the city.
👍 The People
The people are friendly everywhere in Türkiye, but here in Izmir our interaction with the local people has far surpassed our expectations. It began with our AirBnb host, who now is more than just our host but is also our friend. (We absolutely recommend renting from her, go to this link to see here Airbnb profile). Izmir seems to have a very young vibe, and part of the reason for that is because there is a large university population in here. We have come across younger people here that want to practice English, and that also gives us a chance to practice our (very basic) Turkish. There are older people here too of course, but they in general seem to be very young in spirit. We see older people dancing, smiling, and laughing, and we sense a lot of joy in the older people here. We like that. And the size of the expat community, is just perfect for us, not too big and not too small.
👍 Public Transportation
The next thing we like about Izmir is the public transportation. The Izban train that not only gets us around within the city, but also into the surrounding area. Using the Izban is also an easy way to get to the airport (and by the way there are flights from Izmir to many parts of the world, another plus about Izmir). Another train line within Izmir is the metro line, with trains that come usually every three or four minutes so we never have to wait long. There are also two street car trams that roughly parallel the waterfront. The street cars are slow and they won’t win a contest for the fastest form of public transportation. But that’s okay with us because we’re not generally in a hurry. Another way to get around is on a dolmuş, which is a shared minivan taxi. And our favorite way to get around is on the ferries. There are seven or eight ferry terminals around the city. These ferries are frequent, fairly inexpensive, relaxing, and they can save a lot of time.
👍 Archeological Sites
Izmir’s location on the map makes it a great base for visiting the surrounding archeological sites. There are many sights but we suggest focusing on Ephesus (locally known as Efus). It’s the biggest and most popular site in the area. The history of this ancient city spans over multiple eras, having been under control of numerous empires, and it was an important center for early Christianity. There’s also a museum with a lot of information and artifacts from the archeological site. And there’s a big fort at the top of the hill that is worth visiting. We were planning to visit the archeological site, museum, and fort all in one day, but we soon realized we wanted more time here and added an extra day.
👍👎 The Weather
We have mixed feelings about the weather. We’ve experienced both a cold snap and also a heat wave in Izmir. The cold snap was bearable. The heat wave was miserable. The spring and autumn have perfect weather with high temperatures in the 70°F range. The average high in the winter is usually in the 50’s, and in the summer you’re looking at 90’s or higher.
👍 Cost of Living
I always feel awkward explaining how inexpensive it is here. That’s because for someone earning their income within the country, it’s meaningless when I describe the cost of living. Türkiye has been suffering from enormous inflation for a long time, with inflation more than 10 times higher than our home country right now. The exchange rate with the US dollar works in our favor and makes it affordable. Izmir itself, considering it’s a big metropolitan city, has reasonable prices compared to other similarly sized cities. Our spending during our visit averaged a very reasonable US$43 per day for the two of us for our housing, food, transportation in the city, and activities. But we had a huge discount on our AirBnb because it was a new listing. For long term living, we think about $1400 a month is reasonable amount per month for housing, utilities, food, transportation, entertainment, and health care.
👍 The Food
The next thing we really like about Izmir is the food that is available here. Of course we eat all of the typical, delicious Turkish food. But one food item that is especially popular here is kumru. This is a sandwich, and the closest comparison I can come up with is a cross between a salami sandwich and a hot dog sandwich. It comes with a big hunk of fried cheese, tomatoes, and pickles. And one of the best things about this sandwich is the bread, which is a chickpea sourdough bread that is delicious. Another food item we’ve seen in other parts of Turkey but even more so here in Izmir is lokma. This is similar to a donut dipped in a honey syrup, and are actually given away for free. When somebody dies the family will sometimes hire a truck to give away lokma as an act of kindness or as a way to honor or remember the deceased.
The earthquakes here can be very damaging. They happen in other parts of Türkiye too, but here in Izmir there was a big one a few years ago. The effects of that earthquake are evident even now. It is never pleasant to be in a disaster zone.
We think we have seen enough of Türkiye to make our decision as to whether or not we will pursue somewhere in this country to establish ourselves and make a home. We will reveal our decision in next month’s blog post. Thanks for traveling with us!