Category Archives: Practicalities

Understanding Visas, Resident Permits and Citizenship for Expats in Turkey

Most travelers and short-term residents in Turkey will opt for getting a visa to cover the remainder of their in country stay. But what if your stay is longer, or you frequently visit the country and don’t want to deal with visa forms each time? What are your options? And which options work for whom?

First, for visas:

Introduction: Unless you are from Europe or South America, you will need a visa to enter Turkey. Tourist visas are issued for 30, 60 or 90 days. If hold a European or South American passport, you should have via-exempt entry for 30, 60 or 90 days. UK citizens are required to obtain a visa prior to entry. Nationals from almost every North American or European country that is not visa-exempt are eligible for multiple-entry 90 day visas. With a 90 day visa you may stay in the country for up to 90 days out of 180 days. For a breakdown of different types of visas, please see this page here.

Who it’s for: Visas are intended for anyone planning to return to their home country after a stay in Turkey; this includes businessmen, one-off or annual vacationers, students, and people visiting friends or relatives.

How to get a Visa: Check visa requirements for your home country. Most likely you can pay for your visa online at Otherwise, you can pay $10 more and get a stamp visa upon arrival at the airport. Students and employees will need additional paperwork to legally study or work in the country, and that paperwork must be provided by your school or place of employment. More information on visas from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here.


Residence Permits:

Introduction:Residence Permits are available from the short to long term and can be applied for in-country. Anyone staying in the country for more than 90 consecutive days will need to apply for a residence permit. Overstaying your visa without applying for a residence permit may result in a travel ban for up to several years.

Who it’s for: Residence permits are divided into the following categories: short-term residence permit (6 months), family residence permit, student residence permit, long-term residence permit, humanitarian residence permit, and victim of human trafficking residence permit. For a longer explanation of the different types of permits, please see this simple yet comprehensive UK guide.

Short-term residence permits are generally for tourists and students who wish to stay in Turkey for more than 90 consecutive days whereas long-term residence permits are generally for those who own property and reside in Turkey at least semi-permanently. If you want to be part of the Turkish national health care scheme, you must also apply for a long-term residence permit (see our post on national health insurance here).

How to get a Residence Permit: First, requirements will be different depending on your nationality, your type of residency, and your intended locale. You can make an appointment to discuss options or start your application at any of the 81 Provincial Directorate of Migrant Management Offices at should apply for your residence permit within 30 days of arrival in Turkey. Find full lists of documents needed for each type of residence permit here.

For a long-term residence permit: You must have 8 years of continuous residency in Turkey, not have received social assistance in the past 3 years, sufficient and stable income to support yourself, valid health insurance for anyone under 65, and pose no threat to national security. More details here.

residence permit

And, finally, Citizenship:

Who it’s for: Generally those eligible for Turkish citizenship include foreign nationals married to Turkish nationals and long-term residents who wish to switch over from their residence permit.

How to Apply for Citizenship: First, contact your local foreign affairs bureau to see if you are eligible. Generally you will have to fulfill the following requirements: residence in Turkey for 5 years with total interruption of less than 6 months, possession of good physical and mental health, demonstration that it is your intention to settle in Turkey, absence of any criminal record, ability to speak Turkish at a basic level, and ability to support yourself with either income or a good job (if not married to a Turkish national). If you meet these conditions, then you can apply to the City Population and Citizenship Directorate (İl Nüfus ve Vatandaşlık Müdürlüğü). Your “sufficient level of Turkish language” degree will be evaluated by the commission during your interview. A specific language degree or test is not required.  More information here.

If you are married to a Turkish national, a different set of requirements apply: You must be married to the Turkish citizen for 3 years, resides with the Turkish partner (exceptions granted if Turkish partner dies after application is lodged), avoids acts that would jeopardise the marriage, and poses no threat to national security and public order.  You can read the full document on Turkish Citizenship Law here.

Some Common Questions:

What if I want to purchase property? It is not required that one hold a residence permit prior to purchasing property in Turkey.  You will however need to obtain a Foreigner Identity number (Yabanci Kimlik No.) from the TNP Foreigners’ Department in the nearest city.  Owning property will not automatically grant you a residence permit either – you will still need to go online and follow the same application steps.

What if I own property, but do not reside in Turkey for more than a month or two at a time? If you are out of the country for more than 120 consecutive days, you may not be eligible for a residence permit, so you should probably just apply for regular tourist visas when you visit. You do not need a residence permit to rent out your property.

If I have a residence permit, am I automatically eligible to work in Turkey? No. You must hold a work visa and apply for the appropriate type of residence permit.  Your employer must provide the paperwork for your work visa.

If I don’t speak Turkish, can I be eligible for citizenship? This depends on how you are acquiring citizenship.  If it is through naturalization or marriage, then generally this is not a requirement.  However, you should check the requirements for your specific case.

If I become a Turkish citizen, can I still retain my original citizenship? This completely depends on the arrangements made between your country and Turkey. For the US and many European countries, the answer is yes. Before making any decisive steps, you should check the situation with your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs or embassy in Turkey.

Have more questions?  Read the government’s e-residence booklet here, or check out the MFA’s FAQ section.



Filed under Legal Affairs, Practicalities, Retiring Abroad

Health Insurance Option for Expats in Turky

While most vacationers and short-term expats will keep their home country health insurance, or go for travel health insurance (a good explanation of those choices here, an overview of travel medical insurance here, and reviews of travel insurance providers here), longer-term expats can choose to either keep their home/international provider, or switch over to SGK, the Turkish National Health Insurance.  If you decide to switch over, the later is usually far less expensive and makes hospital visits a breeze.


What is SGK?

According to the Turkish Constitution, “Every individual is entitled to social security. The State takes the necessary measures to create this confidence and organizes the organization”. What this means today is that the Ministry of Health provides health care, organizes preventive health services, operates state hospitals, supervises private hospitals, and regulates the production and prices of pharmaceutical drugs nationwide.  Every Turkish citizen is entitled to national health coverage – as is almost every foreign resident in the country. To receive a residence permit, you are also required to sign up for medical insurance, either state or otherwise.

SGK (Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu, Social Security Institution) is state-provided health insurance for the entire family including children up to the age of 18 and, depending on the circumstances, possibly other dependents.  The family-based fee is around $100 per month.*  Once you enroll in SGK, you must keep the insurance for as long as you keep your residency in Turkey.  For a longer explanation aimed at UK citizens, please see this post. SGK website here. Continue reading


Filed under Health and Safety, Health Insurance, Practicalities

Typical Costs to Build Your Budget for a Summer in Turkey

We can’t give you a definitive budget – everyone’s travel styles and daily habits are different – but we do hope the following list and resources will help you craft a reasonable budget for your stay in Turkey.

my blue cruise guletWhen creating your budget, ask yourself what type of traveler/tourist/seasonal resident/retiree/expat you are: do you enjoy laying on the beach? Seeing all the sights? Sampling local foods at small cafes or going out to big dinners? Staying at posh resorts, renting a flat, or even camping? Do you plan to drive or fly, or are you fine with taking the train and long-distance bus? What does your nightlife look like?  All of these factors will play a great part in how you should set our budget.  Some students travel through Turkey on a few hundred Euros a month; others spend that much on a half-week gulet tour. Some retirees live off their government pensions with ease; others choose to live off the same budget they would use in the US or UK, only allowing themselves more comforts and luxuries than that income would allow in their home country.

Prices below are all for the area surrounding the popular resort town of Didim, for the summer season. Other areas along the Turkish Riviera may be more or less expensive.

villa konak hotel kusadasiAccommodation 

Unless you own property, you have three main choices in Turkey: stay in a hotel, stay in a pansion (pension), or rent an apartment.  Prices vary depending on season and locality; for single people and couples, it is often cheapest to stay in a pansion with half board (breakfast and dinner provided) at 30-50 lira/day person; for families, the most economic choice is often renting an apartment by the week or month at 150-300 Euro/week in summer, or 500+ lira/month year round.

  • Typical monthly rent for a decent/average 2 BR flat: 600 TL
  • Weekly Rent in Summer:  150-700 USD (1 bedroom flat-villa)
  • Monthly Electricity Bill (Summer): 100 TL for a family of 5
  • Monthly Water Bill (Summer): 50 TL for a family of 5
  • Monthly Phone Bill: 90 TL (full plan); 20 TL (texting, calls and minimal internet use)
  • Monthly Internet Bill: 60 TL

Turkish kofte with sauceFood and Dining Out

  • Weekly Groceries: 200 TL  for a family of 5
  • Full Breakfast Out: 8-15 TL/person
  • Pastry and Tea: 4 TL
  • Lunch Out: 12-30 TL
  • Sandwich or Toast: 6-10 TL
  • Dinner: 15-30 TL; Many restaurants have 20-25 lira specials with fresh fish and sides
  • Drinks at the grocery store: 1 TL water, 5 TL beer
  • Drinks in a restaurant: 8-15 TL for beer; 10-20 TL for a glass of wine

kusadasi street sceneTypical Expenses:

  • Bus or Subway Ticket: 1-2 TL
  • Taxi around town: 10-20 TL
  •  Shuttle or Taxi to Airport? 40-50 Euro
  • Fake designer sunglasses: 5-10 TL
  • Casual canvas shoes: 20-50 TL

Travel, Entertainment and Sight-Seeing

my blue cruise guletUnusual Expenses and Other Notes

Three things are generally more expensive in Turkey than might be expected: gas, alcohol, and international brand names – all due to high taxes.

Gas is generally 4-5 TL/Litre, making it more expensive than many European countries.  For this reason, the budget-savy traveler will often choose to travel between cities by coach bus and locally by dolmus (public minibus).  Coachbuses are comfortable and often cost around 10 TL/hour on the road (i.e. the Ankara-Istanbul route takes 4-5 hours and bus seats are 50 TL). When debating between flying and taking the bus between towns, keep in mind that bus stations are often located near the center of town and near other forms of public transportation, like the subway or city buses.  For getting the best deals when flying in and out of Turkey, see our guide on finding the lowest-priced airfare hereturkish gozleme

Alcohol can also be a considerable expense in Turkey.  Grocery store beer prices are around 4-6 TL/bottle.  Casual bars around student-friendly locales like Olympos will generally sell beer for 7-12 TL/bottle, but beer and other alcoholic beverages at urban bars and at tourist spots can run upwards of 20 lira/drink.

You will also find that, due to import taxes, international brand items (such as bags, shoes, sunglasses and clothes) will be more expensive in Turkey.  If there is something specific you need, bring it with you (see our Summer Packing List for Women here).  But, no worries – you can also find high-quality items made in Turkey for a fraction of the price, and unbeatably-priced ‘genuine fakes’ of everything from watches to jeans to purses to crocs.

ephesus stadiumWorried about any specific expenses?  Check out the full statistics on Cost of Living at Numbeo here, or send us a message.

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Filed under Finance, Practicalities, Retiring Abroad

Renting Out Your Seaside Home

While Turkey is growing in popularity as a warm-weather warm-culture retirement destination, it’s also an incredibly popular vacation locale.  And if you happen to own an apartment or home by the sea, in a major city, or in any other unique location, you have the option or ‘letting out’ your home while away.  This is a great option for those who vacation in Turkey at a favorite locale and don’t want the trouble of booking hotels, or overseas retirees who wish to spend large chunks of the year either in their home country with family or traveling around Europe.  In short, if you are considering purchasing property, but don’t plan to spend all your time in Turkey, this is a viable path. 

Show Me The Money How much your apartment brings in depends on a great number of things: Where is it located? How many rooms does it have? Is it new or old? Is it a unique property? Is it located in an area with high demand for accommodation during peak seasons? Is there a pool? What amenities will you include? Will you rent by the day or by the week?

In past years typical incomes for a modern and pleasantly furnished two bedroom flat in a resort town by the sea (like Didim) have hovered around 60€/day and 300/week.   3BR villas around Fethiye run around $500/week.  Stone villas by Ephesus can run upwards of $1000/wk.  Again, the price all depends on the factors above.

Some retirees we’ve come across rent out their property during peak season in summer and then are able to live off that rental income for the remainder of the year.  Other people rent out for just a few weeks a year and use the income to pay for home maintenance, or put towards their own travel expenses.

Why Would I Want to Do This? Letting out your property while you’re away is actually quite common in Turkey (and many parts of Europe).  There are accepted norms of behavior from tenants as well as expectations for property owners.  The extra income will allow you to do…whatever you want.  Travel in Greece.  Take a gulet trip.  Stay with family in the states over the school holidays.  Explore the rest of Europe. Cover your winter budget.

Other Options: Rent Out a Room:If you don’t feel comfortable handing your house over to strangers, or you prefer to reside in Turkey year-round, another option is letting out a spare room through sites like Air BnB.  Both you and the potential renter set up profiles so you can screen every applicant, and you are able to choose how much of your house you want to share.  This is also an interesting option for people who have a spare bedroom and love having company.

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Filed under Finance, Practicalities, Real Estate, Retiring Abroad

Summer Travels in Turkey: A Packing List for Women

suitcaseIt’s almost summer, and hopefully you’re planning for a trip to the Turkish Riviera.  If this is your first holiday along the Turkish seaside, you may be wondering what to bring – so we’ve created a complete packing list for you!

First, a few things you should know:

  • The coast can be hot in summer! Think light and breezy when choosing your outfits.
  • Except for a few upscale neighborhoods, most seaside towns are fairly laidback in terms of dress-code.  Leave your high heels at home and make some room in your suitcase for souvenirs to bring back – or a great pair of handmade leather sandals.
  • Turkey’s shops are well-stocked and cater towards travelers in popular destinations.  Anything you forget at home you can probably find within a few minutes of your apartment or hotel.

Clothing Essentials

The coast will be hot, but it will also be breezy; dress for comfort with a few outfits that can make the transition from beach to boardwalk to ancient ruins and art museums to dinner on the deck.  If you tend to be a more active traveler, exofficio is a great source for lightweight, packable, fashionable clothing at reasonable prices.

We Recommend: 

  • Long, breezy summer dresses in light colors.  These work great for everything from dinner to the beach to excursions out of town. Pair solid colors with a whimsical scarf for an evening out.
  • A few loose longsleeved tops in light colors to protect you from the sun.  Linen and other light fabrics are your best bet.

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Filed under Practicalities

Finding the Best Airfare Options from the US to Turkey

Flying long distances doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, distance doesn’t determine the price.  If you shop around and use a few tricks, your flights from the states to Turkey can be less expensive than a flight within the US. We found round-trip airfare from New York to Istanbul for as low as $549.

Let’s say you want to fly to Turkey in Spring or Fall, hitting the beaches while the water’s warm, but avoiding peak tourism season. Here’s what you can do to find the best flight prices (and save your money for sailing and seafood):

ITA Website

Tip No. 1Use ITA Matrix

ITA Matrix was originally created by computer scientists at MIT and was later bought out by Google.  It scans almost every available flight to find you the best deal.  You can set numerous parameters, such as flight time, specific dates or date ranges, and flight preferences (nonstop, one stop, multiple stops; multi-city; no overnights).  ITA is actually used by other discount booking websites such as Kayak – and thus it is much faster more comprehensive, and often delivers up cheaper flights.  You can find a much more detailed introduction to ITA here.  There are, however, two drawback to ITA:  that tickets cannot be purchased directly – you must search the flight you found on Google Flights, call Priceline, call the airline company or use Hipmunk (how to do that here and here); and the ITA database does not always include minor or in-country air companies.  It will not show results for Turkey’s budged airline, Pegasus Airlines.  Thus, if you want to book cheap tickets within Turkey, you may want to go directly to the Pegasus website.  Also, the JFK-IST flight is always a few dollars cheaper on Google Flights.

Quick Tutorial Video: Use HipMunk to Book ITA Flights

There are also free app versions of ITA (though with fewer options than the full site) available for google play and apple.

To give an example of how ITA works, we ran the the same flights (JFK-Istanbul and Chicago O’Hare-IST) Sep 1st-24th through ITA, Google Flights, Kayak, and Turkish Airlines. The lowest prices listed were as follows:

JFK-IST ITA: $630*                      ORD – IST ITA: $719

             Google: $619                                                 Google: $749

             Turkish Airlines: $833                    Turkish Airlines: $883

             Kayak: $730                                        Kayak: $806

            Hipmunk w/o ITA: $626                         Hipmunk w/o ITA: $826

*Please note that all prices quoted here are purely for reference, and may change

Tip No. 2: Be Flexible with Your Flight Times & Dates

With ITA Matrix you can select flexible dates (ex. April 30 +- 2 days) or a range, called a “calender of low fares” (ex: leave April 15 to one month later, stay 9-13 days).  The more flexible you can be with your travel dates, the more likely you are to hit upon times lower in demand (and thus far less expensive).


April 30-May 10: $807

April 30-May 10+- 2 days: $679

Departing between April 15 and May 15, staying for 9-14 days: $594; Depart 1 week earlier: $549

We found that the cheapest RT JFK-IST flights are generally in early April and October:

Tip No. 3: Book In Advance If Traveling During Peak Season

It’s generally recommended that you book 5 weeks-100 days out when traveling internationally.  As seats are filled, prices go up.

Tip No. 4: Fly Out of Major Hubs/Experiment with Different City Options IMG_5128

Flying out of some US cities is far more expensive than flying out of other cities.  Generally, it is cheapest to fly out of JFK on the East Coast and Chicago O’Hare in the Midwest. If you can, visit friends or take the train to a major hub airport.  Do know that if you book a separate flight on a different airline to a hub airport, and your first flight is delayed enough that you miss the second leg of your journey, the airline most likely will not reschedule your flight without fines.  Thus it is recommended that you allow sufficient time between flights, or take a mode of transportation that is not frequently subject to delays.

Second, consider just booking a flight from a major US hub to Istanbul.  If you have the time, spend a day resting, recovering from jetlag, and exploring in Istanbul, and then either take a cheap domestic flight (like Pegasus) or the bus to your final destination.  Buses in Turkey are quite comfortable, directly connect most cities, and will most often take you to the city center (whereas the airport may be a 50km trip from town).

While the April 19-29 JFK-IST ticket is $594, the JFK-Antalya fare is $741, and JFK-Dalaman is $1,038. For comparisson, a round-trip Pegasus IST-Antalya flight is $46 including taxes, and IST-Dalaman is $55.

Tip No. 5: Change Your Sales City

A longer article explaining this trick can be found here. Basically, you may see lower prices if you change your sales city to Istanbul or another in-country location and make sure the currency is “Default (Currency of the Sales City)”.  If you change your sales city to IST, but keep the sales currency in USD you will see the same price as quoted for a US Sales City. This trick seem to especially work when booking flights earlier in advance. The results will show in Turkish Lira (YTL), but you can easily convert the amount and compare prices. If using the app, click “more options” to change your Sales City.

Example with JFK-IST flights:

USD April 19-29  $594      June 1-10: $730        Sep 1-24: $719

YTL April 19-29 1,521 ($587)  June 1-10: 1,868 ($729.40)     Sep 1-24: 1.613 ($629.83)

Before buying tickets in a different currency, however, check with your bank to see if they will charge you for converting money from USD.

Tip No. 6: Buy Two Separate One-Way Tickets

Planning to stay for a while and not sure when you’re going to return? Instead of buying a roundtrip ticket and then changing your flight back (and incurring hefty airline fees), just buy a one-way ticket.  In April, JFK-IST one way tickets go for as low as $321. When you decide when you want to fly back, book your return ticket using the methods above, or (after checking ITA prices) with a local travel agent.  In-country travel agents sometimes have deals with the major airlines and are able to find you fares that are even cheaper than those listed online. However, do first compare one-way and round-trip ticket prices.  For some airlines, the cost to move a return ticket date is significantly cheaper than buying two separate tickets.

And Always Remember: Ask Airlines and Agents to Match Prices

As you probably noticed above, prices can be substantially different between different websites. Found a lower price on ITA, but don’t feel comfortable using HipMunk? If there is a price discrepancy, call the airline (or Priceline or your preferred travel agency) and ask if they can match the price.  Oftentimes they will, especially if they value you as a return customer.

Have any other tips or tricks? Please share in the comments section below!

Please keep in mind that the above figures (found on March 24th and 25th, 2015) are used to provide examples, and are not meant to be taken as definitive prices.  Airline prices are always subject to change; experiment with different dates, sales cities, and websites to find the best fare. 

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Filed under Practicalities, Transportation

Great Resources for Learning Turkish

You don’t need to know Turkish to travel – or even live – in Turkey, as many people in the seaside towns and expat corners will speak enough English (or German) for you to get by.  But why would you miss out on learning a language that will open up doors to the region’s rich historical past and everyday cultural warmth (not to mention help you order some amazing food)?

Even if you don’t want to immerse yourself in Turkish for six months, you will find it quite useful to pick up a few phrases, along with basic words for food and travel.  Locals will appreciate your effort to learn their language, and you’ll probably find that a few Turkish turns will land you a host of new conversation partners and plenty of local tips and advice.

So here are some of the best beginner tools for learning practical Turkish:

Basic Introductions:

If you know nothing about the structure or the history of the language, Manisa Turkish offers a great one-page introduction, Totally Turkish has a brief intro alongside more extensive grammar and vocabulary lists  and Turkish 101 offers just that.

Beginner Books:

kitap_conceptTake Away Turkish Grammar, short dialogues, clear audio recordings, and practical vocabulary for both traveling and everyday life in an easy-to-understand, bright and fun format.

Fast & Easy Turkish Phrase Book and Dictionary:  turkish phrase bookThis is a pocket-sized phrase book, dictionary, and grammar guide in one.  It’s great to throw in your bag for the day, and offers far more than just basics like,”Where is the hotel?”. The writer (B. Orhan Dogan) is also a linguist and author of several language textbooks, so he takes a much more learner-directed approach than more commercial phrase books.

Podcasts and Listening Material:
Turkish Tea Time Podcasts Each 10-20 minute lesson (with levels from novice to advanced) presents a dialogue, explains the grammar and vocabulary, and then goes through the dialogue line-by-line.  “Newbie” and Beginner lessons focus mostly on practical, everyday situations.

Turkish Language Institute’s Podcast. These are basically just beginner-lower intermediate dialogues read by native speakers, much like the accompanying audio disk for a textbook. No English, no explanations; just clear and understandable Turkish.

Online Courses, Software and Lessons:

Turkish Tea Time Online Lessons Turkish Tea Time is a podcast-based service that offers lessons fully explaining the grammar and plenty of practice on its site, for a monthly access fee of $10.

The_logo_of_MemriseMemrise Hacking Turkish Course Memrise is an online language tool devoted to learning vocabulary. Memrise uses flashcards augmented with mnemonics and the spacing effect to boost the speed and ease of learning.  You can choose a pre-created vocabulary set, or easily create your own.  Many words also have audio recordings, which reinforces audio-visual recognition of words. Free App also available.
Duolingo_logoDuoLingo Duolingo is an online learning practice that makes extensive use of reading, translating and dictation to teach grammar and basic vocabulary as you progress through “skill sets” and earn points.  The English-Turkish version has just been released in Beta. Also accessible through the Free App.

Turkish Class 101  An energetic approach to language learning, featuring classes taught through videos, podcasts, and PDF lessons.  They have free podcasts and a youtube channel, though site subscription is paid (explanation of subscriptions here).

More Grammar-Focused Books:

teach yourself turkishTeach Yourself Turkish (Free online PDF here) I wouldn’t recommend this book as a first textbook for learning the language, and some of the content is rather eclectic, but it does a good job of clearly explaining and connecting different parts of Turkish grammar. If you’ve already done the DuoLingo course or completed a beginner textbook, this would be a great resource for leveling up or solidifying your skills.

Modern Turkish: A Complete Course for Beginners If you want a simple, comprehensible, and rather complete understanding of Turkish grammar – a good base for learning the language – then I would recommend Orhan Doğan’s “Modern Turkish: A Complete Self-Study Course for Beginners”. This book lays out grammar and the structure of the language in a clear format and offers plenty of practice, with an answer key. It does not, however, have a lot of conversational language or dialogue practice. Available at bookstores in Turkey.

Online Lessons and Language Exchange

italki On italki users can participate in language forums, submit written journals for correction by native speakers, find a language exchange partner, or schedule lessons with both community tutors or professional (certified) teachers.  All lessons are conducted over skype, and paid directly to italki with bank card or paypal. Most teachers offer a range of lessons and packages to meet students’ needs.

Speaky Speaky is new on the language scene.  It offers users the ability to connect with language partners speaking their target language and set up language exchange sessions either through skype of their own on-site video and voice platform.


Filed under Practicalities, Turkish Culture