Healthcare in Turkey

The standard of healthcare in Turkey varies widely between the public and private system. While cheaper than most of its European counterparts, the quality of public healthcare in Turkey isn’t as high. However, Turkey is fast becoming known for its growth in areas such as cosmetic surgery, dentistry and fertility treatment.

In terms of shared healthcare programmes, EU citizens are yet to enjoy the same reciprocal agreements in Turkey that member states have across the continent.

Turkish is the main language spoken by medical staff at public hospitals and clinics, while expats are more likely to find English-speaking professionals in privately-run establishments.

Before venturing to another country, make sure you have a health insurance plan you can rely on. Our international health insurance plans offer comprehensive health cover for when you are in your home country and abroad.

The Turkish public health system is underfunded and over capacity. That said, the system is slowly improving, and many services are subsidised or fully covered by Turkey’s universal health system, Genel Sağlık Sigortası (GSS). This includes prescription medication, emergency care and childbirth.

Payment is made either out of pocket or through compulsory contributions to the Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu (SGK), with the amount usually deducted from an expat’s income at the end of every month or paid by their employer.

However, expats will only be eligible for these services if they’ve been a resident of Turkey and contributed to the fund for a year. In their first year, expats will by law have to get private health insurance, after which they will be eligible to apply with the SGK and receive public healthcare. However, many expats choose to stick with their private insurance as it is usually quite affordable and allows them access to the best private facilities in Turkey.

Expats in Turkey tend to seek treatment at private hospitals where they can access superior facilities and well-trained staff who are more likely to speak English. While more expensive than public healthcare, it remains quite affordable. By using private healthcare, expats can also skip the long queues so often prevalent in state-run institutions.

Though private healthcare in Turkey is inexpensive, costs can add up so it’s best to invest in a comprehensive health insurance scheme to cover costs.

Pharmacies (eczane) are found all over the country. Major cities such as Istanbul and Ankara usually have a good number of 24-hour pharmacies – generally at least one in each major neighbourhood – but pharmacy hours can vary. Pharmacists in Turkey are knowledgeable and can diagnose illnesses, provide over-the-counter medication and will recommend a doctor if they feel one is required.

Regulations around buying certain medications are more relaxed in comparison to those in most Western countries, and some medicines that would normally require a prescription are available over the counter in Turkey. Prescription medicines also tend to be quite cheap in Turkey.

Travellers should avoid drinking tap water and opt instead for bottled or boiled water. Using water purification tablets or a filter is also recommended.

Malaria is prevalent in parts of Turkey, especially in the southeastern province of Mardin from May to October. Because of the warm climate, both heat exhaustion and heat stroke are also serious concerns.

Expats should ensure that all routine vaccinations are up to date, including measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, chickenpox, polio and a yearly flu shot. Other suggested vaccines include hepatitis A and typhoid, as well as Covid-19. As Turkey has some of the highest numbers of rabies cases in Europe, rabies vaccinations are also recommended.

In the event of an emergency, expats in Turkey should dial 112. However, there is no guarantee that the operator will speak English.

Ambulances in Turkey are modern and well equipped to deal with multiple scenarios, boasting some of the health sector’s newest technology. The speed and response of the ambulance will depend on whether the service is provided by a state or private institution. The latter tends to be faster and better equipped. To order a private ambulance, expats should call a private hospital directly.