La City

New in Ankara: The Experience is What You Make of It

If you are new in Ankara and you want to have a great experience, in this text you will find some tips that I would have loved to know from the beginning of my stay. I’m a Colombian that has spent more than 10 months in this wonderful city, and here I want to share with you five advices that will make your stay in Turkey easier and more enjoyable.

1) Come prepare enough

According to the moment of the year, be ready to have really hot daytime and unexpected freezing nights. For a person new in Ankara, it is possible to experience almost all-weather during the same day, and I’m not exaggerating. In my home country, we don’t have seasons, and even if I live in a cold city like Bogota, my staff was not enough for the freezing winds and snow that received me in January. I suggest you to don’t buy winter staff in your country because first, it could take space that you could need for something else that you can’t find in Ankara, and second, because here you will find multiple options and affordable prices to survive the winter.

In addition, if you need a specific kind technological device it is better that you bring it from home, here technology is very expensive and there are some products that you won’t find easily, such as: pork (because of cultural and religious reasons), spices from your country for cooking, plantain (the packed one), your national favorite sweets, medicines, cosmetics or personal care products. Bring enough of them to don’t have to resort to expensive and delayed shipments later.

2) Do your best to learn Turkish

In my case, I didn’t learn Turkish from the beginning because I didn’t feel the need to do it. My classes were in English, and with my Turkish and international friends, I found the way to do any kind of activities without Turkish. Everything was fine, while I was living in the ODTÜ campus, but after, it was hard. I extended my stay to do my internship, but when I moved to an apartment near my job I struggled because of communication issues. So, even if Turkish language is different and hard to learn, put efforts to get soon a basic level of it, it will make your life much easier.

Most of the Ankara’s residents are kind and friendly, if you speak Turkish they will really appreciate it and be happy to share and speak with you. If not, they will do their best to help you. But actually, one personal regret was to don’t have the enough Turkish level to take full advantage of my academic and job experience here. Because, for example, even if I am studying and working in English, there will always be groups, clubs, events or meetings 100 percent in Turkish. So, the challenge is to get involved or connect as if the language barrier was not a limitation.

turkish food sarma

Istasyon TEDU is the place where I decided to do my internship because I’m a social entrepreneur in Colombia. In this center for social innovation I found a space and the team to develop skills that will help me to be a better professional and entrepreneur. Also, this is the right place to learn about social entrepreneurship, a field that I love and inspires me deeply. Now my goal is to improve my level of Turkish to return one day and understand more, important details that I missed before.

3) Adapt and understand Ankara’s people, culture and lifestyle

Ankara is the second largest city of Turkey and was is my temporary home in Turkey, here life is more calm; with less traffic, lines and stress than Istanbul. Which give you more time and a better quality of life from my point of view. Also, I would like to highlight how quiet and safe this city is, I love the feeling that even if I am returning home late I don’t have to be worried or scared for that.

As you meet more people and have spent more time in the city, you will get to know good places and you will frequent the ones you like best according to your preferences. You should know that beyond a bureaucratic city, in Ankara you will find a lot of nature and rich cultural life, there are great parks, lakes, gardens, museums, galleries, concerts and theaters with opera that may call your attention. You can enjoy a lot, even if you have a small budget, because there are really affordable prices or good discounts for students generally.

ankara exchange students

There are clubs and events according to your culture and language, for example, the “Mesa de Español en Ankara” is a splendid space to meet and connect with people who speak or are learning Spanish. And if you have social profile I highly recommend you to join the Rotary Club of Ankara International, there you can communicate in English perfectly, meet amazing people and participate in meaningful projects.

In general I would recommend knowing about: the curious Turkish way to say no, their quick way to end a call, their traditions in the month of Ramadan, the call to praying that happens 5 times a day, their frequent habit of smoking, the different types of toilets and about Hammams. Also it is good you, as a person new in Ankara, to know that, you can’t drink tap water here and that there is a common staring behavior that shouldn’t make you feel uncomfortable.

4) Take smart financial decisions

If you are a student new in Ankara, from the beginning get your student “Ankara kart” which you will use for buses and metro, but keep in mind that there are still buses that you have to pay in cash, like the small buses that are called “dolmuş”. I know that sometimes it is boring to get papers and wait, but if you go out frequently, to use a discount card and knowing well the public transportation networks, will save you great deals of time and money.

It’s important you to know that in Turkey your phone line will be blocked once you completed 4 months in the country. If you need to call or use data for longer, one tip is to have an extra phone or one with double sim card, so that you just need to change the place of the sim. I am user of Turkcell and even if I had some issues of extra payment for things in Turkish that I didn’t understand, the service is good and the coverture is the best in case you plan to travel to cities far away.

ankara amusement park fun

Another extra recommendations to save money would be: to cook at home, to walk instead taking taxis which could charge you more in order you are foreigner, to avoid to go places without written prices because is usual to charge different prices to international people, to do shopping of daily staff in cheap stores such as Bim, Şok or A.101. And lastly, try to avoid alcoholic drinks, besides that they are harmful for your health, they are really expensive in Turkey, because of the taxes.

5) Open your mind and heart

My golden rule is to don’t assume, judge or label cities or people according to a single bad experience. The media and the people will tell you partial information that you shouldn’t generalize. Because, if you do that, from the beginning you will be stopping yourself from living nice moments and meeting amazing people. Which would be unfavorable, because you will be here temporarily, and the idea is to learn and experience as much as you can. Also, if you take the right mindset, behavior, and choices, you will return home being a more flexible and adaptable person, qualities that are really valuable in our modern world.

Even if Ankara is not a “touristic” place or an international city, it is full of welcoming and interesting people who are a conversation away. So, my advice is to socialize as much as possible. It is true that in Ankara there isn’t as much variety as there is in Istanbul, but here you could find the most loyal and real friends or even the love of your life, trust me, it is about to notice what is invisible at first sight.

Note: I’ll leave the country once I finish my internship, but If you are new in Ankara and want to keep learning about Turkey from my perspective I will be happy to share it with you through my Instagram @yapraksarmasilover. Now you also know one of my favorite turkish meals.


Further reading on Ankara 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Crispy Ankara Air

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