Turkey – the country where the Eastern and Western cultures meet – is a dream destination for those with a curiosity about its rich history, ancient cities, and a taste of tropical beaches. From the soaring Byzantine dome of Aya Sofya to the romantic and mysterious Lycian ruins on Mediterranean beaches, Turkey has more than its fair share of world-famous ruins and monuments worth catching a glimpse of.
If you’re planning on visiting Turkey, you’re probably wondering: What currency does Turkey use? After all, money makes the world go round, and getting familiar with the Turkish currency, exchange rates, prices, and other money matters will help you spend wisely and make the most out of your trip.
Tune in for some practical money tips and a comprehensive guide to the official Turkish currency - the Turkish Lira.
People often ask: What is Turkish money called? The official currency of Turkey is the Turkish Lira (Türk Lirası), abbreviated TRY, although sometimes you may still see the old abbreviation of TL. The symbol of the Turkish lira is ₺. Known as “the new Turkish lira”, it replaced the old currency that automatically made everyone a millionaire - the current Turkish Lira is equivalent to one million old Turkish Liras (TL).
In other words, six zeros were dropped from the old TL. Note that you should never accept pre-2005 Turkish Lira notes —the ones with lots of zeros, as they were withdrawn from circulation and are no longer valid for payment. Even though it might seem tempting, that old 1 million TL banknote won’t even buy you a cup of the famous Turkish coffee and are worthless, except for their curiosity or collectors’ value.
Turkey, as a country, has a long, turbulent history, and its currency is no different. Since it was introduced as the official currency of Turkey, the Turkish Lira has gone through many changes. Turkish Lira was introduced as a currency in 1923 for the first time, replacing the former Ottoman lira - the currency of the Ottoman Empire.
Following the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, the Ottoman Lira became known as the “Turkish Lira”. The first version of the currency remained reasonably stable until the 1970s when inflation began to devalue it quickly. In 2005, they devalued the Lira due to high inflation.
ince 2005, the “new” Turkish lira has been relatively stable. After the devaluation, the new lira was abbreviated as YTL (Yeni Türk Lirası). However, since 2009, the “Yeni” or “New” preposition was dropped, and it was once again named simply Turkish Lira, just like it did when it was first introduced. The difference is, of course, the value, but also the new currency abbreviation - TRY.
Turkey banknotes come in six denominations - 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, and 200 lira. The Turkish lira is further divided into 100 kuruş with coins in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25, and 50, although both lira and kuruş in denominations of 1 are very rare. Each note is of unique color, but be careful not to mix things up – the 5 lira and 50 lira banknotes are remarkably similar.
One of the most common questions asked by people planning on visiting Turkey for the first time, is: “What currency should I use in Turkey?” The best currency to use in Turkey is the Turkish Lira (TRY) and the prices stated in that currency are usually the lowest. The second-best is Euro, and then the US Dollar.
The Euro and USD are widely accepted in tourist areas. However, the rate that you will be given will likely be much worse than the actual value of the Euro or USD, which means that you will lose a lot of money by paying with Euros in Turkey. So, it’s best to use the local currency – the Turkish Lira as you will get more value for your money.
You should always have Turkish liras on hand when you’re out and about in Turkey, as you’re bound to run into situations where your credit cards won’t be accepted. Cafes, street-food kiosks, and small shops are mostly cash only. Larger stores are likely to take cards but some of the best experiences, like shopping in the Grand Bazaar, are cash only. So, make sure to get some Turkish liras before you set off on your journey.
However, it’s advised to avoid carrying large amounts of cash on you while you’re exploring this beautiful country, as tourists are often the target of pickpocketing, especially in tourist areas of Istanbul.
Currently, 1.00 USD amounts to 17.254569 TRY. Of course, exchange rates can vary and fluctuate due to many factors on a day-to-day basis, so make sure you keep an eye on the US Dollar to Turkish Lira exchange rates before you travel to Turkey for precise information. You can always use our currency converter.
The story of the Turkish lira symbol coming to life is quite interesting. Did you know that the Lira’s symbol was the result of a contest? The Central Bank of the Republic of Türkiye (CBRT) organized a competition for the Turkish lira sign to further enhance the prestige and raise worldwide recognition of the Turkish lira. After some revisions to the winning design, the eye-catching ₺ symbol has been chosen to represent the Turkish currency.
However, it’s not all bout aesthetics – the Turkish lira symbol has a story to tell. The anchor-like sign emphasizes that the Turkish lira has become a monetary "safe haven", while the upward-pointing parallel lines symbolize the "steadily rising value" of the Turkish lira and the Turkish economy. Fascinating, right?
Did you know all of the Lira banknotes feature the image of the same man - Mustafa Kemal Atatürk? Atatürk was the founder of the modern Republic of Turkey and also its first president and has been regarded as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century. His face appears on the front of each Turkish banknote, however, on the back of the bills are images of different prominent historical figures in Turkey.
The Turkish currency was once valued so low that the Guinness Book of World Records listed it as the “Least Valued Currency” not just once, but on two separate occasions - from 1995 to 1996 and from 1999 to 2004.
The wealth of history and culture and of course, the breathtaking beaches that glow in the sun make Turkey one of the most popular traveling destinations. Turkey is also a real bargain for US travelers. You’ll pay significantly less for accommodations, sightseeing tours, and food.
However, if you are sticking to a budget, there are certain ways to save some Turkish liras while visiting. Read on for some tips o how to keep cash in your pocket:
Saving lots of money on accommodation in Turkey is possible. Firstly, when you choose to travel to Turkey will make a big difference. The high season in Turkey is July to August – it’s when accommodation rates and prices in general shoot through the roof. Your destination will also play a large role in hotel and other accommodation prices. Opting for self-catering apartments or hostels is also a great way to save money while in Turkey.
Many people assume the petrol prices in Turkey to be low but that is not the case. That’s why it’s best to avoid renting a car and opt for bus transportation instead! Apart from maybe longer journey times, there is no downside to using the public transportation system in Turkey. If you take the bus or Metro, you can save a lot of money, and you’ll experience authentic local vibes!
The same advice applies to Turkey as most other tourist destinations – eat where the locals eat and you’ll not only save money but also get a taste of authentic traditional cuisines. You might be skeptical about the street food at first, but you can get some really yummy and affordable deals this way.
Bargaining is a way of life in Turkey – it’s part of tradition and culture. Not only bargaining or haggling can be fun but it can also help you get the best prices when visiting, marketplaces and souvenir shops.
So, if you’re planning on traveling to Turkey on a budget, practicing your poker face beforehand might be a good idea. Also, make sure you always have smaller denominations of Turkish lira for tips, fares, and your bargains, and remember to always show respect to the Turkish salesmen.
Although you can pay with USD in some places, you’ll always get a better deal paying in the local currency – the Turkish lira (TRY), when in Turkey. If you don’t want to lose money on bad exchange rates and high local fees, you should buy your Turkish Lira before setting out to see all this mesmerizing country has to offer.
US First Exchange – your gateway to world currencies – is the fastest and most secure option for exchanging exotic currencies at the most competitive rates. Simply order your Turkish liras and we will deliver them right to your doorstep within 24 - 48 hours or transfer them electronically.
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