Like many capitals globally, Ankara is often stereotyped as a gray, solemn, and lifeless city but ask any local, and they will vehemently refute all those claims.
As Turkey’s second-largest city, Ankara is the place many Turks (from across the country) and expats call home. It is also a cosmopolitan city of students with 19 universities in operation.
Although it is not touristic in the traditional sense and does not exactly have the best nightlife, Ankara makes up for over 50 museums, 5 orchestras, and dozens of exhibitions and fairs year-round.
Is Ankara the right fit for you? Let’s see.
Retiring in Ankara
Ankara may be a good choice for you if you crave simplicity and quiet but still want to be in a big city. It is not as crowded or hectic as Istanbul, which makes retiring in Ankara a more laid-back experience.
Thanks to a high concentration of diplomatic personnel, international businesses, and schools, you will be able to hear languages other than Turkish on the streets. However, English speakers are mostly limited to working professionals and students. Learning Turkish will drastically improve your quality of life.
Ankara’s expat community may not be as developed as Istanbul or Turkish resort towns. Still, if you come from an educational or diplomatic background, you will already have a vast network.
Concerts, shows, exhibitions, museums (including Anıtkabir, the final resting place of Atatürk, the founder of the republic), and landscapes, everything will be within your reach.
When it comes to the weather, you will get to experience all 4 seasons without fail – Ankara has actual winters with plenty of snow and arid summers.
Lifestyle in Ankara
If Istanbul is the beating heart of Turkey, Ankara is the head or brain. Owing to being a capital, you will find it somewhat organized, orderly, and bureaucratic.
If you like big cities and all the opportunities they offer but are not fans of chaotic traffic and noise, Ankara will be the happy medium.
The city is a vast transport network that makes it cheaper and time-saving to travel in the town. However, to get to more remote locations outside the city center, you will need a car.
If you are looking for educational, cultural, and artistic opportunities and events, Ankara will be great for you.
If you want to feel nostalgic, head down to Ulus or the old town, and when you want vibrancy, head to Kızılay Square, where all the action happens.
Cost of Living in Ankara
The cost of living in Ankara is comparable to other major cities in Turkey like Istanbul or Izmir. However, Ankara is much more affordable when it comes to housing – it doesn’t have the sky-high prices of Istanbul or inflated prices in Izmir. You can find decent apartments to rent for TL 1,500-2,500 in more central areas and TL 1,000- 1,500 in less prominent places, making it around 30-40% cheaper than Istanbul.
As with other metropolises in Turkey, the national minimum wage (around $380) will not be enough to get by on your own if you are paying rent. Although salary-wise, you will be earning less than your Istanbul counterparts, as your cost of living is lower, you’ll be able to make more of it. Public transport is moderately priced, with a single fare costing around TL 3,50.
5 Things You’ll Love about Ankara
- Best of both worlds
If living in a mega-metropolis like Istanbul or New York (or the traffic) scares you, but small towns bore you to death, Ankara can be the answer. You have an array of schools, ample job opportunities, student-friendly areas, and artistic events, but when you feel the city is too much, you can hop on a train or drive to the suburban locations or lakes to get a dose of nature.
- Smart schools
Ankara has some of the top schools, colleges, and universities in the country and the world. Whether you seek private or public educational institutions or those that teach in English, you will have an award-winning selection to choose from and at various price points.
- Historical roots
Ankara boasts a history that dates to the Bronze Age and has seen countless civilizations rise and fall over millennia. From the ancient city of Gordion, the prehistoric settlement of Yassıhöyük to the Hittite caves in Güdül and the Ankara Castle, you will always have historical places to visit and remnants to see at museums or on your drive to the suburbs.
- Heart of performing arts
Interested in going to the theater, opera or ballet is a must for everyone living in Ankara. The selection of bookstores is also indeed to pleasantly surprise you. Not only is Ankara the capital for performing arts and literature and attracts world talent, but tickets for such events are also relatively cheap, making it affordable even if you are on a student budget.
- Central as can be
Ankara is the very definition of central. Not only situated right in the middle of Turkey, but it also has many transport options that reach every corner of the country. From the high-speed train to Eskişehir and Istanbul to the famed Eastern Express for a fairytale ride, you can easily sneak in a weekend trip to neighboring cities when in Ankara.
5 Things I Wish I’d Known before Moving to Ankara
- Introvert vs. extrovert
Although the capital has many events that are great opportunities to meet new people and make friends, as many places shut early, it is harder to meet up than Istanbul or Bodrum. However, if you meet the right people and make an effort and plan, you will have no problem creating your new social circle.
- No humidity
If you have hair that puffs up in the slightest of humidity in the air, you may appreciate Ankara’s dry air. However, no humidity means more rapid and sudden temperature changes, meaning you can be in a tank top during the day and need a puffer coat by evening.
- Having a car
If you want to visit some of the more secluded or undiscovered gems in Ankara, you will, unfortunately, need your car and be ready to spend at least an hour or 2 driving. Although traffic is pretty much non-existent compared to Istanbul, people do sometimes complain about oft-confusing routes.
- Limited greenery
Much like Istanbul, green areas in Ankara are limited. However, university campuses in the capital are so vast and verdant that many think they make up for it. If you feel bored and craving to see some foliage, head to the Beytepe or ODTÜ (Middle East Technical University) campuses for some peace. The national botanic garden is a stone’s throw away.
Being a city in the midlands means not having access to the sea. So, if you want to wake up to sea views and smell the salt in the air like Izmir or coastal Antalya, you may be disappointed. The capital does have the Ankara Stream and Lake Eymir for those who want to be close to water.
5 Nearby Towns to Visit
- Beypazarı - Ankara
- Nallıhan - Ankara
- Gölbaşı -Ankara