When Mancunian Stephen Wright made a permanent move to Side, Antalya 13 years ago there was little information around about what to expect. With only the memory of a Turkish holiday in Side in the 1980s to go by, it was with some trepidation that the retiree packed his life into a container and boarded a flight.
We ask Stephen about his experiences - and for his top tips on retiring in Antalya
What made you move to Turkey?
When my retirement was on the horizon I started to look into where my pension would do best. At that time properties and living costs in Antalya
were very cheap, and travel links [linking Turkey and the UK] were among the best in Turkey. I’d had a holiday in Side, along the coast, about 15 years beforehand, so I thought I’d give it a go.
Did you buy or rent?
I bought an apartment straight away, a two-bedroom property in Side Antalya
near the beach that was ready to move into. A lot of people say you should rent first but I didn’t want the hassle of moving twice and I felt sure I was doing the right thing.
What visa do you hold?
I have a residence permit
. When I moved here it was a bit of a lengthy process to get the permit, but these days the rules have changed and if you buy a property you are entitled to a year’s permit and the process is fairly straightforward. After that you just renew each year. Turkish residence permits vary from a year to five years. You can also get one if you’re renting. The cost of the permit varies, from region to region, so it’s best to look online.
Well, yes and no. When I first arrived I had health cover - which was excellent. But when I reached 65 as is standard I was not able to renew my private policy. Fortunately by that time the national health scheme, the SGK [Social Security Institution] was in place and I was able to join that. The scheme is voluntary and you need to have some quite thorough tests before you are accepted, and pre-existing conditions aren’t covered so you do need to be think about that.
There are a lot of good hospitals and medical centres in Antalya, and there are no waiting times to see a doctor or for surgery. Costs are very reasonable, but can vary so that’s another thing you’ll need to check before moving here.
How does your UK pension fare in Turkey?
Very well, although costs have risen since I moved here 13 years ago, of course. I have a very good lifestyle that I certainly wouldn’t be able to sustain back in Manchester. I eat out a lot - you can get a decent meal at a cafe-style eatery for four or five euros, local ingredients like vegetables, milk, eggs and bread are cheap. It’s when you start buying imported goods that your grocery bill starts to hurt. I pay around 65 euros a month for utilities, and around 25 Euros for internet. It’s less than a euro to catch the bus and taxis are cheap. Rent of course is cheap if you’re renting long term. My biggest expense is flying back to the UK semi regularly to see family as I have two sons and three grandchildren back there. Cars and fuel are more expensive than the UK, which is unfortunate. I do have a car but I prefer to get around by dolmus [local bus] as much as I can because it’s so cheap and easy.
What’s the most challenging aspect of living in Antalya?
Learning Turkish has been a struggle. I’m now proficient enough to deal with day-to-day life but at first it was very difficult to do everyday things like visit the bank. Increasingly however, Turks speak very good English, especially in the larger centres.
What are the positives of living in Antalya?
Like everyone says, the lifestyle. It’s just unbeatable. Low cost of living, permanent sunshine - I live in shorts and t shirts almost all year round - friendly people, it’s easy to get around, good medical care - I feel like living here is a world away from where I grew up and spent my life working. I’ve taken up golf [nearby Belek is a world-class golfing centre
] and go hiking in the hills and along the coast. I’m not quite agile enough to ski but both my sons and their families have come out during the winter and done skiing holidays.
What do you do during the day?
I play golf at least once a week, Belek is about a 40 minute drive away. There are a few expat clubs, including a walking club that I go out with regularly, and a book club which a friend of mine started. Of course there’s the beach, cafes - it’s a hard life! I also have a rental apartment that I bought in 2008 that I rent out during the summer. I manage that myself so the summer season can be busy for me. I have noticed that the season seems to extend a little each year so at some point I probably will get some help with that.
What financial implications do you need to consider when moving to Turkey?
Make sure all your standing orders and direct debits are cancelled, and consider downsizing or amalgamating your accounts to minimise fees. It’s worth opening a bank account in Turkey for your day-to-day transactions. If you are renting out your property back home you will need to consider how you’ll manage that. Also, don’t forget that if you’re earning a UK pension you will be subject to the whims of the currency rates. At the moment it’s very good, much better than Eurozone countries, I know several people who have had to leave their retirement homes in Spain due to the devaluing of the Euro. You have to bear that in mind. It’s unlikely that the same will happen here but nothing is certain. You will also need to look into your tax status, I am not taxed on my UK pension but I’m not sure what it’s like for other countries.
Is there much crime where you live?
No. It’s a very quiet place to live, with little crime. There is the odd burglary, and like most tourist areas you do get the odd conman but the locals are pretty quick to see them off. Overall it’s a safe place to live.
What would you have done differently if you could?
I would have made an effort to learn some Turkish if I could have done. Also, I wouldn’t have bothered shipping my furniture out if I’d known that furniture and the goods I brought from home would be so cheap here. I also had a few problems at customs and had to pay some tax. The time and the effort involved just wasn’t worth it. If I was doing it all again I’d just bring the maximum I could on the flight and either buy new furniture or pick up some secondhand goods from someone leaving the country.
What advice would you like to give others hoping to retire to Antalya?
I think a lot of people don’t realise how hot it can get here in the summer months
. In July and August it’s almost too hot to go out in the middle of the day. Some expats prefer to go back to their home countries during this time.