Singapore and Istanbul are both international cities on the rise, with growing business presence, expat relocation, and interesting East-West hybrid cultural histories, but there are few other similarities between them.
Istanbul is generally seen as more of a tourist destination. The city is often wins tourism and travel awards. However, there are still vast career development opportunities in the city.
If the opportunity to move from one to another, or to choose between them, comes up – understanding the difference in cost of living is crucial.
For the most part, Istanbul is significantly less expensive than Singapore. A range of sources place the difference at anywhere from 43-51% less.
The Turkish Lira is the equivalent of .43 Singapore dollars. According to www.numeo.com, you would need around $3,500 (7,121TL) in Istanbul to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with $8,200 in Singapore (assuming you rent in both cities).
For the purposes of this article, cost comparisons will be in Singapore dollars.
Taxation also makes an impact. In Turkey, foreigners are considered tax residents once they have been living in the country for more than 6 months, or if they maintain a residence there.
The tax rate is progressive, ranging from 15-35%, and based on a variety of factors including length of residency and income. It is also important to note that certain bonuses and other forms of compensation may be counted as taxable income. Read here for a more in-depth guide.
One of the first things that will make an impact is the way the differences between living styles change expenses. Both Singapore and Istanbul offer a diversity of character when it comes to housing and neighbourhood structures, including large landed houses, small local flats, villas, and everything in between.
Expats and foreigners live in all parts of Istanbul, with two significant areas being Beyoglu and Sariyer, where a number of foreign consulates, schools, and hospitals are located. Finding a flat can be challenging, but here is a useful site to start your search.
Expats in Istanbul often choose to live in “Sites.” The “Site” (pronounced seet-ay) is a housing estate community – and can come in many varieties. Location, age, square footage, and amenities – especially parking, which is at a premium in both cities – all have a variable affect on rates.
Regardless, monthly rents in Istanbul are about 65-75% less expensive than those in Singapore when looking at the same relative size and proximity to the city center.
For a larger apartment downtown, the price in Istanbul is S$1400, drastically lower than the Singapore standard of S$4500. The same size flat in a neighbourhood with a longer commute illustrates the same range, costing around $800 in Istanbul and $2800 in Singapore.
Studio flats follow the same trend. In Istanbul, the cost for a small apartment in one of the more desirable areas downtown will go for around S$1100. That same flat would rent for around $3100 in Singapore.
Farther outside of Istanbul, that flat is $500 a month, and in Singapore $2100.
Public transportation in Istanbul is very robust. With buses, trains, and boats, it is the most prevalent way that people travel throughout the city. Many locals and long-term expats also appreciate the more regular forms of transportation because the city’s traffic can become quite unbearable and lead to long delays.
Average ticket prices for these services, again, are less expensive than in Singapore. The equivalent of a monthly train pass will cost around $75 in Istanbul or $80 in Singapore.
Taxi rides, however, are more expensive in the Turkish city. With a standard 5km ride costing around $15 in Istanbul, the same trip in Singapore will only cost around $11.
It is likely that these costs are reflective of governmental disincentives for car ownership. Both cities prefer to limit car ownership, due to limited space, parking availability, access to maintain the roads, and petrol resources.
However, the cost differential is still quite significant. A mid-range, mid-sized sedan will cost around $41,000 – a cost which, while quite a hefty sum considering the pricing of other items in the area, is still very small compared to Singapore.
In the Lion City, that same car will cost closer to $135,000, even before petrol costs are taken into account.
If you are seeking to relocate to either Singapore or Istanbul with school age children, education expenses will be of significant concern. You should be sure to keep this in mind when negotiating your salary and relocation package.
Most expatriate families send their children to private international schools, which provide high level education that meets qualifications for most international certifications, including the IB, British GCE, O and A levels, and American Advanced Placement curriculum.
Though there is some range in each city, all this comes with a significant price tag. In 2016, a new student beginning in high school (grades 9-12) at the very well regarded Singapore American School would entail a S$51,000 tuition fee per year – not including books or activity fees.
However, Singapore does have an excellent public schooling program, with local students consistently ranking quite high in worldwide performance measures.
Many expatriate parents, especially those who are planning long-term stays, find it the best balance of price and value to send their children to local schools, where their child is also likely to develop a strong understanding of Mandarin Chinese, Malay, or Tamil – the other official languages of Singapore besides English.
Istanbul pricing, while slightly more reasonable, is still fairly high. And the options for well regarded international schools are more limited. A new high school student in the Istanbul International Community School faces tuition of about S$37,000.
Food and Drinks
Food and drinks in Singapore are, like many other things, more expensive than in Istanbul. The cafe culture means that the cost of a pint of beer remains cheap – $5.50 in Istanbul, to Singapore’s $11 or more.
Small markets scattered throughout the city help to keep costs low, especially with regard to produce. Turkey’s Mediterranean location makes it easy to grow fresh fruits and vegetables locally, so prices don’t including the global shipping fees that make their way into the cost of fresh food found in Singapore’s grocery stores.
Likewise, the dominance of the local Turkish cuisine means that the Western and foreign restaurants that are likely to charge more are few and far between.
Some other offhand sundries and items you might want to consider:
Pack of cigarettes:
Local Cheese (1kg):
Summer dress in a chain store:
One hour tennis court rental: