So you are traveling to Turkey, and you want to get first-hand information about how tech stuff works here? We explain what you will need to bring and what you can get easily here, and what you can do in case something goes wrong with your gear.
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Turkey, bridging Asia and Europe, conjures images of human history one can date in biblical terms. But its current population of 70 million is very young and dynamic. This young group (about half of Turkey's population is under 35) loves technology and therefore is considered as one of the primary markets by the hardware manufacturers.
However, the latest and the greatest hardware sometimes arrives a little late compared to the market at large due to some consumer protection laws we have. For example, in order to market anything in Turkey, you must offer a two year warranty. Nokia was the first to oppose this, and a couple of years ago was not able to get its phones through customs for more than 2 months. Then they revised their warranty terms to 2 years.
In this article, I will try to give you some practical information, which I think will be of use to you when you are in Turkey.
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Before coming here, be sure to have adapters/converters for your chargers and other electrical equipment. Turkey uses a single phase, 220 Volts, 50 Hertz electric system. I also suggest you take a surge protector with you to defend your equipment against sudden voltage changes. Better be safe than sorry.
There are large electronics shops in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, where they are on almost every corner. Outside Istanbul, there are some express shops in the cities or larger ones in shopping malls. The well known brands are Electroworld, Darty (international companies), Bimeks, TeknoSA, PC Gold and Vatan Computer (Turkish Companies), which are open 1000 - 2200 local time (10AM to 10PM, but you should get used to 24 clock while you're at it - Ed). As a traveler, I can advise you to prefer international first, and then Bimeks and TeknoSA. The manufacturers have international warranties, thus if you experience any problems with your hardware when you get back to your country, you should be fine with the warranty.
The prices are the same/a little bit higher compared to the United States, taking currency into account. The Turkish Lira is at an historic low relative to the US dollar, so non-tech goods and services are relatively an excellent deal. There are no mail-in rebates (except those HP tried to make for a couple of years, to no avail.) Before deciding to buy any hardware component, ask the final price, because there is an 18% Value Added Tax on electronics plus 8% Excise Tax. To draw customers, sellers are tempted to write prices excluding taxes and including a cash discount, so you might face ‘a little bit of’ 27.5% increase in the price when you are at the cash register presenting your credit card.
You will be able to find pretty much anything in the global electronics market in Istanbul's shops. The traveler’s urgent needs such as memory cards, USB sticks, portable disks, adapters etc. can be found everywhere and with very agreeable/world standard prices. However, certain brands are not available. For example, if you want to purchase Buffalo RAM for your computer, forget it. Buffalo is not in the Turkish market.
As I have mention in the introduction section, do not expect to find the latest and greatest hardware in Turkey. The manufacturers prefer to launch their products in the American or Asian market first (depending on where they are themselves located) and then to the European/Turkish markets. An example is the Acer Aspire One, 10" model, which launched in the U.S. on 10th February, but is still not available here as of March 16th. Turks are also still waiting for Android phones.
Mac users will be happy to find Apple Stores around Istanbul (the page that the link points to is in Turkish, you can request assistance from your hotel's reception desk.) However they are limited in number, so it will be wise to check the whereabouts of these Apple Shops around your hotel in advance.
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If you have any of your electronic items break down in Turkey, I strongly recommend you keep them and go to the repair shop back home. Turkish Laws dictate a maximum 30 business days of service time (which translates into 6 weeks, excluding any holidays) for electronics, and companies love to exploit this duration to the last minute (Personally I still do not understand why hardware vendors do not take advantage of this situation. The majority of the Turkish populations buying decisions are guided primarily by after-sales tech support; the price takes the third or fourth place.)
Personally (although I may be biased) I suggest you keep your Toshiba and Sony notebooks for repair back home. Toshiba has a heavens-forbid notebook service (they forgot one of the screws that hold the processor in place when they told me they repaired my notebook). Sony products are sold by everyone, so it is a matter of chance if you can find the right shop to repair your equipment, and be ready to pay immense amounts in Euros for a simple RAM change. Never mind the marketing stuff, this is right from the market. However, I can say that you will be able to receive good support from HP, and from Acer to some degree.
If you need professional data rescue from hard disks, there are professional companies. Considering that the worst happens, there are the companies Veri Kurtarim, Disk Analiz and Teknik Nokta which offer professional services in data recovery. The links presented point to their Contacts page so you can ask for assistance from your hotel’s reception desk to get in contact with them.
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The dominant (and monopolistic) internet service provider is Turk Telekom (TT). There are other ISPs as well, but they are resellers of TT.
Many coffee shops and restaurants offer free wireless Internet access, so you are not likely to face connection problems (you can always ask the waiter/waitress about the password.) Do not expect them to be knowledgeable about tech issues, the most likely answer to any of your wireless connection questions will be to use Windows XP SP2! Moreover, many of the hotels offer wireless connectivity free of charge to the customers (not like Switzerland where they charge you by the hour.) If every attempt fails, just go to an Internet Café; there is one in almost every street. By the way, if you get extremely bored and can not think of anything to do, many of these Internet Cafés offer PS2 and rarely PS3 games on the network. Satisfy your inner gamer at the crossroad of the continents: Istanbul!
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Cell Phones & BlackBerry Use
There are three cell phone carriers in Turkey: Turkcell (dominant, private company, listed on NYSE), Vodafone (2nd place, world-known) and Avea (3rd place, partly State investment.) Upon landing in Istanbul, you will be greeted with lots of Turkcell advertisements. Turkcell offers the best service amongst the three but has the highest prices.
Cell phone coverage is quite nice, but your cell phone should be capable of working with 900/1800 Megahertz GSM band. There is GPRS/EDGE service available, but 3G is not implemented yet. After June/July 2009, we expect 3G coverage, but at sky high prices.
BlackBerry access is offered by all three carriers so you should have no problems cramping your thumbs.
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Turkey a Comfortable Visit for Tech
As mentioned in the Intro section, I do not expect you to have fundamental problems with your computing and electronic devices here in Turkey. Especially in Istanbul, the market and infrastructure are very well developed and shouldn't hamper your use of modern electronic devices while you enjoy one of the oldest cities in the world.