What Does The Turkish Currency Devaluation Mean For Travelers?

Filed Under: Advice, Travel

You may have read in the news over the weekend that the Turkish currency, the ‘Lira,’ has dramatically devalued. A week ago, one US Dollar bought approximately five Turkish Lira. Today, one US Dollar will buy almost seven Turkish Lira, so that represents an increase of about 40%.

This represents the lowest the Lira has ever been valued against the US Dollar.

US Dollar to Turkish Lira chart over the past week (the plateau from the 11th to the 13th August represents where the markets were closed over the weekend) (Source: XE)

I won’t delve deeply into the reasons for this currency devaluation, as it’s not really related to miles and travel (and you’ll notice I choose not to write about politics), but you can read about it here if you are interested.

But what is relevant is what it means for those traveling to Turkey, especially those considering buying airfares from Turkey.

Cheap flights from Istanbul

Where there is a rapid currency change in the value of a currency, the price of anything priced in the local currency (in this case Turkish Lira) also rapidly changes, and airfares are no different.

You may remember many years ago there was a dramatic change in the currency of Myanmar/Burma, which resulted in very cheap premium fares for a limited time. That was not a devaluation, but rather that Myanmar decided to float their currency, and airline booking systems took quite some time to correctly price the new value of the currency, meaning savvy travelers could book cheap flights provided travel commenced from Yangon.

This devaluation is providing a similar benefit — there are currently a lot of cheap flights from Istanbul appearing in the fantastic Premium Fares forum on Flyertalk. You’re likely to see discounts of around 40% provided you are originating from Istanbul and paying in Turkish Lira. I won’t list every deal as there are very few that are astonishingly cheap, rather there’s a healthy discount on just about everything.

Now I would expect that each airline will move fairly quickly to either:

  • restrict payment in Turkish Lira, because the currency is so unstable, or else
  • reprice any fares in Lira at a higher amount, so they more equally reflect the price of the fare in other currencies.

But it may take them a few days to do this, so if you were every looking at flying anywhere ex-Istanbul and would like a good discount, now is an excellent time to book. Ben’s reviewed Turkish Airlines recently and had an excellent experience.

Turkish tourism

As you might have guessed, if you were visiting Turkey anytime soon and were going to convert your, say, US Dollars into Turkish Lira you will get approximately 40% more Lira than you would have a week ago. That would make the prices of things cheaper when spending them there, so its a great time to visit, at least financially.

Much like airline prices, local companies may raise their prices to compete as they are suddenly making less than they were a week ago for the same products. But again, I imagine they will be slow to make decisions on this.

Safety for tourists

Of course check your local government’s travel advice websites to determine the safety levels of visiting Turkey, as the political situation may change from day to day. With market instability may come political instability.

Since June 28 of this year, the US Government has classified Turkey as Level 3: Reconsider Travel. As a point of comparison, the UK Government has not issued a travel warning for most of Turkey.

I’ve visited Turkey before and had a wonderful experience which I’ve written about here. I found there were wonderful people, interesting history and architecture, beautiful beaches and great food. I would be comfortable visiting again now personally — the main thing that stops me visiting there regularly, is that there is an expensive tourist visa required for Australian passport holder.

Beautiful Istanbul

Bottom line

This situation continues to change by the day, and I don’t pretend to be any kind of expert on international markets or politics. But for those of us who love a great deal, whether it be a cheap airfare or a destination that is suddenly cheaper, if you are comfortable traveling to Turkey, then this is a great time to do so as there are deals to be had.

Despite the cheaper prices, I would expect tourism in Turkey to decrease because of this instability, so I do feel for the wonderful local Turkish people who may suffer reduced tourist numbers as well as reduced currency values.

Does a currency devaluation encourage you to visit a particular country?

  1. Great time to go for a short period of time between having good deals and people getting desperate that they resort to crimes.

    Let this be a lesson. Any country that turns to religion enmasse fails. Religious people are nutjobs that are better on the fringes of society.

  2. This is good news for me because I had to book a last minute trip to South Asia for a Family Emergency and since it’s currently summer last minute tickets were extremely pricey. I ended up booking a Turkish Airlines economy one way for travel on the 7th and arrival on the 8th (I was ironically on the flight that got damaged by the Royal Air Maroc Dreamliner from JFK at Istanbul) and a refundable Qatar airways economy ticket and my return is on Sunday. I was looking to cancel the booking and get a refund on the return portion of the trip and book something more cheaper (or in business class for the same price, last minute tickets are way to expensive). Hopefully this will price out good and we can take this instead (and this time not get hit by another plane 🙂

  3. @James

    Great article! Have been following the economic situation for a while and for the last 10 days or so, the massive deterioration of their currency and was wondering how it will affect traveling to or through Turkey.

    Also, do you think this will have a major impact on their planned opening of the new Istanbul Airport. Supposed to open in about 2 months from now…

  4. @ kevin – I would not expect any immediately obvious effects except that when you exchange US Dollars for Lira you will receive more Lira that you would have a week ago.

  5. I was able to price out something in TRY on EK’s website earlier but now it seems like they deleted the option of paying in TRY in the payment page.

  6. Turkey was already dirt-cheap when I visited Istanbul on my stopover in June. 40% off just makes me feel like I’m ripping off the locals. With that said, if I had the time/opportunity, I’d absolutely jump on a trip to Turkey right now – I’ve been wanting to go back for a while. And, as a woman traveling alone, I felt perfectly safe during my stopover, though I stuck to the airport and the downtown/Old City.

  7. @ Anastasia – I visited Istanbul only a few months after the Arab Spring protests, and to be honest other than a few burn marks in Taksim Square, I didn’t even remember the protests had been on before I was there.

  8. @James – I also know a large number of Russian expats, all women, who have moved to Turkey (mostly Istanbul) and love it there. They don’t feel unsafe at all. Obviously, I exercise caution when traveling, but Turkey is not a place I’d be afraid to return to.

  9. @James

    How much do Aussies pay for a visa. I did the Evisa and it was $20 USD for multiple entry for American passport holders.

  10. Qatar Airways are no dummies when it comes to selling their tickets. The prices which last months were in Turkish Liras are now in USD. This being said, I MIGHT have considered a quick or even overnight transit at IST to catch them but the country has become FAR TOO DANGEROUS AND UNPREDICTABLE to consider any tourism there. These people are nuts. Anybody who doubts it, go see the old movie MIDNIGHT EXPRESS.

  11. Hotel rates in Turkey are very considerably higher now than they were during the prolonged security situation of a couple of years ago ( when rates were under €100, even for W and StR). Hotels continue to charge in Euros and will take a windfall profit in the event that tourist/business numbers remain reasonable.
    So while airfares look cheap, staying at a hotel is not suddenly a bargain…and particularly for those using currencies that have declined from the “flight to safety” boost in the USD as a consequence of the ‘trade war’, eg AUD, CAD, NZD, EUR, GBP.
    Of course, restaurants should me much cheaper….at least until inflation kicks in.
    This is going to be a miserable time for the Turkish people, thanks to this ” shoot from the hip” lunacy from the bloated horror in DC.

  12. @Pierre: It is obvious you have never been to Turkey or Istanbul so I would refrain from commenting on things you have no experience of. As for the Midnight Express reference, that is particularly laughable – even the author of the book the film is based in disowned the film as it was an offensive and untruthful depiction of Turkey – it was also a very longtime ago.

    I was there last August for a friends wedding – I am not Turkish and felt absolutely safe in Istanbul, including at night. Turkey has always been quite secure in this respect, it is common for families to picnic at night which I saw when I first visited 10 yrs ago. The government has also upped security with a visible light touch presence so your bag will be scanned entering underground transit stations etc but apart from that life goes on and it is a really lovely and fascinating city to visit, with great food and culture. I would absolutely encourage people to go and take advantage of the favourable exchange rate, especially for Brits where Europe is quite expensive now due to our own currency woes.

  13. Hi James, another wonderful article. Turkey is one of the most amazing countries I have visited. Have been there a couple of times, and the most impressive thing is the people – from the cities to the country. Warm hospitable and generous. And then there is Ephesus, Cappadocia, Pergamon, Istanbul (not Constantinople), Hagia Sophia . . . It goes on and on.

    I wish I had thought of cheap airfares and a revisit before I spent all my travel money on getting to Qantas’s platinum status during their double Status Credits offer.

    Surprised you didn’t write about it. Anyway it set me thinking about how much it costs to earn Platinum Status on Qantas. Points v costs are very inconsistent, however I did find one airfare that gave me a Status Credit Point for AU$6 instead of the usual AU$16.


  14. @vicnc

    Trust me I have… and far too often. Oh the things one has to go through for earning one’s living… But I would not have more the idea to go to Turkey on vacation than I would to Liberia or Equatorial Guinea.

  15. Where do you see the chance for cheap flights?
    All tariffs are priced in GDS in USD and not Turkish lira.

  16. Turkey is going through what the US will go through in about ten years if Trump and Republicans remain in power. While Turks are dumb to support Erdogan, Americans are even dumber.

  17. Not true at all this.

    I fly TK Biz between IST and Asia every two months on average.
    A week ago the IST-SIN/HKG tickets were 12,500 TRY semi-flex biz return (at the time about 2500 USD), now any date I search in the coming months is at 20,500 TRY (which is about 3000 USD).
    So they are adapted prices and even increasing them to make up for other losses.

  18. @ Pierre

    “Anybody who doubts it, go see the old movie MIDNIGHT EXPRESS.”

    Quite right. Just as the old movie MISSISSIPPI BURNING is in fact a documentary showing what it’s like to visit the USA today; while ELIZABETH shows just how dangerous it is for Catholics to visit England.

  19. Hi Ben,
    You might be right, except all intl airfares and taxes are based on either USD or EUR, so that will not be any cheap fare for any intl flight you would look for.
    On the other hand domestic fares are based on TRY which would result as the discount you refer to.

  20. @ Henry – have a look at the Premium Fare Deals link in the article. If you can manage to price it in Lira you may be able to ticket it cheaper but as I said, this situation changes by the day.

  21. @Pierre: You are quite clearly lying, the way you present Turkey is not anything anyone who’s actually been there would recognise including James. When you bullsh*t you get found out, and you have just been found out!

  22. I think your math is wrong. If a dollar used to buy five lira and now buys seven, everything will be 28% cheaper, not 40%. A 10 lira item used to cost $2, now costs $1.42, that’s not 40% off.

  23. @Pierre, I wanted to reply but @The nice Paul already addressed that. Just go through other reviews and you will see how others see tourism in Turkey, unless you have certain bias against this beautiful country.

    @Paolo, agree with you. My wife and children visited Turkey last month and found the hotels in Istanbul were not cheap at all. You can get better deals if you visit areas not usually visited by tourists but then it does not make any sense. Tourism has picked up and there are Russians and other folks from other parts of the world visiting Turkey. It has definitely rebounded as compared to a year ago. Only time will tell how they cope with the current financial crisis.

  24. Hi James, for a long time now international airfares originating in Turkey are filed in USD and if sold in Turkey, converted to Lira at the time of sale, this negates the effect of currency fluctuations on what’s considered a relatively unstable currency. Only domestic fares within Turkey are filed and quoted in Lira.

  25. Now may be a good time to travel. You can get even cheaper prices! It is very interesting to see the graph and watch how suddenly the devaluation of the Lira happened.

  26. To paraphrase:”Ben flew Turkish recently and had a great experience”. A 2-3-2 Configuration in Business Class is not Excellent (unless the pic is not indicative).

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *