After spending a month as a digital nomad in Izmir and then moving to Serbia for another month, I initially planned to choose Istanbul as my next home base until just a few days before my arrival back to Turkiye, the Airbnb host that I booked canceled on me. And when I tried to find another apartment through the platform, I couldn't find any apartment in Istanbul, not even a studio, that cost less than $700 USD per month.
So after a few considerations before traveling back to Turkiye, I decided to find a place for me to stay outside Istanbul as a digital nomad. Somewhere that is not too far from Istanbul that I can travel back and forth on a day trip to the big city, but with more budget-friendly rent for my accommodation. And that's when I decided to book a place in Yalova, a city I never knew existed before I moved there earlier this year.
What You Need to Know About Yalova
Turkiye has gained popularity as a digital nomad destination in the past few years. Not only do they have the advantage of having a strategic location with Istanbul being a city that splits Europe and Asia continent, the inflation of the local currency, Turkish lira, has made it an affordable place to live for those who earn foreign currencies like USD or Euro.
Well, the currency might have been through a severe devaluation in the past few years, but not the price of real estate in Turkiye. Especially not in big cities like Istanbul or Izmir. Due to the unstable situation with the Turkish lira, many landlords prefer foreign currencies for rent, and you can notice the increasing rent tremendously in some popular digital nomad destinations like Istanbul or Antalya.
Compared to its neighboring big cities like Istanbul or Bursa, Yalova is still developing as a city. So, while you may have limited options in terms of activities and entertainment in the city, Yalova is a suitable option if you prefer living somewhere that isn't so crowded but offers a decent infrastructure.
On top of that, its location is quite close to both Bursa and Istanbul, making it easy for you to go on a day trip to either city if you're in the mood for some good big city vibes.
Yalova City Guide for Digital Nomads
Unlike more popular small cities in Turkiye, like Selcuk with Ephesus or Eskisehir with their Midas Monument, you may not find Yalova listed as one of the must-visit spots in the country. However, if you're a digital nomad that enjoys working from home and strolling around and getting to know the local life, Yalova can be an alternative place for you to stay in Turkiye.
During summertime, Yalova is often a weekend getaway destination for people in Istanbul. Located in the eastern coast of the Marmara Sea, it is mostly known for its famous thermal water. On top of that, some areas also offer natural green scenery with mountainous views mixed with the coast's beauty.
During my stay as a digital nomad in Yalova, I rented an apartment in a small town called Cinarcik. During the wintertime, the population of Cinarcik is approximately only 9,000, while the whole province of Yalova only has around 200,000 in total. Almost 10 times less populated than the big city of Istanbul!
Despite that, it is known that Cinarcik usually experiences an influx of visitors during summer as the town is known for being an excellent camping site for people in the neighboring cities. From the sound of it, Cinarcik sounds like an isolated place to be a digital nomad. However, you can easily find an apartment with a decent internet connection, and the monthly rent is cheaper than in Istanbul!
So, here's the city guide you need to know about Yalova as a digital nomad!
Where is Yalova?
Yalova is located in the northwestern part of Turkiye, which lies exactly in the middle between Istanbul and Bursa. For context, if you're planning to travel to Bursa from Istanbul by bus, the journey will take around 3 hours in total. If you take the bus from Yalova to Istanbul or Bursa, both routes will take approximately 1.5 hours one way.
Mostly known for its hot springs in the Termal district, Yalova and its surroundings are more popular for visitors during summer. When I decided to stay there during the winter, it was pretty much a dead tourist spot. Especially since I stayed at an apartment in Cinarcik, a small town around an hour from Yalova city center located on the coast with a mountainous background where I saw more stray dogs than actual people. 😅
How To Go To Yalova From Istanbul
There are a few alternatives to going to Yalova from Istanbul. Depending on the budget, you can even rent a car for a day trip from Istanbul to Yalova, or vice versa. But if you prefer a budget-friendly option, there are buses and ferry boats that connect both cities where you can get to your destination in less than two hours.
Bus from Istanbul Airport to Yalova
Now, in case you're not familiar with traveling to Istanbul yet, there are two operating airports in Istanbul: Sabiha Gokcen Airport (SAW) on the Asian side of the city and Istanbul Yeni Havalimani or Istanbul New Airport (IST) in Europe.
When I traveled to Yalova for the first time, my flight landed in Sabiha Gokcen. But since my flight to Jakarta was from Istanbul New Airport, I traveled to the latter from Yalova at the end of my trip to Turkiye earlier this year.
Despite being familiar with the bus transportation in Turkiye, I didn't book my ticket in advance since I was too afraid that my flight would get delayed or something. Instead, I went across the arrival gate at Sabiha Gokcen airport to ask about the best way to travel to Yalova from the airport.
The bus staff told me that I would have to take the bus to Esenler bus station first, before transferring to another bus to Yalova. I paid 125 TL (around $7 USD) for the bus, and the staff directed me to the bus attendant, who showed me how to get to the right bus.
The first bus that I took from Sabiha Gokcen airport to Esenler otogar was Havabus. As opposed to Havaist bus from the new airport on the European side of Istanbul, Havabus is the transfer service available in Sabiha Gokcen airport throughout Istanbul.
From Esenler, I had to transfer to another bus, Istanbul konfor, to go to Yalova. I stopped at Yalova otogar, and grabbed a cab that took me to my apartment in Cinarcik. From Yalova otogar to Cinarcik area, it took around 30 minutes to an hour by car.
When I traveled to Istanbul New Airport from Yalova, there's a bit of difference in terms of the sequence in the transport, although I also took Istanbul konfor for this route.
I'm not sure if it works the same for all Yalova-Istanbul New Airport route, but from Yalova otogar, we headed straight to Sabiha Gokcen airport first. From Sabiha Gokcen, we transferred to a van instead of a bus like the previous one. We got on the van to our final destination at the new airport.
Bus from Istanbul to Yalova
Even if you're not planning to travel from or to the airport in Istanbul, you can still find a bus with the Istanbul-Yalova route. Since there are many bus stations or otogar in Istanbul, just make sure to find one that is closest to you and find the next bus that will stop in Yalova.
You can check booking websites like Obilet or Biletall to find the bus availability with the routes. The last time I tried to book through those websites, they could only accept Turkish banking cards. But the list of available buses there is usually accurate, so you can easily go to the nearest bus office to book a ticket to your destination there.
Due to the strategic location of Yalova, most of the buses that go from Istanbul to Bursa or vice versa usually stop by Yalova. So if you can find any bus that goes to Bursa from Istanbul, you can drop by and ask.
Ferry Boat from Istanbul to Yalova
The easiest and fastest way to travel from Istanbul to Yalova is by ferry boats, which will only take an hour for a one-way trip. On top of that, you can easily book the ticket online too.
Unlike Biletall or Obilet, the ferry boat that offers services from Istanbul to Yalova and vice versa, IDO, enables its customers to book the ticket online through their official website. I've booked the ferry boat ticket online a few times with my Indonesian banking card with no problem.
The price may vary since it has a few classes based on the date of departure and when you book the ticket. If you book a ticket through the ticket counter at the ferry terminal, you may also get a discount if you don't mind sharing your phone number.
From Istanbul, book a ferry boat ticket from Yenikapi ferry terminal to Yalova. If you have any issues booking the ticket online, there's also a self-service ticket machine where you can book the ticket automatically without having to go to the ticket counter. However, when I tried to use the ticket machine earlier this year, the service was only available in Turkish.
If this is the case, don't forget to take the queueing number first to get to the ticket counter. This is important, especially when the ferry terminal is crowded since the ticketing staff will not entertain you without having the proper queueing number.
Among all the options to travel from Istanbul to Yalova, ferry boat is my favorite because not only is it quite affordable, it also offers the best access in both cities.
The IDO ferry boat terminal in Yalova is located across from Star Mall, a mall not so far from Yalova city square. It's also next to the bus terminals that connect you throughout the city in Yalova. Yenikapi, on the other hand, has terrific access that connects you to most areas in Istanbul. The metro station is only walking distance from the ferry terminal, so is the bus stop. And you can easily find the automatic ticket machine to top up your Istanbulkart to get around the city.
Apart from being the fastest way to travel from Istanbul to Yalova, if I compare the bus ticket to the ferry boat ticket price, the latter is more affordable, especially if you could get a promo price or a discount.
They also provide a spacious shelf for your baggage and belongings, making it a convenient way to travel even if you have a big suitcase with you.
Car Rent from Istanbul to Yalova
While it is possible to rent a car from Istanbul to Yalova or vice versa, I would say this should be your last option because of how overpriced it could get. I had no choice but rented a taxi from Yalova to Istanbul when I had to go to Ankara during the snowstorm in Istanbul and its surrounding in January.
Due to the weather, all buses and ferry boats to Istanbul were canceled or sold out so I had to rent a cab to get to Istanbul on time since I had to catch the train to Ankara later that day. I paid 1000 TL (around $56 USD), and I didn't even get to the train station with that price.
With that price, the cab driver only took me to Kocaeli and dropped me off at the Marmaray station, Osmangazi, so I could take the train to Halkali train station. However, it has given me some perspective and knowledge to share with you about renting a car from Yalova to Istanbul or the other way around.
According to the cab driver that I hired, there are at least two ways to go to Istanbul from Yalova by car. The first one would go through the Bosphorus bridge, and the other way is to get on a ferry boat to Kocaeli and continue to Istanbul from there.
During the snowstorm, the ferry boat from Yalova to Yenikapi was canceled, and the only available ferry boat was the one to Kocaeli. The ticket for a car from Yalova to Kocaeli was 400 TL (around $22 USD). So for the price that I paid to rent the cab, only 600 TL was for the driver.
Why is Yalova suitable for digital nomads?
I can be biased when I say this, but I would choose any other cities in Turkiye other than Istanbul for so many reasons. Not only that I just can't stand Istanbul crowds, but also because of how full of scams the city is.
I remember I met a couple of Indonesian friends there, and they complained about how expensive things got in Istanbul, even for daily groceries, when I don't think I've experienced it that bad either in Yalova or Izmir.
So, here are a few reasons why Yalova might be a good place to consider for you if you decide to get on a digital nomad journey in Turkiye!
1. Yalova offers fair-priced real estate options.
Since the city is still developing, real estate in Yalova isn't too expensive. Whether you want to buy an apartment or rent one, Yalova has many options with a fair price. Some even come with a proper work office with the rent far below Istanbul's standard.
The apartment that was canceled before my arrival in Istanbul costs $500 USD per month for a studio apartment. I got a super spacious 2-bedroom apartment in Cinarcik with a huge living room with a dining table that I can use for work with the same price!
If you plan to make yourself at home without spending much time socializing, Yalova can be a good alternative. Especially during the wintertime, when the city is rather quiet. As I stayed in Cinarcik, it was basically dead since I could barely find a restaurant nearby past 7 in the evening.
2. Yalova has relatively decent infrastructure for a small city.
A streamlined public transportation system like in big cities like Istanbul or Ankara is certainly out of the question. However, despite being a small city, you can still get around on a budget using public transportation in Yalova.
Although they don't have a public bus like big cities, dolmus or minivans served as public transportation is available in Yalova, which connects you to the surrounding towns around the province. I can speak for myself, since my apartment was located in Cinarcik, which is around 30 minutes by car or 15 km by distance.
Since my apartment's location was a bit secluded in Tesvikiye, I had to walk for around 1 km to the final bus stop in Cinarcik. From there, I had to take a dolmus to Cinarcik town square (merkezi) and transfer to another dolmus to Yalova. The dolmus will stop at the bus station near the ferry terminal in Yalova city center, and it will only cost you 10 TL (around $0.5 USD) per trip.
Alternatively, you can also use a cab which will cost you around 150 TL (around $8 USD) per trip. Since I stayed in Cinarcik, I have kept the Cinarcik taxi's phone number so I can easily call them when I need them.
When it comes to the internet connection, make sure to ask your landlord about the wifi connection in the property you're going to rent. This is important, since as a digital nomad, the last thing you want is to have limited connection when you've got lots of things to do at work.
I made sure of it with my landlord before my arrival, and I was amazed that the internet connection at my apartment was top-notch! During my stay in Turkiye, I also use Turkcell and I never got any problem with my mobile data during my stay in Yalova. If anything, I could even get a free wifi at Star Mall with my Turkcell number, so it's all good!
3. Yalova is a good place to experience local life in Turkiye.
One of the things that I realized when I compared living in Yalova and big cities like Izmir or Istanbul is that when you live in a place like Istanbul, you tend to get scammed a lot as a foreigner. Not to mention that there's a bigger chance you meet more people who are rude to you for no reason. That's something I can't cope with when I live in a big city.
When I met a couple of Indonesian friends who lived in Istanbul, they mentioned how the price of groceries could fluctuate at a glance there when it wasn't something that I experienced in Yalova despite the inflation.
One thing that you should take note of is that some basic Turkish can help you along the way. Whether you need a ride to the town square or just buy some produce at the local's farmer market, living in a small city like Yalova will be easier when you try to blend in.
For fruits and vegetables, I prefer going to the traditional market as I find fresh produce in Turkiye is top-notch! I don't know if it's just me, but I've never found any fruits and veggies better than the one I found in Turkiye. And they're super affordable too!
As I stayed in Cinarcik, I mostly went for groceries at Sok in Cirnarcik town square. It's a good place to buy something with a fixed price without having to get scammed as a foreigner or anything. I also went to some convenience stores in Cinarcik a few times.
Alternatively, when I felt like splurging on groceries, I went to a bigger supermarket in the city center. At Star Mall in Yalova city center, you could do your groceries at Carrefour. Since I spoke Turkish, the lady in the register even offered me the Carrefour membership card for an additional 2 TL (around $0.1 USD). With this membership, I could get a lower price for any products at Carrefour, which was quite convenient!
Also, Carrefour was super helpful when I needed a box to ship some stuff for my friend's parents, who lived in Ankara. Here's a life hack that I got from living in Turkiye, and it is that if you ever need a cardboard box in the country, just go to the nearest supermarket and ask the staff, “Karton alabilir miyim?” and they would direct you to a trolley full of them so you could choose any box you need for free!
4. Yalova is not so far from Istanbul.
It's all fun and game to live far away from the big city, until you realize that you miss the luxury that big cities can offer. As someone who comes from a big city, I could relate to this so much!
And this is why Yalova is a perfect spot to live. Because not only does it offer the laidback life that a small city can offer, but it's also relatively close to Istanbul when you're in the mood for big city life for a day. There are a few ferry boat trips from Yalova to Istanbul (and vice versa) daily, with the earliest ferry boat starting from around 7 in the morning.
Whether you need to head to the Asian side of Istanbul or the European side, you can book a ticket accordingly. From Yalova, you can book a ferry boat to either Pendik or Yenikapi. Both journeys will only take around an hour per trip, so you can easily go to Istanbul from Yalova for just a day trip without booking accommodation there.
5. Yalova is an excellent place to relax.
As a coastal town, you've never run out of places to stroll around in Yalova. You can spend your day having a relaxing walk by the sea while people-watching, and if you have time to go for the thermal bath, you can head over to have it in the Termal district.
In Cinarcik, besides strolling around the coast to enjoy the sea view, I was often accompanied by stray dogs that I treated like my very own during my stay in Yalova. We got so close to the point some of them literally always walked with me to my apartment whenever I came home from the city.
Along the coast, there are a few benches where you could also just sit down and enjoy the sunset. My experience in Cinarcik wasn't optimal as I went there during the low season, and I barely met anyone except for maybe taxi drivers there. And whenever I tried to relax, sometimes the weather wasn't too friendly that I chose to go back home instead.
But I imagine life in Cinarcik will be much more fun during warm seasons!
Final Verdict: Living in Yalova as a Digital Nomad
As a digital nomad, I think your make-or-break would be your accommodation. If you rent an apartment, make sure to rent one that will be convenient for you with the adequate standard for the facilities, including internet connection and kitchen set.
I consider myself lucky as I stayed at a huge apartment by myself with top-notch facilities that make me feel home sooner than I thought I would. Also, since there's nothing much to do in Yalova, especially during wintertime, living in Yalova will be more bearable if you enjoy staying home.
If you're the kind of person who would prefer more social life, I would recommend finding a place to stay near the city center instead of in secluded areas like Cinarcik. Not only is it easier to get around, you can still find small nightclubs or coffee shops around the city center. Something that you won't find in Cinarcik during winter.
Last but not least, I think you should give Yalova a shot if you're a digital nomad looking for a place to stay near Istanbul with a lower living cost. Have you heard of Yalova before? Or do you have any recommendations for a place to stay for digital nomads near Istanbul? Share in the comment below, and cheerio! 😉
Marya The BeauTraveler
I am the founder and main editor at The BeauTraveler. I spent 4 years working in the aviation industry but ironically got to travel more right after quitting the industry in 2015. Born and raised in Indonesia, I started working remotely in 2017, and while I stay at home most of the time, I also regularly spend 2-3 months living a semi-digital nomad life elsewhere every year.