6 Essential Facts About the Turkish Lira

Last updated on March 6th, 2024 at 11:04 pm

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Currency in Turkey: close up shot of a Turkish lira coin

Are you planning on traveling to Turkey? Or do you need to send money to a relative or friend who lives there? If so, then you’ll want to know everything about the Turkish lira and how to find the best currency exchange rates.

The modern Turkish lira is the national currency of Turkey. Thanks to its fascinating history, money in Turkey has a unique story among the currencies of the world.

Let’s take a closer look at currency in Turkey, including the famous figures who appear on its banknotes and coins.

A Brief History of Turkey’s Currency

The lira is the legal tender of the Republic of Turkey, and you can use it everywhere in the country, from the tourist areas of Istanbul to the capital, Ankara. The lira is also the official currency of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

But Turkey’s lira has gone through many changes over the years, and earlier versions wouldn’t be recognizable to modern Turks.

The Ottoman Empire introduced the lira in 1844, when it replaced the kuruş. At that time, the script on the notes and banknotes was in Arabic.

After the founding of the Republic of Turkey in 1922, the Turkish Central Bank issued the first lira with Turkish script.

But the value of the lira gradually declined until it ranked alongside the Romanian leu as one of the world’s least valuable currencies.

In 2005, the government reevaluated the currency in Turkey and removed six zeros in order to reestablish its value. The new Turkish lira, or Yeni Türk lirası, circulated until 2009, when it became known about as simply the Turkish lira.

Currently, there are 5-, 10-, 20-, 50-, 100-, and 200-lira banknotes used as money in Turkey. Coins come in 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 kurus and 1-lira denominations. There are 100 kurus in one lira, just like there are 100 cents in the U.S. dollar (USD) or the euro (EUR).

Interesting Facts about Turkish Money

If you’re traveling to Turkey, intend to send money home to friends or family, or just want to know more about Turkish currency, here’s what you might not know about the lira.

The Central Bank held a contest to design the currency symbol.

Nearly every currency of the world has a symbol to identify it on currency exchange markets – but money in Turkey didn’t have one until 2012. That year, the Central Bank held a contest in which applicants could submit their entries for a new currency symbol.

Tülay Lale, an engineer, submitted the winning entry. Now, the Turkish lira has its own unique symbol (₺) to go along with its three-letter abbreviation (TLY).

The symbol represents a half-anchor with two upward-facing lines to convey that the currency is in a safe harbor. The upward lines also represent the currency in Turkey’s rise in status.

The same man appears on all Turkish lira banknotes.

Currency in Turkey: person holding six pieces of Turkish lira banknotes

All the lira banknotes feature an image of the same man: Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Atatürk, who founded the modern Republic of Turkey and served as its first president. He was president from October 1923 through November 1938, and many Turks consider him to be one of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

While his face appears on the front of each banknote of the currency in Turkey, the backs contain images of different historical figures of prominence in Turkey.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s current president and former prime minister, doesn’t appear on any denominations of money in Turkey.

The lira comes from the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey was the seat of the Ottoman Empire from 1299 to 1922. That’s when the word lira first came into use. Originally, it referred to a single gold coin. However, with the introduction of paper money in Turkey, the Turkish lira became the word for the banknotes, replacing the Ottoman Lira, and kuruş became the cents.

You can’t use old lira anymore.

In some countries, old banknotes hold the same value as new ones. This isn’t the case with currency in Turkey, which introduced the new Turkish Lira in 2005, and again in 2009.

As a result, you can no longer use the 2005 series as local currency. For a while, you could exchange it for the new lira, but only until 2019. So if you still have old lira, you can keep them as a souvenir of a bygone era.

The Turkish and Italian lira are not the same.

5 Turkish flags

The Turkish lira shares a name with the Italian lira, which was the official currency of Italy before the euro replaced it. However, the word “lira” refers to both singular and plural banknotes in Turkey, while “lire” is the plural form of the currency in Italy.

Since Italy uses the euro now, the confusion is no longer an issue. Just remember that when you’re in Turkey, it’s always pronounced “lira.”

Counterfeit lira abound.

According to official sources, counterfeit lira is a major problem in Turkey. However, you can quickly confirm that your lira is real if you know what to look for.

Genuine lira banknotes are 100% cotton fiber, and when you hold them under a UV light, they will not appear fluorescent. The counterfeit lira does appear fluorescent under a UV light, even when covered with a special lacquer often used by counterfeiters.

What’s more, the genuine lira contains a watermark of Atatürk’s portrait and the denomination numeral. You can see the watermark when you hold the banknote up to the light. The fake lira notes don’t contain this watermark, or they may exhibit a poor imitation.

Genuine money in Turkey also features a holographic foil strip that appears colorful and shiny when you view the banknote from different angles.

Finally, genuine banknotes contain security fibers that fluoresce in blue and red under UV light. They contain an embedded security thread that forms a continuous line with the denomination numeral and the letters ”TL” when held up to the light.

Turkish Lira Exchange Rates

While still low in value compared to some other currencies, the Turkish lira has shown a strong improvement over recent years.

When visiting Turkey, it’s a good idea to pay in the local currency. Many establishments accept Visa and Mastercard, but you may incur additional fees when you pay with an international debit card or credit card.

If you use cash, you can often get a better deal by simply withdrawing cash at an ATM rather than using an airport exchange counter or a bank.

When sending money to Turkey from overseas, check with your bank or your favorite currency converter to find out the real-time exchange rates.

For instance, when you log into the Remitly app and select Turkey as your destination, you’ll quickly be able to see what competitive rates we offer for USD to TRY, GBP to TRY, and more.