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Depreciation of lira makes shopping in Turkey a bargain for neighbors

A growing number of people from neighboring countries are visiting Turkey to shop, with the rapidly depreciating lira making it an ideal spot to buy on the cheap, local media reports said.

Turkey’s lira slid as much as 4 percent before a partial recovery on Tuesday, touching 14.4 to the US dollar before recovering some losses to 14.192 at 0605 GMT, after a roller-coaster day in which it hit all-time lows on concerns over President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s risky new economic policy and prospects of another rate cut this week.

According to the reports, the depreciation of the Turkish lira offered visitors from neighboring countries such as Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran and Azerbaijan an opportunity for discount shopping, with Bulgarians flocking to the border province of Edirne and others to Iğdır, Van and Artvin in eastern Turkey.

The foreigners are able to “fill their cars full of items” for a small amount of their currency exchanged for Turkish lira, local media reports said, with some tourists saying they could buy “everything we wanted” in Turkey after exchanging only €1,000, which currently corresponds to more than TL 16,000.

With the Turkish lira also losing value against the Bulgarian lev, Bulgarians flocked to Edirne to shop before the new year, the Demirören News Agency (DHA) reported on Monday, adding that thousands of tourists had reserved all the hotel rooms in the city until 2022.

“We have 2,500 hotel beds in Edirne. All of them have been booked by Bulgarian tourists,” Gökhan Balta, Edirne representative of the Hotel Association of Turkey, told DHA.

“We came here to go shopping for the new year and bought whatever we could find, mostly baklava [a traditional Turkish dessert]. … It’s cheap for us,” Bulgarian tourist Belgin Ahmetova said.

Another tourist, Nazlı Ahmetova, told DHA they exchanged €2,000 and would spend it all in Turkey.

“Lots of people are coming from Bulgaria to Turkey now that the lira has dropped [to historical lows against the dollar and euro]. We’re doing our New Year’s shopping here, buying everything we need. … We’ll stay in Edirne for two days,” she added.

Former economy minister Ali Babacan, who had launched the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) in 2020 to challenge President Erdoğan, criticized the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)’s poor management of the country’s economy as evidenced by the sharp depreciation of lira.

“Our country has become like a dollar store for our neighbors. There are hardly any currencies against which our money hasn’t lost value. … People who come to Turkey for shopping right now are purchasing stuff thinking, ‘This is dirt cheap.’ We have become a paradise of cheap products for foreigners,” Babacan said.

On Monday the lira crashed as much as 7 percent to a record near 15 before whip-sawing back after the central bank intervened for the fourth time in two weeks to prop it up, Reuters said on Tuesday.

The lira slump has been driven by the bank’s 400-basis-point rate cuts since September, aggressive monetary easing carried out under pressure from Erdoğan, who advocates a new economic plan prioritizing growth, credit, production and exports, despite widespread criticism of the policy from economists and opposition politicians.

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