Steven and Carol’s Excellent Cell Phone Adventure

I am, of course, being facetious. It was anything but excellent. When we arrived in Istanbul, one of the first things we did (as in any country we visit) is to arrange to buy SIM cards for our telephones. Carol and I both have nice “smartphones” with all of our contacts and emails in them, so we like to use our own phones wherever we go. Our phones are “unlocked” so that we can use any GSM SIM card we find and can utilize the more reasonable local phone rates. Normally, you present your passport at a local phone store and get a SIM card to put in your phone. It is very inexpensive compared to the US and if you have an unlocked phone, like we do, you just pop it in and Wahla, you have phone service. We then go into Skype and have all calls diverted to our two local phones in the country we are visiting. Simple, right….?

It started out that way, for sure, but 10 days after we got them, the phones just stopped working, both of them, which was strange. After discussions with friends, it was determined that the government has limited foreign GSM phones from working here in Turkey after between 7 and 15 days, supposedly for security reasons. The way around it is to go to the tax office, pay a $60 USD fee, and then the phone will work as it will now be registered. We did just that and after paying the fee, the registrar told us that if we have any problems with the phones, please come and see him before 4:30pm.

We were told now that we needed to buy new SIM cards after the phones were registered. Carol and I went to 10 different places, and no one had any SIM cards, believe it or not! Not one in the whole town of Marmaris.

Fine, so we left the Marmaris and drove then 60 miles to Gocek, where Ken and Roberta’s boat (Sans Souci) was on the hard. K&R were not there, but Jeff Sanson, who takes care of their boat was. He introduced us to Sanli, their local rep and he took us to a local Vodaphone store to get new SIM cards for our phone. Armed with our new SIM cards, we drove back to Marmaris and waited for them to work. As it turns out, we could have waited until next Christmas, and they still would not have worked.

We went back to the tax office to report the problem and hoped that his previous offer to help would still hold. He said “yes, I help you. I give you money back” I said that I did not want money back but just wanted the phones to work. He replied “I give you money back”. At that point, I said “ok”. He then asked “what is Turkish bank account number?”. I told him that I did not have one and I would just take cash. He said “no, only wire transfer”.
So, now I find out that you cannot get a Turkish bank account without a Tax Number, which is a pain in the butt to get. “forget it” I told him and walked out.

We were now told by friends that once they were registered with the tax office, you needed to go to an “official” Vodaphone store, of which there is only one of in Marmaris, show your passport and tax receipt, then they could tie the registration to the tax dept and ONLY THEN will the phones work.

So now we go to the Vodaphone store and they tell us “sorry, cannot read entrance date on passport, need to go get letter from immigration”. Ok, grrrrr….

You cannot simply enter Immigration and Customs on your own, so we asked Nadide, our local agent, to take us to the immigration desk, where they typed up a letter stating that we entered the country on a specific date.

Now I thought we were home free. We stopped at the rental car to rent another car for our stay in Marmaris, and after a few minutes we were on our way to the Vodaphone store to get activated, finally! We got about 100 yards from the rental store and got rear ended by a truck, smashing in our trunk. It is difficult to see the dent in the photo below, but it pushed in part of the interior of the trunk mechanism.

Even with the obvious damage, he argued “everything ok”, “no problem”. I pointed out the damage and Carol then took pictures of the damage and his license plate, and only then, did he agree to give us his information. We went back to the rental agent and he took all the information. That only cost us a half hour, but that half hour came back to haunt us….

We arrived at the Vodaphone store at 1pm, armed with all the information.

Vodaphone: “sorry, close 1 oclock”

Steven: “what? why? It is only 2pm”, pointing at my watch

Vodaphone: “Sorry, closed, cannot help”

Steven: “Ok, what time do you open again”

Vodaphone: “not open again for 2 weeks. Shop closed for fix”

We did not want to wait two weeks. So we went to the Turkcell store, armed with all of our documents. They told us that the letter we got from immigration would not work and they needed a “screenshot” of the computer showing our entrance date….I give up.

Finally, out of desperation, we then ran around to try to find someone else who could do it, but to no avail. We then resigned ourselves to failure on this mission and bought two crappy old used Turkish phones that work.

My “new” phone, Circa 1995

Anyway, with all of this, we are still enjoying ourselves in Marmaris. We love the food and I was happily reaquainted with one of my old favorites…Yaprak Sarma, which is rolled grape leaves stuffed with a tangy rice. I was introduced to this about 40 years ago by my friend Mark’s father, who bought a can of them every week and was kind enough to share them with me.

We will be leaving shortly with the boat to travel to Gocek, about 60 miles from here, to reunite with Ken and Roberta on Sans Souci. We have not seen them since they departed Hong Kong a few years ago. All we need now is Braun and Tina on Ocean Pearl to agree to putter down to the Med to meet us.

Get the hint, Mr. J?

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