Soaring inflation doubles cost of dying in Turkey

Turkey’s mounting inflation does not leave the dead cold, with a basic burial in the eastern province of Van now costing around 65,250 liras—a 106 percent increase from last year.

Kadir Cesur / Gazete Duvar

Turkey’s soaring inflation is not sparing the dead. Amid official inflation rates nearing 70 percent annually and unofficial rates reaching 125 percent, funeral-related costs have nearly doubled in the past year, adding financial burdens on bereaved families.

A basic burial in the eastern province of Van currently costs approximately 65,250 liras (2,026 dollars), according to Duvar’s calculations.

This includes cemetery fees (3,500 liras), a marble tombstone (15,000 liras), a simple shroud set (750 liras), washing of the body (1,000 liras), and condolence meals for around 300 people over three days (45,000 liras), marking a 106 percent increase from last year’s cost of 31,600 liras.

Although many municipalities in Turkey provide free burial sites, washing, shrouding, and transportation services, families that wish to bury their loved ones in a location other than the designated municipal burial site are required to pay a fee.

These cemetery fees vary widely across the country: 900 to 2,000 liras in Adana, 2,000 to 26,000 liras in Bursa, 2,500 to 4,000 liras in Trabzon, and 400 to 17,000 liras in Kayseri, according to data received from municipal websites.

In Istanbul, cemetery fees stood between 4,470 liras and 69,770 liras in 2024, while prices ranged last year from 2,900 liras to 45,260 liras.

Similarly, Van’s municipality does not charge a cemetery fee unless families wish to bury their loved ones in a different location, which costs 3,500 liras.

Besides cemetery fees, marble tombstones can be quite costly, typically starting at around 15,000 liras, while higher-quality ones can exceed 150,000 liras.

“Last year, we made the same grave for half the price,” Necdet Kumak, a marble cutter in Van, told Duvar. “Fuel, transportation, staff salaries, insurance premiums, electricity, rent, and many other costs have increased. When these prices increase, it inevitably affects everything, including marble.”

Marble cutter Necdet Kumak gripes of increased costs in his business.

On top of that, Kumak noted that price hikes are now more frequent.

“There used to be a hike once a year, but now prices do not stay the same. The price we offer today may change a month later. For example, a marble tomb currently priced at 15,000 liras was sold at 13,000 liras last month.”

Likewise, shroud prices have surged in Van, Sıddık Gülmez, a tradesperson who sells shrouds in Van, told Duvar.

“The price of a ready-made set varies between 750 liras and 1,000 liras. Last year, the most expensive shroud set was 300 liras,” Gülmez said. “The prices are constantly renewed. We also feel embarrassed to our customers.”

While often offered for free in larger municipalities, inhabitants in Turkey’s smaller districts or villages frequently need to hire someone to wash the body (gassal in Turkish), with fees ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 liras, up from 300 to 500 liras last year.

In addition to the costs related to the body’s burial, condolence meals have also become more expensive. In Turkey, it is common for condolence visits to last three days, during which meals are offered to guests.

The cost varies by province and catering company, but a condolence menu consisting of meat, rice, and tzatziki currently ranges between 130 and 200 liras per person.

Men join a typical condolence meal ceremony in the eastern Van province.

According to Murat Çelik, owner of a food factory in Van, the cost of condolence meals has surged from 70-80 liras in the past year to nearly 150 liras per person.

“Currently, the price of a condolence meal in Van is not less than 150 liras per person. But lately, the tradition of providing food to guests who come to bring their condolences has started to decline,” Çelik said. “Either no food is given, or food is only served on the first day.”

(English version by Wouter Massink)