As the lira struggle continues, Bulgarian shoppers can find bargains in Turkey

EDIRNE (Turkey) -- Bulgars are using the declining Turkish lira as fuel to their shopping sprees by crossing Turkey's Western Border in packed buses and cars.

As the lira struggle continues, Bulgarian shoppers can find bargains in Turkey

The currency exchange is their first stop. After that, it's on to the markets in Edirne, a northern Turkish city.

The city's Turkish market was crowded with Bulgarian shoppers on Christmas Eve. Hatice Ahmedova stated that she left at 3:00 a.m. to board a bus to cross the border to Edirne. She exchanged 200 Bulgarian Levs for 1,150 Turkish Liras, and then began shopping.

Gulfiye Osinova (60) was also there to buy gifts for her grandchildren and children, pointing out that Bulgaria was more expensive.

Turkey is currently in an economic crisis. Official inflation numbers are above 21%. This has a negative impact on household prices, fuel, and food. For the Bulgarian shoppers, however, grocery stores offer a bargain so they pack their bags and leave the country.

December was the most volatile month for the lira. It fell almost every day before hitting an all-time low at 18.36 against the U.S. Dollar on Dec. 20, when Turkey lost more than 60% against the dollar. This currency decline has been good for tourists.

After Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdan announced new financial tools that would protect lira deposit against currency fluctuations, the lira rebounded and closed the week at 10.83 to the dollar.

Bulent Reisoglu is the president of Ulus bazaar cooperative, Edirne. He said that the number of foreigners had quadrupled in the last few weeks.

He said that parking lots are crowded with cars from Bulgaria, and it is almost impossible to spot Edirne or Istanbul plates on them. "They shop as if they're crazy, not knowing what they're buying and then buying five to ten more with the logic of selling them or believing they won’t find it again."

Also, shoppers were coming from Greece to convert euros into lire. Esra Molla said that she was happy to buy gifts for her family as well as herself.

Despite the rally in the lira over the past week, the Turkish currency lost almost 40% this year. This was due to Erdogan's insistent on lowering the interest rates which currently stand at 14%. Erdogan disagrees with this assertion. Although economic theory suggests that high inflation can be reduced by raising interest rates, Erdogan claims otherwise. Erdogan's new economic program calls for low interest rates, high exports, and large growth.

The price rises and the loss of purchasing power have made it painfully obvious to see Turks standing in long lines for bread this month. Erdogan has asked Turkish businesses to reduce their prices once the lira stabilizes, but there are no signs that they will soon replace the bulgarian shoppers in Edirne.

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