Turkey Travel Advice
Security advice for travelling to Turkey
How safe is Turkey?
Threat level: High
Travel and vacations to Turkey gererally go without incident. There are however some areas of concern, mainly within 75 miles of the boarder with Syria, where there is some military activity and a hightened risk of terror activity. The travel advice is that any travel within this area needs to be planned, and futher to this, with no movement at night.
The general travel advice for Turkey as a whole, is to remain vigilant. Tourist areas, monuments and transportation hubs in Turkey, while guarded by security services are at risk from terror attacks, so it is advised to be aware of any suspicious activities.
For specific travel advice in regards to Istanbul, see: Istanbul Travel Advice.
For specific travel advice in regards to Ankara, see: Ankara Travel Advice.
An attempted coup d'etat by the military occurred in July 2016, where they tried to take over and close key routes and bridges, control national television channels and close key airports. This led to a curfew and martial law being imposed.
Although the situation has calmed down somewhat and the president of the country gained back control, a crackdown on those involved in the coup has led to over 82,000 public sector workers and military and government officials punished through arrest, suspension or sacking from their jobs. President Erdogan cancelled the passports of 50,000 citizens to prevent them leaving the country and closed down over 130 media outputs. Military personnel continue to be dismissed as investigations into the coup attempt continue.
The country's prisons are overcrowded and stretched to breaking point, and it is believed that many prisoners are set to be released early. Although it has not be confirmed, it is believed that this is to free up space for coup perpetrators.
Travellers and all citizens are strongly advised to stay indoors and not to venture onto the streets during any political gatherings, as these have a tendency to get out of hand without warning. There have been many fatalities, injuries and arrests already in the country, and any involvement in demonstrations can lead to severe consequences.
The state of emergency that was put into place after 2016 attempted coup, has now been lifted. The state of emergency declared by President Erdogan after the attempted coup, enabled him to draft new laws and impose or suspend rights/freedom without having to pass it through parliament. It allowed the president radical powers to deal with the aftermath of the attempted coup.
On the 5th of January 2017, two turkish men detonated an explosive device outside of a courthouse in Bayrakli. The attackers (who were armed with assualt rifles and grenades) were then shot by the Turkish police soon after the explosion. 2 people were killed as a result of the explosion, and no group yet claimed responsibility for this attack.
On New Year's Eve 2016/17, 39 people were killed in a shooting at a popular nightclub in Istanbul. Twenty-five of those who died in the nightclub attack, were foreign citizens from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Libya, India and Canada. So-called ISIS have claimed responsibility for this attack, and the attacker is on the run.
On the 10th of December 2016, a car bomb exploded outside the Besiktas football stadium in the Macka/Dolmabahce region of Istanbul. 44 people were killed, and over 150 injured. It is still uncertain who is responsible for this attack.
On the 11th of September 2016, in Turkey's eastern city of Van, 48 people were wounded in a terrorist bomb attack. The Turkish government believes the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) are responsible for the blast, however this is not certain.
There have been a number of terrorists attacks along the Turkish/Syrian border with many dead. This includes an attack on a wedding party and also on the 26th of August 2016, an attack on a police Station, killing eight Police officers.
Three terrorists attacked the Ataturk airport in Istanbul in June 2016. It was a joint-gun and suicide bomb attack, the same modus operandi as the Brussels airport attack on the 22nd of March 2016. Whilst no one has claimed responsibility, it is believed that ISIS are responsible for the attack that killed 41 people and injured over 200 others.
Turkey is now relatively safe to visit, however it is important to take security precautions, as there is still a present risk. Both UK and US governments warn of an imminent danger of an ISIS backed attack on either tourists or western interests in the country. The British FCO advise against all travel to the city of Diyarbakir and 10km off the border with Syria.
On the 31st of March 2016, as an armoured bus passed through Diyarbakir, a car bomb exploded killing seven police officers and injuring 27 others. As yet, there has been no immediate claim of responsibility, however, a PKK cell has claimed two previous car bomb attacks this year, of which had killed 29 in Ankara.
Ankara was hit by two separate bomb attacks on the 17th of February and 13th of March 2016, responsible for the death of 58 people.
Suicide bomb attacks are a risk in tourist destinations, such as the attacks in Istanbul on the 12th January and 19 March 2016, where 14 tourists were killed.
On the 21st of July 2015, an attack leaving 32 dead and many injured, was carried out by a suspected female Islamic State (ISIS) suicide bomber in Suruc, which was set off in retaliation to Turkey's ongoing efforts against terrorist activities. The attack hit a group of over 300 persons on their way to rebuild the Syrian town of Kobane, which was later attacked in a coordinated suicide car bombing attack.
There are anti-western terrorist groups operating in Turkey, THKP/C-Acilciler (Turkish People’s Liberation Party/Front) and the DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front). In 2013, a DHKP/C suicide bomber targeted the US Embassy in Ankara, killing himself and a Turkish security guard.
The general level of crime is low across the country, but there are hot spots in the major cities and tourist areas. Pick-pocketing and bag-snatching is an issue in these areas, as are muggings at night.
Visitors should respect the fact that Turkey is a Muslim country and respect Turkey's laws and customs.
Turkey's International Relations
Russia: Turkey’s relations with Russia have soured over recent months, since the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian jet on the 24th of November 2015. A Russian ambassador was also killed by a Turkish person in December 2016, in retaliation to Aleppo bombings.
Israel: Israel has warned its citizens to leave Turkey, due to the ongoing attacks against its Jewish communities.
Northern Cyprus: Turkey invaded Northern Cyprus in 1974 and has occupied the area since. In 1983, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) declared independence, Turkey is the only country in the world which recognises this.
There remains a state of “stalemate” and the issue of occupation is unresolved. Tourists are reminded that the area of the “United Nations Buffer Zone in Cyprus“ and the surrounding areas could be a flash-point for trouble. The last major incident being in 1996.
Travelling around Turkey
Certain areas within the southern part of Turkey are under curfew. The area 50 miles in and around the international border with Syria is said to be of high risk. This area is also along the route that is taken by those wishing to join the fighting in Syria, ISIS and other terror groups. Best advice is to stay away, as there is also a risk of kidnap in this area.
Travel Restrictions are in place for the following areas: southeastern Turkey for the provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig. Additionally, the following neighbourhoods in Adana: Sakirpasa, Gulbahcesi, Daglioglu, Barbaros, Anadolu, Ondokuzmayis
Emergency services in Turkey:
Police emergency: 155
Fire emergency: 110
Fire emergency: 177 (Woodland/Forest fire service)
Medical emergency: 112
Maritime emergency (Coastguard): 158
Missing child/Women's helpline: 183
Tourist Police: 0212 5274503 (Istanbul only)
Currency: Turkish Lira
Time now in Ankara:
Consular information for Turkey
U.S. Embassy Ankara
110 Atatürk Blvd,
Telephone: +90 312 455 5555
Telephone: +90 212 335 9000 (Istanbul)
Telephone: +90 322 346 6262 (Adana)
Telephone: +90 232 464 8755 (Izmir)
British Embassy Ankara
Şehit Ersan Caddesi 46/A,
Telephone: +90 312 455 33 44
Telephone: +90 212 334 6400 (Istanbul)
Telephone: +90 232 465 0858 (Izmir)
Telephone: +90 242 228 2811 (Antalya)
Telephone: +90 252 412 6488 (Bodrum)
Telephone: +90 252 614 6302 (Fethiye)
Telephone: +90 252 412 6488 (Marmaris)
Visa requirements for Turkey
Visitors to Turkey from the UK, EU and US, can enter Turkey for a period of up to 90 days by applying for an e-visa prior to travel. Further advice can be found here: Visa advice Turkey
Healthcare and Immunisations
It is advised that visitors to Turkey are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. It is further recommended that most travellers get Tetanus and Hepatitis A vaccinations. You may also want to consider vaccinations for Hepatitis B.
In some areas of Turkey, there is a heightened risk of Rabies. If you plan to travel to these areas, you should vaccinate yourself against this disease. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Malaria is an issue in parts of the country. Use of antimalarial medication and mosquito nets is advised, if visiting the provinces of Diyarbakir, Mardin & Sanliurfa.