Is Turkey safe?

I am considering taking my kids to Turkey for vacation next year but am a bit spooked by the proximity to Syria and the recent attack inside Turkey's border. I am not a particularly nervous traveler and recognize that bad things can happen anywhere: Boston, NYC, London, Madrid, etc. But I want to be prudent and get a more solid understanding of the situation there before making any decisions. Can anyone provide some guidance on how concerned I should be by the general unrest in the area and the possibility of traveler-directed violence? I think this issue has been touched on in the past, but I'd like an updated perspective. Thanks!

Posted by Paula
Arlington, TX, USA
278 posts

Turkey is perfectly safe. There is much to see and, of course, you will want to avoid the Syrian border. It is safe for a single woman (I am mid-60's).. just use proper caution as you would when traveling. Lovely country and very
nice people. Great food!

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2457 posts

Most of what you will want to see is far from the Syrian border. Turkey is huge, there is tons for kids to enjoy, the people are friendly and kind. I can't wait to go back.

Posted by Matthew
Kihei, HI, United States
112 posts

I wouldn't worry too much about the Syria conflict. However I think some of the other posters are being naive. You do need have some situational awareness of what is going on. I have been reading a lot this month (may 2013) on various travel forums of people in the Taksim area accidentally getting caught up in various protests, some of which involved tear gas. These are not full-fledged riots or super dangerous, but I have to think if you are taking a tram and tear gas starts wafting in the window or you see riot police clubbing and arresting protestors that is not going to be a pleasant experience. But again, that is the same anywhere. Anti-globalization protests in Seattle or a Greek anti-austerity march could go the same way.

Posted by turnip
owatonna, mn, usa
17 posts

We were amazed by how safe and welcomed we felt in Turkey. We heard stories of how friendly the people were, but were not prepared for it. People just wanted to help and were very genuine. We walked everywhere, including at night and never felt threatened. Some of the people we spoke with didn't care for specific American politicians, but then neither do we. :)

Posted by Mark
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA, USA
62 posts

I think that Turkey is one of the safer countries that I have ever visited and I felt totally safe during the four weeks that I was there. Unless you are near the frontier the situation in Syria is a non factor. Be prepaerd for friendly people and the best food that I have eaten in any nation I have visited.

Posted by Jerry
Madison, WI, US
66 posts

Hi Tracey - My family traveled to Turkey last year. We went to Istanbul and the Aegean Sea coast. People were more friendly and considerate than any country I've been to. Stay away from the Syrian border....easy to do since all the major tourists areas aren't close anyway. Go.

Posted by Andre L.
Tilburg, Netherlands
2172 posts

Turkey is significantly less safe than the rest of Europe, and dangerous on the Kurd-terrorist prone areas and the borders with Syria. It is on par with Morocco.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3502 posts

I'm planning to go in October, but only to Istanbul. I'm not limiting the trip for security/safety reasons, but just because I want to spend the little time I have for the trip seeing one place in depth. As for other posters' assurances, it would be helpful to know exactly when they were in Turkey. The continually worsening situation in Syria has surely impacted Turkey increasingly as time goes on. Next year is a long, long time in the Middle East.

Posted by wayner
stevens point, wi, usa
186 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
We were in Istanbul for 14 nights in late March to mid-April of 2013 9we left for 10 days to go to Greece). Safe, friendly, welcoming. We stayed in the tourist area of Sultanahmet for 4 nights. Only the carpet sales people can get a bit too much. Then again, once you learn how to handle them and realize that they don't mind having fun...it adds to the trip. They approach you with, "You walk like a woman who wants a carpet." Now that sounds like fun... We spent 6 nights in the furniture building area north-west of Taksim and Istiklal pedestrian walkway. The neighborhood looked intimidating, but once again was friendly and safe. The Sunday market there went on block after block. I think we were the only tourists at the market. This whole area of Istanbul held less interest to me than the peninsula on which Sultanahmet is located. And then we spent 4 nights south of Kadikoy on the Asian side of Istanbul. Kadikoy is a market area with a tourist tram that circles the area. safe, safe, and more up scale than the other two areas in which we stayed and toured. Be prepared to be over whelmed by stimuli. Visual, auditory, and your nose (mostly cumin and fish). wayne iNWI

Posted by Rob
Dunwoody, Georgia
235 posts

In general Turkey is quite safe, especially the western and central parts, including Istanbul, along the western coast and Cappadocia. If you are thinking about going, you should go. That said, there are two areas I would avoid. 1). the south-central part of the country because of the conflict in Syria. I consider this to be anything to the southeast of Iskenderun or south of Gaziantep. 2). the southeastern part of the country because of historic problems with the PKK (Kurdish group). I consider this to be any parts of the country that share a land border with Iraq (roughly the areas east of Diyarbakir and south of Lake Van). Keep in mind that Turkey is quite large. Both of these areas are very far from typical tourist areas in the west and central parts of the country. Both also have a considerable Turkish military presence. I will add that the PKK/kurdish groups have staged bombings in Istanbul in previous years. Such attacks are typically not directed at tourists. Historically the PKK is focused against the Turkish government and attacks governmental buildings and military employees. There are also periodic protests outside U.S. facilities (e.g. Incirlik Air Base). You can check the state department travel advisories before you travel (http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_1764.html). There are no advisories for Turkey right now.

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

Turkey is, as others have said, a huge country. The border with Syria is a long way from where most visitors go. As with anywhere, you have to be aware of what's going on around you, and if you see signs of trouble, head off in the opposite direction. But that's really not likely to happen.
Go and enjoy it, like thousands of people from the UK will do this year. It's a beautiful country.

Posted by Matthew
Kihei, HI, United States
112 posts

Interesting story in the NY times today and several first person threads on Thorntree about the continuing violence in Taksim. Takeaway seems to be if you are in Sultanhamet you wouldn't even know it is happening, but if you are in the vicinity of Taksim, probably you are being effected.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

There is a lot of dissatisfaction with Erdogan, and the way the police has handled the protesters is horrendous - it's worth knowing the politics and what's going on (there has been excellent coverage on NYT) prior to traveling - but that would not stop me personally from visiting either Istanbul or other parts of Turkey. Two years before I went, there was a bomb that went off at Taksim (PKK related)....Taksim is a huge public artery in Istanbul and it's expected that a lot of pent up frustration/protests is on public view there. Sadly, it seems that the Turkish press is stifling all coverage of what the police are doing (this is according to Istanbullus on the ground who posted comments to NYT).

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

As of yesterday, the British Foreign Office has warned Britons to avoid all but essential travel to parts of Turkey because of anti-government demonstrations. These demonstrations are taking place in Istanbul and other cities across Turkey, including Ankara. Having said that, last time I was in Istanbul, I saw many armoured vehicles and police officers gathering in response to a demonstration that was about to start. So I did what you would do and left the area. Istanbul is a huge city, it's not hard to avoid trouble. That seemed to be the logical thing to do, and I was fine. Most tourist resorts are in coastal areas far away from the protests. What's going on now wouldn't stop me going there.

Posted by Jeff
Taunusstein, Germany
233 posts

As many have commented worrying about Syria is generally not germane to your likely travels unless you are headed into far eastern Turkey. I THINK that the current civil unrest will pass well before a trip next year. I've been in Turkey when local conditions would seemingly dictate prudence but have not felt uncomfortable....ever. Tourism means alot there and Turks are pleasant people to deal with by and large.