Istanbul -safe? Taksim

I am going on the Rick Steves Istanbul tour in Sept 2013 and we are staying at the Germir Palas Hotel in Taksim. I am worried as there as been riots and protests in Taksim. Is this an unsafe area to stay in. I know that the tours generally stay in the old town and am surprised that they changed hotels and location of this tour. Does anyone know about this area and our safe it is and is it far from the sights. Is it hard to get to the sights from Taksim? If I had known the tour hotel was going to be in Taksim, I would not have booked this tour. Thank you for your responses.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

I suggest you phone the RS Tour Dept. and discuss your concerns with them - 425-771-8303.

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

Ann, that's a good idea to phone the RS office. I'm quite sure that if there is the remotest danger, they'll change the hotel. As I said on another thread here, on the same subject- Istanbul is a huge city. If there is any trouble, leave the immediate area.
Don't forget, your guide for the tour will know what's going on and will know where's OK and where's not.

Posted by Agnes
Alexandria, VA, USA
616 posts

The Taksim area itself is a "sight" - Istanbul is not just the Old City or Haghia Sophia or Blue Mosque. It's very easy to navigate there along the main street - Istiklal - which is full of shops and restaurants and interesting side streets. I've walked there many times by myself in the AM and PM and had great food at the restaurants. It is a major transportation/hotel hub and that's why many people naturally gather there...so it's not surprising why a protest would occur in the vicinity. I would not panic about the hotel or Taksim - every tour company will do all it can to minimize risk - the don't want any disruptions any more than you do. Between now and September, who knows what will happen. Istanbul is HUGE, so keep that in mind - there are a gazillion hotel options and a tour company knows this. You can be in a different part of Istanbul and not even know what's going on in Taksim.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7971 posts

List of All People Who've Died From Tear Gas: .

Posted by Matthew
Kihei, HI, United States
112 posts

Ed - I'm sorry - was that an incomplete post? Multiple outlets are reporting 2 dead 1000 injured - an protests are getting larger and spreading to more cities. Stop trying to minimize what is going on in Turkey - are you part of Turkish state media? http://occupygezipics.tumblr.com/

Posted by Rob
Dunwoody, Georgia
235 posts

By all means monitor the situation, but keep a few things in mind: 1). Taksim is a big public square in downtown Istanbul. The area is not dangerous and is in a business and tourist part of the city. However, because it is a big public square and the site of the Ataturk republic monument, it is a logical location for protests of any kind, especially the current pro-republic protests. 2). The current protests are directed at the Turkish government, not at tourists/foreigners. Any risk to you would be coincidental (in the wrong place at the wrong time) and not directed at you. 3). There are plenty of side streets to avoid the square if there is a protest while you are there and you feel uncomfortable. The square is large enough you could probably also just walk across it on the other side. A quick Google Earth check shows your hotel is not on the square itself, but instead just to the north and facing the adjacent park. 4). Your trip is in September. Things will probably be much different in several months. Don't let the news coverage scare you away. Turkey is a great country to visit. Good luck!

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

I am friends with a young woman who lives in Istanbul (she is Turkish, not American) and from what I hear from her it is definitely something to be concerned about as it can quickly take a bad turn... but keeping up with daily news should be sufficient, as these things can end as quickly as they start.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I don't want to undermine the severity of the response to the protesters by police in Turkey, but I could also post pictures from Occupy protests in the U.S. as severe as those, and I don't think anyone should've said someone shouldn't go to the U.S. based on those protests. Especially several months out. Ann, you should continue to monitor the situation. I don't think that these protests are going to end up being "The Turkish Spring" and lead to revolution, but at the same time being caught in a protest during your vacation would be unwanted. Just keep monitoring the news.

Posted by Christa
St. Catharines, Canada
2 posts

Hi Ann, Please keep us updated on what the RS tour has decided to do. My husband and I are traveling to Turkey in Sept as well and doing it alone and I'd like to know what RS proposes. Thanks.

Posted by Danielle
Fullerton, CA, USA
1 posts

We are going in less than a week to Turkey and I'm sure we will be fine. We were there last year and felt incredibly safe. The people and country are amazing. We are going on a cruise and stop in Istanbul. We will most likely hang out in the old district and if we would have had more time, gone to the newer district(Taksim). If there is trouble there still, we won't go to that area. Of course, like the previous person wrote, Istanbul is huge. Just stay out of the area where there is trouble. Don't avoid Istanbul - it is truly an amazing city!

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
981 posts

I am a veteran of many visits to Turkey, almost always including a few days in Istanbul, so I concur that Istanbul is an amazing city unlike any other in the world. Having said that, I would not visit the Taksim area unless and until things simmer down. The response by the government to the protests has been extreme and violent, and the rhetoric coming from the prime minister suggests that the police response to demonstrations may well escalate. They've started cracking down on all kinds of pesceful dissent (including jailing of lawyers who objected to the dragment arrests in the Square) and fining TV stations who showed coverage of the protests for supposedly 'inciting' them. This situation is not like Occupy Wall Street. It has a much higher potential to destabilize the Turkish government, and that government already has a reputation for heavy-handedness in dealing with dissent. It's true, of course, that the protests aren't aimed at foreigners (quite the opposite, outside observers are probably seen by the protesters as likely allies). But tear gas doesn't distinguish between friend and foe (and my 1960's memory of being tear gassed in a demonstration reminds me that it's permanently off my bucket list now...) Besides, a crowd that is disoriented and choking from tear gas may trample people. Not to mention the risk that the government may decide to escalate their response to more potentially lethal tactics. It might be helpful to folks here if you post the answer you get from the RS tour staff about their plans. But, for me, no way would I venture anywhere near Taksim Square for the foreseeable future.

Posted by ann
staten island, new york, usa
166 posts

Today, I received notice that the hotel has been changed. We will now be staying in the Sultanahmet district. Which I agree is safer than staying in the Taksim district. I did not receive any other information except that the hotel has been changed. Thank you for all your responses, it has been most appreciated.

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

You'll be fine in there Ann. That's where we stayed when on the RS Istanbul tour a couple of years ago and it's great being where all the major sites are, so I think you'll really enjoy it.

Posted by Gary
Poughkeepsie
3 posts

Ann, the move to Sultanahmet sounds good regardless of what the situation at Taksim may be in September. Sultanahmet is closer to more of the things you'll probably want to see. I passed through Taksim and walked around the square on my own at night during free time from a Rick Steves tour in 2011. Taksim felt safe, even at night. Our guide took us to nearby Istiklal St. for lunch before leaving for Ankara, but I didn't have time to see a few other things in that area like the Galata tower. You could get to Sultanahmet from Taksim via funicular connecting to the tram, but it's I'd guess a 30 minute trip. Turkey was very safe for us, and should be even now (so says my guide, who I'm still in contact with), although it may be best for now to avoid a few hot spots for demonstrations. I'm sure your guides will steer you clear of any trouble, and you'll have a great trip. Turkey was a highlight of all the 5 Rick Steves tours I've done.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Those of you who see no problem with visitng and staying in the Taksim district right now are ostriches( head is sand) .. there is stuff going on, and people ARE being hurt, lots of people, .. do not poo poo concerns. Rick Steves tours are well informed and have WISELY changed the hotel, trust me, they know .. they would never knowingly put their group in danger and they have many local contacts to keep them up to date without having to rely on biased ( both ways) news reports. Two Canadian journilists( CBS) were recently arrested there, its not going as lovely as some would like to think. Theres quite a struggle going on,, the people want one thing, the government is trying for something else. I hope the people win. Ann you are going on a RS tour, they will keep you safe.. enjoy all the other wonderful aspects of your trip..

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

What Pat said - all of it. Europe Through the Back Door would not put its tour members in harm's way. Your trip itinerary may get altered slightly, but that can always happen due to a variety of circumstances.

Posted by Gary
Poughkeepsie
3 posts

Pat and Rose, All the guides for the Rick Steves Turkey tours are licensed Turkish guides and Turkish citizens (this is required by Turkish law), so they definitely know what's going on in their country. The guide for my 2011 tour lives in Istanbul. I've heard from him since the demonstrations broke out, and he says Istanbul is still very safe, with the only demonstrations as of the last I heard being in Taksim and adjacent Gezi Park. It's a big city, and your hotel is well away from Taksim. Just as Staten Island is well separated from anything happening in Times Square. Your guide will give you the latest advice when your group meets. In case you have free time before then, I'd simply avoid the Taksim area until and unless your guide tells you otherwise. I would not want to be in the middle of a demonstration being conducted in a foreign language where I don't know what's going on. The demonstrations are due to a disagreement on government policy. Neither the demonstrators nor the government should direct any violence toward tourists, because this dispute has nothing to do with you.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Gary, I think you've misunderstood. Pat and I are not on the Turkey tour. We are both merely trying to reassure Ann that all will be well. She's the one signed up for the tour and concerned about what's been happening in Istanbul. I have considerable experience with Rick Steves tours and am quite aware of the quality and qualifications of the guides.

Posted by Gary
Poughkeepsie
3 posts

Rose, I understood perfectly that it's Ann who's going to Turkey, not you. I was just commenting on your comments. I've taken 5 Rick Steves tours myself, so I've seen quite a bit of how they work. The Turkey guides are ed for and run the tours in Rick Steves style, in groups that are exclusively Rick Steves ETBD tour members. But in the case of Turkey, they're Turkish guides. In most other countries, the guides may be whomever Rick chooses, either Americans or Europeans. Often even if you have a Rick Steves guide, a local guide will show you specific museums, sites or cities. Italy and Greece both require this, but Turkey goes even further, with the entire tour guided by a Turkish guide. I've seen a few cases where tours accommodated events. I was in Greece last year during some of the strikes and demonstrations. Our guide kept appraised of the situation, but it ended up not affecting us at all. Despite news reports of massive demonstrations and shutdowns that we were a bit bemused to see in the news, nothing affected us. Trouble was not as widespread as the sensational news reports led you to believe. Everything we had on our itinerary for that day went as planned with no changes. In Italy, our guide recommended staying out of the center of Naples (years ago) due to current problems, and everyone followed that advice. And in Turkey, we missed our Mediterranean cruise due to a bad storm. Our guide knew the area well and arranged visits to a couple of other things instead. I expect even with demonstrations in Turkey, most things Ann will want to see will be unaffected (assuming of course that the situation does not deteriorate further).

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Turkey goes even further, with the entire tour guided by a Turkish guide Thanks, Gary. I don't see this as being any different than a native Frenchman (or French woman) leading an entire RS tour through France, as was my wonderful good fortune on my first RS tour, and a native Roman in Rome - except maybe that in the case of Turkey it's mandated by the government. A number of the RS guides are native residents of the country they guide in. Rick became acquainted with them through his travels or connections, saw their top quality, and hired them on. In several situations I've been in, the local guides selected by the primary tour guide were selected because (as the primary guide explained) it was required in the city/country to use only a guide who was licensed by the government. In the Netherlands our primary guide was a native Dutch woman, but in some situations she chose to hire other native expert guides to give us the best possible experience. Every RS primary and local guide I've had has been ultra top quality. Hiring private guides is very expensive and a big bummer if the guide turns out to not be a good 'fit' with my interests or my pace. The certainty that there will always be superlative primary and local guides is one of the reasons why I do Rick's tours.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Gary still not sure why you addressed your comments to Rose and I ,, er we get it dear.. And yes, I have been on a RS tour too... I also think you should really look up whats happening in Turkey right now, its not just a little "disagreement" , lets put it this way, if Turkey had a lot of oil other governments would be paying a bit more attention, because the government is not the secular western friendly one it used to be.. please , do not take my word on this, ( nor Fox news) but really start reading various articles on what is going on.. I personally would still visit Turkey right now , but I would also be keeping my eye on whats happening.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Just got a Breaking News alert in my email saying the police have taken over Taksim Square and "cleared" all protestors from Gezi Park.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

On Fodars a local is posting that any tourists planning on flying out tomorrow ( June 16th ) get to airport as early as possible because roads may be blocked and disruptions expected on road travel tomorrow.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

Also posted, tourists staying at Divan hotel near square were unfortunately affected today as the governments "clearing" of the square had people running everywhere and many apparently ran into hotel to escape tear gas. Hotel was tear gassed apparently and those eating in the restaurant were affected. nice..

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
981 posts

I need to say this again, I think: It is completely irrelevant that the focus of the demonstrations (and of the government crackdown) is not aimed at foreigners. Tear gas, water cannons, and rubber bullets will not ask your nationality. My friends in Turkey are very worried about the response of the Erdogan government to the demonstrations. By calling the demonstrators 'terrorists,' Erdogan is not just upping the rhetorical ante, but he is establishing the grounds for invoking the Turkish anti-terrorism laws. Among other things, this justifies the use of the military and of deadly force against the protests. Will he go this far? Who knows? But downplaying the significance of these facts is irresponsible. Turkey isn't Greece, or France, or Syria. Events there will chart their own course, and anyone who tells you not to worry is asking you to roll the dice with your safety. Now, having said that, I believe that most of Istanbul, including the tourist district of Sultanahmet, is quite safe at the moment. But, if martial law were to be declared, things could be different. I would keep a close eye on the BBC website, probably the best news source now that Turkish journalists have been fined for reporting on the demonstrations.