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Is it safe to travel to Turkey right now?

Hello,
I am an American that has planned to go to Turkey next week with my wife and daughter, however, with the recent tragic events and with all the terrorist bombings and threats, is it safe to still go?

The cities that we will be visiting would be Istanbul and Cappadocia.

I was looking forward to going, but now I’m reconsidering since I do not want to put myself or my family in any danger.
If anyone can help provide any advice or comments, I would appreciate it.
Thank you

Posted by
4637 posts

If you live in major American city you'll be probably safer in Turkey.

Posted by
98 posts

When I am concerned about travel safety, some resources I have found helpful are the US State Department's travel alerts and warnings, GOV.UK's foreign travel advice website, and the Australian government's Smartraveller website. Good luck making your decision!

Posted by
12393 posts

A UK friend of mine (solo female) was just in Istanbul a few weeks ago and had a marvelous time.

Posted by
2487 posts

Common sense dictates that the risk of some terrorist attack for an individual traveller is next to zero. The chances something happening in Istanbul in the few days you're there are already minimal. And, in the unlikely event something would happen, the chances you and your family are at the wrong place at the wrong time are also minimal. The sound advice is: just go!
The chances of falling victim to a pickpocket are much higher, but should also not be exaggerated. Here too common sense will serve you well: leave everything of value - including passport, credit card and the like - at the hotel, and have your wallet somewhere deep in your daypack, out of sight and out of hands.

Posted by
12314 posts

EDIT:

Safe? Who really knows. I don't think it could be considered so dangerous as to label someone who were to visit. I also dont think its so safe as to criticize someone who thought better about visiting.

Istanbul is safer than America? I keep hearing that. Here is my logic. Let’s start with the homicide rate in Istanbul compared to let’s say NYC. NYC’s homicide rate is actually a little lower. But we aren’t talking about living in Istanbul we are talking about visiting as a tourist. I would assume the tourist zones in Istanbul are among the safest of the city. But if you are on this forum talking about traveling to Europe twice a year then I don’t suppose you live in the bad part of your home town so I would suspect that you rarely come in contact with anything other than the safest part of your city. So I think any comparison of crime statistics just doesn’t stand up unless you live in Detroit or maybe Baltimore. When it comes to crime and murder I don't know that you make a good case one way or another for Tourism in Istanbul vs. living in an middle income neighborhood a major US city.

So what do I look at to come to a personal opinion and find a comfort level? Well, I am an American so I look at attitudes towards Americans. The sailors that got assaulted in Istanbul comes to mind as do the McDonald’s bombings. I am a Westerner so the chants of the Turkish fans at the soccer game the other day comes to mind. But for balance, what also comes to mind is how well I was treated in the tourist zones of Istanbul. They were amazing and gracious hosts.

So it comes down to random terrorism. If you think the risk of random terrorism is too great or no greater then act as you feel most comfortable. The post asks for an opinion. My opinion right now is that while I might be willing to go if someone will buy me a ticket I tend to be more protective of my wife and daughter so I wouldn't take them. I probably wouldn't take them to Times Square right now either.

If I already had the tickets in hand, I would fly in and then catch a cheap flight back out. Turkish Air serves an incredible number of destinations and their flights are relatively cheap. Excellent service too. One of my favorites to fly. Naturally I am biased and would say consider Budapest first and all of Central or Eastern Europe where most of it can be reached direct from Istanbul for a few hundred dollars Round Trip on Turkish Air..

Now, if you feel comfortable going to Istanbul, I think that's great too. Just not my cup of tea right now.

Posted by
304 posts

I was in Turkey in October, including a brief stay in Ankara two days after the bombing, and I never felt unsafe. The people were warm and welcoming -- especially when they discovered that I could speak a little Turkish. I recall that one evening in Istanbul my traveling companion, who was suffering from some neurological issues, was having terrible trouble walking even a few blocks (his troubles forced him to return to the US a couple of days later). A young Arab man came up and helped us get to a bench at a bus stop. (I am not sure how we figured out that he was an Arab because he spoke neither Turkish nor English.) When we were in Konya, we ran into some teenage girls who wanted to interview us for their English class. Everyone we encountered was wonderful.

Security is pretty heavy in major hotels. In Istanbul we stayed at the Bosporus Hilton, and the hotel stopped all vehicles for a thorough inspection, including the undercarriage of the vehicle, before allowing them to approach the front of the hotel. I think they have been doing that for years. Airport-style metal detectors and bag inspections were the norm at all major hotels. In Ankara, two days after the bombing, our hotel was hosting some preliminary meetings for the G20 summit, and the security there was really tight. Not only was there airport-style security, but the hotel was also surrounded with soldiers with automatic rifles. When we first drove up to the hotel, the soldiers are barricades gave us a little pause, but once we got inside the hotel and saw that G20 meetings were going on, we realized why the security was so tight. In museums and such in Ankara, though, it was pretty much business as usual. I never felt unsafe.

I would advise registering with the STEP program with the State Department, just so they know how to get you out of the country in case of an emergency.

Overall, though, I would hop on a plane to go back to Turkey tomorrow if I had the chance. Istanbul and Cappadocia are both magnificent. I can't wait to go back there! I don't think going to Turkey is any more risky than going to any other major city in Europe or America.

Posted by
8293 posts

The reference to "attacks on American sailors" in Istanbul in James E's post above, had me puzzled because I had not heard about it before now. So I googled it and found that indeed 3 sailors on shore leave had been roughed up by ultra nationalists thugs, who shouted "Americans go home" or something, and then the sailors scampered away, uninjured. This was NOT an attack by terrorists, a fact not made clear in the above post. I doubt those thugs will rough up any tourist not wrapped in the American flag, and at any rate are probably in jail now, as their faces are clearly visible on the video of the fight.

Posted by
2525 posts

Agree wholeheartedly with Kaeleku's take above. Full disclosure: I have no economic interests in any of the cities mentioned in this thread.

Posted by
4637 posts

"if you feel safer in Paris than you do in Seattle..." I did not write about feeling safer I wrote about being safer and that's different:
"if you live in major American city you'll be probably safer in Turkey." We all tend to feel safer in our well known environment than in foreign unknown one. That does not mean that objectively we are safer. The only way to objectively find out is statistics (and those say it clearly), not our feelings.

Posted by
4637 posts

I agree with you, James, feelings are very important. If I feel unsafe let's say because of recent terrorist attack I try to fight it rationally by realizing statistics. I have this example: some people are afraid of flying because some planes came to the ground prematurely and people were killed. But they are not afraid to go to the airport by car where their likelihood of being killed is much greater. I try to help these people to realize statistics and if they are at least a little bit rational it helps. It also helps if they fly more often because fear of unknown is slowly disappearing.

Posted by
2487 posts

These are two totally different things. The original question was whether it is safe to go to Turkey. The answer to that is objective facts and estimates. Whether one feels comfortable or not with the prospect of travelling in Turkey, is subjective. In that sense it is indeed not a right or a wrong decision. If one feels uncomfortable, one just shouldn't go. It's that simple.

Posted by
1009 posts

We can't make that judgement call for you. But think, would you have had any qualms about going to Paris two weeks ago? My guess is no-since one can't predict when or where these people will strike.

My family went to Turkey a few years ago and we were apprehensive with the events in Syria happening, plus family and friends kept asking if it was a good idea. Turns out that was when the Boston bombings happened here in the US.

In my experience most Turkish people were kind and accommodating. We had a wonderful time and would go back again.

Posted by
304 posts

I don't want to delve any deeper into the argument about safety in Istanbul. I felt completely safe when I was there in October. Others may differ.

I will say, however, that I had first hand experience with the medical system in Istanbul during my visit. I absolutely astounded at how good it was. I mentioned in a previous post that my traveling companion had some neurological issues while we were there. These issues led to a long evening at the emergency room of a (private) hospital in Istanbul. Everything about the treatment was first rate, as good or better than anything in the US -- an observation shared by another traveling companion, who is a doctor and went to the emergency room with us. And ... the entire bill --- including extensive tests, an MRI, and a meeting with a neurologist the next day --- was less than $1300. I left the hospital that night thinking that if got sick, I would be tempted to hop on a plane back to Istanbul.

Posted by
1260 posts

We were in Turkey on a RS tour in late Sept. to October 11, 2015. Loved every second of the tour. I am going to Paris in June, may visit Brussels too. The Turkish people are warm and friendly. The sights and food are wonderful. I would go tomorrow if I could. I am not going to let ISIS keep me home. No, I would not go to Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt, etc. The risk is small, in my opinion, and I am willing to take that risk.

Posted by
68 posts

I was in Istanbul recently and felt safer there than in downtown Des Moines at night. And downtown Des Moines is actually a really nice downtown for a city that size. Aparently while I was in Istanbul the news here showed demonstrations and people being killed in Istanbul and freaked my co-workers out. I had no idea it was happening. I know the police were out with riot gear (that I saw off the train) but did not have any problems. I saw the same thing in Rome when I was there. I would go back to Istanbul in a second.

Posted by
6694 posts

Aparently while I was in Istanbul the news here showed demonstrations and people being killed in Istanbul and freaked my co-workers out.

I think you meant people who were killed in Ankara during the peace rally in October.

Posted by
5652 posts

FDR: “Only Thing We Have to Fear Is Fear Itself”

Apparently Euro stock traders disagree:
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/travel-stocks-drag-europe-lower-152256307.html

European markets finished sharply lower on Tuesday after Turkish
fighter jets shot down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border.
The pan-European STOXX 600 (^STOXX) finished down over 1.3 percent
with all major indices in negative territory. France's CAC (Euronext
Paris: .FCHI) and the German DAX (^GDAXI) both ended over 1.5 percent
lower.

Update: Tue, Nov 24, 2015, 1:18pm EST
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/us-stocks-indexes-recover-cautious-181126054.html

U.S. shares had recovered most of their morning losses by early
afternoon on Tuesday but investors remained cautious after Turkey shot
down a Russian warplane near the Syrian border.

"Markets tend to overreact on these types of geopolitical events and
they don't have much of a fundamental impact on markets," said David
Schiegoleit, senior portfolio manager at U.S. Bank Private Client
Reserve in Los Angeles.

Posted by
24 posts

I just returned from a week in Istanbul and let me tell you I didn't even feel the need to worry about pickpockets. I was stunned by how safe I felt walking around Istanbul. I was nervous—let's face it, the American media pumps our heads with a lot of Islamophobia—and the attacks in Turkey and Paris this year had me on edge.

This year I have visited Paris, Stockholm, Berlin, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, Boston, and Istanbul. I would say that maybe with the exception of Amsterdam, I felt safest in Istanbul. The people are so friendly and they are really appreciative of any western tourists right now. Istanbul tourism has taken a major hit this year and it showed. Of the 17 rooms in my hotel, only 5 were booked during my stay. They said a normal off-season would be 10 or 12 rooms booked.