We are thinking about traveling to Turkey this spring with Rick Steves tour. Our family is concerned about us. Is it safe now? Also wondered if vaccines are required? We had to get vaccines when traveling to China and Africa. Would need to add that into total cost if so.
If you're going on Rick's tour, which I've taken, you'll have no problems. Any possible problem areas in Turkey are in the southeast along the borders with Syria and Iraq. The tour does not go to that area. There is no need go get any vaccines. Turkey is a marvelous country to visit with very friendly people and unique sights. The year after I took the tour, I returned with a female friend and basically duplicated the tour route from the prior year. We had a fantastic trip. Along one of the roadways through the agricultural areas between Ugurp and Konya, we stopped for gas and lunch. The restaurant was large and fairly empty. After taking a table, we were asked to move to another area of the restaurant. We seemed to be sitting in a male only enclave.
I have traveled extensively through Europe and Turkey is one of my favorite destinations. Don't worry about a thing and enjoy yourselves.
There have been violent attacks in Turkey, and the possibility of terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens and interests, from both transnational and indigenous groups, remains high.
CRIME: The rate of street crime remains relatively low in Turkey. In Istanbul, petty street crime is most common in tourist areas such as Taksim Square, Sultanahmet, and in the areas around the Grand Bazaar and Spice (Egyptian) Bazaar. Carry only what you need when in these areas. You should carry a copy of your passport and visa with you and leave your U.S. passport in your hotel safe.
I would refer to the CDC and WHO websites about vaccines. Here is the broad page: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/turkey
If you are pregnant (as I am), and traveling with a young child (as I am), or with an elderly/fragile individual, the guidelines will change. You can select characteristics that suit your situation on the website.
I live in Atlanta and consulted with several friends who work at the CDC, and asked about the CDC's recommendations. The recommendation for young children/fragile individuals to get Malaria and Rabies vaccines were only recommended to me if we traveled to rural areas or to Southern Turkey. As we are staying in Istanbul, none of us will be getting those. It was highly recommended to me to get the Typhoid vaccine for my son, as those who are very young are at heightened risk, and it's an easy vaccine to obtain with few risks. My one friend who has travelled extensively says that she always follows the CDC/WHO guidelines for Typhoid, particularly if have young ones or frail ones with you-- you are increased risk if you are NOT used to water and environment.
Ultimately, my husband, who is not in any high risk group, is going to opt out of all of the vaccines. Our toddler is getting the Typhoid vaccine, and I will too, if it is approved by my OB.
I have a number of friends who have traveled to Istanbul with no vaccines, so it is up to your comfort level.
I think it's safe. The limited news for this part of the world that we get in the U.S. clouds perceptions. I have traveled there many times and been in many rural areas and have never felt unsafe.
As noted in the first comment, avoid the far southeast due to historic problems between the PKK and Turkish government. Given the situation in Syria right now, I'd personally also avoid the area south and east of Antakya and south of Gaziantep. These are not common tourist areas.
As far as vaccines, you might consider getting a tetanus (Tdap) booster depending on when you got your last one. I think Hep A is always a good one to have in general for travelers. On a tour it won't be as important, but I have gotten typhoid vaccines on some of my prior trips to Turkey because of where I was working at the time.
Have a great trip!
I went to Turkey this past summer. If you have a really good reason and want to go then I would follow the CDC advice on vaccines and go. If you don't have a specific reason you want to go to Turkey, you just want to go somewhere, there are plenty of other places to go. Turkey does have some great sights but it wasn't my favorite.
Thanks for all the great suggestions. We realize that the news gets filtered considerably when reaching us and that we have no real way of knowing how safe it is to travel to Turkey now. We have to assume that if a Rick Steves tour goes there, that it would be safe. Comments from actual travelers helps us in making the decision as to whether to go or not.
Isn't now the time to go? Within the next couple years?
Before conservative, Islamic Theocracy and other repressive forces continue to pervade the society?
Before more than half the women are observing the Hijab?
How about before the kids that were school age during the Iraq war get any more desperate as they try to make something of their lives in their 20's??
Love for the people of the rich west is not going to be on the rise anytime soon in Arabic culture, right?
I think I want to go while there's still a wonderful stability in Turkish society, despite what's going on across the borders. I already missed the opportunity to visit Egypt before 'Arab Spring' helped straighten things out over there.
Anybody think it's best to wait, and that there's a good likelihood that libertarian outlooks will improve again?
Who's on the side of: Get over there while you still have the chance?
I was on the RS Turkey tour last fall with time in Istanbul beforehand and I loved it all. If there is any potential unrest in any area your guide will adjust the tour accordingly. Are you looking at the Istanbul only or the 13 days in Turkey? If the longer tour, plan for some time in Istanbul before and/or after the tour. There is so much to see and the tour only spends a couple of days there.
I would like to correct a statement in the post from emskuban above - there is no such thing as a malaria vaccine. We can only wish there was.
Vaccines are not required in Turkey for entry. You are likely thinking of the Yellow Fever vaccination/card you are required to get for entry into many developing countries. Turkey doesn't have this requirement. All vaccines you choose to take prior to arrival in Turkey are purely voluntary.
We just returned from Istanbul on the 6th of September and had no problems while we were there. We traveled to Istanbul, Cappadocia and the Selcuk area in October 2012 as well and had no problems then either although the image the media presented then also was not very positive for that part of the world. I don't remember if we needed specific vaccinations but would suggest they you pull up the state department's page on Turkey and it will tell you everything you need to know.
Although another poster mentioned that Turkey was not their favorite, I can tell you that it is definitely at the top of my list of favorite places!