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Is Turkey safe to visit now?

With all that is happening in Ukraine, would you travel to Turkey and Amman, Jordan next month (April)? A friend booked a trip with a woman’s travel-abroad group and she is concerned that the company organizing it is not attending to various travel advisories (not Covid concerns but the physical safety of Americans). I think she should go. Any suggestions for reassuring her?

Posted by
720 posts

Usually I try to pay attention to State Department travel advisories, but right now I am having a hard time making sense of them. I count 23 countries, almost all in Africa, on Level 1 and Level 2 -- "Exercise Normal Precautions" or "Exercise Increased Caution." The other 172 countries in the world are listed as Level 3 or Level 4 -- "Reconsider Travel" or "Do Not Travel." When Canada, France and Italy are listed at the same level of danger as Afghanistan, Ukraine and North Korea, I really question how useful the list is for travel planning.

I spent two weeks in Turkey last fall, and I am returning in May. Last fall I never felt unsafe at all at any time of day or night --- and I was traveling either solo or with a friend. As long as one stays away from the Syrian border, which is not a tourist destination anyhow, I would use the same precautions that I would use most of Europe. Be aware of your surroundings. Of course, terrorism is a risk anywhere in the world, including the US.

With the situation in Ukraine, things could change quickly, but for now the main difference is that you won't be seeing many Russian or Ukrainian tourists.

I don't know anything about the situation in Jordan.

I'm supposed to leave next week for Turkey which I was overjoyed about visiting at first. However, now I am highly concerned as the news (domestic & foreign) both report increasing conflict. There are a number of Russians in exile in Istanbul per reports and I'm sure some refugees may have traveled there as well if able. I know that it is a different country but Ukraine is only half day -1 day trip away as opposed to being an ocean away. Sure terrorism can happen anywhere as 9/11 and ongoing middle eastern conflict has proven but it is still concerning being that close to active known ongoing war. I'm also concerned about any protests that might go on in the larger cities in which our tour group could get caught in unexpectedly. I would hate to be imprisoned in any foreign country.

Posted by
1977 posts

She will have to make her own decisions but I'm curious about her "physical safety of Americans". Unless they are traveling to the eastern part of Turkey past Ankara or will all be chanting "USA" everywhere, then I doubt she has much to worry about. We went in the height of the Syrian conflict where war was on their doorstep. Traveled to Istanbul and Izmir and would have never known there was a war. Turkey is a huge country.

As for Ukraine, Turkey has good relations with both Ukraine and Russia and has been very careful to remain neutral while calling for peace talks. Terrorism can strike anywhere and traveling in Turkey is not 100% safe, just like traveling in Paris and Barcelona or Berlin(all cities that have had ISIS attacks). However, I'd tell her the facts but say if she's nervous than it's her decision.

Posted by
720 posts

@sybil - I have never seen any demonstrations in Turkey. Even if there were demonstrations, your tour guide would likely not let you anywhere near them.

I really regard Istanbul (or Turkey in general) as similar to other big cities in Europe in terms of safety and security. And there are going to be refugees from Ukraine (and Russia) all over Europe these days. I might treat Istanbul as similar to Budapest in terms of politics -- just keep your politics to yourself while you are there.

Of course, it's your decision, and you should go with your comfort level. I am just sharing what my experience has been there recently.

Posted by
18489 posts

I wouldn’t listen to too much here or elsewhere. The research is fairly easy to do. I’ve been to Istanbul a handful of times, and while I enjoyed it, I really never get completely comfortable there. Still, it’s well within my risk tolerance and a fascinating place to visit and I am certain I will be back. But the intent of any holiday is personal enjoyment so only you can be the judge of that.

I have never seen any demonstrations in Turkey. Of course, I have only spent one week there in the last year and maybe two weeks in the last decade. But generally speaking the rough stuff is only periodic and I can not imagine being at personal risk with a little common sense.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/26/turkish-police-fire-tear-gas-at-women-protesters-in-istanbul
https://english.alarabiya.net/News/world/2021/11/24/Protests-in-Istanbul-Ankara-calling-on-Erdogan-s-govt-to-resign-after-lira-crash
https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-europe-27553823

Istanbul is safer than some cities and less safe than some cities. Of course it all depends on where in the city you go.
https://www.numbeo.com/crime/compare_cities.jsp?country1=Austria&country2=Turkey&city1=Vienna&city2=Istanbul&tracking=getDispatchComparison

There are refugees from Ukraine all over Europe; but comparatively few in Turkey.
Poland had taken in 1,808,436 refugees (on 15 March)
Hungary 263,888
Slovakia 213,000
Moldova 337,215
Romania 453,432
Russia 142,994
Turkey 20,000
Belarus 1,475

There really isn’t another “European” country (other than Russia and Belarus) that is less of a democracy than is Turkey. But that seems to have little impact on the tourism industry or enjoyment as a tourist.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/16/world/europe/turkey-referendum-polls-erdogan.html

Posted by
46 posts

YES, I feel safe to go ahead and travel in a reserved Rick Steves group tour to Turkey, starting March 28 in Istanbul. (@sybil, are you also in that same group?) Rick Steves considers it safe for Americans to travel to Turkey, and I completely respect his feelings based on decades of travel experience. All the scheduled tours to Turkey are going as planned, and I will feel completely safe in that huge country, across a sea from the conflicts. It is sad to think of refugees but their numbers are hardly a drop in the ocean of the Turkish population, and I don't feel the population of Turkey in general has anything against Americans. Rick wrote an encouraging article about the conflict and European travel here, which might further allay doubts: http://blog.ricksteves.com/blog/russia-ukraine/

Posted by
46 posts

Update: we're a week into the Best of Turkey tour and all is going completely smoothly! We (16 of us in the tour) are all healthy and feel completely safe!

Posted by
5444 posts

Turkey hosts 4 million refugees - the largest number in the world.