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Istanbul - Security presence at popular sites

Planning a trip to Istanbul and Cappadocia June 8-17. I have been so excited about it, but now all of the fear has gotten to me about terrorists, especially since the attacks in Istanbul seemed to directly target tourists. Has anyone recently been there and can tell me about security measures at places like the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Grand Bazaar? How about on public transportation? What measures have you seen? (I plan to avoid Taksim/Istiklal, and I am staying in an AirB&B on the Asian side in Kadikoy.) Thank you!

Posted by
6697 posts

The last time I was there was Sept 2015. There have always been police manned throughout the Old City, yet it didn't prevent what happened since they can't be in every place at all times. I expect there'd be even more patrols now but I can't verify since I haven't been back since then. The trams are super packed at various parts of the day (I took the tram everywhere and walked) - no way to patrol all of those either. I think you've done all you can by staying in Kadikoy - I can't imagine anything happening there (but that's just me). I would stay away from government buildings, police stations, other political targets, and any kind of organized protest activity. Istanbul is huge and very spread out - honestly, I think you need to be Ok with some (undefined) risk or just not go if your worry overtakes any excitement for the trip.

Kadikoy is a nice neighborhood, lots of young people and appeared much less religiously conservative than other parts of the city - if you go, I think you'll enjoy the great food markets there.

Posted by
2202 posts

We too were in Istanbul beginning of October. And in retrospect it is somewhat unnerving as we recall that we must have stood on the spot of the earlier attack at least 10 times, and walked directly on the spot of the more recent attack.

But if you stop doing what you want to do, the terrorists have won. And in the meantime, are you going to give up on traveling by train because of the now two Amtrak derailments in the last year?

Posted by
5602 posts

It's a fascinating city and I'm hopeful posters who have been there more recently can answer your questions. The Hagia Sophia will take your breathe away. An absolute marvel of engineering. You've chosen a good neighborhood to stay in. Don't let the threat of terrorists ruin your vacation. The world is at war with these extremists and if we allow them to change our travels and dreams and way of life then they win. Not the way I chose to live.

Posted by
12319 posts

I was there early last year and I have photos of my wife standing feet away from the location of the last two bombings. From another trip, years earlier, I also have a photo of my kids standing feet away from where a car bomb went off in London just days later. The threat of terrorism doesn't screw up vacations nearly as much as the actual terrorism while you are there. The trick is all in the timing and I have a crystal ball for that.

I am glad I went to Istanbul, it was revealing. I wasn't as impressed as most people are with Istanbul. Maybe because beyond the architecture I saw a culture I couldn't get comfortable with.

Would I go now? IF, it were number one on the bucket list; probably. If there were (and there are) a number of other places on the bucket list I think I would do something else right now. Otherwise the Risk / Benefit analysis doesn't payoff in my mind.

What's the risk? My guess is pretty dang low. But I know I would be thinking of it and it would be a distraction from the enjoyment; especially when there are other places that are without the risk that I really want to see as well. This summer I am going to a place that technically could be as dangerous as Istanbul (such as that is), but its tops on my bucket list so......

Oh, I also have a few photos of my wife in the Sultanahmet standing next to smiling Turkish security police with automatic rifles. Those that we came in contact within the Tourism industry were very accommodating and outwardly friendly people.

Posted by
1 posts

My husband and I were in Istanbul March 18-24 and in Cappadochia March 25-28. Because we arrived in Sultanahmet the day of a bombing that killed tourists just a couple miles away, and we stayed near the site of the January attack, we were concerned about safety, especially since a couple terrorist groups were publicly saying they were targeting Turkish tourist areas during the Persian New Year long weekend.
Our hotel concierge gave us some good advice- avoid public transportation if possible, and go to sites with metal detectors and/or police presence. As seasoned travelers, this isn't our normal style of exploring, but for this trip, it helped us enjoy the city. We walked everywhere except for a few taxi rides and a Bosphorus strait cruise. All the main attractions such as Haghia Sophia, Spice Market, boat cruise, Archeological Museums, Topkapi Palace, Blue Mosque, and Hippodrome either had metal detectors , police presence and/ or security personnel with metal detecting wands. We felt safe our entire visit. Admittedly, there was always a little cloud of doubt hanging over us and we stayed away from large groups. Tourist lines were short so there wasn't a crowd issue.
We felt much safer in Cappadochia, mainly because it hadn't been targeted and was in a more remote area. We knew that the chances of us being caught up in a terrorism event anywhere in Turkey was remote but because it had happened so close by during our visit, it was hard for me to not be emotionally affected. When the Brussels bombing occurred, during our time in Turkey, we were reminded that terrorism can happen anywhere at any time.
I think traveling to Turkey these days boils down to how risk averse you are. The state department has increased the area of its geographical warning for travel in Turkey ( now beyond the Syrian border areas) , so that's something to consider, too. Best wishes-

mlwharriman74 thank you for your most intelligent, percise comments about safety, own preception, concerns and tolerence of risk. You, in my opinion, have made the most sense so far after reading other comments! Very grounded message!