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Question about US State Department Warning on Turkey

Hello All,

So i'm considering Visiting Istanbul on a small group tour, i believe no more than 10 people some time in October. When i check the US Embassy and US State Departments website, the warnings seem to focus more on "terrorism" and "arbitrary detention" rather than COVID. So i'm wondering, are those warnings true or are they politically motivated...? I'm well aware the US and Turkey are and have not been on good terms diplomatically for some time. As i am an admirer of Turkish Culture and History, i'm inclined to believe this warning is political and has no real basis. I've never been to Istanbul, or Turkey so, i'm just wondering if any one can shed light on this. As for the COVID issue-- Don't touch that topic please. If you don't agree with me traveling , don't reply. I have tested negative recently, and despite the Turkish Government not requiring it, i fully intend to get tested the day before the day i'm considering taking my trip; i even have an appointment set, regardless of if i go through with it.

My main concern is weather or not the political tit for tat that the U.S. "fearless" "leader" has engaged in has any reflection on the US Embassy warning, and if it is based in any reality. I appreciate any constructive responses.

Thank you .

Posted by
5666 posts

Germany has had Turkey on a "do not go there" list for several years.

Posted by
10344 posts

You're probably aware of this, but looks like US citizen needs a visa/e-visa to visit Turkey.

Posted by
4368 posts

This October or next? I don't believe that the US government warnings are politically motivated, I think the risks are real, whether they're insignificant or not is difficult to gauge. I wouldn't put too much emphasis on the current administration's thoughts towards Turkey, if anything Biden has vowed to take a stronger approach against the country so I wouldn't interpret the warnings as indicative of the President's own personal opinion.

My main concern at the moment is the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan which Turkey has confirmed that it will get involved in, this potentially raises a number of repurcussions from other nations. Only you can judge what risk you're prepared to take.

As an aside, telling people not to reply if you don't think you want to hear their opinion is not going to endear you to many. You're posting on a public forum where anyone is entitled to post a comment. By all means you can eschew their opinions but you can't tell them not to post.

Posted by
2722 posts

I am not sure why you think this might some kind of political tit for tat. Turkey is one of the countries accepting American tourists right now. Trump appears to like Erdogan so it seems less likely to me that he would engage in any tit for tap type behavior with Turkey. The relationship between the US and Turkey is complex with some tensions over the years but now that Turkey and the US are on the same side in Libya and some other developments, there has been, as the experts like to say, a thaw in the relationship. The concern about terrorism is typical in the advisories for European countries. The "arbitrary detentions" refers to people like Andrew Brunson and even with that Turkey was at Level 2 until COVID. Whether one supports Trump or not, I see little to suggest any game playing.
In 2019, the US State Department upgraded Turkey, except for the regions near the Syrian and Iraq borders, to the same safety level as Germany, France, and the UK. Then it was lowered because of COVID in August 2020 just like it was for many countries. I mean Turkey and most if not all Europen countries are currently at Level 3. BTW, as noted Turkey has been on the hot list for Germany for years and it's not just for travel to Turkey -- I once had the back luck of going through German passport control behind some Turks and I have never seen travelers questioned more and pressed more about their plans for their visit. It was actually pretty obnoxious.

Posted by
18 posts

TO JC-

I'm sorry if i sounded rude by asking people not to reply on a certain issue- However a few months ago a good post of mine was hijacked and eventually deleted by people who sanctimoniously decided to condemn those of us who cant wait to travel. It was when certain countries in Europe were set to open, and i asked about Portugal, and got "lectured" about how selfish it was for me to travel even if the destination country's government SAYS its ok for tourists to visit. I believe a moderator at the time posted a sticky for people not to get off topic and essentially pontificate political opinions on traveling.

I don't want this topic to get hijacked into a COVID "your selfish" argument. I appreciate your answer, and again, no rudeness was intended.

As to everyone else who replied, thank you- I consider myself very respectful of other cultures and nations, i'm not the "Ugly American" and just want to appreciate the beauty of Turkey and the wonderful culture. I have been avoiding the news as of late for obvious reasons, so was unaware of the Azerbaijan- Armenia dispute, i also wasn't aware of any "Arbitrary Detainments" from media reports in the US, and that stuff seems to get a lot of attention from certain moralistic media outlets.

Any who thank you for all the info... i guess i may just have to take the risk. But, really, no travel, and no country is ever totally free of risk i suppose.

Posted by
3789 posts

The other consideration is that you are on a tour. If it is a recognized and long term business, they tend to avoid areas where their customers will run into conflict, blame them and write a bad review. When things are truly unstable, they will cancel. It isn't a comment meant to be facetious or cynical, but it does change the focus from you as a single wandering American man to one of a group that may have multiple nationalities.
I agree to also check the Cdn and UK travel advisory websites for their perspective.
If, however, you are looking for travel insurance, the printed word is what goes in the event of you wishing to make a claim.

Posted by
4325 posts

You'll have these Embassy "cover our butt" warnings all the time in all countries regardless of the political environment.

Posted by
12387 posts

I went about 2 years ago, and I have to admit I didn't ever develop a warm fuzzy feeling there. Returned for just one night about 3 weeks ago and it was "okay". Returning in December because I promised my daughter a trip this year and it appears to be the most reliable option and I bet she will enjoy it. But its hopefully just part of the trip. Its the best connected airport in Europe so we'll get round trip tickets and then closer to time I'll see what else is open and the buy the final flights. I'm not real impressed with Turkish Air right now, the last trip a few weeks back they really let me down. But few other options right now.

Things have gone bang in Istanbul in the past, airport and Istanbul tourist sites; but same is true in France. Its just the world we live in now.

Enjoy the trip, but do it safely for you and others. I have a post up where I discussed my thought process on the last trip, and the precautions. Maybe you get something out of it. https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/post-trip-reflections

I haven't looked in a while, but Turkey was Level 3, like all but about 6 countries in the world. Level 3 is "Reconsider", not, don't go. And there were some regions to avoid, none tourist sites But double check me.

Happy trails ...

Posted by
3789 posts

I also recommend getting the e-visa prior to travel. Then you know the first hurdle is done.

Posted by
18 posts

Hello again.

Thanks again for all the great info! I feel much more comfortable now about going to Turkey. My initial leaning was that the Embassy Warning was a "CYA" type warning. I'm only going to Istanbul and Cappadocia as part of the tour.

As for the Visa, i guess i should have mentioned that i already got it. I have never before gotten an E-Visa. Its a pretty awesome, thing to get your visa approved almost immediately online! I will use the same caution i would use anywhere else.

Thanks again everyone! Much appreciated!

Posted by
871 posts

For others: you must get your evisa prior to traveling. Do not try to wait until arrival.

Posted by
2042 posts

Just curious, is it an American bsed tour group or European? Let us know how it goes with a trip report if you can.

Posted by
12387 posts

I went back and read the State Dept advisory again. I am presuming the Level 3 is because of COVID, as all but about 6 countries are Level 3 right now Before COVID even France was a 3 because of terrorism concerns. This seems pretty direct and factual and "reconsider" is a fair statement.

Travel.State.Gov

U.S. DEPARTMENT of STATE — BUREAU of CONSULAR AFFAIRS

Travel.State.Gov > International Travel > Country Information > Turkey International Travel Information

Turkey

Republic of Turkey

Travel Advisory

August 26, 2020

Turkey - Level 3: Reconsider Travel

OHT

Reconsider travel to Turkey due to COVID-19. Exercise increased caution when traveling to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Read the Department of State’s COVID-19 page before you plan any international travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Turkey due to COVID-19.

Turkey has resumed most transportation options (including airport operations and reopening of borders) and business operations (including day cares and schools). Other improved conditions have been reported within Turkey. Visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page for more information on COVID-19 in Turkey.

Do not travel to:

Sirnak province, Hakkari province, and any area within six miles (ten kilometers) of the Syrian border due to terrorism. (Level 4)

Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.

Security forces have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including U.S. citizens, for alleged affiliations with terrorist organizations based on scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated. U.S. citizens have also been subject to travel bans that prevent them from departing Turkey. Participation in demonstrations not explicitly approved by the Government of Turkey, as well as criticism of the government (including on social media) can result in arrest.

Posted by
12387 posts

The security in Istanbul was amazing a few weeks ago. Had my passport checked 3 times and my carryon twice. In Houston we had to show the dog our carryon to sniff, and the passport was checked twice.

Made me worry a bit on return when I had no stamps in my passport despite 2, sort of 3, countries. Yea, I know its all electronic these days ....

Posted by
5654 posts

Yup, a State Dept CYA. US policy not to pay terrorist ransoms, cash or otherwise and Secretary Pompeo doesn't want risk lives sending in a SEAL team for your rescue.

Posted by
57 posts

I visited Turkey last year on a RS best of Turkey tour and loved it. I found the people were kind, learning of the culture was interesting and the food was fantastic. I never had a feeling of being unsafe no matter where we were. I would have even felt safe walking around Istanbul alone at night. I hope you have a wonderful time. Oh, yes, we got our Visa's on line prior to the trip.