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Recent visitors to Istanbul since election?

Hi, folks! We're a couple in our early 60's, traveling independently, with tickets to Istanbul (bought before the coup), from Dec 31st through Jan 12th. We'll mostly be in Istanbul, with a 3-night side trip to Selcuk midway.

Has anyone been in Turkey recently, say, since the U.S. election?

I am following Hürriyet Daily News on Facebook -- there's a lot of news coming out of Turkey -- and I'm looking for any current feedback on how things are and how Americans and E.U. citizens are apt to be seen and treated (assuming we behave ourselves appropriately, of course.)

Many thanks,
Annie

Posted by
33 posts

I ask because the U.S. election results - along with the Brexit vote, recent actions against Syria, the coup, and President Erdogan's response to the coup - all seem to have negatively impacted the value of the Turkish lira against the dollar. This is why I was wondering if anyone has/had recently been there? Thanks!

Posted by
6610 posts

The last time I was there was September 2015. I don't think you need to self-identify as an American (it's optional...when in doubt, I can become Canadian awfully fast...just kidding, well sort of). I think the people there in the service industry will be so happy to see any tourist given the drops in tourism - they are warm and friendly people in general. They have a strong sense of hospitality. Having said that though, there is a certain segment of people who are very receptive to Erdogan's message and he can easily drum up anti-western sentiment. Somehow, I don't think you'll experience this just as a tourist trying to see some sites, buy some goods, and lodge somewhere. The service people will be very helpful.

I hope you report back here once you're done with your trip - I would love to hear your experience. So many people have stopped going to Turkey (including Rick Steves tours for the past half year) that it would be nice to hear back from someone willing to venture there. I don't think you'll see much tourists given the time of year when you're going - it's definitely off-peak and you'll have the attractions to yourself. Topkapi Palace is beyond amazing, among other sites.

Posted by
12212 posts

I dont suppose you checked the state department advice?

On October 29, 2016, the Department of State updated its Travel Warning for Turkey to notify U.S. citizens of increased threats of terrorism throughout Turkey, encourage citizens to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey, and advise of the Department of State’s decision to order departure for U.S. Government family members of employees posted to U.S. Consulate General Istanbul. On November 22, 2016, the Department of State extended ordered departure for Consulate General Istanbul through December 27, 2016. These decisions were made as a result of the Department of State’s ongoing assessment of security conditions in Turkey and in recognition of the threat environment in southeastern Turkey.

In addition, the ongoing state of emergency has expanded Turkish security forces’ legal ability to detain individuals without charge from a maximum of four days to a maximum of 30 days. It also expands security forces’ authority in stopping, searching, and validating identification documents. Those stopped without a passport or identity document are subject to a fine or imprisonment. Travelers may also see an increase in police or military activity and restrictions on movement. Delays or denial of consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces, some of whom also possess Turkish citizenship, have occured.

Posted by
8293 posts

Kaeleku's post is reassuring and thoughtful and, most important, from recent experience. Thank you.

Posted by
12212 posts

I’ve been to Istanbul and I am among the few that wasn’t impressed with the experience and wouldn’t spend the money to return. In all honesty, if I had a ticket I couldn’t return for a full refund; I would go. Although I might just use that ticket to get to Istanbul then grab a discount ticket out of Istanbul to some place that sits better with my conscience. Istanbul is a major hub and a lot of the world is accessible for under $100 out of Istanbul. But you don’t know me any better than any of the others that post here so that’s antidotal.

What does carry some weight for in my mind are institutional decisions.

As recently as 11 days ago, the State Department didn’t think Istanbul was a good place for the families of their staff. That means something to me. Especially with a State Department that is extremely politically correct in the messages it sends through its actions. The fact that the ban expires on December 27th if not renewed also means something to me.

The comment that “Delays or denial of consular access to U.S. citizens detained or arrested by security forces” also concerns me because it indicates a disregard by the government for international laws and customs.

If I were seriously considering going I might also check the UK and Canadian government sites to see what they say. Yes, I imagine they are all going to be very conservative in their recommendations; but it might provide some balance to the “I went and I lived” sort of antidotal reports.

And the "I felt safe" comments ... well, most of those hurt by terrorists "felt safe" up until the instant that things changed. No one knows. Educate yourself and make the decision that is best for you. But make sure you make a decision that will provide a trip that you truly enjoy without worry.

Posted by
8293 posts

As far as consulting government websites for travel advisories, we did just that before we went to Israel about 10 years ago. Advice was that it was dangerous to travel there at that time and we should register with the Canadian Embassy in .Tell Aviv upon arrival. So we sought out the embassy to register and were the cause of much laughing and snickering among the staff. Eventually one young woman pointed us to a book where we could write our names, etc. How this was supposed to be a safety measure remains a mystery.

Posted by
8293 posts

Ahhh....... we are inscrutable! But polite about it.

Posted by
33 posts

Thanks for a lot of very thoughtful and detailed responses, and for the great points raised here!

Posted by
422 posts

Why, thank you James E.

Posted by
9 posts

I was in Istanbul from November 20th to 26th. It was awesome. I am 40, male, American, and traveled alone. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. I really mean friendly. I've been in Lisbon, Rome, and Paris, as well as several cities in the US. I have never been in a more friendly city. I speak a little Turkish, so can communicate a little, but I still needed a lot of help, and I got it. Try that in New York.

People asked me about Trump, but no one blamed me for it. I even talked to a couple police men between the Spice Market and Yeni Camii. They asked me about Hillary, Trump, Erdoğan, Breaking Bad, Galatasaray, and the NBA. It was fun. I talked to Syrians, Egyptians, Libyans, Persians, Saudis, Kurds, and Turks. I told people I was American, Christian, from Kansas and everyone treated me very well.

You are going to have a great time.

Posted by
9 posts

Also, I wouldn't hide that you're American. People will be really interested to hear about California, etc. I had one guy ask me about Texas because he wants to go there to play poker. Anyway, it's a chance for fun conversation and an experience that makes the long trip that much more meaningful.

If you don't have Princes' Islands on your itinerary, I highly suggest it. It's easy to get to from Istanbul on the municipal ferry from Kadikoy.

Posted by
208 posts

I am a female, age 65, and was in Istanbul for three days (solo) just after the election in November. I had the opportunity to stop for a few days as a layover after a tour in Uzbekistan (an amazing place, by the way). I had been in Istanbul with a Rick Steves tour a year ago, so felt confident that I could navigate the city on my own. I'm very glad that I did this, in spite of the state department's warnings.

I found everyone friendly and welcoming. There were plenty of people out and about on the streets, tourists and locals alike. I met people from all over the world (but no Americans). The hotel was lovely and its staff especially helpful. I shopped at the Spice Market and the Grand Bazaar, where the merchants invited me for tea while we discussed my purchases. I took the tram to get around with no problems.

I did notice, since I visited twice within a year, that security was tighter. There were many more police on the streets and near tourist attractions with serious expressions and serious guns. The airport has more security than ever. One suggestion - give yourself LOTS of time when you go to the airport for your return flight. I went through no fewer than six security checks before boarding my flight, so you don't want to be rushed.

I wouldn't bother trying to hide your American citizenship. Somehow, they can pick you out anyway. I was alone, dressed modestly, and barely opened my mouth (to speak English), and they still seemed to know that I was from America. People were interested in a friendly way about where I was from, what I thought of the election and so on. It turned out that one merchant had a brother who lived very near me in the States, so we talked about his hopes to visit. Another merchant asked, "Were you afraid to come here?" I said I had decided not to be - the only attitude you can have and not drive yourself crazy. Bad things can happen anytime and anywhere. I happen to live in Minneapolis and drove over the interstate bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River just one week before that happened.

If you're a bit nervous about your visit, I would suggest you hire a private guide for at least part of your time in Istanbul. A good, knowledgable guide can help you relax and have a good time.

Posted by
1 posts

Hello,

I am Mert Taner, one of the guides of Rick Steves Best of Turkey and Best of Istanbul Tours.

I am sure that you are all curious about the safety conditions.

  1. Nobody cares about US presidential elections here.

  2. Safety wise, I have been doing private tours even after the final bombing nearby football stadium. The only thing we pay attention to is to stay away from public gatherings and some protests. Old Town, fortunately you see a lot of security measurements and precautions, and the most important thing is there are no queues in front of Hagia Sophia or Topkapi Palace.

  3. Grand Bazaar and Spice Market prices are extremely reasonable due to lack of customers. You may purchase a lot of authentic items like carpets or tiles in Turkish Black Friday prices.

And the most important thing, there is no US traveler died in Turkey apart from one heart attack case , here is still safer than Chicago , Baltimore or LA.

Posted by
33 posts

Hi, Mert Taner.
Thanks so much for your response. That was quite encouraging and we are looking forward to arriving in Istanbul next weekend.
Annie Organ

Posted by
6 posts

My wife and I, and our 3 kids ( age 14, age 11. And age 9) returned from 8 days in Turkey last night. It was so safe. We loved it! We hired a Rick steves guide, mert taner, and used the expertise of Lale Aran, ( also a Rick steves operator) to plan a Safe and awesome itinerary. We never once felt unsafe! My kids wondered the grand bazaar and spice market for hours! We went to Istanbul, capadoccia, and Ephesus. Crazy fun!!

We had joked about telling people we were from Canada. (We are actually from Montana). However, once we got there we felt so safe that we had no problems telling them we were from the U.S.. People were so kind and generous. We toured 3 mosques, had a Turkish bath, went on a hot air balloon ride-- the whole 9 yards- and always felt safe and comfortable.

It was awesome!

Posted by
9 posts

Turkey is a wonderful place and I would go back there in a heartbeat. I felt safer in Turkey than I do here in the USA with our gun laws - or maybe I should no gun laws. Terrorism can happen anywhere and if we stop traveling, then the terrorists have won.

Posted by
415 posts

Just came back from Turkey yesterday. Stayed in Istanbul and Adana. Didn't read all the previous responses - sorry if I just repeat what has already been said.
Overall, I'd say American elections is not a topic of any significant prominence.
People are primarily concerned about the upcoming referendum (in a couple of weeks), the word on the street is that currently it looks like about 40 percent of the population are in support of expanding presidential powers. A number of issues of potential importance for tourists seem to be dependent on the outcome of the vote - among other things, these include overall safety immediately following the voteand the exchange rate (currently about 3.85, but people seem to believe it has been artificially kept in check by the government pending the referendum results).
The refugee situation (in Istanbul, at least) seems to have improved somewhat compared to half a year ago.
The Kurdish issue is also not as prominently in the news as it used to be.
Pretty good experience overall, but I'd say i could feel some tension in the air - but not in a way that would impact day to day tourism (I speak some Turkish, so I would imagine some of the conversations I had would not have taken place in a regular tour-related encounter).
Again, I'd suggest wait for the referendum and reassess.

Edited for umpteenth time to add Oops, should have read the thread more carefully before posting - didn't realise the original poster already went :-(
all this fighting the phone's autocorrect - and for no good reason in the first place.