Since the tours to Turkey are back on the 2018 tour schedule, I'm assuming the organization considers Turkey, once again, is safe to travel. I want to go but still have doubts. Does anyone else have an opinion on the safety aspect of travel to Turkey in the near future?
We were there 2 years ago. Tours wouldn't be operating there if things didn't cool off politically. Their economy is just about dependent on foreign tourists as there is just so much to see there. They must be reopened to tours since the livelihoods of so many citizens are at stake. We were surprised to find the country so modern on their western coast.
My understanding is that the tours were cancelled in mid-year mostly because people were cancelling as a result of events, not because RS thought it would be unsafe.
RS will alter the tour if there are safety concerns. Several years ago, there were violent demonstrations in Taksim Square, near the hotel RS was using. They moved the tours to a hotel far away, in Sultanahmet - a much better location for sights IMO. I took the tour in 2013 and loved it. If you go, plan to spend several days in fascinating Istanbul on your own. The tour spends little time there.
My take is you have to be willing to tolerate some unspecified risk in return for a potentially big upside (a unique country and culture which is unlike the other European tours). A tour company's utmost concern is for folks to have a safe, comfortable experience so you can be assured they'll do everything they can on their end. I've been there three times (twice on my own, including 2015) and wouldn't hesitate to go again but that's because I see the upside as substantially bigger than an unknown risk I can deal with. I don't think anyone can give you an accurate safety reading a year from now and it's unclear what you're actually afraid of in traveling to Turkey. Hopefully going with a group and a local tour guide helps assuage your fears a little bit. I took the Village Turkey tour (when it existed) and it was truly terrific.
Thanks all for your replies. My understanding as to why some of the tours were cancelled last year was because the groups could no longer be guaranteed safe passage out of Turkey should it have been required. Who knows what the real reason was. It's a tour I have always wanted to take and is still on my list. I will have to wait and see how things are next year and what my comfort level is at the time. Wish I had done it years ago when the worries were less!
Lisa, last fall we wanted to give the Turkish government some time to settle following the attempted coup. Then this spring, there were still not enough customers signing up to run a viable tour. However, the question of "guaranteed safe passage out of Turkey" was not one of our concerns. No future event can be guaranteed but air, rail, road, and water transport options have all been operating normally in the direction of Europe.
Laura, this is how rumours start! I actually was told that on a RS tour I took last year. One of my tourmates said she was told that by a tour guide!
Just finished watching the PBS Newshour story on the Erdogan crackdown on dissents and accused dissidents. I would expect that tourist would be safe in the dictatorial environment if they take care to avoid controversy.
Hi Lisa, I have had Turkey on my list for a couple of years and finally have the time (read lack of obligations) to go. I keep waffling. I am looking at either the Sept or Oct trip for 2018, but where it is so far off I can't make a decision on it at this point (a lot can happen in a year).
I am reading this with interest. I would just be extremely disappointed if I booked it and it was cancelled for reasons beyond my control.
I did book the RS Turkey tour for next October, hoping that it will make. If the tour were cancelled, RS would give you the option to sign up for another tour, by transferring your $400 deposit to another trip. I have worked out a Plan B for myself:
another tour! This way, I won't be too disappointed. If you really think you would go, then sign up now to give the RS office a realistic count. Have a Plan B in place for another tour. If 2018 does not pan out, then things might improve in 2019.
Others have made the point that Turkey depends heavily on tourism. Also, someone else made the point that our respective politicians are politicking and posturing so things could settle down and we will be able to go. Bottom line, I trust RS to make the right decision for us, his customers.
I booked the June 2017 Turkey tour in the fall of 2016. I was told it was cancelled due to lack of participation and there were safety concerns. Regardless, I've since rebooked! and would be crushed if, once again, this tour was cancelled. Perhaps the big boys will learn to put their pants on, one leg at a time.
I went with another company which does similar small group tours. We just came back a week ago. I loved loved loved Turkey. We had no problems and no concerns. The people when they asked if we were from the US and we said yes they said they were so glad we were there and please let America know they wish us no harm. They stated they are a peace loving people.
Was at the RS office this past week (to sign up for a tour, [not Turkey]) and asked about the Turkey 'situation'. My understanding of what was said (and reading between the lines) is, at this point they are keeping an eye on events, have not hit the panic button, but are not using permanent markers for anything related to the tours to Turkey.
The focus seemed to be on the spat about Visas, not physical safety of tourists.
I am booked for the October Turkey tour and received an email this week from RS saying they expect our two governments to resolve the visa issue before next spring when the first tour departs. They also stated they will keep us informed and they suggested we wait awhile before making our flight arrangements. I then called the office and came away with the sense that the tours will go as long as something drastic does not occur that would affect our safety. Of course, travel is always a risk. I'm just hoping to minimize my risk as much as possible, I know there are no guarantees.
My sister and I (ages 58 and 68) just returned from a week in Istanbul. We had a fabulous trip! We had no problems the entire time. Because we too, had lots of concerns ahead of time, we used Marmara Tours to arrange a private tour of the city for us. Attila Kilinc, the owner, was wonderful in setting up an itinerary that included everything we wanted to see and do, plus some additional special things as well ( a private cruise of the Bosporus on a yacht, a birthday cake for my sister). Our tour guide, Metin, is a force of nature! The best guide I have ever worked with. He went above and beyond, so many times, to insure we had an unforgettable trip. He met us at the airport at the beginning and escorted us back there at the end, helped us find all the things we wanted to buy, took us to restaurants that would give us a Turkish food experience, so much more. We felt like we have made a new friend. I want to emphasize that our fears about the city were unfounded. We took the same precautions that two older women traveling alone in a foreign country ought to, but quite frankly, we felt safer in Istanbul than I had in Paris the month before. Everyone we interacted with was gracious and kind and welcoming, from the hotel staff to a guard at the Topkapi Palace, who spent 20 minutes with us talking about special things in the museum, to staff at Hagia Sophia, who helped find a hat I had lost. Tourism in Istanbul is pretty flat right now. We were able to get into all the big tourist sights with virtually no wait and no crowds. We really did not see anyone else who looked or sounded like Americans the whole time we were there, which is really a shame. Another experience worth the cost is a Turkish bath. We went to the Ayasofya Hurrem Sultan Hamami in the Sultanahmet area, between Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. It was built in the 16th century and is a bit more expensive than some other hamams, but well worth the cost. We did splurge on getting a VIP Transfer service at the airport, which is pricey, but for me was worth it, to whisk us through customs and security coming into and leaving the country. You can get by without it, but it really saves a lot of time. There is a lot of security at the airport. I also have to give kudos to Turkish Airlines. We flew nonstop from San Francisco to Istanbul (roughly a 13 hour flight). It was a far better long haul flight than we have done on other airlines and we would use them again, if we get a chance to go back to Turkey. We would go back to Istanbul in a heartbeat. It is truly one of the great cities of the world.
Thank you for your trip report and I'm so glad you had a wonderful trip. Is the Visa issue resolved then since you were just there?
I did some reading on the Turkey forum of tripadvisor.com about a month ago. There was a lot of up-to-date information, including experiences of US citizens and how they had obtained visas by stopping in another country on the way to Turkey.
We actually got our visas online back in August, before the current visa situation developed. They were honored without any problems. The visas are good for 6 months from the day you state you are entering Turkey. I don't know the current state of the visa situation for sure, but had read in the press that they had started reissuing visas on a "limited basis". It would be worth checking out. Our experience with the e-visa process online was quick and easy.
I just sent you a private message about the RS Turkey tour. Three of the five tours are currently waitlisted. Interest is strong. I feel confident our governments will resolve the visa situation. Hopefully, soon!
The current procedure for US citizens to obtain a visa requires a personal visit to a Turkish Embassy/Consulate office.
This could morph into the permanent process as this is similar to the process that has been in place for US citizens to obtain a visa to enter Brazil. Brazil does not require a personal visit, but the application has to be delivered in person. There is a cottage industry that provides this service at a not insignificant fee.
I do not share Judy B's 'confidence' that the situation will resolve ' hopefully soon' , or necessarily revert to its previous method.
If a Turkish consulate office is close enough to be practical to visit, I would start the procedure to get the visa via that method.
It would not surprise me that RS may have to cancel some/all the tours if most of those signed up cannot get a visa.
Before I would put money down on that tour I would want to know what RS will do regarding refunds if you are unable to get a visa.
I did call the RS office a few weeks ago after I received an email from RS saying they thought the visa situation would be resolved. In that email, they also advised us to wait before making our flight arrangements (I'm booked on the Oct 15-27 tour). In my phone conversation, I asked what would happen if the tours were cancelled and I was told they would transfer our $400 deposit to whatever other tour we wanted to go on. If the tour is cancelled after we make our plane reservations, they will take care of the change fees, up to a certain point, I think she said $500. She told me they would work with me to ensure I was satisfied. If we could not obtain visas, I would anticipate RS would cancel the tours. I did not ask if they would refund the $400 if I did not want to select another tour. I have a Plan B if my tour is cancelled and would happily take one of the other tours.
Visa now available for USA citizens
I received an email from RS stating the tour is a "go"! And, the Visa can be obtained online 90 days before your arrival date. So excited!! This is the best news.