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Safety Concerns

Is anyone who can respond in Turkey now? My husband and I are supposed to be flying into Cappadocia for two days and then flying to Istanbul for five days the first week of November. Now I find myself extremely concerned because of the bomb that was set off in Ankara this weekend. Do I need to change my travel plans? We have been looking forward to this trip for several months and it would break my heart to change our plans to another country, but if our safety is in question we will have to. I've already tried to contact the US consulate in Istanbul, but I haven't heard a response yet. Any wisdom into how things are going in Cappadocia or Istanbul would be greatly appreciated.

-Ciara

Posted by
8293 posts

There was an explosion in Ankara about 48 hours ago killing about 50 people. Supposedly ISIS is responsible.

Posted by
6694 posts

Only you can answer your own question because everyone has a different comfort level. I was in Istanbul in September (3rd trip traveling alone) and can tell you it is a huge, spread out city (albeit the "key" tourist sites are concentrated in Sultanahmet, the "Old City"). Another area where there are large crowds because it's a transport transfer point is "Taksim Square". The one safety precaution I would follow is stay away from any demonstrations or huge gatherings. If you want to travel low-key, you can avoid tourist areas altogether by booking a hotel on the Asia side which is mostly local (Kadikoy has nice hotels, for example)...there are also plenty of local neighborhoods right by the airport (although there is no evidence that tourists areas are targeted, and you will see a lot of tourist areas patrolled by cops with guns). Frankly, you have more risk in a car just driving to the airport than any terrorist attack, so keep that in mind.

No one has claimed responsibility so I would not assume one way or another who is responsible or what their motivations are. It's clear that the government is in limbo right now because Erdogan cannot put together a governing party after losing the majority in Parliament. That leaves an opening for upheaval and some group took advantage of that.

Keep following the news because you'll get a sense of what the government's reaction will be in the coming days/weeks. I would guess that areas will be more heavily patrolled.

Also, it seems that close to 100 people were killed (not 50). I am not sure the confirmed the final number yet, it may be higher.

Posted by
9 posts

To Kaeleku
Although I do appreciate the feed back, I don't appreciate the condescending attitude. The difference is that Chicago and Seattle are separated by 30 hours of driving time, while Ankara and Istanbul are only a few hours away from each other. The real parallel would be if the was a terrorist attack in Illinois's capital city of Springfield and I was traveling into the other major city of Chicago, of course I'd be concerned. I feel my worry is warranted; not because I am a Turkish communist, but because people can have political demonstrations in any city. I am asking if people currently traveling in Turkey are noticing anything that would benefit me to know before I leave.

Posted by
9 posts

I believe the boost in security would make me feel better. Thank you. I'm hoping this is an isolated incident. My husband and I have for the most part decided that if nothing else happens, we will continue our trip as planned. Still looking for more information though.

Posted by
6694 posts

Just so you know (prior to the Ankara bombing), the last such event took place in Taksim Square in 2010 (hence my advice to perhaps stay away from areas where there is a lot more tourist/business/local traffic than others because it it a transport transfer hub). The attack took place during a large celebration, so it was not random. Here's the info:
http://www.nationalturk.com/en/suicide-bomber-wrecks-havoc-in-istanbul-taksim-square-356756
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Istanbul_bombing

Posted by
8293 posts

Agnes,
I don't understand your post. Have you not heard about the many who were killed in Ankara over the weekend?

Posted by
6694 posts

Norma - yes, I referenced it in my (first) response. My second response was my last recollection of a similar event, which happened 5 years ago in Taksim Square. There may have been others, but the OP was asking specifically about Istanbul.

Posted by
244 posts

I just left Turkey yesterday after almost a month in the country felt perfectly safe, but saw a lot of security. On Saturday night the only thing we noticed in Istanbul was the Facebook and social media was shut down. It is hard to say if you should go, part of me felt better leaving but the other part wished I had more time, I already had a flight booked. If you go enjoy I loved Turkey and am already planning a return trip in the future

Posted by
5652 posts

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/turkey-travel-warning.html

Turkey Travel Warning LAST UPDATED: SEPTEMBER 3, 2015 The Department
of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Turkey that the
U.S. Consulate in Adana has authorized the voluntary departure of
family members out of an abundance of caution following the
commencement of military operations out of Incirlik Air Base in
southern Turkey.

http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/turkey.html

Due to a record of past terrorist attacks in Turkey and a continuing
threat from both transnational and indigenous groups, the threat level
for the possibility of further terrorist attacks against U.S. citizens
and interests remains critical.

In the past, terrorists have attacked U.S. interests in Turkey,
including the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the U.S. Consulate General in
Istanbul, and an iftar organized by U.S. Consulate Adana to celebrate
the end of Ramadan. As security is increased at official U.S.
facilities, terrorists may seek alternative targets, including
facilities where U.S. citizens and Westerners are known to live,
congregate, shop, or visit. Terrorists have also been known to conduct
attacks at sites frequented by tourists. Be especially alert in such
places.

Posted by
6694 posts

With respect to the above State Dept warning, they are (mostly) referencing Adana and southeast part of the country, which is not Istanbul.

I did not even know about the warning (or noticed anything unusual in Istanbul) when I traveled there in early to mid September.

Posted by
2525 posts

"In the past, terrorists have attacked U.S. interests in Turkey, including the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, the U.S. Consulate General in
Istanbul..." [empahsis added]

Posted by
4637 posts

I would not cancel. Statistical probability of dying in car accident or being shot while in USA is quite higher despite that we drive and are not moving from the USA. There is a certain level of risk we take while traveling sometimes even lower than staying in the States. There are few countries where I would not travel these days because I consider the risk for an American too high. Turkey is not among them.

Posted by
449 posts

Be aware, be prepared to change plans whilst in Turkey, but do enjoy your trip.

And I agree, chances of being shot in our trigger happy country is probably higher than being injured in Turkey.

But I do understand your post for current information from someone who was either just there, or still over there.

Best of luck. Let us know how you managed.

Posted by
60 posts

Statistically you have more chance of dying in a car crash on your way from home to the airport than from being killed or injured in a terrorist attack here in Turkey.
The problem is that an event such as last Saturdays involve such high numbers -a bit like a plane crash-that inevitably it catches everyones attention.But these are freak events,not daily ones.Should I tell you about Turkeys roads?During the 4 day Kurban Bayram holiday a few weeks back hundreds were killed or injured in traffic accidents(far,far more than in Ankara) but little was said because it was 2 or 3 here,2 or 3 there, yet this is a far greater terror than anything any terror organisation wreaks here.
I say this to help you put things into perspective ,I am not making light of your fears in any way.I must also say that as a very long term British ex pat living here that it strikes me as ironic just how many US travellers are worried about safety given what happens in America-education campus shootings,drive by shootings,bombings,race hate shootings,cinema shootings etc.etc.My perception of America, rightly or wrongly ,is of a country far more dangerous on a day to day basis than Turkey.
This year despite all that has been happening within or close to our borders the reduction in tourist numbers compared to last year has been negligible and Istanbul has been just as busy as ever with so many post trip reviews appearing on various travel web sites from people saying how happy they were they didn't cancel their trips.
Ultimately only you can make the final decision on whether to travel or not.Consider that everywhere is safe..until it isn't.So,you could cancel and stay at home only to have a bomb or shooting in your home town.Do you really want to live your life sitting at home?
Once here just use the same common sense rules of travel you'd use anywhere in the world.Stay away from Taksim at night and on weekends which is when any protests usually happen.If you see groups starting to gather,hear chanting ,see people carrying rolled up banners then you know there's a meeting about to happen,so simply walk in the opposite direction.Don't be tempted go go rubber necking(I'm sure you wouldn't!).
During the Gezi Park riots of a couple of years back those staying in Sultanahmet had no idea anything was happening until they saw the news in their hotels.It looked horrendous on TV yet was confined to just a few acres of land.This latest too looked and was awful yet this too was confined to just a small area and importantly aimed at a specific group of people rather than a random attack.
As for Cappadocia you have no dangers there at all other than that wonderful and unique place stealing your heart :)
Do think and weigh things up ,it would be such a pity to cancel now at this late stage and in all honesty 99.9% needlessly.

Posted by
9 posts

We have decided that unless something else happens we are still going. All that being said, we are renting an Airbnb near Takism. Would it be wiser then to find something closer to Sultanamet instead?

Posted by
338 posts

I'll probably echo most of what has already been said, but my recommendation is that you go ahead and go. Here is my logic:

  1. The attacks in Ankara are political in nature. They are not targeted at tourists. This is true of almost all terrorist attacks in Turkey. As others have said, avoid political gatherings (common sense no matter where you travel). You're not planning to go there, but I'd add to avoid the immediate Syrian border region and the far southeast if you were considering it. The southeast tends to experience a fair amount of political upheaval and, as you know, the Syrian border is next to a war zone.

  2. There has been some sort of warning associated with the U.S. embassy and with Adana consulate in particular for a long time. They increased it when the Syrian civil war started, but warnings are not new.

  3. The most popular tourist areas in Istanbul are well protected. There is a noticeable police presence in these areas. Tourist areas in Cappadocia are widespread and rural. The business owners in both areas have a strong interest in protecting tourists and the tourist business. In general most Turks in any location are friendly and will try to help you out.

  4. Turkey is bigger than most people realize. Istanbul is much bigger than most people realize. Even nearby events are still far away relatively speaking. Way back in 2004, during my wife's first trip to Turkey, a bomb went off in Istanbul the day she was due to fly and meet me. She arrived quite nervous with panicking friends and relatives worried about us. I had been sightseeing with a co-worker and hadn't even heard about it. We experienced no problems or issues during that trip. I've been in Adana when protests were scheduled/occurred and had no problems. You are very unlikely to experience any problems.

I hope you can find some reassurance from this post. Turkey is one of my favorite places to go and Cappadocia is one of my favorite places in Turkey. I think you'll have fun if you go.

Good luck!

Posted by
60 posts

Taksim covers a large area,it isn't just the square and a couple of streets, so it depends on where it is.Some places are advertised as close to Taksim as a marketting point but are often quite some distance away. I can appreciate you wouldn't want to give info like that on the open forum but if you would like to send me that info via a private message then I can tell you just how close it really is and what sort of neighbourhood it is in,if this would help to ease your mind.

Posted by
10 posts

Hi ciaranicole9, I am posting this in hopes of allaying some of your fear of traveling to Turkey as I too was looking at this forum prior to our trip on September 13th. My husband and I returned home on the 16th of October after spending over a month in amazing Turkey. We planned the trip ourselves taking three flights within Turkey and renting a car on the coast. We began in Istanbul and ended there. There was not a moment in the trip that we felt unsafe. We did notice an increased security presence at Ataturk airport upon our return to Istanbul with an unscheduled passport check right after we left the plane from Izmir. When we flew out of Ataturk airport to Paris there were 4 security checks. For us, this seemed a good thing. We were in Cappadocia in September and the only guests for one night in our cave hotel as non-Turkish travelers had cancelled due to security fears. Our amazing host designed and built the lovely hotel 20 years ago. He said that Cappadocia has never had incidents of any sort, however, North American and European tourists were cancelling. Our friends and family at home in Vancouver were happy when we were home "safe & sound". The media is a big part of fueling this fear. I do admit that Turkey has its problems politically. Yes, what happened in Ankara was a tragedy but as a tourist you would have no business being anywhere near a demonstation like that. FYI too, three days of mourning was declared after the bombing in Ankara, however, to our eyes life carried on as normal with no impact to us as tourists. Go and enjoy, the Turkish people will welcome and help you it seemed their goal was to ensure our happiness in our travels and they did.

Posted by
304 posts

I just returned from 2 1/2 weeks in Turkey, including a brief stay in Ankara two days after the bombing. I never felt unsafe at any time during the trip. Istanbul and Cappadocia are wonderful, and the Turkish people are delightful and welcoming. Enjoy your trip, and don't worry!

Posted by
35 posts

In 2014, days before my trip to Uganda, there was a state department warning against traveling to Kampala with credible threats.
We had no issues. You just never know.
On Turkey, I am thinking about staying a couple of days in Istanbul on my way to Austria next year.... if its still on the warning list, Ill just try to stay vigilant.

Posted by
1351 posts

The blast today in the heart of Sultanhamet will have at least a near term impact on tourism. Will wait to see who was hurt but it seems targeted at tourists.

Posted by
95 posts

Saw the news this morning regarding the suicide terrorist in Istanbul. Was there this past October, and luckily it is not a very crowded tourist locale, although in the middle of Sultanahmet district. Luckily it was not in front of the Blue Mosque or the Aya Sofia, where there are more people, and that it happened in winter when there are less tourists. Hope there were not many American tourists, although it is reported there were several Germans. My prayers to all of the victims and may the wounded heal soon. Very sad news, indeed.

Posted by
191 posts

From nbcnews.com: Tuesday's explosion struck close to a monument called the German Fountain, between the Blue Mosque and the Haghia Sofia.

That is in the center of it all.

Posted by
95 posts

According to BBC it shows that it occurred in the Hippodrome area, not far from the Egyptian obselisk ( they show a map). Yes, it is a touristy area, but not as famous as the Blue Mosque and AyaSofia (Sultanahmet Square) square. As I remember, there seemed to be a lot less secret surveillance ( if those chestnut /corn/ turkish pretzel sellers are indeed secret police, as our guide told us) in the Hippodrome area compared to the Sultanahmet Square. Less crowds, too. Unfortunate that it happened at all.

Posted by
338 posts

This attack is a bit different from others that have occurred historically in my opinion. This was directed at a cultural target in a tourist area not at a Turkish government/government protest type target. The Hippodrome (which includes the fountain and the three obelisks) is the historic center of the old city. I'm fairly confident that it was intentionally selected as an easily accessible cultural target that is important to Turkey. For the first time on these boards I'd urge people to avoid Turkey for the near term until more is known about the threat. For those with plans more than a few weeks out I'd keep them for now, but monitor the situation.