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Turkey, terrorism and safety

My boyfriend and I are traveling to Istanbul and Cappadocia in early October. It’ll be the first time we’re traveling into that region. The US Dept of State website strongly discourages travel to Turkey due to terrorism, false arrests, crimes against Americans and high levels of Covid infections. Has anyone traveled there recently and observed any of this? Is there anything we can do to prevent being victims?
Besides obscenities and inappropriate attire, are there any less obvious behaviors we should not exhibit that an average American would not know about?

Yes, a friend of mine traveled to Istambul from Morocco. I think Turkey is a good place for tourists and travelers to explore the natural beauty of Asia and Europe collectively.

Posted by
25778 posts

you may well be right about the covid. At the moment Turkey is on the UK covid Red List. I hope it improves for you before your trip....

Posted by
12388 posts

I was in Istanbul in July and the biggest threat was the rug salesmen overcharging .......... and COVID I guess.

No social distancing, no masks except on public transportation; went to most of the tourist sites in town and never had to show my CDC card.

Plenty of Cops (but maybe not such a good thing if the fear is a false arrest?)

Its been a few years since terrorist blew up anything that I have heard of; the last that comes to mind was some tourists in the hippodrome, but that was five years ago (oh and someone blew up a night club a couple of years ago if I remember correctly; and then there was the failed coup a few years back ... and I think that was the same year terrorists got into the airport and blew up quite a bit).

Stay in a good hotel in the Sultanahmet district (I have stayed in a few over the years, ask and I can make recommendations).

Always enjoy my trips to Istanbul (and I will be back for one night in about 2 weeks)

Posted by
1428 posts

A colleague and her family spent two weeks in Istanbul this summer. She wears a head covering so that may have influenced her experience. But she had a wonderful time and thought the city was beautiful. The only difficulty she noted was that English was not widely spoken, compared to other places she had been. She thought Covid was better managed there than in US (we live in Florida so bar is pretty low) and talked about having to get rapid tests to enter certain places (she and family are all vaccinated).

I have another colleague from Turkey who visits her family once a year who has continued to discourage us from visiting for all the reasons cited (except Covid). Istanbul is on my bucket list but so are a lot of other places so I haven't pushed that envelope yet.

Posted by
4765 posts

No social distancing and no masks probably accounts for why Covid cases have risen in Turkey!

Most of the terror related incidents relate to the far east of the country.

I got barged and elbowed out of the way by men in Istanbul when I dared to walk in front of my husband. Istanbul is an interesting mix of east meets west. Although the souks are interesting, being harangued to buy carpets etc every few feet gets tiring after a while.

Posted by
1227 posts

The current rate of new Covid cases in Turkey is less than 1/2 the current rate in the US.

Posted by
12388 posts

Jennifer; the activity I mentioned all happened in Istanbul. Have never seen the experience you had with men in Istanbul (and my last trip was with my 30 year old daughter). Sorry that happened to you. Rug salesmen, yes.

Posted by
878 posts

I visited Turkey 2019, pre-Covid. Terrorist attacks occur everywhere, including the US. Gun violence is way up not too far from where I live. Turkey is a secular country. Many women dress in "Western style" clothing and are bareheaded. I wouldn't hesitate to go back.

Posted by
683 posts

Hey folks, this thread has risk of debating side topics that cause a thread to be taken down by moderators. Please be sure to directly answer the OP's three questions to help keep this thread on track. Thanks everyone!

Before travel to Turkey:
Make sure you understand and follow all airline and destination requirements related to travel, testing, masking, or quarantine, which may differ from U.S. requirements. If you do not follow your destination’s requirements, you may be denied entry and may be required to return to the United States.

Posted by
6721 posts

Let's see....
-Terrorism - totally unpredictable and you have almost nil chance of being a target of it, unless you're unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I've been to Turkey 4 times solo when this warning was in place, it never truly went away.
- False arrests - these are politically motivated and targeted at "enemies" of the government, so unless you're in Turkey on a mission to proselytize or to insult Ataturk or Ergogan or stir up trouble, then you should have no chance of this
- Crimes against Americans - you'd have to really stand out and do something offensive for this to be any credible threat; the best thing to do is lay low, blend in and be a good tourist
- Covid - that is the one actual threat and mostly in Istanbul where people are in crowded conditons and shoulder-to-shoulder and not practicing public health measures; I would only worry about this of all the items you mentioned (be sure you're vaccinated and practice public health measures as much as you possibly can; stay away from crowds)

Besides obscenities and inappropriate attire, are there any less
obvious behaviors we should not exhibit that an average American would
not know about?

Probably an average American may not know that there is a greater need to be more modest in displays of public affection. The two sexes are more separated than anyplace I've been to, and certainly more so than anywhere in Europe. So I would tone down any PDA. And obviously no heavy drinking and being too loud.

Posted by
309 posts

The US Dept of State website strongly discourages travel to Turkey due to terrorism, false arrests, crimes against Americans and

Terrorism is a risk anywhere. I did see an uptick in security --- more armored vehicles and heavily armed police --- in Sultanahmet between my visits in 2015 and 2017. Of course, I saw a similar change in Venice between 2015 and 2017.

Funny story: In 2015, we arrived in Ankara a few days after a big bombing. We had a wonderful afternoon at the museum, and then arrived at the hotel late in the afternoon. The hotel looked like a fortress -- surrounded by sandbags, heavily armed military troops with guns drawn, and armored trucks. When we entered the hotel, they they were dead serious about scanning/searching all our bags and luggage. It was not your usual perfunctory airport scan. I started feeling really nervous. It turns out that the hotel was chock full of diplomats doing preliminary negotiations for an upcoming G20 summit, and the Turkish government wasn't taking any chances.

high levels of Covid infections.

Covid infections in Turkey are currently less than half the rate in the US.

Has anyone traveled there recently and observed any of this? Is there anything we can do to prevent being victims?

I have never had an issue anywhere in Turkey. I feel as safe in Istanbul as in any large European city.

Besides obscenities and inappropriate attire, are there any less obvious behaviors we should not exhibit that an average American would not know about?

I wouldn't walk down the street in shorts or a skimpy dress, but I wouldn't do that in any city. Within reason, you don't have to worry too much about dress codes in Turkey. It's not like Egypt or Saudi Arabia. Women need a headscarf when they enter a mosque, and they tend to dress more conservatively in Konya and Cappadocia.

Carpet touts are a pain. Taxi drivers, especially around Sultanahmet, can be a ripoff. Take the streetcar instead of a taxi whenever possible.

Try to learn a few words and phrases in Turkish, if you get a chance. People in Turkey really appreciate it. Some of my fondest memories are the smiles I would receive every time I greeted someone or exchanged small pleasantries in Turkish.

Turkey is an amazing country. You are going to have a great time.