I have plans on traveling to Turkey in September. However, the US State Department recommends not to travel. Their site states that thousands are detained in Turkey each year and imprisoned on phony charges. Does anyone know if this is true? As I will be traveling by myself, I am very concerned. Should I travel another time, with a group, or make the trip? Is there any other US Citizens who traveled solo recently and what was your experience? I would be flying in from Serbia and exiting on the train to Sofia. Normally, I don't pay much attention to advisories but with the increased US - Turkey tensions, am I asking for trouble?
I have no experience with or interest in Turkey. An official tour with a group would be nice. They are a bit on the high side if you are working within a budget
Just some common sense things:
Pay attention to the US State Department warnings
Know where the US Embassy is - keep an index card with important info/numbers inside your Passport. I would also keep a copy of your PP in another place in your bag (just in case)
Also keep an index card with your own USA emergency contacts - family, friends, doctor (if needed)
Keep a casual, low profile - don't engage in any type of politics or religious conversations or partake in any rallys - walk away
Don't draw attention to yourself - Don't wear controversial hats or tee-shirts/jerseys
Don't tell anyone (strangers) where you are staying.
Wear a money belt (if comfortable) to store your PP and extra money and credit card
Keep your backpack safe - don't put your phone and other money where it is too easy to reach in and grab
Get a portable phone charger (that is fully charged of course) like a Pocket Juice - sold in Walmart
Don't flaunt stuff - money, watch or whatever
IF your drink, watch yourself - don't get to the point where you lose rationale
Make sure you obey the rules and policies
Since you are solo, don't get into a car (unless an official taxi) with anyone
Adding another idea - take a look at RS' Turkey itinerary https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/greece-turkey/turkey
Browse through, perhaps follow that so to speak or put together your own and go from there.
The State Dept alert is highly weighted toward certain, listed areas of the country where most tourists don't go. The info continues, in part:
If you decide to travel to Turkey:
- Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners.
- Avoid demonstrations and crowds.
- Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures.
- Monitor local media and adjust your plans based on new information.
Rick Steves Tour groups have been traveling in Turkey this year without issue, and after pretty thoughtful consideration. But I see no need to travel with a group and that's not one of State's recommendations, either.
Of course, these are pretty long train rides to and from Turkey, backtracking along the same line, and there might be more to see in Bulgaria, etc., than you originally planned time for.
I don't know if you keep up with Turkish politics, but they had a failed coup attempt back in the summer of 2016. Since then, Erdoğan has been punishing his political opponents by jailing them or purging them from their professional positions. Unless you're a political opponent or you say something derogatory about Erdoğan or Atatürk openly, I don't know how you're going to get caught up in Erdoğan's purge as a tourist minding his own business. I don't know where you're going in Turkey. I've been to Istanbul alone multiple times, the last being 2015, with no issues.
RS Tours took a year off (or maybe even two), and has since restarted tours to Turkey even though the situation is arguably more tentative politically and Turkey is teetering much more economically (that's why they'd be thrilled with more tourists). The situation you're worried about was much more hostile when VISA reciprocity was temporarily lifted as the US and Turkey were in a major cat fight. Who knows what the future will hold. I would go and have a good time. Read up on the culture first so you're not surprised that it doesn't feel like everywhere else in Europe - that's the beauty though, it's a fascinating country.
Please expand on your previous posting.
Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners. What type of locations? What is meant by Westerners (when in Turkey)?
Avoid demonstrations and crowds. From RS information, I would expect crowds in Istanbul especially in old town/tourist area, or do you mean crowds only where there are demonstrations.
Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures. What are "identifiable" security measures?
Monitor local media and adjust your plans based on new information. How to monitor local media if not fluent in Turkish?
You'll likely be fine. Not that it makes it better, but the people who are being detained are liberal Turks, dual nationals with US government jobs, and people with strong ties to the country doing annoying things, like Christian evangelicals living in Turkey. I went there on a road trip a couple months after the coup when there were still military checkpoints everywhere, it was no problem, everyone was super friendly. So unless you are an evangelical who simply can't keep your mouth shut when traveling, or you work for a three letter agency or the military and your profile is on Linkedin, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.
Also the bus is better between Istanbul and Sofia. Recommend you stop in Edirne and Plovdiv.
I think sites frequented by Westerners includes Hagia Sophia and the Cistern-I think there was a terrorist attack several years ago that killed some tourists-I think they were German.
I don't remember noticing any security at the RS recommended hotel in Sultanamet where we stayed in 2012, but at the Marriott near the airport, they checked the trunk and under the car and we had to go through airport-type security when entering that hotel.
Thanks for the replies. They were very helpful in easing my mind. Since I always keep a low profile and don’t talk politics, I think I should be fine.
Lynn, those are not my statements. They're from the State Department.