Is it safe to travel to Turkey? We get this question a lot. The answer is loaded and fluctuates on a spectrum. We’ll look at what the safety risks are in Turkey, what the cultural expectations are, as well where your common sense kicks in to do the right thing. Hence, we’ll give you the full details on all you need to know to be safe on your trip.
Overview: Safe Travel to Turkey
As a foreigner living in Turkey, my first reaction to this question is yes, I feel safe in Turkey. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have come here as a single woman years ago or brought my young children here to experience all Turkey has to offer. But there is some nuance to being and feeling safe. You need to follow the proper precautions for traveling and living in a foreign country. Also, monitoring the news and being aware of your surroundings. Know the cultural norms and what to wear that you need to follow to FEEL safe. I hope that this article will give you a well-rounded view of safe travel in Turkey so you can enjoy your time here. Arrive with your heart wide open to experience all that Turkey has to offer.
Assessment: Turkey Travel Safety Risk
Do we have a safety risk for travel in Turkey? There is risk in everything we do. Whether we’re riding in a car, flying in an airplane, or going swimming in the sea. We weigh our risks and make decisions to do the best we can to stay safe. The same goes with travel to Turkey, or anywhere for that matter. We weigh our risks, our comfort level traveling to a developing country, our level of travel expertise to do the best we can to stay as safe as possible. Check-in with your local Department of State for Turkey travel advisories before your trip.
Travel Risk Factors in Turkey:
Turkey is safe to visit if you avoid certain parts of it. Stay clear of the Syrian border and unrest in the Southeast.
There are some issues with taxis not turning on their meters and trying to charge higher prices. This is most common going to and from the airports.
This is common in larger tourist destinations. Be sure to hold your personal belongings close. I like to use one of these slash-proof travel bags on days I’m traveling in the city.
Earthquakes are known to occur in Turkey as well as fires in the summer due to drought conditions.
Muggings and assaults are reported to happen along the Syrian border. Typically, terrorist groups target journalists and humanitarian workers.
Terrorism is one of the biggest concerns I hear among tourists. The reason I get asked about safety in Turkey. Most attacks are linked to the groups in southeast Turkey.
Common scams in tourist cities in Turkey are locals making friends with a tourist and taking them out to a local restaurant, then expecting the tourist to pay the inflated bill. You’ll also see scams with carpet shops and taxis. Be aware and follow your gut instinct.
Kids & Families
Turks love children – doting on them and making sure their needs are a priority. Make sure your kids have an assigned travel buddy throughout your trip and they’ll have a great time.
If you are a woman traveling alone, avoid walking alone at night or accepting drinks from strangers. Sexual assault and verbal harassment are the most reported issues.
Safest Places in Turkey
Tourism in Turkey is a huge industry and its visitor’s safety are taken seriously. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute in 2021, the tourism industry brought in over $24 billion and over 29 million visitors to enjoy travel, entertainment, sports, and cultural activities. In 2022, the tourism industry saw an increase of over $46 billion and 51 million visitors. Turkey wants its visitors to stay safe while they visit. You can expect the most traveled tourist locations in Turkey will have a heavier police presence and undercover officers as well. Following are the top travel destinations as well as the safest in Turkey to consider during your trip planning:
Next, we’ll look at our favorite safety tips for your trip.
Safety Tips for Traveling in Turkey
- Be aware of your surroundings and always carry your passport, money, phone, and nearest embassy location and contact information with you in case of an emergency.
- Avoid any area within 10 km of the Syrian or Iranian border. There have been assaults, kidnappings, and terrorism reported in these areas.
- Avoid political rallies and protests. Even peaceful protests are known to have turned violent quickly. Best advice: stay away.
- Stay up to date on political developments through your country’s department of foreign affairs. You can sign up for notifications during your trip from the U.S. Department of State.
- Avoid secluded parks and unlit areas.
- Use ATMs in banks, shops, shopping centers, and public places off of the street.
- Don’t drink the tap water. Stick to drinking bottled water which is easily found in the local markets and hotels.
- Be aware of holidays in Turkey. It should not affect your travel plans but you’ll want to be aware of cultural sensitivities and expectations.
Holidays in Turkey
- New Year’s Day
- National Children’s Day
- Labor Day (May Day)
- Seker Bayram
- Youth & Sports Day
- Kurban Bayram
- Democracy & National Unity Day
- Victory Day
- Republic Day of Turkey
- Avoid public displays of affection. This is considered offensive.
- When visiting faith sites, cover your shoulders and your knees. Women should carry a scarf or shawl to cover their heads.
- Do not wear expensive jewelry while traveling
- Dress is smart casual for most locations. Shorts and t-shirts are appropriate but be mindful of the sites you will visit each day. If you’re visiting a beach resort area, yes you can wear a bikini at the beach.
- Shopkeepers will expect to haggle of the price. Prices are typically inflated, so offer half to start.
- Do not comment or speak negatively about the government. A general rule of thumb – don’t talk about politics.
- Learning some basic phrases of Turkish to use on your trip – Hello, Thank You, Hello, Goodbye, Yes & No are good places to start.
- Remember you are a guest in Turkey. Be respectful and open to learning about Turkish culture.
Be Aware of Scams
- Don’t accept food or drinks from strangers. Don’t leave your food unattended.
- Make sure your taxi driver turns on the meter so that you are charged the correct amount.
- Be aware of overly friendly strangers – especially if they offer to take you to a local restaurant or bar.
Tours and Adventure Activities
- Make sure you have travel insurance for your trip. Check if your travel insurance covers the activity.
- Ask about the safety requirements and make sure they are being followed.
Check that the operator is a licensed tour operator with TURSAB (the official tourism board in Turkey)
- Check that your guide is a licensed guide with TURSAB
Is it Safe to Travel Solo to Turkey?
Yes, you can be safe traveling solo in Turkey. Taking the right precautions and being aware of your surroundings are some of our top tips. Below are common sense travel tips for staying safe while traveling alone:
- Do not mention to others you are traveling alone.
- Avoid going out after dark.
- Avoid isolated locations.
- Keep drinking alcohol to a minimum.
- Beware of scams – especially being invited for a drink by someone you recently met.
- Book tours through an agency or your hotel
Safety Tips for Families in Turkey
Turks love children! Kids in Turkey will be well taken care of – being doted on with any of their smallest requests. Expect your kids’ comfort level and needs to be a top priority by the locals. Turks are affectionate and may try to give a hug, kiss on the cheek, or a light pinch on the cheek to the younger kids. All in all, the kids will have a great time and be safe while they travel to Turkey. Get our best tips for traveling in Turkey with kids.
Traveling with Babies
- Breastfeeding in public is uncommon in Turkey. Please be discreet.
- Strollers can get around easily in the main tourist areas. Bring a baby wrap or carrier for those days you may be off the beaten path or have uneven terrain.
- Hotel rooms in Turkey are smaller. Check with your hotel if a crib is available or will fit in your room.
Traveling with Kids & Teens
- Walk a lot at home before your trip to build up stamina. Wear good walking shoes as you and your family will be walking a lot.
- Wear sunscreen.
- Drink lots of bottled water. Do not drink the tap water!
- Make sure kids have a travel buddy with them during the trip.
- We love animals! Be aware there are lots of stray dogs and cats in Turkey. Teach your kids to approach dogs with caution as some of them may not be safe. Be sure to wash your hands if you do pet or feed strays.
- Have snacks on hand! Find out the best Turkish food for kids.
Health Safety in Turkey During COVID-19
*As of 2023, there are no longer COVID-19 restrictions in place in Turkey. You do not need to wear masks or apply for a HES code before arriving in Turkey.
As of 2022, there are COVID-19 cases reported in Turkey. The Turkish government has started the Safe Tourism Certification program to certify that accommodations, restaurants, and transportation are meeting certain measures for hygiene.
Each person you are traveling with will need to apply for a HES code before arriving in Turkey. Keep the HES codes on your phone as you will need to show your code when you enter large public places such as malls or public transportation.
Follow the local safety regulations posted by the Turkish Ministry of Health for COVID-19.
- Regularly wash hands.
- Wear a mask.
- Maintain social distancing.
In summary, it is safe to travel to Turkey if you use common sense and learn the cultural expectations in Turkey. Be aware of your surroundings and the common travel risks seen in Turkey. Always check with your local state department for travel advisories to assess the areas you will be traveling in. While you may approach travel to Turkey with caution, this will allow you to have a great experience and FEEL safe at the same time.