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Should I Go to Turkey Now?

Many people ask me if it’s safe to visit Turkey now. Here’s what I tell them:

I think it’s important to judge travel safety rationally, not emotionally.

Headlines and news bulletins about politically-inspired incidents of violence make a strong impression, but they actually make very little difference to life on the street in Turkey. Here’s an excerpt from a TTP user who was in Istanbul during the recent events:

“We heard about them on our last day, but never felt in any danger during our entire trip. Almost everyone we talked to was friendly and cordial and helpful. We love the Turkish people and their nation and look forward to returning. It’s a fantastic place and it’s sad that they’ve been trying to get into the EU for almost 30 years with no success. If any country deserves it, they do. Turkey has more signs in English than in the Czech Republic!”

New York, Washington, London, Madrid—many of the world’s finest cities have experienced violent incidents in recent years. Would you visit these cities? If so, why not Istanbul?

Here’s the salient point: for any foreign visitor—indeed, for anyone in Turkey—the risk of injury from any sort of political event or violence is very low. Almost vanishingly low.

The true dangers of travel, domestic or foreign, are such things as highway accidents, hurricanes,lightning strikesearthquakes, etc. Statistically, you are more likely to be bitten by a shark while swimming or to be injured while skiing than you are to suffer from a terrorist attack.

Here are some statistics indicating that travelers are more liable to be harmed in bus, train and airplane accidents, earthquake, lightning strike, skiing accidents, etc. than by political activity.

These more mundane dangers should carry much more weight when you make your travel decisions.

Most visitors find that they have concerns about safety only before their trip, and after they arrive at their destination they experience the normal daily life of the place, and don’t think of danger at all—unless there’s a headline.

All that having been said, you should make a decision that you can be comfortable with. If you believe that uncertainty will spoil your trip, you should postpone it until a time when you will feel comfortable going.

As for me, I have traveled in Turkey for nearly 40 years and the worst thing I’ve encountered is a few stomach bugs (and those a long time ago). I wouldn’t hesitate to go to any of the normal tourist destinations, and I wouldn’t consider myself in any danger beyond the normal ones incident to travel.

Here is the US Department of State’s Consular Information Sheet on Turkey, with every possible warning and caution.

Read the TTP Safety Page, and make travel decisions you can be comfortable with.

—Tom Brosnahan


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