Is it Safe to Travel to Turkey in 2020

The US has revised the travel warning for Turkey by dropping it down to a 2 (September 2019) with only noteworthy warnings on the Eastern borders.

The terrorism incidents that caused travelers to avoid Turkey for several years are now in the past, with no significant events being reported in the past 2 or 3 years (except for warlike events near the border with Syria). Tourism is in a period of recovery now.

In August 2019, the Turkish lira suffered a substantial loss of value versus the major currencies of the US dollar, euro, pound sterling and Japanese yen. This makes a visit to Turkey less expensive for travelers who convert those currencies to liras, but it could also presage economic difficulties for the Turkish economy.

It is unclear what an economic crisis would mean for foreign travelers in Turkey—perhaps nothing. Its effects would be felt most by ordinary Turks, and Turkish businesses.

Romans at Aspendos Theater, Antalya, Turkey

"Romans" at Aspendos
Theater
Antalya, Turkey

Relations between Turkey and the USA are difficult at the moment (2019), with punitive trade tariffs being levied by both countries, and disagreements over foreign, military and banking relations, and the treatment of each country's citizens who happen to be in the other country.

In my 50 years' of experience traveling in Turkey, I have lived through times of difficult relations between the USA and Turkey. Some Turks would converse about the difficulties, ask questions, state their opinions, etc., but I never felt myself to be in physical danger. That was my experience.

However, there can be no guarantee of complete safety, anywhere in the world, for any individual traveler that nothing unpleasant will ever happen. Too many individual factors come into play.

Travelers—including Americans—are still going to Turkey and, except for single males in Istanbul, most find a warm welcome, low prices, and all the beauties and advantages that made Turkey the world's sixth most popular tourism destination a few years ago.

If you are a male considering travel to Istanbul, read this!

Travel Advisories

I follow the diplomats' advice to avoid large gatherings, especially any that are political, etc. Please read these Travel Advisories:

UK Foreign Office

As of September 2019, The United Kingdom's Foreign Officehas the following information on its website regarding travel in Eastern Turkey:

"The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to areas within 10 km of the border with Syria, except the city of Kilis (see below).

The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:

  • all other areas of Sirnak, Kilis (including Kilis city) and Hatay provinces
  • the provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli and Hakkari"

There's lots more. Here it is.

US Department of State

The US Department of State has a travel warning on its website which includes this (as of September 2019) Level 2 warning:

"Exercise Increased Caution" is the statement for the whole of Turkey with only the below significant warnings mentioned:

"Do not travel to:

  • Areas near the Syrian and Iraqi borders due to terrorism. (Level 4)

Reconsider travel to:

  • Batman, Bingol, Bitlis, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hakkari, Hatay, Kilis, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Siirt, Sirnak, Tunceli, and Van (Level 3)"

Read the entire Travel Advisory.

The Embassy of the United States in Ankara website also issues useful advice.

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Here is the warning for Australian travelers, which is similar to those mentioned above.

Resources

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

Government Traveler Records

Many national governments maintain records of travelers visiting foreign destinations so they can alert travelers on the road to dangers as they may arise.

For example, if you apply to join the US Department of State's Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), US diplomats in Turkey will have a record of your personal, passport, contact and emergency information in an online database. If they feel it advisable to alert you to a dangerous situation, the database can make it possible. More...

If you are not a US citizen, your country's government may have a similar program, to which you may wish to apply. It can't hurt, and it may help, if only to allay anxiety.

—by Tom Brosnahan


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