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Should I Go to Turkey Now?

Many people ask me if it’s safe to visit Turkey now with such unrest and military activity in the eastern Mediterranean. Here’s what I tell them:

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

I usually ask the question, “Would you visit New York if there were war in Havana?

Most people laugh. Such a silly question!

But that’s pretty much what we’re talking about here. If there is war in Iraq, or Lebanon, or Israel…those countries are not Turkey!

Even if there were war in Turkey, would you be going to the war zone, or to Istanbul and the seaside resorts? Any armed conflict in Turkey is likely to be a thousand miles away from where you are. A thousand miles. At least.

The true dangers of travel, domestic or foreign, are such things as highway accidents, earthquake, lightning strikehurricane, etc. 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 incident, and far less from warfare that is a thousand miles away.

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

(I had friends who would take different flights to the same destination, thinking that if one plane crashed, the other parent would survive for the children. I hastened to tell them that if they really wanted to be safe they should take the same plane, but different taxis to the airport, because the taxi ride was the really dangerous part of the trip.)

Turkey receives more than 20 million foreign visitors per year. Those injured in terrorist incidents may equal about 0.00005% of that number. Far more will be injured in freak accidents, or accidents while driving or riding—and this percentage, too, is still vanishingly small. None. Zero! Were injured in a war.

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

You should make a decision that you can be comfortable with. If you believe that fear 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 Turkey; and I wouldn’t consider myself in exceptional danger.

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 terrorists.

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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