Turkey is a melting pot of a variety of cultures and endless historic cities, stunning coastline, incredible natural landscapes, and friendly people.
Following a series of terrorist attacks in recent years (primarily due to the Syrian conflict), many people begin to question if it is safe to travel to Turkey. And the answer is yes, if you exercise regular travel precautions and practice our tips.
Whether you are concerned about terrorism, traveling alone, or transportation, you will find that Turkey is safer even than North America and much of Europe in 2020.
In September 2019, the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs lowered the Turkey travel advisory level to a Level 2. Turkey has been a very safe travel destination again for years now after facing a few years of downfall. The Level 2 advisory means to exercise increased caution due to terrorism. However, the majority of these risks are in Turkey’s eastern region on the Syrian and Iraqi borders, where travel is less common and advised against.
The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office has also lifted a number of Turkey travel warnings that were in place for a few years. The FCO has also suggested that most of the country is safe, while the need to be cautious in a few regions still exists.
Is Turkey Safe?
As in any country, there are places you should not go to and measures you should take to avoid crime. Tourism is a huge contributor to the Turkish economy. In 2014, 42 million foreign tourists traveled to Turkey, making it the sixth most traveled tourist destination in the world.
After unrest in 2016, Turkey only saw 25 million foreign visitors. Since 2017, the number of foreign tourists is back on the rise. The huge contribution to the economy means that the government does everything in their power to give tourists the best experience – that means keeping you safe.
For many people, a terrorist attack is their biggest fear when considering traveling to Turkey. In Turkey, you have a 1 in 9,270,000 chance of being killed in a terrorist attack, while you have a 1 in 4,260,000 chance of being killed by lightning strike, and a 1 in 8,140,000 chance of dying by an avalanche. Yes – you’re more likely to die by lightning strike or avalanche than a terrorist attack.
7 Safety Tips for Traveling to Turkey
Be Careful with Money and Expensive things
Even if it is unintentional, if you appear to be wealthy by counting your money, wearing fine jewelry, or clothes, you automatically become a target for scammers and pick-pocketers.
Don’t Insult the Turkish Government
Reputation is HUGE for the Turkish government. Harsh criticism of the Turkish government is a crime and an insult.
Familiarize yourself with Religious Etiquette
Covering your legs and shoulders in a mosque is mandatory. Additionally, familiarizing yourself with religious holidays and respecting them is very helpful. For example, if you are in Turkey during Ramadan, eating in public during the day is not respectful.
Watch out For Scams
In general, Turkey is a safe destination with wonderful people, most of whom want you to get the most of your trip. However, it is important to be familiar with some of the scams that occur.
Single male travelers are targets for two particularly bad scams that result in robbery and sometimes worse. Read more under “Is Turkey Safe for Males traveling alone?”
Stay Away from Political Demonstrations
Despite if you find them interesting or intriguing, it is important to avoid political demonstrations. Once you get involved, you immediately put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.
Learn Common Turkish Phrases
Learning basic Turkish will allow you to communicate if you find yourself lost, in danger, or having other basic questions.
Know what you Photograph
In Turkey, it is illegal to take photos of certain public buildings. Make sure you are aware of the places you’re allowed to take photos, primarily considered government buildings.
Safety by Region
As the capital of Turkey, Ankara saw elevated risks of demonstrations and terrorist attacks a few years ago, but is now seen as one of the safest cities in Turkey. Ankara has elevated security and has only seen street crime in recent years.
Istanbul is a very safe city. It is no more dangerous than any other city in the world. Just as you do when you visit other major cities in the world, you should exercise precautions to avoid street robbery and pick-pocketing.
The Turkish Riviera
The Turkish Riviera, located in the western region of Turkey, is a common destination for tourists visiting Turkey. It is also likely the safest place in Turkey, since it is away from the key major cities. Again, you should exercise regular precautions as you would in other major cities to avoid having things stolen from your pockets or villa.
Prior to the years of unrest, Central Turkey was growing in popularity as a tourist destination. Most of the tourists who visit Central Turkey are in Cappadocia. Cappadocia is primarily known for its rare and unusual rock formations, cave hotels, and hot air balloons. Cappadocia has also been listed as one of the safest cities in Turkey, and has no travel warnings other than to exercise regular precautions.
Eastern Turkey is the least stable region in Turkey. The U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs listed the most dangerous cities in Turkey as Batman, Bingol, Bitlis, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hakkari, Hatay, Kilis, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Siirt, Sirnak, Tunceli, Van, and all other cities along the Syrian and Iraqi borders.
Is it Safe to Travel to Turkey Alone?
Traveling anywhere alone has its risks, however, traveling alone in Turkey is an amazing opportunity. The people in Turkey are very friendly and willing to help you create an amazing trip.
Traveling in Turkey is safe when traveling alone, as long as you are cautious and familiar with scams.
If you’re traveling alone in Turkey, is probably a good idea to go on group tours. Not only does it offer you a chance to meet more travelers, is a good opportunity to learn more about the region of Turkey you’re staying in to help you avoid confusion when you go out by yourself.
Learn some important words and phrases in Turkish. When traveling alone, learning some Turkish will not only help you make local friends, it will also earn you respect from the locals and allow you to communicate and ask questions.
Additionally, do not people you are traveling alone.
Is Turkey Safe for Males traveling alone?
Yes, Turkey is safe for solo male travelers, however, single male travelers are susceptible to nasty scams. One is the “Let’s Have a Drink” scam. Robbers love this trick because it’s easy, which is why it also happens in many other major cities, including London.
The scammer starts by establishing innocence and trust. They will then chat with you and suggest you have a drink together. At first, he may take you to a laid back place to gain your trust before going to the scam location. When you arrive at the scam location, women (and sometimes men) sit at the table with you and order drinks. When the bill comes, you are expected to pay it and your card will exceed what you have with you.
If you protest the scam or fight back, you will be taken into a backroom and beaten or even threatened with death until you agree to pay.
Another scam that is primarily targeting men is the “New Traveling Companions” scam. This scam typically involves a young man traveling alone. Often, you are approached by two or three young men who strike up a conversation with you and ask where you’re going. “Coincidentally” they’re going to the same place and decide to travel with you.
At some point, they’ll offer you food, a drink, or even gum laced with a fast-acting sedative. Hours later you’ll wake up to find your passport, wallet, camera, and “new friends” gone.
It is important to remember that VERY few people experience these scams, but it is important to know when someone may be trying to scam you. Say no to similar offers if you’re traveling alone.
Is Turkey Safe for females traveling alone?
Generally, Turkey is safe for females traveling alone. Just because you’re a female traveling alone doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go. Traveling to Turkey will give you endless opportunities and amazing experiences.
Keep in mind, it’s okay to say no to people if they invite you in. Also, dressing modestly is likely best. Long skirts, dresses, or pants are typically the most appropriate clothing. In certain towns and cities (more conservative areas), your wardrobe could draw attention or offense to you.
An easy way to base your wardrobe is to see what other people are wearing, or to buy Turkish style clothing (which is very easy). Additionally, if you plan to visit a Mosque, be sure to bring proper clothing to cover your legs and shoulders, as well as a shawl or scarf to where on your head.
Often, female tourists traveling alone in Turkey are an attention-grabber. For the most part, it is unusual for women to travel alone in Turkey. Men may walk with you or sit by you, flirt, try to get your number, or try to make conversation. If you do not want to talk to them, you can ask them to go away.
If you’re traveling alone, be sure not to drink too much. Keeping a sober mind is an important tip for traveling anywhere alone.
Is it Safe for Families to Travel to Turkey?
Family-life in Turkey is a huge part of the culture, this makes a family trip to Turkey very safe. Turkish families bring their children with them nearly everywhere. People often are alarmed in public when someone picks up their child and interacts with their child – this is nothing to be concerned about, in fact, it’s pretty normal.
The family accommodation options are endless. Hotels have availabilities ranging from family rooms, cots, high chairs, and more. However, you may find it difficult to locate baby changing facilities and breastfeeding isn’t considered appropriate in public.
Is the Water in Turkey Safe to Drink?
No – the water in Turkey is not safe to drink. Bringing a refillable water bottle may still be a good idea, if your hotel has a water filter.
Is Turkish food Safe to Eat?
Turkish food is delicious. Turkish food is typically cheap and diverse. Be wary of some of the street vendors selling meat. When meat sits in the heat for a long period of time it may upset your stomach.
If you have dietary needs or allergies, learning how to communicate that in Turkish could be of great benefit, so that they can help you decide what to order.
Transportation in Turkey
Is Public Transportation Safe in Turkey?
Public transportation in Turkey is safe and convenient for locals and tourists alike. There are several bus companies on the main routes, some of which are very old or very nice. Find the bus company that works best for you and your trip.
Dolmuses are minibuses that run between towns and are often crowded, however they are very safe to use. In the major cities, you will find that the metro is a safe and quick way to avoid traffic.
Are Taxis Safe in Turkey?
Taxis are safe in Turkey, however they’re not always fair. Sometimes if a driver does not want to drive too a destination, they may refuse to drive you. The best way to find a reputable taxi company is to ask your hotel for a recommendation.
Is there Uber in Turkey? Is it Safe?
While many citizens in Turkey oppose Uber, it is still a popular means for transportation. However, it is only available in Istanbul.
The most danger you’re likely to face is from scams. Educating yourself on typical scams, how to respond, and recognizing questionable situations all help you avoid scams and any other potential dangers you may face.