A mere few hours’ plane-ride away, Turkey has become increasingly popular for British tourists in the last few years. It has a capital that straddles two continents, gorgeous beaches lining its Mediterranean and Aegean coasts, and, perhaps most attractive of all, a great exchange rate in the pound’s favour.
However, given the current conflict between Israel and Hamas, and the possibility of a regional conflict, those travelling to Turkey may have concerns about safety. Most of the country is considered safe to travel to by the UK Foreign Office, but it warns that demonstrations are taking place in Ankara and Istanbul, and that these could become violent. Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning a visit.
Main photo: Istiklal Avenue in Taksim, Istanbul (Getty Images)
Has Turkey been affected by the Hamas-Israel conflict?
So far there have been no signs of Turkey being directly impacted by the conflict, although there have been protests outside diplomatic missions in Istanbul, Ankara and other major cities, according to the Foreign Office. You should avoid all demonstrations and leave the area if one develops.
The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said at a congress of his AK Party that “we call for restraint from all parties” adding that both sides “must refrain from aggressive acts”. He has also said Turkey will do whatever it can to ease tensions and stop the violence.
Is it safe to travel to Turkey?
It depends on where you’re travelling to but most regions in Turkey are safe and tourist-friendly. However, the Foreign Office currently advises against all travel to within 10km of the border with Syria, and all but essential travel to the Sirnak and Hakkari provinces.
The Foreign Office also considers the threat of terrorism to be very high in the country (more below), and political protests and demonstrations have become violent. So, as with any destination, it pays to stay vigilant and follow the latest travel advice from the Foreign Office, as well as those issued by authorities on the ground.
Is it safe to travel to Istanbul?
Yes, there’s no reason not to travel to Istanbul right now. However, you should stay vigilant and pay attention to local government advice.
The Foreign Office says that most terrorist attacks in Turkey have taken place in southeast Turkey, Ankara and Istanbul. Separately, the country is also affected by political demonstrations in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Is it safe to travel to Antalya?
Yes, Ankara remains safe to visit. The Israel-Hamas conflict has not impacted the city, aside from the aforementioned demonstrations.
What is the Foreign Office travel advice?
The Foreign Office currently advises against all travel to areas within 10km of the border with Syria as well as all but essential travel to Sirnak and the province of Hakkari. In the rest of the country, it’s a case of staying vigilant.
The Israel-Hamas war has led to heightened tensions in the region and demonstrations are ongoing in cities across Turkey. The Foreign Office states that demonstrations have been reported outside diplomatic missions connected to the conflict in major cities, particularly Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul, and that visitors should avoid all demonstrations and leave the area if one develops. Local transport routes may also be disrupted.
Across Turkey more generally, crime rates are low but robberies and thefts are common, particularly pickpocketing. There have also been reports of passports being stolen from rented villas, including from safes, in Didim, Kas, Kalkan and the Fethiye/Hisaronu/Ovacik areas.
Travellers are also advised to avoid any offers of food and drink, which may be spiked, and to be wary if someone offers to take you to a club or restaurant or to help you change currency. Sexual assaults and rapes have also been reported, and have mostly taken place during the busy summer period in coastal regions. In many cases, they involved someone the victim had met earlier on the day of the attack.
Most terrorist attacks in the country to date have occurred in southeast Turkey, Ankara and Istanbul, and the Foreign Office states that it’s possible that terrorists may target places visited by foreigners such as public buildings, places of worship and major events.
What are Turkey’s entry requirements?
British citizens are able to travel to Turkey without a visa for up to 90 days out of any 180-day period. If you’re planning to be in the country for longer, you’ll need either a visa or residence permit.
Turkey requires you to have at least 150 days left on the validity of your passport from the day you arrive in the country. You’ll also need a full blank page for the entry and exit stamps.