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Should I go to Turkey?
Over the last couple of weeks, you may have seen headlines relating to unrest in Turkey. Demonstrations have been held in Istanbul, including a sit-in at the famous Taksim Square, as well as in the capital Ankara and a number of other major towns and cities in the country.
The protests are related to current government policies and the actions of the country’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with the spark being a plan to redevelop a park in central Istanbul adjacent to Taksim Square.
At the same time, the major resorts along the south coast have been gearing up for the busy summer months with thousands of Brits already soaking up the sun and enjoying the superb weather of recent weeks.
So, whether you’ve got a holiday booked to Turkey this summer or are considering it as a destination, we answer some common questions about the country below.
Have travellers been affected?
To date, tourists have barely been affected by the unrest. The beach resorts are operating as normal and the major tour operators are reporting that holidays are continuing with no issues in resort. There have been some demonstrations in resort towns, however these have been low-key in comparison to Istanbul and have been held away from the beaches and resort centres.
Those venturing to Istanbul have been advised to stay away from Taksim Square which is around three miles away from the main tourist sights of the old city such as the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar. However, as yet, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have not advised against travel to Istanbul or the capital. The current areas to avoid are those close to the Syrian border in the east of the country and these restrictions have been in place for a while (and are well away from the popular beach resorts).
In addition, the FCO advise tourists to avoid large gatherings in any areas of the country to ensure they don’t get caught up in any demonstrations or crowd control issues.
Is it still safe to book a holiday to Turkey?
Currently, it is very much business as usual. There has been little impact on Brits’ desire to book holidays to the popular Mediterranean coastline, famous for its stunning scenery, warm blue seas, friendly welcome and historical sights.
However, if you’re concerned about booking a holiday there, I would recommend booking an ATOL-backed package to protect yourself should the situation change and safety of tourists becomes a concern. If this was to happen, the FCO would change its advice to warn against all travel which triggers a well-rehearsed plan to remove holidaymakers from the country and to stop new holidays starting until things calm down. ATOL-backed breaks offer protection against situations such as this and you would get a full refund if your holiday was cancelled and some compensation if it was cut short.
If you plan to book a DIY break consisting of separate flights and accommodation this is where I’d be very cautious as you are reliant on the airline and hotel policies for cancellations which may well leave you out of pocket. So, be aware of this if you prefer the non-package option.
What if I already have a holiday booked to Turkey?
For now, continue planning your trip and look forward to it. It is highly likely that everything will go as planned. However, make sure you have a full travel insurance policy to cover you in case civil unrest escalates to strikes at airports or other tourist-related industries which may affect your holiday plans.
I want to cancel my holiday – what are my rights?
Currently, if you choose not to travel, you are liable for normal cancellation charges which could be as much as 100% of your holiday cost. Check this with your tour operator, travel agent or airline/accommodation supplier for accurate costs. You would not be able to claim any loss back from an insurer if you choose not to travel.
If the FCO did change its advice and warned against all travel to the country, then, of course, you would be able to cancel all ATOL-backed holidays affected while some airlines would look to offer free cancellations or transfer passengers to new dates or destinations.
Any other advice?
Check the FCO website regularly for current advice and warnings as the site is updated frequently, keep an eye on the news and, closer to your departure date, talk to your travel provider for their latest advice.
Additionally, leave organising your holiday money until closer to when you plan to travel to avoid any unnecessary exchange losses if you are unable to go.
Please note: All facts were correct at the time of writing.