Is it safe to go to Turkey?

26 April 20196 min read

An aerial view of the Blue Lagoon in Olu Deniz, Turkey with cobalt blue water on a bright, clear sky day

Turkey is shaking off its negative image after a number of high-profile terror attacks in 2016 rattled the country. Almost three years on, the political situation is now calmer; the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has relaxed its stance on travel to the majority of the country.

However, as Brits are begin to venture back, many are still concerned about the safety situation.

Is it safe to go to Turkey?

The short answer is a cautious yes. The British government deems most of the country, including the popular coastal resorts, safe to visit.

However, the FCO says the threat from terrorism remains high and advises visitors to be mindful of ongoing security operations throughout the country. This is despite the fact the state of emergency was lifted on July 18, 2018. While it may sound alarming, bear in mind that the threat level for the UK itself is currently at ‘severe’ level.

It’s important to stress that in Turkey’s coastal resorts along the Mediterranean tourism is continuing on as it always has. What’s more, British nationals made around 2.3 million visits to Turkey in 2018, the vast majority of which were completely trouble-free.

If you are planning a holiday to Turkey, please check current FCO advice before travelling.

Which areas of Turkey are safe to visit?

The coastal resorts along the Mediterranean, such as Bodrum, Antalya and Fethiye, have been almost entirely unaffected by the situation.

The FCO also says that capital Ankara and Istanbul are likely to be targets of attacks in Turkey. While they don’t advise against travel here, the FCO says visitors should remain vigilant, avoid demonstrations and be extra careful around religious and public holidays. Demonstrations have previously taken place in Taksim Square in Istanbul and near the Prime Minister’s office in Ankara.

If you are in Turkey or planning a holiday there soon, stay abreast of local news and follow the advice of local authorities.

Which areas of Turkey should I avoid?

The FCO advises against all travel to most places within 10km of the Syrian border. All but essential travel to the eastern provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli and Hakkari is also advised.

Remember, these warnings are nothing new and have been in place for years. Many holidays to the western provinces and towns along the Med have been completely trouble free.

Do I need a visa for Turkey

British nationals will need an e-Visa to enter Turkey. The current process around this can be murky; self-service visa kiosks at Istanbul Airport were to be decommissioned in October 2018 but both British and Turkish authorities say travellers can still buy visas on arrival. Similarly, there have been recent stories by travellers being turned away from their flight if they did not have a hardcopy of their e-Visa.

To be on the safe side, apply for your e-Visa online and bring multiple hard- and soft-copies with you (for example, a printed version and one on your smartphone). You can apply for your e-Visa here. It cost US$20 (around £13) and you can apply between three months and forty-eight hours before you travel.

The FCO also advises travellers to carry a copy of their passport and e-Visa at all times as Turkish authorities will spot check the public for photo IDs, especially in Ankara and Istanbul.

What happens if there is an incident while I’m on holiday in Turkey?

Many Brits are still looking to book holidays to Turkey’s popular Mediterranean coastline, famous for its stunning scenery, warm blue seas, friendly welcome and historical sights.

However, if you are concerned about booking a holiday to Turkey, you should book an ATOL-backed package to protect yourself should the situation change and the safety of tourists become a concern.

If something did occur and the FCO changes its advice to warn against all travel, a well-rehearsed plan to remove holidaymakers from the country will be triggered. It will also 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 or compensation if it was cut short.

If you plan to book a DIY break consisting of separate flights and accommodation, bear in mind that you are then reliant on the airline and hotel policies for cancellations, which may well leave you out of pocket. So, be aware of this if you’re planning to take 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 and you will remain safe.

As always, it's sensible to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy to cover you - make sure you read the small print very carefully!

I want to cancel my Turkey holiday – what are my rights?

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 with your tour operator, travel agent or airline and accommodation suppliers for accurate costs. You will 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. Some airlines may also look to offer free cancellations or transfer passengers to new dates or destinations.

Are many people still travelling to Turkey?

ABTA’s yearly Travel Trend report reveals that package holiday bookings to Turkey are up by 68% this year. It’s the same story on TravelSupermarket, as holidaymakers look to travel beyond the Eurozone.

Any other advice?

Keep an eye on the news and, closer to your departure date, talk to your travel provider for its 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.

Remember that tourism is huge for Turkey’s economy and many people in the country depend on it to make a living. It’s fair to say that the security of tourists and the country’s ability welcome holidaymakers safely will be high up on the Turkish government’s list of priorities.

* All information was accurate at the time of writing. This article is an updated version of an earlier piece.

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