Is Turkey Safe for American Tourists?

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Is Turkey Safe for American Tourists? I hope so. Because we are going there for a couple of days later this month. And I’m really excited to see some of the things I missed on my last trip. But politics in Turkey, like many places around the world, is relatively unstable right now. So, it makes sense that we keep vigilant and ask the question before and not after we go.

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Is Turkey Safe for American Tourists?

Political Tensions Towards America

 

First of all, this post is not going to make that decision for you. And although I don’t want to get into a history lesson, there are a few things you should know. Turkey straddles two continents: Asia and Europe. It has always been an east meets west kind of place where both cultures co-mingled. However, Turkey is a mostly Muslim nation. And this relationship has created a unique climate of social, religious, and political tensions.

However, since July 2016, Turkey has also been under a state of emergency ordered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan blamed the uprising on followers of his political rival Fethullah Gulen who is exiled in the United States. He has used the state of emergency to purge and imprison thousands of civil servants, politicians, journalists, and others accused of conspiring against him.

After a series of terror attacks, the failed coup and a referendum that saw Recep Tayyip Erdogan strengthen his grip on power, Turkey has begun to slowly restore its place as a top tourist destination.

Since then, Turkey has acted outside of the International norms of an allied country. Turkey’s government has imprisoned Americans, including a pastor swept up in the coup two years and held without charges.

 

 

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Travel Warnings

 

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has lifted a number of warnings on visiting Turkey that were in place for the past few years, although it still advises caution. It says “most visits are trouble-free”, but adds that visitors should “be alert to your surroundings and remain vigilant in crowded places”.

Governments in both Turkey and the United States suspended visitor visas between the two countries last year. Turkey also grants e-Visas, which allows travelers to obtain visas by applying online but only citizens of some countries were eligible. U.S. citizens were not eligible to apply until recently.

According to the State Department, “terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey. Terrorist organizations explicitly target Western tourists and expatriates for kidnapping and assassination. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting, and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas,” the  U.S. State Department also writes.

 

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My Plan of Action

 

I have been to Turkey twice already. Once to Istanbul and once to Bodrum with the kids. We’ve already applied for and received our eVisas online. And although I don’t think it’s necessary for our safety, we’ve hired a private tour guide as well. We’ve been corresponding for the last couple of weeks on exactly what we want to see and do.

We only have two days on the ground and I want to see as much as we can. The plan is to see all the major sites, eat, drink, and shop with the locals. And honestly, this is where being black helps. We won’t look like rich American, haha, as if, and should be able to blend in with the locals.

 

 

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Basic Safety Tips

 

If you decide to travel to Turkey, here are some basic safety tips I found on the State Department website:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by Westerners, particularly at popular tourist locations in Istanbul.
  • Avoid any demonstrations and crowds when shopping.
  • Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures and a safe for your passports and medications. Carry a copy of your passport with you.
  • Monitor local media and adjust your plans based on new information.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself with clothing, actions, or dialogue.
  • Don’t tell broadcast that you are American or a member of the military.

 

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Avoid These Parts of Turkey

 

Travel advisories help you determine threat levels when traveling. Currently, there aren’t any travel advisories to the city of Istanbul. And that is the only city we’re visiting on this trip. The U.S. government is restricting DOD and military from traveling to Southeastern Turkey because of recent terrorist attacks.

In addition, avoid the large urban centers near the Turkish/Syrian border due to the continued threat of attacks. And although I have no earthly idea why you want to go. Be aware that the government of Turkey prohibits border crossings from Syria into Turkey, even if the traveler previously entered Syria from Turkey.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Becca Wilson

    This is some really great info about Turkey. I have a couple friends that have been but never really asked them about how their experience was.

  2. Stephanie

    I’m part of the Girls Love Travel facebook group and there are heaps of Americans that have visited Turkey recently. Everything that I’ve read, its safe but you do have to use some common sense. I hope to visit Turkey soon because it looks like such an incredible country.

  3. Sauumye

    These are some amazing tips. I feel like as a tourist it is our responsibility to research before we go and be mindful of everything around us.

  4. Sundeep

    These are some great safety trips one need to follow all these tips while planning to visit Turkey. Heard from one of friend that this place is must visit. On that day we added this place to our bucket list. Thanks for sharing this blog

  5. blair villanueva

    I haven’t been to Turkey but many of my friends does all non-Americans and Europeans and so far they are loving it. I have Filipino friends who lives there. I think it is good to think every places have pros and cons, and not rely on what you see on media because it all states the negative side of Turkey (and most of the time plays the emotions of the audiences, and just making the news absurd). As long as you are in a tourist area, you’ll be okay. Even in other countries.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I know, I am so excited. I can’t wait to experience the tastes and smell of the country. And yes, we will be safe.

  6. Brittany Vantrease

    This post was very informative. I liked that you gave the pros AND cons about traveling to Turkey. I’ve never considered traveling there, but I’m not an avid traveler either. I usually just consider what’s in the US, but maybe one day I will travel oversees. My family is Italian, it could be fun to go there. I also think you’re brave going to Turkey when there has been so much tension, even if they are doing better.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I agree, you have to keep safety in mind just to go to the supermarket or movies these days. Fear will never keep me from traveling.

  7. nicole

    these are some really good safety tips that i dont think i would have thought of on my own. thank you for bringing light to the situation over there, i didnt realize half of these things were even an “issue” and could have easily booked a trip and just thought “vacation” without ever looking into anything further.

  8. Julietta M.

    These are great tips and definitely a great question that I have wondered previously. Would love to visit Turkey one day as it looks like such a beautiful country!

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you for your concern. We will take all the proper cautions and return safely. I have no doubt its as safe as anywhere else these days.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      A lot of people have travel anxieties. I am working on a post about fear and how it manifest itself in and around travel. It boils down to the fact we are afraid of the unknown.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Thank you Jessica. I think I’ve done my due diligence on Istanbul and we should really have a great time exploring both sides of the city.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Will do, now you sound like my mom this morning. I’m not worried, we are always safe when we travel, taking no chances with out body or money. Thanks for your support and concern. Check back to see all our adventures on this trip which includes Istanbul, Sicily and Chicago.

  9. Heidi

    You’re really brave, and I’m glad you’re not letting the scary things of the world keep you from doing the things you want to do. Turkey isn’t a place I’d be brave enough to go right now, but it sounds like you are taking the right precautions to be safe.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Hey Tara, tat’s all I do here is talk about travel and mostly travel abroad. But thanks for your support, come back again soon if you ever need a travel fix.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      I think most people are picky about how they spend their hard earned money. I know I am. I tend to opt out of the canned travel experiences like Disney or Vegas— preferring more unique, historical or cultural travel experiences. I never have. I think I was an explorer in a previous life. And Istanbul in particular and Turkey in general are a fascinating study in food, religion and tradions— a not so unsililar way of life than our own melting Pot experience here in America. Except they made it work for thousands if years there. I hope they get their shit together because I’d love to explore the spice road and interior one day. And It would be a sugnal we can do it here too ine day.

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