With all the broadcasts and headlines about the conflict in Syria, people ask
me, "Is it safe to travel to Turkey now?"
Here's my take on the current situation (September 2013):
Certainly Turkey must be concerned about such a deadly conflict—a civil war, really—in a neighboring country. Refugees from Syria have flooded into southeastern Turkey and need to be cared for, and there have even been a few minor military incidents on the Turkish-Syrian border.
The Turkish government favors strong action, preferably coordinated with the USA, NATO and European allies, to change the regime in Syria in order to put an end to the civil war.
The majority of Turkish citizens seem unhappy about the prospect of the Turkish armed forces becoming involved in the Syrian conflict. It's not difficult to understand why. It would be their husbands, brothers and sons who would be in the fight and in harm's way. It would be their taxes that would pay for the involvement. It would be their country that would bear the burden of an unfavorable outcome.
But Turkey, being an important regional power, may not be able to avoid involvement. What will happen is anybody's guess, and I know better than to try to predict the future.
So how does this affect tourism?
Over nearly half a century I have traveled in Turkey, several times living there for a year or more. I have visited every part of the country. On a few occasions I have been asked pointed questions about my country's foreign policies, but I have never felt in danger because of my nationality, race or religion (even during the Bush-Cheney administration, when surveys found that Turkey had the most negative view of US foreign policy of any country in the world.)
Indeed, I have felt safer in Turkey than in many places in Europe or the USA (and particularly safe when the Boston Marathon was bombed—and I was safe in Istanbul.)
Whatever your nationality, race or religion, within Turkey's tourism industry (where you will be spending 99% of your time in Turkey) you are a guest, and welcomed with traditional Turkish hospitality.
You may meet Turks—probably outside of the tourism industry—who will ask questions about your country's foreign policy, who may express their views about it and its effects on Turkey, but in my experience this will be a normal exchange of views such as you might have at home, or in any country.
Here's the salient point: for any
for anyone in Turkey not involved in a conflict—the
risk of injury from any sort
of political event
or violence is very low. Almost
vanishingly low if you avoid troubled areas (which, at the moment, include southeastern Turkey from Adana eastward, and south into Hatay/Antakya.)
The true dangers of travel, domestic
or foreign, are such things as highway
lightning strikes, earthquakes,
etc. Statistically, you are more likely
to be bitten by a shark while swimming
or to be injured while skiing than
you are to suffer from a terrorist
some statistics indicating
that travelers are more liable to
be harmed in bus, train and airplane
accidents, earthquake, lightning
strike, skiing accidents, etc. than
by political activity.
These more mundane dangers should
carry much more weight when you make
your travel decisions.
Most visitors find that they have
concerns about safety
only before their
trip, and after they arrive
at their destination they experience
daily life of the place, and don't
think of danger at all—unless
there's a headline.
All that having been said, the final decision must be yours, and you should make
a decision that you can be comfortable
with. If you believe that
uncertainty will spoil
your trip, you should postpone it
until a time when you will feel comfortable
As for me, I have traveled in Turkey
for almost 50 years and I wouldn't
hesitate to go to any of the
normal tourist destinations. I
wouldn't consider myself in any
danger beyond the normal ones incident
to travel in general. In fact, I've got my October 2013 trip all planned and reservations made, and I'm looking forward to my trip.
(Of course, I won't be going anywhere near the Turkish—Syrian border, and I would advise you to avoid that area, as many countries' diplomats have advised.)
Here is the US
Department of State's Consular
Information Sheet on Turkey,
with every possible warning and caution.
Read the TTP
Safety Page, and make
travel decisions you can be comfortable
—by Tom Brosnahan