With news items appearing about conflict in Syria and Iraq, travelers are asking, "Is it safe to travel to Turkey now?"
I think it's important to judge travel
not emotionally. In October and November 2014, when the daily headlines and news broadcasts were terrifying, I traveled in Istanbul, Gallipoli and Cappadocia, enjoying another visit to this marvelous country, with not even a hint of any problem.
Why should there have been any problems? The trouble was elsewhere, not here.
Every day in Turkey, 75 million Turks and visitors go about their business, living their lives in the pursuit of happiness. In Istanbul, Europe's second-largest city (population: 14 million+), there can be a political demonstration involving a few hundred people in some district, and 13, 999,800 Istanbullus will not know about it unless they see it on the evening news.
Here's the salient point: for any
for anyone in Turkey—the
risk of harm from any sort
of political event
or violence is very low—almost
vanishingly low—if you avoid political demonstrations and volatile border areas. (For example, I wouldn't visit southeastern Turkey—Antakya, Şanlıurfa, Diyarbakır, Mardin, Van, etc.—just now.)
Headlines and news
bulletins about violent
incidents make a strong
impression, but they actually make
very little difference to life on
the street in Turkey.
Here's an excerpt
from a TTP user who was in Istanbul
several years ago during a political event that turned violent:
"We heard about [the event] on our last day,
but never felt in any danger
during our entire trip. Almost everyone we
talked to was friendly and cordial
and helpful. We love the Turkish people
and their nation and look forward to
returning. It's a fantastic place and
it's sad that they've been trying to
get into the EU for almost 30 years
with no success. If any country deserves
it, they do."
Boston, New York, Washington, London, Madrid—many
of the world's finest cities have experienced
violent incidents in recent years.
Would you visit these cities? Of course. So would I. If so,
why not Istanbul?
The Real Dangers
The true dangers of travel, domestic
or foreign, are such things as highway
accidents, hurricanes, lightning strikes, earthquakes,
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 war or 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.
Once You're There...
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.
And speaking of headlines, on any trip, it's always good to keep in touch with news media, and to ask your hotel staff about the possibility of incidents in any particular area you plan to visit. Avoid the location of any foreseen event, practice normal traveler safety awareness, and the closest you're likely to get to any trouble is via a TV or computer screen.
The Decision is Yours
When there are headlines, people ask me "Is it safe to travel in Turkey now?" I understand: they want me to make the decision for them, to guarantee their safety.
Of course, I can't. No one can.
I tell them they must make
a decision that they 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
going. Turkey will still be there.
As for me, I have traveled in Turkey
for nearly 50 years and the
worst thing I've encountered is a few
stomach bugs (and those back in the 1970s). I wouldn't
hesitate to go to any of the
normal tourist destinations, and I
wouldn't consider myself in any
danger beyond the normal ones incident
Government Traveler Records
Many national governments maintain records of travelers visiting foreign destinations so they can alert travelers on the road to dangers as they may arise.
For example, if you apply to join the US Department of State's Safe Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), US diplomats in Turkey will have a record of your personal, passport, contact and emergency information in an online database. If they feel it advisable to alert you to a dangerous situation, the database can make it possible. More...
If you are not a US citizen, your country's government may have a similar program, to which you may wish to apply. It can't hurt, and it may help, if only to allay anxiety.
I revise this page to keep you up to date on developments, and I post reports on TTP's Facebook page, but I plan to stay away from any political gathering and concentrate on the myriad beauties of this wonderful destination. More...
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