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Is Turkey Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Is Turkey Safe? | Travel Tips & Safety Concerns

Turkey is a tremendously beautiful, culturally-relevant country with plenty of things to do and see. Its capital city, Istanbul, straddles both Europe and Asia and hosts important religious sites like the Hagia Sophia.

Turkey has plenty to love, from the outstanding coastline to the bustling towns. Although Turkey is undeniably impressive, it has some safety concerns.

If you want to make the most of your trip, it’s wise to keep them in mind. Although cities like Istanbul tend to be a bit more liberal, many places in Turkey are very conservative, and you’ll be expected to follow local rules and customs.

Additionally, there are some minor problems with pickpocketing and petty theft. Knowing what to look out for can help you have the best time possible in Turkey. 

Is Turkey Safe to Visit in 2022?

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul at dusk with fog on the horizon for a piece on is Turkey Safe to Visit

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Turkey is relatively safe to visit, but you do need to keep your wits about you when you go. Usually, tourists don’t have to deal with too much violent crime, especially in more popular tourist areas, but you might run into pickpocketers.

Additionally, there is some terrorism in Turkey, so it’s best to avoid unstable areas whenever possible.

You can also enroll with STEP to get regular updates. Occasionally, assaults do happen in tourist destinations like Istanbul. So if you’re traveling at night, stay alert and keep your guard up.

Crime in Turkey

Although tourists are unlikely to encounter violent crime in Turkey, petty theft is common. Therefore, always keep your bag secured and in front of you on public transportation. Additionally, avoid keeping valuables in your back pockets. 

There is quite a lot of violent crime in parts of Turkey, but it’s mostly related to domestic violence or other conflicts. Tourists are unlikely to be part of these situations, but it’s still best to avoid troublesome areas or disagreements between local people.

Avoiding Bad Areas

Many parts of Turkey are safe, but there are several bad areas that you should avoid in your travels. Fortunately, the country is large enough that it’s easy to steer clear of these zones.

Cincin

Cincin is one of Ankara’s worst cities to travel in. Although the vast majority of Ankara is gorgeous, Cincin is a big exception and has a local reputation as a lawless place that even seasoned police personnel stay out of.

There’s not much tourist activity in Cincin, so you probably won’t find yourself there anyway. However, it’s not a good idea to go there at any time of the day, as Cincin is a hot spot for lawlessness and crime. You could even run across dangerous gangs.

Sirnak

Anatolia’s Sirnak might be naturally beautiful, but you should err on the side of caution and avoid it. Sirnak is an unstable part of the country that occasionally experiences terrorism and sometimes even goes into police lockdown.

Mount Ararat

View of Mount Ararat in the background with Kohr Viran in the foreground on a clear day

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Mount Ararat is one of Turkey’s most famous mountains and is famously the spot where Noah’s Ark finally found dry land. Although it might be tempting to visit Mount Ararat, tourists are strongly discouraged from doing so.

The mountain is prone to extreme weather and has many military personnel and police patrolling it. There are plenty of great places to hike and trek in Turkey, but Mount Ararat isn’t one of them.

Tunceli Province

This eastern province is a volatile area to visit, home to many military operations and occasional protests and terrorist attacks. Unless you absolutely must see Tunceli Provine, stay away. 

Diyarbakir City

Diyarbakir city has several terrorist threats and even actual bombings, so it’s considered a no-go zone for travelers. Not only should you not visit Diyarbakir City, but your travel insurance might not even work in this part of the country. 

Hatay Province

This province borders Syria and is a hot spot for bombings, terror attacks, and other instability related to the Syrian war. So not only should you not go, but you might not be able to get out once you’re there.

Lockdowns are pretty standard, and it’s unlikely that you’ll get help if you find yourself stuck there. Bombs are just one terroristic method employed in Hatay Province.

Insurgents also set fire to the surrounding areas as a way to terrorize the population. So stick to the beaches or cities like Istanbul instead. You’re bound to have a better vacation.

Hakkari Province

This southeastern province is a deeply militarized area where unsuspecting tourists might find themselves wandering into off-limits zones. But unfortunately, ignorance is no excuse.

If you find yourself in this predicament, you could be in serious trouble. Not only is there a ton of Turkish military presence in Hakkari Province, but there are a lot of insurgencies as well.

Turkey/Syria Border

Guy sitting on the Turkish/Syrian border for a piece on places to avoid to stay safe in Turkey

TURKISH-SYRIAN BORDER – APRIL 04, 2012: Turkish – Syrian border on April 04, 2012 the Turkish – Syrian border/Thomas Koch/Shutterstock

In general, visitors to Turkey should shy away from the Turkish border with Syria. Syria is a hot conflict zone, and the border certainly gets a lot of spillover.

There’s plenty of tension between the Turks and Kurds right on the border, and civilians and tourists are not immune to the bloodshed. Terrorism is a genuine concern here, so stay away if possible. Leave as safely and immediately as possible if you find yourself in a no-go zone.

Kilis Province 

Kilis Province is close to Syria and sometimes sustains accidental fire from its conflict-ridden neighbor. Rockets have come across the border, and there’s a fair amount of unrest in Kilis Province. 

Although there are plenty of places to avoid in Turkey, there are even more amazing places to visit.

So keep these tips in mind, and don’t venture off the beaten path too much, especially if you don’t speak the language. It’s good to remember that you’re traveling to a foreign country and the rules are much different.

Watch Out for Pickpockets in Big Cities

This thing to consider goes along with being a hard target, but it’s still worth mentioning on its own. Pickpockets thrive on tourists in larger cities, so keep your eyes peeled for suspicious behavior, have your valuables in front of you at all times, and be wary of anyone touching or standing too close to you.

Staying Alert Is Important

Being a hard target simply means that you stay aware of your surroundings at all times and make it difficult for criminals to target you. Pickpockets and assailants generally look for soft targets or people they can rip off easily.

Avoid the Cats

To say that Turkey is a cat-friendly country is an understatement. Large cities like Istanbul are famous for their feline friends, and you’ll find cats both indoors and outdoors. Although most cats are friendly, they are not pets, so you should approach them cautiously.

If you get bit or scratched by a cat in Turkey, visit your doctor immediately. You might have to get a rabies series or tetanus shot. Although rare, rabies is fatal in humans. 

Be Respectful of Religious Customs

Woman in Turkey covering her head to be respectful of local customs and stay safe

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To avoid any potential conflicts, it’s important to remain respectful of other cultures. Turkey is a Muslim country, and although places like Istanbul might seem a bit more liberal, it’s important to remember that you must respect customs and traditions, especially in holy places. 

It’s essential to dress modestly for mosques, and women must cover their heads. Headscarves are usually available at the mosque, but you can also bring your own.

Respect the people in the mosque too. Never interrupt prayers or religious services, and keep your voice at a lower volume. It would be best if you also took off your shoes in a mosque.

Things to Consider

There are a few things to consider before you book your trip to Turkey. Understanding these key points will help you stay safe and avoid any trouble:

  • Duck into a restaurant or shop if you need to look at a map
  • Walk with purpose even if you don’t know where you’re going
  • Learn a little bit of Turkish to help you get around
  • Always keep your money and cards in your front pockets
  • Hold purses and bags in front of you on public transportation
  • Keep valuables locked in your hotel safe
  • Send someone back home a copy of your itinerary
  • Know where your embassy is at all time
  • Have a local SIM card or emergency calling plan in case you need to contact someone
  • Don’t access bank information over the airport or unsecured WiFi connections

Although being a hard target won’t keep you safe from everything, it can help you be more prepared if something terrible happens and minimize your chances of getting harassed or targeted.

Frequently Asked Questions

Woman on a roof of Cappadocian home overlooking the hot air balloons for a guide titled Is Turkey Safe to Visit

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It’s natural to have questions before traveling to another country. Fortunately, getting into and around Turkey is relatively easy if you know the basics. These questions and answers will help you make the most out of your vacation and avoid any snags along the way.

Is Turkey safe for women?

Turkey is relatively safe for women, especially in larger cities. However, women could experience some street harassment in Istanbul from shop owners. Usually, this harassment isn’t sexual in nature but is more based on attracting customers.

While offputting and upsetting, it’s rarely ever dangerous. Women could experience looks or even comments in more rural parts of Turkey, especially if they’re traveling through a more conservative region.

So make sure that you look up the customs in the place that you’re traveling and dress and act accordingly. To be on the safe side, women should use licensed taxis only and avoid arriving at destinations after dark. 

Are there dangerous animals in Turkey?

There are some dangerous animals in Turkey, specifically snakes. Although the vast majority of Turkish snakes are non-venomous, roughly ten of the 45 species are, so it’s a good idea to avoid them as a general rule.

You’ll also find scorpions, sides, and mosquitos in Turkey. Some mosquitos carry blood-borne illnesses like malaria or dengue. Use insect repellent, especially if you’re out in more rural areas, and sleep in a tent or under a mosquito net outside.

There are also a lot of stray animals in Turkey. Although most of them are harmless, some could carry diseases. You must go to the doctor if you’re bit by any stray animal. While most animals are fine, some do carry sicknesses, including rabies.

Unfortunately, humans have a very small window in which to get their first rabies vaccination. Preferably, you’ll get your first shot within 24 hours of the encounter. Although the rabies vaccination series isn’t fun, it can and does save people’s lives.

Are taxis safe in Turkey?

Licensed taxis tend to be safe in Turkey, especially if you’re traveling from a larger airport. However, the taxi diver sometimes tries to rip you off by not using the meter or taking the long way around.

Still, it would help if you always opted for a licensed taxi in Turkey rather than an unlicensed one. Unlicensed taxis are unregulated and can be very dangerous.

Not only could you be in the car with an unsafe driver, but they also might not even have their license or could be a criminal looking for a good opportunity to rob you. To avoid problems with taxis, arrive at your destination during the day and only opt for licensed taxis.

If you arrive at night, tell someone where you’re going and take a picture of the plate number for reference. If you start to get nervous in the taxi, it’s a good idea to fake a phone call to a “friend” waiting for you. 

Is it safe to bring children to Turkey?

Turkey is known for being a family focused culture, so they love children. Your child will not be any cause for alarm there. However, as with anything else, it’s important to take the proper precatuions to ensure your child remains safe. As any country, there are those that prey on the innocent, but as long as you make your child a difficult target, they will remain safe.

Is it safe to hitchike in Turkey?

It’s safe to hitchike and a very common practice. Use your best judgement on screening who you accept a ride from, but many people are very obliging and will be willing to give you a lift to your desitnation with no issues.

Is Turkey safe for LGBTQIA+ people?

Some places in Turkey are more LGBTQIA+ friendly than others. For example, Istanbul tends to be a progressive city, and LGBTQIA+ guests will find plenty of welcoming spots on the coast too. But unfortunately, there is some homophobia in Turkey, and same-sex marriage isn’t legal there. As such, LGBTQIA+ guests might feel a little bit uncomfortable, especially in more rural areas.

So, Is Turkey Safe to Visit?

At its core, Turkey is pretty safe, especially if you stay within the tourist areas. You could run into problems with petty theft, harassment, and taxi scams, but you’re unlikely to get seriously hurt. Avoid conflict-ridden regions, make yourself a hard target, and do your research in advance.

If you do all of this, you should have a phenomenal time on your trip to Turkey, soaking in all of the great culture, food, and excitement this international destination offers. It’s a beautiful vacation destination for individuals, couples, and families alike. Happy travels!