Turkey is an attractive traveling destination, due to its landscape diversity, engrossing culture, savory food and compelling art. This combination makes it quite a unique destination; the ancient ruins of Ephesus, the magnificent landscapes of Cappadocia as well as the imposing mosques in Istanbul – all these make Turkey appealing to traveling enthusiasts.
Nevertheless, due to the violent incidents that took place in the past – more specifically in 2016, a subsequent series of military attacks occurred. Due to that, the numbers of tourists traveling to Turkey has significantly diminished. To that end, if, before 2016, the numbers of tourists accounted for roughly 42 million per year, by 2016, that decreased to 24 million only.
Recently, though, tourists have, once again, shown their interest to travel to Turkey. But, is Turkey safe to visit or are there too many risks? To find out the answer to this question, go ahead and read our Turkey safety guide.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Turkey
Overall Risks in Turkey: MEDIUM to HIGH
Even if Turkey is a beautiful country with engrossing history and culture, unfortunately, the political situation there is quite unstable. While it is true that the situation has significantly calmed after the incidents back in 2016, there are still some restrictions that apply.
By all means, you should avoid traveling in the proximity of the Turkish border with Syria. Expressly, it is utterly contraindicated to travel to the remaining areas of Mardin, Sirnak, Kilis, Sanlurfa, Gaziantep, and Hatay provinces. In addition to that, bear in mind that, on the 24th of August, 2016, the Turkish military conducted operations in the proximity of the Syrian border, and the villages there were declared special security zones.
Aside from that, on occasions, mortar rounds are fired from Syria to Turkey. In addition to that, over the last three years, the influx of refugees coming to Turkey has been massive, especially due to the heavy fighting that takes place in Northern Syria. On top of that, terrorist attacks are likely to take place in Turkey, as well.
All things considered, it’s easy to understand why most people wonder: how safe is Turkey for tourists.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Turkey: MEDIUM to HIGH
Supposedly, each comprehensive Turkey safety guide incorporates specific information regarding pickpocketing and theft. Unfortunately, this is a matter of huge concern in this country. By all means, you shouldn’t expect to be able to spot a pickpocket out of a crowd, as they usually try to blend in as much as possible.
On top of that, Turkish thieves often dress like tourists, businessmen or women, not to mention that they work in organized groups. In fact, there are scenarios in which even children are involved in such incidents.
Pickpocketing groups operate in a team, aiming at distracting the victim before actually stealing his/her belongings. Aside from that, there are many types of distractions they resort to, such as bumping into you, asking you something, pretending to give you directions, so on and so forth.
In addition to that, note that they usually work in crowded spaces. That’s because a crowded area is the perfect background for getting away with stealing without the victim even realizing it.
Concurrently, note that, in some scenarios, official documents have been stolen from villas in the following areas: Kas, Didim, Kalkan, Hisaronu, Ovacik, and Fethiye.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Turkey?
Since it is difficult to pinpoint a pickpocket out of a crowd, one of the most important Turkey safety travel tips is leaving valuable items at home. Ideally, you should keep them in a safe at your accommodation. In addition to that, you should be doubly vigilant and attentive in unsafe situations, so to speak.
Whenever you’re surrounded by people you should be aware of your surroundings, as anything can happen. Also, if you must carry some of your valuables with you, try to keep them underneath the clothing, as opposed to keeping things in your pockets.
Scam Risk in Turkey: MEDIUM to HIGH
Another thing you’ll likely encounter in nearly every Turkey safety guide is that Turkey is a country in which many scammers target unknowing tourists. There are numerous scams in Turkey you should be wary of. This is primarily why we recommend you do your research in this respect, to know what to expect. We will briefly outline some of the most common ones.
While, as a rule of thumb, Turkish people are known for their hospitability, and, in general, they are well-intentioned, this doesn’t apply in all case scenarios.
This is why you should be doubly wary if you ever hear the phrase would you like a drink my friend? This phrase alone should make you suspicious. At first, that man will seem friendly and, eventually, invite you for a drink.
He will insist that he will bring you to the best place in the city, where they serve the best tea, the best meals, so on and so forth. When you eventually reach that secret place, you will most likely be approached by some women who will try to convince you to buy a couple of drinks.
Nevertheless, when the bill for the beverages eventually comes, you’ll come to notice that you have to pay thousands of dollars. If you don’t have the money, your friend will take you to the ATM accompanied by other large assistance. If you refuse to pay you will be threatened with violence. Another common scenario is having something added to your drink, which can lead to numerous unwanted scenarios.
Of course, there are many other types of scams and scenarios you should be wary of. This is why we advise you to read as many Turkey safety travel tips in this respect as possible. At the same time, note that Istanbul is, for the most part, the city in which such scams are most widespread.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Turkey?
Essentially, if you don’t want to end up in such situations, you should avoid befriending strangers that seem suspicious. At the same time, even if Turkish people are hospitable, this doesn’t mean you should accompany strangers to unfamiliar places.
If you are approach by such an individual, you could always say that you are expected elsewhere. By all means, avoid going with strangers to secret places, as this alone should raise a lot of question marks.
Kidnapping Risk in Turkey: LOW to MEDIUM
What are the official kidnapping rates in Turkey? Essentially, the incidence of kidnapping isn’t really high. That’s because crime levels in Turkey aren’t as high as they are in other countries. In spite of that, though, the risks of petty crime such as pickpocketing or theft are notable, as you’ve seen above.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean we can say that kidnapping incidents are excluded altogether. There is still a significant threat and risk of kidnapping especially in the Turkish region bordering the Syrian border. This is why, as we outlined before, unnecessary travel to those areas should be avoided.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Turkey?
Perhaps the most useful guideline in order to avoid being kidnapped is planning your traveling itinerary carefully. That is to say, if possible, you shouldn’t go to bars that are located in remote areas. In addition to that, by all means, you shouldn’t leave your drink unattended, whenever you’re in a public place.
This is a common tactic worldwide: a criminal attentively waits for the victim to go to the bathroom, and add drugs to the drink. From that point onward, the actual kidnapping will occur right away. Aside from that, be wary of your surroundings, regardless of where you are.
Terrorism Risk in Turkey: MEDIUM to HIGH
It is very much likely for terrorist attacks to take place in Turkey. That’s expressly because there are specific activist terrorist groups that carry out attacks. For example, in south-east Turkey, there has been a noteworthy increase in Kurdish separatist terrorist activity. On top of that, several attacks have been planned in important cities such as Istanbul and Ankara.
In many instances, terrorist groups – namely the TAK and DAESH have publicly threatened attacking popular tourist sites in Turkey. There is also a heightened risk of terrorist attacks against the aviation industry in Turkey.
- Hot to avoid terrorism in Turkey?
This is why, if you do notice anything unusual in your proximity, try to get away as soon as possible. And make sure you monitor the local news concerning the situation in the country.
Naturally, it is best if you avoid crowded places of prayer and officials buildings - and, if you notice anything suspicious, it is better to just flee the area and alert the authorities.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Turkey: MEDIUM to HIGH
Is Turkey safe for solo women travelers? This is a widespread question, especially on the internet. Considering that Turkey is a country that has so much to offer, adventurous travelers are eager to experience it, as well.
The truth is that whether this country is safe for solo women travelers or not will, to some extent, depend on the areas you plan to visit. This is why you should do your research concerning the itinerary you want to follow and try to remain vigilant at all times, during your visit. Aside from that, it’s recommended to dress in a conservatory manner, so that you avoid drawing too much attention to you.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Turkey?
As mentioned before, researching the places you are going to visit is quite essential - in some parts of the country, the locals might care more about the country's customs and laws. Thus, if you plan on wearing an outfit that might cause distress, you should do so in an area where people don't care that much about it.
This is because locals are more likely to approach you if you dress in a way that they are not fond of - in short, don't try to show off your fashion sense, so to speak, and stick to visiting and exploring the country.
Rape Risk in Country: MEDIUM to HIGH
According to a report, in 2017, 409 women were killed, whereas 387 children were sexually abused. At the same time, according to the report, 337 of the women were also victims of sexual violence. Worryingly enough, though, no less than 45 of the women were killed by family members.
Many girls and women suffer harassment when wearing shorts, for instance, being stopped on the streets by taxi drivers or passers-by.
In addition, according to official records, many rapists in Turkey avoid jail by choosing to marry their victims. It seems that roughly 3,000 of this kind of marriages were arranged, at the very least.
Furthermore, in 2017, there were 17 individual cases of sexual assault – which included rape, involving foreigners. The majority of these cases took place during the summer holiday, in areas highly frequented by tourists.
- How to avoid getting raped in Turkey?
After reading this, you might wonder: how safe is Turkey for tourists? It can be quite unsafe if you aren’t vigilant. This is why you should avoid receiving gifts from strangers, or accepting lifts from people you don’t know. At the end of the day, it’s better to be suspicious and safe than to end up being harmed.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Turkey: MEDIUM to HIGH
Even if Turkey might seem like the ideal destination for traveling with children, it isn’t necessarily so, especially if you want to explore more remote areas. On the opposite side, if you’re considering going to a resort, the risks are pretty much minimal.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Unless you plan on visiting remote areas, there is nothing you should be worried about. Naturally, you still have to keep an eye on your children, as the crowds of tourists are usually quite big in Turkey - and you really don't want to lose your children in one of them.
In short, if you keep the protective measurements to a minimum, you shouldn't have any issues regarding your children. Just make sure they don't wander off unattended.
Natural Disaster Risks in Turkey: LOW to MEDIUM
When it comes to natural disasters, you should note that some parts of the country are subject to earthquakes and tremors. To that end, before embarking on your journey, you should get acquainted with the procedures you ought to follow is something of the kind were to happen during your visit.
Transportation Risks in Turkey: MEDIUM
If you plan on driving while in Turkey, you should stick to mainly cities and the areas around them, as the roads there are mostly in excellent conditions - of course, remote and rural areas come with rather poor conditions.
You might also encounter checkpoints on the roads between cities - in this case, we recommend you to approach them slowly and follow any of the instructions given to you.
Moreover, if you travel by night, it is recommended to keep an eye on your surroundings and on the road, obviously. Most statistics show that, in Turkey, accidents are mainly the outcome of reckless and poor driving.
Also, as rule of thumb, you should definitely not drink and drive - if you are caught, the authorities will test you, fine you, and confiscate your driver's license for six months, with no questions asked.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Turkey: MEDIUM
Although there are no reports of serious incidents regarding this matter, there have been some cases of counterfeit alcohol causing the death of some tourists - naturally, you should only visit reputed night-clubs, pubs, and bars if you want to avoid such incidents.
Moreover, you should always pay attention to your drink - if you feel something's not good after a sip or two, contact your tour operator, the authorities, or head straight to a hospital.
As in any night-club, pub, or bar throughout the world, your drink might get spiked and you might get robbed or even worse. In short, don't accept drinks from strangers and keep yours close.
Health Risks in Turkey
As one of the most famous travel destinations in the world, it is only natural that the medical facilities and staff are in excellent condition - especially in the capital. Thus, in case of any injuries, you can safely rely on them.
However, keep in mind that the European Health Insurance Card is not valid in Turkey - in this case, we recommend you to come equipped, so to speak, with proper travel health insurance and with enough money to cover any of the expenses you might have to pay after being treated in the Turkish medical facilities.
List of Vaccines You Need in Turkey
There are specific vaccines that are utterly necessary when visiting Turkey. Consult with the list below:
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
Most Dangerous Areas in Turkey
- Istanbul's Dolapdere District
- Konya's Muhacir Pazari District
- Istanbul's Bagcilar District
- Antalya's Zeytinkoy District
Concluding Remarks:Is Turkey Safe to Visit?
In conclusion, traveling to Turkey does, indeed, entail more risks than traveling to other destinations. That’s partly due to the instability of the political situation, the activism of several terrorist groups, and so on. As you’ve seen in our guide, terrorist attacks have occurred in the past, and their occurrence in the future cannot be excluded.
On that note, traveling to the southeastern regions of the country is, particularly, contraindicated, due to the safety concerns. Meanwhile, urban destinations are believed to be safer – such as Istanbul, for example. That’s specifically because the government aimed at increasing the security of such cities. In spite of that, though, unfortunately, crime still remains a concern, especially petty crime and scams. So, make sure you never leave your guard down when traveling in Turkey.