Safety and security

Syrian border

The FCDO advise against all travel to areas within 10km of the border with Syria, except the city of Kilis. The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Sirnak, Kilis (including Kilis city) and Hatay provinces.

Fighting in Syria continues in areas close to the Turkish border and there remains a heightened risk of terrorism in the region.

Due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, roads in Hatay province leading towards the border may be subject to closure.

Eastern provinces

The FCDO advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli and Hakkari. If you’re undertaking essential travel to these provinces, you should take extreme care.

A temporary Turkish military restricted zone has been imposed for the Mount Ararat area. No permission is being given for parties to enter the area, nor to climb the mountain. Other temporary military restricted zones have been established in eastern provinces. Do not attempt to enter these zones. There may be some disruption to travel in these areas.

Take extra care if you’re travelling to this area; keep up to date with local media and follow the advice of the local authorities.

Political situation

Sporadic demonstrations take place in cities across Turkey, some of which have, in the past, become violent. In Istanbul previous demonstrations have centered on the area around Taksim Square and on Istiklal Street. In Ankara, the protests have mainly taken place in the central Kizilay district around the Turkish Parliament. In Izmir the focus has been in the town centre, near the water front.

You should avoid all demonstrations and leave the area if one develops. Police have used tear gas and water cannon extensively to disperse protests. The effects of tear gas can be felt several hundred metres beyond the immediate site of demonstrations. Local transport routes may be disrupted.

The situation in Turkey has calmed following an attempted coup on 15-16 July 2016. The security environment, however, remains potentially volatile.

Crime

Generally crime levels are low, but street robbery and pick-pocketing are common in the major tourist areas of Istanbul. You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK. Alcohol and drugs can make you less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times so they are not spiked. Be wary of strangers approaching you offering food and drink (which may be drugged), to change money or to take you to a restaurant or nightclub.

Passports have been stolen from rented villas, even when they have been kept in the villa safe. This is a particular problem in Didim, Kas, Kalkan and the Fethiye/Hisaronu/Ovacik areas.

In 2019, 30 cases of sexual assault, including rape, were reported to British consular staff in Turkey. Most of these cases occurred during the summer holiday period in coastal tourist areas. Many were committed late at night by someone the victim met during the evening. There have also been sexual attacks on minors visiting toilet facilities alone. You should be extra vigilant in these situations.

Never accept lifts from strangers. Find a registered yellow taxi and make a note of the registration number before getting in.

Very rarely counterfeit alcohol has been responsible for the death of some tourists. If you have any concerns, seek advice from your tour operator or the Turkish authorities.

Road travel

Take care when travelling by road throughout Turkey, particularly at night. Approach checkpoints slowly and follow the instructions of security personnel. Roads between the major cities are generally in excellent condition, but can be poor in remote, rural areas. Accidents are common and mainly due to poor or reckless driving.

If you drive in Turkey, you must have either an International Driving Permit or a notarised copy (in Turkish) of your UK driving licence. If you stay in Turkey continuously for more than 6 months, you must convert your UK driving licence into a Turkish licence. Provisional driving licences aren’t recognised. If you intend to bring a vehicle registered in another country into Turkey you should familiarise yourself with the relevant Turkish customs regulations.

You will need an ‘A’ category standard motorcycle licence to hire a motorcycle over 50cc in Turkey. An ‘A1’ category ‘light motorcycle’ driving licence is only suitable for motorcycles below 50cc. By law you must wear a helmet. Failure to do so could result in a heavy fine.

A green card is proof that you have vehicle insurance when driving abroad. You need to carry a green card to drive in Turkey.

Do not drink and drive. The police will breathalyse drunk drivers, fine you on the spot and immediately confiscate your licence for 6 months.

Air travel

There is a heightened risk of terrorist attack against the aviation industry in Turkey. See Terrorism

You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports. For more information and advice about what items you can take into the cabin on your flight from Turkey to the UK, contact your airline or travel company.

The FCDO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices. This list is not exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list does not necessarily mean that it is unsafe.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Turkey.

A list of incidents and accidents in Turkey can be found on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

Extreme sports

If you participate in extreme sports (including paragliding, parasailing, white-water rafting, off-road driving and hot air ballooning), satisfy yourself that adequate safety precautions are in place. Only use reputable operators and insist on training before use. Make sure your travel insurance covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. British nationals have been injured and in some cases killed participating in extreme sports.

Stray dogs

Most towns and cities have stray dogs. Local authorities take action to control and manage numbers but packs congregate in parks and wastelands and can be aggressive. Take care, remain calm, and avoid approaching stray dogs. If you’re bitten, seek medical advice as rabies and other animal borne diseases are present in Turkey.