Since late May 2013, there have been demonstrations in cities across Turkey, some of which have become violent. In Istanbul previous demonstrations have centered on the area around Taksim Square, on Istiklal Street and in the Besiktas and Kadikoy districts. In Ankara, the protests have mainly taken place in the central Kizilay district around the Prime Minister’s office. 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. The effects of tear gas can be felt several hundred metres beyond the immediate site of demonstrations. Local transport routes may be disrupted.
Local travel - Syrian border
The FCO advise against all travel to the towns of Akḉakale and Ceylanpinar and against all but essential travel to areas within 10km of Turkey’s border with Syria. On 11 May 2013, 2 car bombs killed 53 people and wounded more than 100 in the town of Reyhanli, Hatay Province. In October 2012, 5 Turkish citizens were killed when a shell fell on the town of Akḉakale. Syrian forces continue to target areas close to the Turkish border and there remains a heightened risk of terrorism in the region.
Generally crime levels are low, but street robbery and pick-pocketing are common in the major tourist areas of Istanbul. 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 area.
In 2012, 39 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. Most were committed late at night by someone the victim met during the evening. There have been a number of similar cases in 2013. There have also been sexual attacks on minors visiting toilet facilities alone. You should be extra vigilant in these situations.
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.
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.
Take particular care when travelling by road throughout Turkey, particularly at night. Road conditions can be poor. Accidents are common and mainly due to poor or reckless driving. According to the Turkish police, there were 1,228,928 road traffic accidents in 2011 which resulted in 3,835 deaths and over 238,074 injuries.
If you drive in Turkey, you must have either an International Driving Permit or a notarised copy (in Turkish) of your UK driving licence. Provisional driving licences are not recognised.
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.
Don’t drink and drive. The police will breathalyse drunk drivers, fine you on the spot and immediately confiscate your licence for 6 months.
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. On 20 May, 3 tourists were killed when 2 hot air balloons collided in Turkey. The accident also injured 22 people.