Foreign travel advice

Turkey

Important COVID-19 travel guidance

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. Travel to some countries and territories is currently exempted.

This advice is being kept under constant review. Travel disruption is still possible and national control measures may be brought in with little notice, so check our travel guidance.

Safety and security

Local travel

As part of its efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus, the Turkish government has imposed curfews. These have been time-limited, or aimed at particular age groups. These can be imposed at short notice and you should stay in touch with local developments.

There remains an ongoing curfew for those who have a chronic medical condition. In addition:

  • Adults over 65 years old must stay inside, between 8pm and 10am on a daily basis.
  • People under 18 years of age are allowed outside at any time but must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Beyond these exemptions, people in these categories must not leave their homes. See Travel in Turkey if you fall into one of these categories and need to travel.

Anyone wishing to undertake intercity travel using public transport is required to obtain an “HES” (“Hayat Eve Sığar”) code. This can be done through the e-Devlet system, the ‘Hayat Eve Sığar’ smartphone application and by SMS.

Non-Turkish nationals with a domestic flight connecting to/from an international flight which is booked on the same ticket, do not currently require an HES code. Where a domestic flight is booked separately or with a different airline, an HES code is required.

For international travel, Turkish nationals are required to obtain an HES code. This does not apply to non-Turkish nationals, including British visitors to Turkey.

For intercity travel, British nationals without a residence card can obtain a HES code by sending their passport details by SMS to 2023 in the following format: HES [space] Nationality (GBR) [space] passport number [space] year of birth [space] surname. Example: HES GBR 123456789 1980 SMITH. You will need to use the passport which you entered Turkey on, and the SMS message must be sent from a mobile phone registered on a Turkish mobile network.

Turkey has now lifted most restrictions on internal travel. If you are over 65, and a visitor to Turkey, you no longer require a permit to travel between cities. A permit is still required if you are a Turkish resident and you must remain at your destination for a minimum of 30 days, unless travelling for an international flight. Individuals under 18 no longer require a permit to either travel within the same city, or undertake intercity travel. When travelling they must, however, be accompanied by a parent or guardian, aged below 65 years of age.

The wearing of masks is obligatory throughout Turkey in crowded places and specifically in markets and supermarkets, hairdressers and barber shops. The wearing of masks is also compulsory on all public transport, including Metro, buses, taxis and ferries, and in some areas, masks must be worn when travelling in private vehicles with more than one person.

In addition to the above, the wearing of face masks is mandatory at all times outside the home in the following provinces which includes major cities and some tourist areas::

Adıyaman, Afyonkarahisar, Agri, Amasya, Ankara, Ardahan, Aydın, Balıkesir, Bartın, Batman, Bilecik, Bingöl, Bitlis, Bolu, Burdur, Bursa, Çanakkale, Denizli, Diyarbakır, Düzce, Elazığ, Erzurum, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, Giresun, Iğdır, Isparta, Istanbul, İzmir ,Kahramanmaraş, Karabük, Kayseri, Kırklareli, Kocaeli, Konya, Kütahya, Malatya, Mardin, Muğla, Muş, Nevşehir, Ordu, Osmaniye, Rize, Sakarya, Siirt, Sinop, Sivas, Şanlıurfa, Şırnak, Tokat, Tunceli, Uşak, Yalova, Yozgat and Zonguldak.

You should check whether your accommodation is in one of these provinces before travelling.

Those who do not abide by this rule may be issued with a fine of 900 TL (£106 approximately). Follow Turkish announcements and local media for up to date information.

Syrian border

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

Turkey is conducting a military operation in north-eastern Syria. This has led to heightened tensions in border regions, including cross-border rocket and mortar attacks into Turkey, close to the border. If you’re in provinces bordering Syria, you should remain extremely vigilant and keep up to date with developments via local media and this travel advice.

On 24 August 2016, the Turkish military started operations across the Turkey-Syria border near Karkamis and declared special security zones in villages along the Turkey-Syria border in Gaziantep Province.

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 FCO advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli and Hakkari. Since July 2015 there has been an intensive period of PKK attacks on Turkish security forces, their premises and vehicles. Civilians have been affected. Security operations have taken place in the cities of Diyarbakir, Sirnak and Hakkari, with curfews imposed in these and other towns and cities in the region. 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. Don’t attempt to enter these zones. There may be some disruption to travel in these areas.

The PKK have carried out attacks against Turkish security personnel and premises in Van province in August and September 2016. On 17 August 2016 an attack in central Van against a police station killed 3 people and injured 73 others. On 4 September 2016, a mortar attack was launched against a police checkpoint in the Edremit district of Van Province, but there were no injuries. On 12 September 2016 an attack at a police checkpoint wounded at least 50 people in Van province. There have been subsequent clashes between Turkish security forces and the PKK resulting in a number of deaths and injuries. 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, on Istiklal Street and in the Besiktas and Kadikoy districts and more recently in Okmeydani. 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. 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. A two-year state of emergency ended in July 2018. However, some additional security measures and restrictions remain in place.

The presidency of the Higher Education Council has issued a revised note indicating that restrictions on leave and travel for university employees don’t apply to foreign nationals. If you’re employed at a university, you should check with your employer directly before taking leave or making any travel plans as the implementation of the restrictions is subject to the discretion of individual institutions.

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.

Don’t 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. Restrictions on carrying large electronic devices in the aircraft cabin on flights departing from Turkey to the UK have now been lifted. 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 FCO 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.