Safety and security
Local travel - Syrian border
The FCO advise against all travel to within 10km of the border with Syria. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Sirnak, Mardin, Sanlurfa, Gaziantep, Kilis and Hatay provinces.
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.
Mortar rounds are occasionally fired from Syria into Turkey. As a result of heavy fighting in northern Syria, there has been a mass influx of refugees into southern Turkey over the past 3 years.
Local travel – eastern provinces
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli, Hakkari and Siirt. Since July 2015 there has been an intensive period of PKK attacks on Turkish security forces, their premises and vehicles. Civilians have been affected.
The FCO advise against all travel to the city of Diyarbakir where there have been security operations against the PKK and related groups. Similar operations have taken place in the cities of Sirnak and Hakkari. Curfews have been imposed in these and other towns and cities in the region. You should take extreme care in these areas.
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.
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.
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 2017, 17 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.
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. According to the Turkish police, there were 410,812 road traffic accidents in 2017, which resulted in 6,400 deaths and 176,269 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. 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.
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.
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.