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.

Terrorism

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Turkey.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism.

Most terrorist attacks have taken place in the south-east of the country and in Ankara and Istanbul. While there is a potential that citizens from western countries may be targets or caught up in attacks, particularly in the major cities, attacks are most likely to target the Turkish state, civilians and demonstrations.

Attacks could be indiscriminate, affecting public buildings, major events or large public gatherings. Be vigilant around significant religious occasions and public holidays; terrorist groups sometimes call for attacks around these times.

Previous methods of attack have included armed assaults, suicide bombings, car bombings and rocket attacks and improvised explosive devices left in refuse bins, crowded areas and on public transport. Be vigilant, monitor media reports and keep up to date with this travel advice.

The Turkish authorities have successfully disrupted attack planning in the recent past and have said that security has been tightened in response to recent attacks.

There is a heightened risk of terrorist attack against the aviation industry in Turkey. You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports.

It’s illegal to be a member or supporter of a terrorist organisation in Turkey. Some organisations in the region though not proscribed in the UK, such as the YPG and the Gülen Movement are illegal in Turkey.

A number of terrorist groups are active in Turkey:

Daesh

The last major attack attributed to Daesh occurred on 1 January 2017 at the Reina nightclub in Ortakoy, Istanbul; 39 people were killed and 69 injured. Extremist groups based in Syria including Daesh and ANF (Al Nusra Front) have the capacity to carry out attacks in neighbouring countries, including Turkey. Daesh has previously targeted border crossings and nearby locations on the Syrian side of the border.

PKK

There’s a domestic terrorist presence in the south east of the country including in Van, Bitlis, Bingol, Elazig, Mus, Batman, Erzincan, Diyarbakir and Agri provinces. In December 2012, talks began between the Turkish Government and the Kurdish aligned PKK (proscribed as a terrorist group in the UK), during which the PKK observed a ceasefire. However, following the Suruc bombing on 20 July 2015, the ceasefire ended when the PKK killed 2 Turkish police officers.

15 August is the anniversary of the first PKK attack against Turkish government installations. Historically, this anniversary date has prompted an escalation of violence by the PKK and other splinter groups.

From the end of July 2015 there was an intensive period of violent incidents in Turkey’s south-east and other provinces, although the pace of these has now decreased. The vast majority of these incidents have been PKK attacks on Turkish security forces, their premises and vehicles, with many members of the armed forces and police killed and injured. There have also been attacks on infrastructure (eg oil pipelines, dams) and incidents in which civilians have been affected. The government has responded with arrests of PKK suspects in Turkey and sustained military pressure on PKK positions in northern Iraq.

TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Hawks)

TAK have previously carried out attacks in Turkey, and have publicly threatened to attack tourist sites. TAK are a proscribed group under UK law.

Far Left groups – DHKP-C and THKP-C

The anti-western, far left, proscribed terrorist group, THKP/C-Acilciler (Turkish People’s Liberation Party/Front) and the linked DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front) remain active, and launched a series of attacks in Istanbul in 2015 targeting the Turkish police and judiciary. The DHKP/C attacks have mainly targeted the Turkish authorities and US diplomatic missions.

Between approximately 30 March and 20 April, there are several dates significant to the DHKP/C, starting with the 30 March anniversary of their founding which may have been linked to previous attacks. 19 December is also recognised as an important date around which the DHKP/C may be active.

Global threat

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Kidnapping

Terrorist groups operating in Syria, including Daesh and AQ-linked groups, routinely use kidnapping as a tactic. They’re present in the Syrian border areas and you should be particularly vigilant if you are in these locations. Daesh and other terrorist groups view those engaged in humanitarian aid work or journalism as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as protection or secure your safe release.

The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.