Most of the countries worldwide continue to observe strict travel limitations. Therefore, the available options for international tourism and transportation are fairly limited. Turkey is one such place where there aren’t too many restrictions in place, and travellers are encouraged to visit the country for tourism, business, education, or work purposes.
The country has revised its e-visa policy to make it convenient for foreigners to travel to Turkey. Such as now, foreign travellers don’t need to provide a negative PCR test to gain entry permit. Also, foreign travellers who are in Turkey for a short and temporary visit are exempt from the curfew restrictions. However, it is good to have considerable information about a country before travelling. Here's all you need to know about the risk levels, safety/security issues, entry/exit requirements, health laws, climate, and culture of Turkey.
Passengers, however, need to obey some conditions for having safe and healthy transportation. This includes wearing face marks while in the flight, at the airport, and in public areas. At the time of arrival, all passengers will go through a medical examination and complete a passenger information form.
If anyone shows any symptoms, they will receive medical treatment. For all domestic flights, passengers must have their personal HEC code.
There are no particular risks involved in touring the mains cities of the country. Cities like Istanbul, Antalya, and the capital city Ankara are safe and secure for tourism. The government of Turkey has put preventative measures and movement restrictions across the country. Wearing a face mask is mandatory in public, including in private or public transportation boarding at least two occupants. The country is observing nationwide curfew on weekdays and weekends.
Weekdays Curfew: Monday to Friday: 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
Weekend Curfew: Friday, from 9 p.m. to Monday at 5 a.m.
Senior citizens (people aged 65 or above) are allowed to leave their accommodation/residence between 10:00 to 13:00 hours from Monday to Friday. On the other hand, people below the age of 20 can leave their place of residence between 13:00 to 16:00 hours from Monday to Friday.
Obtaining and presenting a Hayat Eve SÄ±ÄŸar (HES) code is compulsory for Turkish citizens and residents to perform different kinds of day-to-day activities. Such as to use public transportation, accessing public spaces/buildings, and for renting out accommodation, a HES code is mandatory. To obtain the code, you need to download the HES mobile application available at the e-Government website. Alternately, you can send an SMS message to 2023 to receive the code.
Please note that foreign tourists are exempt from this requirement.
Whether you are a Turkish citizen, resident, or tourist, you must never violate coronavirus-related restrictions or else the authorities may fine you for endangering public health and welfare.
All individuals, including tourists, are urged to avoid crowded areas and participate in gatherings.
Border with Syria
The security situation in Turkey continues to remain unpredictable. Due to the rising tensions across the Middle East tourists in Turkey may be exposed to the risk of terror attacks at some turbulent area near the Turkey-Syria and Turkey-Iraq border. Hence, it is advised that foreigners avoid travelling to destinations closer to Turkey’s border with Syria and Iraq, for instance, the ancient city of Kilis, and inland regions like the Tunceli and Diyarbakir provinces.
It is important to note that extremist groups do exist in Turkey and regularly carry out attacks at an area closer to the Syrian border with Turkey. Such attacks are indiscriminate and may result in injuries or fatalities. Some regions in villages located closer to the country’s border with Syria as special security zones. These locations are part of the military’s cross-border operations. Therefore, you can expect heavy military presence and restrictions on public movement in these regions.
In July 2015, the 3-year-long ceasefire between the TAF (Turkish Armed Forces) and the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) ended. Afterwards, the TAF has been carrying out airstrikes against PKK targets on a regular basis. These strikes generally occur near the Turkey-Iraq border area. Deadly terrorist attacks have been launched by the PKK against the Turkish security forces in various Turkish cities and regions down the south and southeastern part of the country. Hence, there is always a possibility that a curfew may be enforced without prior notice.
Due to civil unrest in many southeastern cities of Turkey, violent clashes between law enforcement officials and protestors. There is a risk of small-scale bomb explosions and the exchange of gunfire, which often results in casualties and property damage. Foreigners are particularly vulnerable to kidnapping within this region. That’s why it is suggested to remain vigilant at all times. Moreover, foreigners should avoid travelling or driving during the night, especially around the overland areas.
The July Coup:
During 15-16 July 2016, Turkey experienced an attempted coup after which the country remained volatile for quite some time. The situation may remain unpredictable in most of its major cities. That’s why tourists must keep monitoring local media for the latest updates and obey the guidelines and instructions of local administration.
Furthermore, given the country’s volatile security condition, you may observe an increased deployment of security forces, particularly in major cities. Also, tourists must be prepared for random ID checks, roadblocks, and should cooperate with the authorities. Travellers need to carry their visa and passport or residence permit when roaming around in public areas. In case of non-compliance to ID verification process or failure in producing the required travel documents, Turkish officials are entitled to impose fine, detain or even deport the foreigner.
Criticism is Prohibited:
A large number of people have been detained and even prosecuted by the Turkish authorities for posting anti-government material. It is illegal in Turkey to criticize the government, the president, military and state officials, and state policies, either publicly or on social media. Even authors who published posts from another country had to face dire consequences.
Therefore, tourists must employ responsible approach while speaking or posting anything about the government on a public platform. Also, think twice before reacting to any such post that criticizes the government. Ideally, tourists must limit their social media presence while staying in Turkey.
In case the person who has posted or circulated anti-government comments/material/content doesn’t go to trial and is acquitted, he or she may be labelled as a suspected terrorist, and face adverse consequences following criminal proceedings. They may also face social exclusion and lose the job.
Additionally, Turkish authorities often target people/groups for organizing news conferences, publishing statements, critical or satirical content, organizing/participating in non-violent activities, and indulging in online activism to protest against governmental policies, actions, and decisions.
Turkish citizens from particular occupational groups may need to produce a letter from their employer prior to leaving the country. It is particularly relevant to Canadian-Turkish citizens.
There is considerable terrorism threat from international/local terrorist groups in Turkey. Usually, these attacks occur in the southern regions or southeastern areas. However, attacks can happen anywhere throughout the country, including major cities like Izmir, Istanbul, Bursa, and Ankara. The key targets of terrorist groups include the following:
It must be noted that foreign visitors, delegates, and tourists are the prime targets of terrorist groups not just in Turkey but anywhere else in the world. Hence, exercise maximum caution while staying in Turkey.
But, don’t let it deter your plans of travelling to Turkey because comprehensive security measures are in place countrywide. Moreover, Turkish law enforcement authorities have successfully thwarted and prevented several terrorist attacks. Whenever there are reports on specific threats, Turkish officials will close the street for public movement or set up roadblocks.
Along the borders that Turkey shares with Syria and Iraq, there is an increased threat of kidnapping. Generally, Muslim extremist groups benefit from the porous borders as well as the region’s unpredictable security situation to conduct their malicious operations. Extremist groups like Jabat al-Nusra and Daesh use kidnapping for fundraising. This is why foreigners, including foreign aid workers, are their preferred targets as they can demand a higher ransom amount.
In Turkey, demonstrations can occur at any time. Protests don’t need to remain peaceful as in the past many non-violent demonstrations turned violent. Such events can disrupt public transportation and traffic.
General Guidelines for Tourists:
Petty crimes like purse snatching, pickpocketing, and street scams can occur. Such activities are quite common in Istanbul. Tourists are advised to avoid flaunting expensive gadgets or showing affluence signs, as this generally attract criminals and scammers. Furthermore, always keep your travel documents, personal belongings, and passport secure.
Sexual assaults, muggings, and assaults may also occur but aren’t too frequent. Beware of scammers who may administer drugs through drinks/beverages, chewing gum, or food. They may rob their victims after drugging them. Never accept food or drink from strangers, even if the container or the wrapping is sealed.
Avoid going to down-market bars or neighbourhoods. In Istanbul, a scam is particularly common in which a local individual will invite tourists to bars for sharing a meal, and the tourist will be forced to pay a hefty bill.
You must never accept parcels, letters, or any such item from strangers. Sometimes, drug traffickers try to use tourists and foreign visitors as bait to deliver their packages or message in-and-out of Turkey.
Is Turkey Safe for Women?
On the whole, Turkey is a safe destination for female travellers, including those travelling solo. However, the risk of sexual assault still exists, particularly in coastal resort areas. The threat is highest during the summer holiday period.
Solo travellers may be subject to verbal abuse or another form of harassment, but this practice is also not too common.
The road network in Turkey is quite modern, and the government is continually trying to improve it. However, tourists may have to deal with uneven surfaces or inadequately marked lane changes while passing through construction zones. Drive cautiously during rain because adverse weather conditions can impact road conditions and may jeopardize your safety. Avoid driving recklessly, because due to Turkish roads’ insufficient lighting, hazardous conditions, high traffic, and poor signage, accidents are quite common.
If you get involved in an accident, never move your vehicle regardless if you are blocking traffic or someone is injured. Always wait until the police file an official report. You may consult the General Directorate of Highways for further guidance for road travels in Turkey. Also, remember that in Turkey, pedestrians don’t have the right of way. The government tightly controls traffic alongside the Iran and Iraq borders.
You may find numerous stray cats and dogs in Ankara, Istanbul and other major cities roaming around freely on the streets. Generally, dogs travel in packs and may attack joggers or pedestrians. It is advised that you must never try to feed or pet stray animals because they usually aren’t vaccinated.
All the main railroads in Turkey are exceptionally well-maintained and utterly modern. The country has a high-speed corridor between Ankara and Istanbul.
International safety standards are followed at all airports in Turkey.
Although Turkey has state-of-the-art health care facilities and highly professional clinical staff to cater to patients, given the unusual circumstances the country is currently dealing with due to the pandemic, you may experience some difficulties while seeking medical care. The hospitals nowadays are out of beds to accommodate in-patients, and there could be a delay in services at hospitals.
Because of the ongoing curfew and the rise in coronavirus patients, you may face difficulty in obtaining essential health care services and products. Also, there are specific movement restrictions and quarantining requirements at designated facilities, which are to be observed at your own expenses.
Make sure that your travel insurance covers medical expenses, including hospital stays and medical evacuation.
Quality of Care
In all major cities of Turkey, ultra-modern medical care services and facilities are available, but this may not be the case in the outlying regions. Mostly, visitors are required to make cash payments.
Remember that decompression chambers are installed at all popular diving sites.
Universal health coverage
If you are a foreigner residing in Turkey with a residency permit, you must register for universal health coverage under the Turkish Social Security (SGK). This requirement came into effect from 2012. Canadian citizens are exempt from this requirement. However, they may enrol in this program if they don’t have other coverage and have stayed in Turkey for over a year. If you are a resident and qualify for the coverage, you may register now. Consult the local SGK office for further guidance.
We are currently living in a risk-laden environment. If you chose to travel amidst the pandemic, you would have to care for your health and safety on your own. Apart from following the standard SOPs, you must be prepared for any adverse scenario. Always travel with a first-aid kit, especially if you intend to travel farther from the major city centres. You should consult a health care professional at least six weeks before your date of travel to get vaccinated.
Do ensure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of which destination you want to visit.
Some of the most important and common routine vaccines include tetanus, measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), influenza, polio, pertussis, varicella or chickenpox, and diphtheria.
Vaccines to Consider:
Do remember that when travelling in Turkey you could be at risk of certain vaccine-preventable diseases. Consult your travel health professional about a suitable vaccination for you. Here are some vaccines to consider:
Points to Note:
Food and Water-borne Diseases
In any foreign destination, tourists are vulnerable to developing traveller’s diarrhoea due to consumption of contaminated food and water.
Traveller’s diarrhoea is one of the most common illnesses that travellers’ contract overseas. The risk increases when tourists travel in regions with poor hygiene standards and sanitation. Always consume hygienic food and practice water precautions.
The best treatment for travellers’ diarrhoea is rehydration, which refers to drinking loads of fluids. You may carry oral rehydration salts whenever travelling.
It is a bacterial infection mainly spread by consuming contaminated water or food. The risk of typhoid is higher among travellers visiting rural areas, children, or those who travel for a long period. If you want to visit regions where there is a risk of typhoid, particularly those areas where sanitation standards are poor, always consult a health care professional to get the right vaccination.
Turkey has prohibited the use of illegal drugs. There are strict penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking of illegal substances. If convicted, the offenders often receive lengthy sentences as well as heavy fines. Never carry anyone else’s baggage when travelling anywhere inside or outside of Turkey.
In Turkey, it is against the law to insult, denigrate, or desecrate the following:
It is forbidden to take pictures at public or military installations, public demonstrations, and members of security forces or law enforcement authorities. The authorities may confiscate your cameras. Never photograph people without asking for their permission.
It is not allowed to export Turkish antiquities or cultural artefacts that are of historical or national value. Always consult the Turkish authorities before departing from Turkey. If the item(s) can be exported, you may have to provide a sales receipt and obtain the museum export certificate from the Turkish Customs Office.
It is not illegal to proselytize religion, but some activities are regarded as unlawful and may lead to detention.
It is considered indecent to indulge in a public display of affection. Avoid holding hands or physical contact in public.
Avoid discussing religious, political, or historical issues in public areas and on social media platforms. Always remember the sensitivity of the issue and think twice before posting or commenting online to criticize the government.
According to Turkish law, sexual relations between same-sex individuals are not prohibited. However, homosexuality isn’t socially acceptable in Turkey.
Driving Under the Influence
Drunk driving is strictly prohibited in Turkey, and the state observes a zero-tolerance policy in this regard. Possible consequences of driving under the influence include heavy fines that should be paid on the spot. Always carry your international driving permit.
Dress Code and Etiquettes
In most parts of the country, Islamic beliefs and practices are closely observed. Therefore, foreigners must behave cautiously and respect Turkey’s social and religious traditions. Never behave or speak in a way that offends local sensitivities.
During the month of Ramada, which is the 9th month of the Muslim calendar, always drink, eat, and smoke discreetly, away from the public eye, during the fasting hours. In 2021, Ramadan is expected to start from April 12.
Conservative and modest dressing is necessary when visiting Turkey, especially outside the coastal resorts and major cities.
Female travellers should cover their heads with a scarf, and other visitors must cover their arms and legs when visiting any place of worship.
The Turkish Lira (TRY) is the official currency of the country. However, US Dollars, Euros, and credit cards from all major services are accepted widely. The government has an extensive network of automated banking machines.
Turkey’s geographical location makes it climatic conditions utterly unpredictable. It is situated in an active seismic zone, which is why landslide frequently occurs in affected regions. Moreover, intense aftershocks keep happening for at least a week after the earthquake.
Landslide and flooding can be caused due to rainstorms, along with considerable damage to infrastructure. Severe rainstorms can hamper the supply of essential services.
Furthermore, travel delays and disruption of essential services is possible in case of wildfires and droughts.
The most recent earthquake occurred on October 30, 2020. It was a 7.0 magnitude earthquake in the Aegean Sea, at the northern part of the Greek Island of Samos, while its impact was felt as far as Izmir. The city continued to experience aftershocks, and buildings were severely damaged.