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When I traveled to Cappadocia in Turkey a few years ago, I really wanted to visit Derinkuyu, one of the region’s famous underground cave cities that were built hundreds of years ago to protect inhabitants from foreign invasions. As public transport was inconvenient for me, my hotel owner, said he could provide his services as a driver.
Even as an experienced international solo traveler, I’m still susceptible to anxiety about my safety. So, when I noticed on Google Maps we were headed down a quiet country road instead of a larger road nearby, I started to worry.
“Is this the scenic route?” I asked nervously, taking in the deserted farmlands around us. Perhaps realizing my discomfort, he hastily assured me that he was taking a shortcut due to traffic on the main road.
At the site, he waited for me at a café where while I wandered around the winding passages for a couple of hours. On the way back, he told me about the history of the area and politely asked me if I minded stopping while he prayed for a few minutes.
In hindsight, my fears were understandable but probably overblown. The fact that tourism is a major business in Turkey, citizens’ great pride in their country (as evidenced by the number of Turkish flags flying everywhere), and a culture of hospitality to guests means that travel there is generally quite safe, even for women traveling alone.
During the rest of my stay in Cappadocia, I hiked through quiet valleys with only the thrum of honeybees for company and climbed up hillsides to see ancient Christian churches carved out of the rocks. In Istanbul, I felt safe strolling solo along the Bosporus as the sun set, watching fishermen in silhouette checking their phones in between checking their lines.
However, as is the case with visiting anywhere, there are potential safety issues to be aware of in Turkey, from potential terrorist attacks to wildfires. Being alert and prepared for the risks will help ensure you take adequate steps to avoid them.
While some governments still have warnings in place about traveling to Turkey, travelers around the world clearly think it’s a safe destination, with an influx of visitors, and tourism is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels soon. Informed and responsible travelers can feel confident about exploring a wide range of experiences there, from unforgettable sights and delicious food to the warmth and generosity of the Turkish people.
These tips will guide you as you plan your trip to this beautiful, diverse, and welcoming country.
The inflation rate in Turkey is currently soaring (July 2022), especially for everyday goods such as food and fuel. While there is little evidence that this economic crisis is affecting crime rates, it makes even more sense for visitors to be aware of typical scams as well as to be always aware of their surroundings and valuables. Istanbul has a large security camera network, which may serve as a crime deterrent in that city.
Travelers are generally advised not to travel to areas of the country that border Syria due to a higher risk of armed conflict, terrorism, and civil unrest. Although there has not been another wave of deadly terrorist attacks, like one in 2016, the potential for threats in major tourist areas is still a concern, and you may notice heightened police and military presence at some sites.
In addition, Turkey is having a general election in 2023, which may spark more political demonstrations and actions. The current government under President Erdogan has a history of cracking down on demonstrators, and even criticizing the government verbally or on social media can mean risking arrest. To be safe, it’s best to avoid areas with protests and to save voicing any negative opinions about the political situation for in private or when you get home.
Part of the fun of visiting Turkey is the many options for exciting outdoor activities such as horseback riding, scuba diving, and more. Hot air ballooning is a particular draw for visitors to Cappadocia for the spectacular views of the unusual landscapes there. While accidents are rare, it’s always a good idea to do your due diligence by reading reviews and talking to other travelers to get their recommendations for reliable operators, and then obeying all of the applicable safety guidelines for the activity.
In the last few years Turkey has suffered from some devastating wildfires, including in popular seaside areas along the Mediterranean coast. Sadly, these are becoming more common in part due to climate change. Beyond the immediate risk to personal safety, high levels of particles in the air due to smoke can cause health issues, especially among those with asthma or other lung conditions. Check the status of wildfires before your visit and consider scheduling your trip to Turkey during seasons when fires are not as common.
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