Terrorism in Turkey: Should Travelers Be Worried?

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Terrorism is a real threat in Turkey, but should that stop you from visiting? Here's what you need to know.

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Mosque, Turkey Photo © Getty Images/Alexander Spatari

Tourism is booming in Turkey and it’s no surprise. The people are welcoming, travel is comfortable and affordable and it's possible to see and do some wonderous things, at all points of the compass. However it’s important to be aware Turkey has suffered from acts of terrorism. Before you go, find out about the risk of terrorism in Turkey, and if you are covered by travel insurance.

Is there terrorism in Turkey?

Yes, there have been terrorist attacks in Turkey. The large majority of them have occurred between terrorist groups and Turkish security forces, such as police, military or government units, in the east and southeast, on the border Turkey shares with Iraq, Iran and Syria. However, while terrorist groups in Turkey mostly target workers in positions of authority and tend to avoid civilians, this is not always the case.

The major cities of Istanbul and Ankara have also been the site of major terrorist attacks. In 2016, there was an attack on tourists in the precinct of the Blue Mosque and in June of the same year an attack at Istanbul Ataturk airport resulted in 41 dead and more than 230 people injured. In 2017, 39 people were killed and 79 wounded at Reina nightclub in the Ortaköy neighbourhood of Istanbul in the early hours of New Years Day.

Following an attempted coup in July 2016, a state of emergency was declared, ending in 2018. Since then police presence on the streets has increased and there have been no further major terrorist acts recorded in tourist areas since then.

Government travel advisories frequently recommend travelers avoid crowded areas in Turkey, but this isn’t possible in cities such as Istanbul and Ankara. More useful advice is be aware of your surroundings, follow police instructions and when a crowd gathers (other than to listen to street musicians), keep on walking. Stopping to watch a street protest can quickly become an unpleasant experience if things turn ugly.

Many government travel advisories also recommend travelers avoid going to the provinces in the east and south east of the country due to the heightened threat of terrorism and the potential for civil unrest. Areas close to the border with Syria can be particularly tense. Travelers are told to exercise a “high degree of caution” due to the level of terrorism threat, with some areas flagged as “reconsider your need for travel”.  It’s important to heed warnings issued by your respective foreign offices, but it's also equally important not to scrap traveling to this fascinating part of the world due to paranoia. I’m hardly a risk taker but travel to provinces in south east and eastern Turkey – Hatay, Gaziantep, Şanliurfa, Mardin, Doğabeyazıt – is high on my agenda.

If you do decide to travel to Turkey, stay up to date with all local information regarding any potential threats – talk to locals, read the news and continue to stay informed while you’re in Turkey. That way you can change your travel plans if needed.

Is the ANZAC dawn service in Turkey safe?

The ANZAC Day Dawn Service on the coast of Gallipoli has become a pilgrimage for many thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who come to commemorate the fallen in war and reflect on the ANZAC spirit. Being a large tourist attraction, some have raised concerns about the safety of the event.

So, is the dawn service secure? We asked Mat McLachlan, head of Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours about what kind of preventative measures are put in place.

“The security at the Gallipoli Dawn Service is always tightly controlled. Visitors have to submit to bag checks and x-rays, plus there are hundreds of armed Turkish security personnel in attendance.

“We advise all our visitors to get to the site as early as possible and expect delays due to the high levels of security. The whole operation is extremely well run and the safety and security of the attendees is the number one priority.

Security is so tight that the biggest problem we usually have to contend with is passengers who lose patience with the screening process! But at such an important international event, security has to be given top priority.”

Nonetheless Mat also encourages visitors to Turkey to keep an eye out for any risks.

“We do advise our passengers that there have been terrorist attacks in Turkey in the past and to keep themselves informed of developments with their government advisories. There have been no terrorist attacks at Gallipoli during the Dawn Service in the past ... security levels at the Dawn Service are extremely high, and therefore this is probably as safe as they will be during their entire time in Turkey. In my opinion the chance of a terror attack at the Dawn Service is very small.”

Am I covered for terrorism in Turkey?

If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in the rare event of a terrorist attack, and are injured, fortunately you are completely covered for any medical expenses incurred.

However, it’s always a good idea to check with your government warnings on Turkey when you make your travel arrangements.

If warnings for these areas change to "Do Not Travel" by your foreign office, and you are injured, you may have your claim voided if there is suspicion you placed yourself at voluntary risk.

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8 Comments

  • gallipoli said

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  • Alex said

    I've been thinking about visiting Mardin and Hakenseyf this October. Do you think it's unwise/ unsafe at this time? The Australian travel site advises against it, but I have not seen any warnings on the U.S. Dept. of State travel site. Thanks.

  • niko said

    It is not the Kurdish Party attacking Turkey.Attacks in Turkey originate from terrorist organizations and from some unknown sources which we also wonder about who they are.

  • Mark said

    Just don't go there! Don't spend your money on a nation that is supporting terrorism!

  • Ozzy said

    Hello, I'm living in Turkey we'r not terrorist but some people in east ( MUSLİMS ) are terrorist they are want war ı am living in west ı can only say west is not terrorist east is terrorist

  • Ömer said

    I cannot believe that some of you said Turkey is supporting terrorism!! We are the only country that helps (truly not only accepting a few to enter the country) Syria and do something against terrorism! And to Ozzy he is completely wrong. I am living in Turkey, Bursa and terrorists are not MUSLIMS. Terrorism is used to blame Muslims as a bad religion. And its not about WEST and EAST. And to the guy that wants to go to Mardin you could go there but why not going more historical places like Istanbul and more?

  • Francis Angove said

    My partner and I have booked a holiday for 14 days flying on the 11th of October from Bristol to Dalaman it’s a package with TUI is it safe to do so

  • Helen Roberta Bell said

    what is essential reasons to travel to Turkey

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