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Turkey Travel Guide:

       Tourism Information

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Tourism Rating    Travel Safety   Entry Requirements  avoiding Petty Theft

Special Notes    Road Safety and Conditions   Medical Care

Tourism Rating   Top of Page  
Three globes = One of the best vacation destinations


Climate Note:

Temperate; hot, dry summers with mild, wet winters; harsher in interior.

Ankara Climate
Istanbul Climate
Izmir Climate

Turkey: One of the Best Travel Destinations (three of four globes)

Turkey is a wonderful place to visit.  Its cities, people, attractions, and countryside are delightful: they offer travelers incomparable insights into a central history in the development of the modern world.  In addition, a visit to Turkey provides insights into a nation that manages to bridge the gap between "East and West".  Please read our Travel Safety section when considering travel to Turkey.

  1. Istanbul and coastal Turkey along the Aegean and Mediterranean Sea provide the tourist with many world class attractions.  The country has much to offer the tourist who takes the time to savor the county, it people, history and, of course, food.  Away from the coast, the country has many fascinating attractions, but travel in the interior is more difficult than along the coast.

  2. Visiting the "Tourist Turkey" described above can be accomplished by  independent travel; however, we recommend considering a tour arranged by a reputable tourist agency if you are considering travel to Turkey's interior towns.  A cruise is a great way to get to know "Coastal Turkey" and Istanbul. (Read our article on How to evaluate tour operators.)

  3. ThereArePlaces recommended travel destinations in Turkey can be found at Turkey: Places To Visit.

  4. Additional  information on travel to Turkey can be found at the country's official tourism websites,

  5. When planning your travel, be sure to review the ThereArePlaces Travel Planning Guides for insights on how  to "travel well" and "travel safe".






Travel Safety US Embassy contact information Top of Page
Yellow = Potential exists for unsafe travel, specific threats and warnings exist





Exercise caution and keep a low profile




























Exercise caution and keep a low profile

We have assigned Turkey a yellow (caution) signal indicating that the potential for unsafe travel exists within the country.  Although Turkey has taken a very vigilant stand against terrorism, over the past four years terrorist bombings, some with significant numbers of casualties,  have struck religious, political, tourist and business targets in a variety of locations in Turkey. 

Past Security Alerts

In July of 2008, there was an armed attack on the United States Embassy in Istanbul.  Several Turkish police officers died in the ensuing gun battle.  The terrorists also died in the battle, although there have been several arrests after the fact. The is suspicion that this was an Al-Qaeda attack.

There have been several recent instances of violence against Christians, including the shooting of a Catholic priest in Trabzon in February 2006 and the murder of three Christians, one of them a German citizen, in a Bible bookstore in Malatya in April 2007.

On April 8, 2007, Turkish police captured a PKK terrorist in Istanbul’s much-touristed Taksim Square. She was intercepted carrying a bomb made of five-kilograms of A-4 explosive. Her intended target was that day’s celebration in the square honoring the founding of the Turkish police.

Due to the tense military situation on the border with Iraq, the Turkish General Staff has declared portions of the provinces of Sirnak, Hakkari, and Siirt as “sensitive areas”.

On August 27th and 28th of 2006 a series of bombings hit Turkey. Three bombs exploded in Marmaris, an area favored by British tourists, on August 27th injuring 21 people. The same day an explosion (outside of the tourist area in Istanbul), injured three. On August 28th a bomb at the Turkish resort area of Antalya killed three and injured 38.  The Kurdish Freedom Falcons claimed responsibility for the attacks on Marmaris and Antalya.

Mediterranean/Aegean Regions: Indigenous and trans-national terrorist groups continue to target Turkish as well as U.S. and Western interests. The Kurdistan Liberation Hawks (TAK) ostensibly aligned with PKK terrorists, claimed responsibility for a number of bombings in tourist areas in the Mediterranean and Aegean coastal resorts areas (as well as in Istanbul). This group has warned tourists not to visit Turkey. Consistent with its threats, this group claimed responsibility for a bomb that ripped through a minibus in the holiday resort town of Kusadasi, killing five persons, including a British tourist and an Irish tourist in July 2005. The group also was responsible for an explosion that killed three European tourists in Manavgat, a town in Antalya Province, as well as other attacks in the Antalya and Mugla Provinces in June 2006. Ten Britons and six Turks were injured when their minibus was blown up in Marmaris, and a bomb killed three and injured 87 in a blast at a shopping area in the city of Antalya in late August 2006. Further attacks by this group could take place without warning.  

The potential remains throughout Turkey for violence and terrorist actions against travelers, both by trans-national and indigenous terrorist organizations.

  1. Turkey is, generally, a safe place for tourists but the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel warning advising U.S. citizens to delay non-essential travel to Turkey.   If you feel comfortable with travel to Turkey  and desire to travel outside of major cities, we advise you to do so as part of a tour, rather than an independent traveler.

  2. We suggest you avoid public transportation in cities and consider taking taxis instead.  Although taxis are more expensive, they are, generally, less likely to be considered as targets for attacks by terrorists.

  3. No specific health  warnings for Turkey are in effect at this time.  Before you depart, always check with the Department of State  and CDC to insure that these conditions have not changed.  In addition, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office  of the British Government provides excellent travel advisories.

  4. The State Department's Overseas Citizens Services call center at 1-888-407-4747 can answer general inquiries on safety and security overseas. This number is available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). Callers who are unable to use toll-free numbers, such as those calling from overseas, may obtain information and assistance during these hours by calling 1-202-501-4444 .

  5. In late March and early April 2006, there was a wave of unrest in the southeast region of Turkey, where the PKK/KADEK/Kongra Gel has traditionally concentrated its activities. Violent clashes involving protestors and Turkish security forces occurred in the cities of Diyarbakir, Batman, Sirnak, and Sanliurfa, resulting in several deaths, many injuries, and extensive property damage. 

  6. The U.S. led war in Iraq is extremely unpopular in Turkey and demonstrations against the war are becoming more common.
    • Drivers and all passengers in the vehicle should be prepared to provide their identification cards or passports, driver license and vehicle registration if stopped at a checkpoint by the Turkish Jandarma.
      •  At these check points, roll down the driver’s side window (passenger side, also, in vehicles with tinted windows) when stopped by security force officials. Security forces can then safely inspect the vehicle and its occupants.
      • Remain calm, do not make sudden movements and obey all instructions immediately.
      • Access to some roads may be restricted by security officials, at times, and security force, escort vehicles may be required to “convoy” visitors through troublesome areas. In some cases, this must be arranged in advance.

  7. Travelers are cautioned not to accept letters, parcels, or other items from strangers for delivery either in or outside of Turkey.
    • PKK/KADEK/Kongra Gel has attempted to use foreigners to deliver messages and packages in or outside of Turkey.
    • If discovered, individuals could be arrested for aiding and abetting the PKK/KADEK/Kongra Gel – a serious charge.

Emergency Contact Numbers

Emergency numbers in Turkey are: 155 for police, 112 for any health emergency requiring an ambulance, and 110 to report a fire.

U.S. Embassy Contact Information

Americans living or traveling in Turkey are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Turkey. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency and to make preparations of emergency situations.

The U.S. Embassy in Ankara is located at 110 Ataturk Boulevard, tel.: (90) (312) 455-5555, fax (90)(312) 468-6131. Visa information is also available at (90) (212) 344-4444. The web site is . Non-emergency e-mail messages about consular matters may be sent through the web site.

The U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul is located at Kaplicalar Mevkii Sokak No. 2, 34460, Istinye, Sariyer, tel.: (90) (212) 335-9000, fax (90) (212) 335-9102. Istanbul-specific information can also be accessed via the Consulate General's web site . Non-emergency e-mail messages about consular matters may be sent to email:

The U.S. Consulate in Adana is located at Girne Bulvari No. 212, Guzelevler Mahallesi, Yuregir, Adana, Turkey. Tel: (90) (322) 346-6262, fax (90) (322) 346-7916. General information can be accessed at the Consulate’s web site at .

When planning your travel, be sure to review the ThereArePlaces Travel Planning Guides for insights on how  to "travel well" and "travel safe".

Avian Influenza: The WHO and Turkish authorities have confirmed human cases of the H5NI strain of avian influenza, commonly known as the "bird flu." Travelers to Turkey and other countries affected by the virus are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals. In addition, the CDC and WHO recommend eating only fully cooked poultry and eggs. For the most current information and links on avian influenza in Turkey, see the State Department's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet  or visit the website of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara .
Entry Requirements   Top of Page  



You need a visa to enter Turkey

A passport and visa are required for travel in Turkey.

If you do not have a passport, see our article on the Ins and Outs of Passports.  Other important travel documents, including visas are covered in our Information Guide on Passport, Visas, Customs.

Currently, holders of all types of passports can purchase a 90-day sticker visa at the port of entry for $20 cash, if they are traveling to Turkey as tourists. 

  1. For further information, travelers in the U.S. may contact the Embassy of the Republic of Turkey at 2525 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone: (202) 612-6700, or the Turkish consulates general in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, or New York (

  2. Information may also be found at Internet address .  Additional  information on visa procedures, American citizen services, road safety, etc. is also available on the mission's web site, .

Overseas, travelers may contact a Turkish embassy or consulate to obtain a visa before they depart for Turkey. Information on obtaining a visa prior to departure can be found at

Holders of official and diplomatic passports on official business must obtain a visa from a Turkish embassy or consulate before arrival in Turkey.

  • Holders of official and diplomatic passports on private travel may receive a visa free of charge from a Turkish embassy or consulate, or obtain one upon arrival at the port of entry for $20 cash.

  • All those who are planning to stay more than three months for any purpose are required to obtain a visa from a Turkish embassy or consulate. Such travelers must also apply for a residence/work permit or Turkish ID card within the first month of their arrival in Turkey. For example, this would include anyone who plans to spend more than three months doing research, studying, or working in Turkey.

  • All travelers are advised to obtain entry stamps on the passport page containing their visa at the first port of entry before transferring to domestic flights. Failure to obtain entry stamps at the port of entry has occasionally resulted in serious difficulties for travelers when they attempt to depart the country.  All travelers are  photographed upon entry at the airport in Istanbul.

  • Crossing the border with Iraq can be time-consuming, as the Turkish Government tightly controls entry and exit. All travelers wishing to cross into Iraq from Turkey must still have a valid travel document, such as a passport, to enter Iraq from Turkey. Travelers wishing to enter Turkey from Iraq must have both a valid travel document and current Turkish visa.

In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the parents or legal guardian not present. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure

In addition to being subject to all Turkish laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Turkish citizens. Male U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who are also considered to be Turkish citizens may be subject to conscription and compulsory military service upon arrival, and to other aspects of Turkish law while in Turkey. Those who may be affected are strongly advised to consult with Turkish officials and inquire at a Turkish embassy or consulate to determine their status before traveling. The Government of Turkey will not permit any dual Turkish/American national arrested in Turkey to contact American officials.

In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. For additional information, please see the State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at for an explanation of dual nationality issues. U.S. citizens who are also citizens of  any other nation are reminded that U.S. law requires they enter and depart the United States documented as U.S. citizens.

Avoiding Petty Theft   Top of Page  






Scam alert!

Before you travel, read our articles on Pickpockets, Con Artists, and ATM safety in the ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Personal Safety for travelers

Street crime is relatively low in Turkey, although it has increased recently in large urban centers such as Istanbul and Izmir. Women traveling alone or in small groups appear to have been targeted for petty theft.

Visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables. The same precautions employed in the US should be followed in Turkey. As in other large metropolitan areas throughout the world, common street crimes include pick pocketing, purse snatching, and mugging.

Be alert and avoid the situations described below.

  • English-or French-speaking foreigners, who identified themselves as Tunisian, Moroccan, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, or Romanian, have also targeted foreign tourists.
    • These persons have befriended the tourists and then drugged them, using teas, juice, alcohol, or food. Two common drugs used are nembitol, known on the street as sari bomba (the yellow bomb) and benzodiazepine; when used incorrectly they can cause death. 

  • In similar cases, tourists are invited to visit clubs or bars with these "new found friends", and then presented with inflated bills (often exceeding $1000), and coerced to pay them by credit card.

In Istanbul, street crime is most common in the Taksim Square area, in Sultanahmet and in the areas around the Grand Bazaar and Spice Bazaar. Visitors who are robbed are usually accosted while they are distracted by a staged fight or altercation.

It is strongly recommended that you leave your U.S. passport in the hotel safe, as a lost or stolen passport can disrupt your travel plans and be expensive to replace .The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of any crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.

If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance. The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members of friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution for the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney

Special Note   Top of Page  
Important travel warning















Drink bottled water

1.  On January 1, 2005 six zeroes were dropped from the Turkish Lira. One million Turkish Lira is now equal to 1 New Turkish Lira.  Old banknotes and coins were taken out of circulation at the end of 2005. Although old banknotes and coins were taken out of circulation at the end of 2005, many vendors and businesses continue to list their prices in the old currency. For more information please see the website of the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey at .

2 Travelers are advised to drink only bottled water or water that has been filtered and boiled. Bottled beverages are considered safe to drink. Most local dairy products, including milk, yogurt, and cheese, are safe to consume. However, care must be taken when purchasing all perishable products, as many vendors do not have adequate refrigeration. Travelers are advised to wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly and to cook meat thoroughly as well.

3. Insulting the State: It is illegal to show disrespect to the name or image of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish Republic, or to insult the Turkish government, flag, or security forces.

4.  Turkish law has a broad definition of "antiquities" and makes it a crime to remove any from the country. Offenders are prosecuted. Under Turkish law, all historic sites such as fortresses, castles and ruins, and everything in them or on the grounds or in the water, is the property of the Turkish government.

5. ,There have recently been several train accidents on the popular Ankara-Istanbul Train route. These accidents have led to loss of life and injury. In 2003 there were 556 accidents (collisions, derailments, falling from train) resulting in 162 fatalities and 299 injuries on trains throughout Turkey. Previous years statistics reflect the same pattern. Two large accidents in 2004 on the Ankara-Istanbul line resulted in 45 fatalities and scores of injured alone.

6. Disaster Preparedness: Turkey is a seismically active country and earthquakes occur throughout Turkey. A major earthquake along the North Anatolian fault line in 1999 killed more than 20,000 people in the Izmit area (about 1 hour's travel east of Istanbul). American citizens should make contingency plans and leave emergency contact information with family members outside of Turkey. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at

7. The WHO and Turkish authorities have confirmed human cases of the H5NI strain of avian influenza, commonly known as the "bird flu."  Travelers to Turkey and other countries affected by the virus are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals.  In addition, the CDC and WHO recommend eating only fully cooked poultry and eggs.

8.  In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

9. ThereArePlaces makes every attempt to ensure that the travel information we present to you is current. Before you depart, be sure to check with official government sources to determine the status of critical information relating to a particular county.

Road Safety and Conditions   Top of Page  

Driving in Turkey can be hazardous to your health

While driving in Turkey, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. 

We recommend that you do not drive in Turkey: the behavior of Turkish drivers is significantly different from your experience with U.S. drivers.  Driving in Turkey can be dangerous.   For those interested in reviewing some of the difficulties of driving in Turkey, read this: .

For additional information about road safety, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs home page road safety overseas feature at or the Turkey Road Report on

The information below concerning Turkey is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Safety of Public Transportation: Fair
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Fair
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Fair

Roads in Turkey run the full spectrum from single lane country roads to modern, divided, Trans-European motorways built to European standards. Highways in the southwestern, coastal portion of the country, which is frequented by tourists, are generally in good condition and well maintained."

Speed Limits in Turkey:

  1. Built-up areas - 40 km/h
  2. Outside Built up areas (including  dual carriageways) - 90 km/h
  3. Motorways - 130 km/h

Our information on speed limits is as current as possible. Always confirm the speed limits with your rental car agent and observe the posted speeds limits whenever and wherever you drive.

Driving safely in Turkey requires good defensive driving skills.

  • Drivers routinely ignore traffic regulations including driving through red lights and stop signs and turning left from the far right hand lane.
    • These driving practices cause frequent traffic accidents. Statistics released by the Turkish State Statistics Institute indicate that daytime hours-between 12 noon and 6 pm -are the most dangerous times on local highways.
    • Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are the most dangerous days of the week for driving.

  • Countrywide, 22 percent of all traffic-related deaths are pedestrians who frequently do not look for traffic before attempting to cross a street.
    • The highest risk groups for pedestrians are children and adults (65 years and older) - totaling about 33 percent.

  • In 2002, Ankara and Istanbul provinces accounted for more than half of the total vehicle accidents in Turkey.

Drivers should be aware of several driving practices that are prevalent in Turkey.

  • Normally drivers who experience car troubles or accidents will pull over by the side of the road and turn on their emergency lights to warn other drivers.
    • Unfortunately, many drivers will place a large rock or a pile of rocks on the road about 10-15 meters behind their vehicles instead of turning on their emergency lights.
    • While dangerous during daylight hours, this practice is deadly after dark when it is impossible to see stopped vehicles.
    • In some instances, these drivers will leave the scene without removing the rocks from the road.

  • Drivers should especially exercise extreme caution while driving at night.

  • We recommend that you not drive after dark outside of major cities.
    • Some drivers will drive without their lights on or with very low lights in an effort to save the battery power of their car making it impossible to see them in advance.
    • While driving, it is also not unusual to come across dead animals, rocks, missing sewer covers, deep holes or objects that have fallen from trucks such as fruits and vegetables.

  • Drivers should drive defensively at all times and take every precaution while driving in Turkey.

  •  Drivers are to remain at the traffic accident site, and they are not to move their vehicle — even to move it out of the way — until the Traffic Police arrive. Drivers can be held liable for the accident otherwise. The accident should be reported to the Traffic Police (Tel: 154) or Gendarme (Tel. 156). That report will then need to be certified by the nearest local authority. The owner should apply to the customs authority with his passport and report. If the vehicle can be repaired, it is necessary to inform the customs authority first and then take the vehicle to a garage.

Tourists driving rented vehicles should pay close attention to the provisions of their rental contracts.  Failure to do so could result in fines or confiscation of the car during your travels.  Make sure that you are familiar with the terms, restrictions and costs related to your car rental (see our article on Rental Car Costs).

ThereArePlaces recommends that you do not drink and drive.  In most foreign countries, especially in Europe and the UK, the maximum permitted blood alcohol levels are lower than those enforced in the United States. Penalties and punishments are significant. See our article on drinking and driving in foreign countries  for more information.

For information on obtaining international drivers licenses, contact AAA or the American Automobile Touring Alliance. For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Bureau of Consular Affairs Internet home page at .

For specific information concerning Turkish driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Turkish Tourism and Information Office in New York by writing to 821 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, telephone (212) 687-2194, 687-2195, fax (212) 599-7568.

Medical Care   Top of Page  
  The quality of medical care in Turkish hospitals varies greatly. The new, private hospitals in Ankara, Antalya, and Istanbul have modern facilities and equipment, and numerous U.S.-trained specialists, and have international accreditation. However, they still may be unable to treat certain serious conditions. The State Department prefers medical evacuation for its personnel who will be giving birth; however there are private hospitals in Ankara and Istanbul whose level of obstetric care is considered to meet Western standards. Those planning to remain in Turkey for a prolonged period of time should consider bringing or securing a supply of necessary chronic medications (e.g., heart medications, birth control pills) to cover them while they are in the country, as certain medications are difficult to obtain in Turkey. Nursing care and diagnostic testing (including mammograms) meet American standards at specific institutions in the larger cities. Health care standards are lower in small cities in Turkey in comparison to bigger cities such as Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Adana.

We strongly urge you to consult your medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. U.S. medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Further, U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. However, many travel agents and private companies offer insurance plans that will cover health care expenses incurred overseas including emergency services such as medical evacuations.

When making a decision regarding health insurance, you should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing medical service and that a medical evacuation to the U.S. may cost in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your departure, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or if you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur.

Your existing medical insurance carrier may cover "customary and reasonable" medical care while you are abroad. Usually, if reimbursement is provided, it is paid at a reduced rate (due to the use of an "out of system" provider). Check with your insurance carrier before you depart to determine the type and amount of coverage that may be provided. If coverage is provided, be sure to ask how claims should be filed and ask them to send some claim forms, in case you require any medical treatment while on vacation.

Read our article on  travel insurance to learn the factors that you should consider before you purchase or decline to purchase a travel related insurance policy.

ThereArePlaces Information Guide on Health contains valuable health related advice for the traveler considering a trip abroad.

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