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Is Istanbul Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Istanbul, Turkey

Turkey : Safety by City

Istanbul is Turkey’s most popular as well as the most populous city with an estimated population between 12 and 19 million people.

It is one of the largest cities in the entire world as well as Europe, and it’s the cultural, architectural, social and financial center of Turkey.

A geographically peculiar and unique trait of Istanbul is that it spreads along both sides of the Bosphorus, between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea.

If you go to Istanbul, you won’t easily forget its skylines, filled with domes and minarets of various sizes and heights and its vibrant streets filled with vendors, Turkish markets, restaurants, and unique eastern culture.

What tourists often emphasize as their favorite part of Istanbul experience is the unique Middle Eastern cuisine, with baklavas as their number one dessert specialty.

  • Warnings & Dangers in Istanbul

OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM

Istanbul is safe to visit if you avoid some parts of it that are considered somewhat dangerous. You should be aware that tourist hotspots, restaurants, shops, and public transportation are places where most thefts and pickpocketing occur, and that violent crime exists here, too.

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: MEDIUM

Generally, transport in Istanbul is rather safe and reliable, if you succeed to avoid pickpockets from public transport. If you're driving you should keep in mind that local drivers in the city are reckless and tend to ignore traffic rules and signs.

PICKPOCKETS RISK: HIGH

As for pickpocketing, it is a huge concern on the streets of Istanbul, which is a popular tourist destination, so be careful and hold your bags tightly by your side. Places, where you should watch out for pickpockets, are Taksim Square, Sultanahmet, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul.

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

As for natural disasters, earthquakes have been known to hit Turkey, as well as severe droughts causing the lack of tap water in some parts of this country.

MUGGING RISK: MEDIUM

The majority of violent crime happens sometimes in Istanbul, and there have been reports of tourists being mugged, drugged and stolen from. Passports have known to be stolen from tourists, so be careful and leave them in your accommodation.

TERRORISM RISK: HIGH

Terrorism is the greatest worry for tourists, as it's been active in Turkey in recent years. The last terrorist attack happened in January 2017. Most of these attacks are linked to Kurdish separatist terrorist activities in south-east Turkey.

SCAMS RISK: MEDIUM

The common scam in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey is locals befriending tourists, taking them out for a drink, or dinner and then expecting the tourist to pay for it. Taxi drivers might try to trick you into paying more, giving you wrongful information about the price of the ride.

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM

If you're a woman traveling solo you should avoid walking alone after dark in this city. There have been reports of sexual assaults and verbal insults. These can happen even if you are accompanied by a group. Avoid isolated or poorly lit areas.

  • So... How Safe Is Istanbul Really?

Istanbul is mostly safe when it comes to crime and its biggest risks stem from the political situation in Turkey as well as terrorist threats.

However, that isn’t to say that violent, as well as petty crimes, don’t exist in Istanbul: snatching, pickpocketing, and mugging are the most common kinds of petty crime.

However, lately, with the newly developed camera network that supervises the streets of Istanbul 24/7, the mugging and purse snatching declined.

It is useful to know that once you leave the big city of Istanbul, you’re in a mostly safe zone where tourists have had nothing but positive experiences.

Another advice that might come in handy in Istanbul is that you should take every precaution while driving, as drivers in this city are mostly reckless and completely ignoring traffic signs, commonly causing traffic accidents.

Apart from this, transport is mostly safe in Turkey and works quite well.

The real danger in Istanbul and the rest of Turkey and the reason many tourists are skeptic when it comes to safety in this city, are the continuous and frequent terrorist attacks all around Turkey that have to do with the political situation in the state and most of them are linked to Kurdish separatist terrorist activities in south-east Turkey.

However, recently the situation has settled and the last attack happened in January 2017.

  • How Does Istanbul Compare?
  • Useful Information

Some nationals do need a visa to enter Turkey, but they can be purchased online at http://www.evisa.gov.tr/ before traveling to Turkey. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months past the date of your arrival to Turkey. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need a visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.

The Turkish lira is the official currency in Istanbul. ATMs are widespread throughout the city and credit cards are widely accepted in most establishments.

No worries when it comes to climate - Istanbul has a temperate oceanic climate, influenced by a continental climate. This means the city boasts hot and humid summers, though it does have cold, wet and occasionally snowy winters.

Istanbul Atatürk Airport is the main and busiest international airport serving Istanbul and the biggest airport in Turkey. It is located on the European side of the city, about 24 km west of the city center.

Travel Insurance

Just like anywhere else, we advise getting travel insurance when traveling to Istanbul, because it would cover not only medical problems but also theft and loss of valuables.

Istanbul Weather Averages (Temperatures)

  • Average High/Low Temperature

Turkey - Safety by City

  • Where to Next?

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27 Reviews on Istanbul

As a native.

Speaking as someone who lived in Istanbul for 15 years, remember that there’s all types of people that you could possibly see all over the world. Housing roughly 14 million, there are many people that moved from the eastern parts of Turkey, eastern and western neighbors of Turkey, US, UK and other Turkic countries. The information about terrorism is outdated as there hasn’t been any terrorism act for years. Go with the crowd, be careful at night as people of all intentions might be out there. Also don’t speak your opinion about inner affairs of Turkey as everybody is just very tense about it.

Do not mix with locals who speak good English. Stay alert.

Istanbul is famous for tourist scam which generally targets solo travellers. Locals speaking good English befriended with solo traveeler and take them to guide turkey in evening then tskes them to taksim square . Where lot of Turkish dznce bar are available. They serve you raki and persuade you to dance with girls. At the end the bills presented to tiu which is eye popping. I was trapped very first day and payed around huge euro. They will take you to atm to withdraw money. Due to fear of physical harm you better pay and leave and come back hotel. Very bad experience.

Don’t go drinking with strangers

That’s pretty dumb, did you do any research before you went to Istanbul? In your home country do you go drinking with friendly strangers? Duh 🙄

Good advice — this happened to me when I was working as a young professional based in Istanbul all the way back in 1991 (lived in Istanbul for 18 months) then returned to NYC. I should have paid more attention — a seemingly nice English speaking guy befriended me at the Whimpy burger restaurant …. then suggested we go to a local bar …. as soon as we walked and the “b girls” came to sit with us, I knew I was in trouble so immediately ask for the check. I ended up paying the equivalent of several hundred USD (a lot back then, for me anyway). Kind of stupid I know…. Lesson learned.

You could be jailed for speaking about politics. Don’t criticise anyone to be on the safe side. Also don’t get into arguments with racists, as some see Kurdish and Armenians as the enemy.

Please don’t give wrong info

Great destination

My wife and I visited and stayed a week. The place is very busy but it is fantastic. Never felt threatened and would recommend it to anyone.

I am going there and I haven’t been able to find any travel agencies to get a ride with. Would you know of any? Please and thank you

I went in 2010 to visit and I was not told Turkish men like black women. I was approached and immediately panicked. Told the man I was married and he continued to flirt stating he liked the way my hips looked. I thought I was going to be taken, walked passed police and showed I was in distress. No assistance forgot how to get to my hotel that was on the strip, never been so scared. But other than that Izmir and Istanbul was a lovely place to visit.

So, how was he? 😂😂

My Turkey Review

I have been to Istanbul four or five times over hee past 14 years and it is just wonderful.

I never had a problem and the people are helpful and friendly, most speak fairly good English.

I have been four times for several days and we made day trips all over Turkey. The people are handsome and friendly.

There might be a bad apple here and there but in five or more trips I never saw any of that anywhere!

Torley is beautiful, friendly, and flooded with American and European tourists.

There is some wonderful food all over Istanbul, walked in the parks and took hotel taxis if we went out at night, Turkey is a truly wonderful country and the people are just handsome and friendly.

Turkey and its cities, and people are world-class and I just love Turkey and Izmir is just as wonderful.

Ephesus is a marvel. I have been many times. I don’t care what some say about Turkey. Turkey is wonderful, beautiful and the people are just the best.

Go when you can, it is glorious! In my next life, I am going to live in Istanbul. Ephesus is truly a wonder.

Turkish men are similar to Italian men and take care of their mothers way more than other cultures usually do.

Is it dangerious

Ukrian conflict? I am scared to come?

No conflict at all, you can visit peacefully 🙂

came back today 22/3/22…had a wonderful time here…..prices of good cheaper than home country zar. had lovely experience in snow,,,,came to old crown plaza which was very central.lots of things to do there.

Avoid showing interest in Retail environment

Cultural diversity and customs are very traditional still in Turkey and interpretation is very much in default of maintaining the status quo there. Business and conduct in retail is on a different wavelength. If you “stroll” through a Bazaar, the retail owners see your very presence there as an intended purchase of their wares. Browsing and window shopping are Western concepts that the Eastern business world do not comprehend the same way we do. If you find yourself in a hotel where the ” put on ” entertainment events and you do not immediately get up and leave, then that is considered you are staying for the show which has additional costs associated with it. Belly dancers do not dance for nothing in return. Salmone in the Bible expected King Harod to honour his promise. Whilst you are unlikely to pay with your head on a plate, you will however be expected to discharge money for photos taken of you at a belly dance . Your presence at these shows is a demonstration of intent to buy in East style business. As for friendly drink or dinner invites from locals to tourists, immediately decline with a smile or expect you will pay if you agree to the social interaction. Asking questions in a retail environment is an indication that you ” want” to buy. They don’t do product information demos in Turkey. Accept a free sample at your peril.

It’s Salome I think, but true about no concept of browzing. Same in Greece.

Wonderful and safe for family travel

Traveling here currently with my husband and 3 kids. Felt pickpocketing was not an issue like Paris and Barcelona. We have felt very safe despite the crowds and free to browse the shops. The metro is safe and clean and the waterfront is great for evening strolls. Just as any big city-be street smart. We will be back!

I would never recommend Istanbul to anyone because of the horrendous experience we had. With my wife and a 3 year old daughter, I wanted to find a hotel to keep our bags after we check out from a 5* hotel and before we catch our midnight flight, we went to hotel in Fatih area. They asked for $40 to keep bags for 5 hours but they insisted me to check the room size before taking it. Leaving my wife and daughter at the lobby, I followed an young guy who claimed himself as the care taker of the hotel property. We took the lift to the 3rd floor and as we reached the room, he opened the room. After opening the door, he was keeping his hands on doors to block me since he didn’t want to let me in. His attitude has completely changed then he and started to scream and rushed to the lobby using the emergency exit staircase. I had no clue what was happening. Since I didn’t want to stand there alone and I decided to use the same stairs and as I reached the lobby, I noticed the the same guy was screaming at my wife in Turkish and telling something in their language to a senior guy from the hotel front desk. My wife and I started to run away without waiting a second there out of fear and sniffing something these guys are cooking up. But they chased us and one guy did beat me up right on my face and started yelling that I can’t leave the place before the cops arrives and they said they have already called the cops. Someone there translated to us in English that this guy is claiming that I have grabbed his buttocks when he was unlocking the door and they are ok to settle it before the cop arrives. My wife and I struggled to run away from the scene with an young child on pram. As much as we tried to run, the guys chased us and finally we found a few guys at an another alleyway who helped and talked for us holding the main guys and in the meantime, we ran from there and we did hide ourself in an car garage for good 15 mins. Finally we escaped from their and rushed to catch a cab to hagia Sofia and saved ourself from the ordeal. Never again to Turkey.

Unlucky choice of area

Fatih is a terrible area in Istanbul, I avoid those areas as someone who grew up there. Sad that you had to go through this

Hi, where is a good area to stay in Istanbul and within the touristy areas? I have booked hotels near the blue mosque area. Thank u

There is no good area in istanbul

We stayed at a hotel in Taxim area, it was really great and we had a good time. I think wherever you decide to go, you should make sure to read Hotel reviews from different places like booking.com or google map and then book your hotel. Never stay at a place without researching it in prior.

Know common scams and issues and stay sharp and you should be fine.

dream of istanbul

istanbul is really my dream. i visited it 6 times only one time i was stolen in the train. but after corona covid i m afraid to go there. but my hope is to continuou my life in istanbul nd buy a little apartment in sultan ahmet nd stay there

Istanbul: several scams

I was the victim of a scam at Istanbul Airport (IST) these days.

I had booked a transfer service even before the trip. However, when I arrived in Istanbul, I did not meet my driver at the agreed departure gate. I spoke to another driver at the same location and he allegedly called the person who was supposed to pick me up. I was induced to run the race with what I found at the airport. The price was charged in Turkish Lira and in the end I paid almost 4 times the usual amount for the distance covered. I didn’t know the Turkish Lira exchange rate.

I went to the police, but they did not file a report. The manager of the hotel where I stayed said that there is a big mafia in car transport in that airport and in the city as well. Uber, for example, does not work in Istanbul.

The guide I had hired did not show up the next day. At the hotel, you receive less than the amount paid and they try to overcharge you whenever possible.

I was robbed and there is a lot of tourist opportunism and exploitation in Istanbul. The experience was terrible and I came back very disappointed. I do not recommend Istanbul and Turkey to anyone.

I’m sorry for the negative experience you had. However, it is not rational and unacceptable for you to blame the whole country. I have traveled to many European countries. Sometimes we can experience unpleasant situations, even if we don’t want to. When coming from the airport to the city center, you should only prefer commercial taxis. And soon the metro line will be opened. Please report your negative experience at the hotel to the Ministry of Tourism or TURSAB. Surely they will be interested. Turkish people are extremely hospitable.

Horrible police ,beat up tourists

Corrupt police and a lot of arbitrary detention

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Article Contents

  • Istanbul : Safety by City
  • Overall Risk
  • Transport & Taxis Risk
  • Pickpockets Risk
  • Natural Disasters Risk
  • Mugging Risk
  • Terrorism Risk
  • Women Travelers Risk
  • Weather Averages (Temperatures)
  • User Reviews
  • Share Your Experience

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Home » Middle East » Turkey » Istanbul

Is Istanbul SAFE to Visit? (2024 • Insider Tips)

It was Constantinople, now it’s Istanbul. Before that, it was Byzantium. This world city has been a lot of things and you can see this in the richness of its culture. Incredible sights can be found all over this liberal urban sprawl that straddles Europe and Asia. Oh, and the food is just as unbelievable.

But in recent years there’s been some trouble with terrorism. High profile attacks, like one on the airport in 2016, and the constant threat of violence make it a bit concerning. Couple that news with seemingly endless tourist scamming and we get why you’d ask, “ Is Istanbul safe for tourists ?”

Don’t worry. We have created a huge insider’s guide on the best things to do to stay safe in Istanbul.  We’re all about smart travel and believe you should be able to go anywhere you want as long as you’re equipped with some great tips on staying safe. And we’ve got a lot of those.

So if you’ve got reservations about backpacking in Istanbul because of the terrorist threat, or you’re concerned since it’s your first solo travel adventure, or whatever – don’t sweat it! We understand. Our guide to staying safe in Istanbul is here for you.

Colourful lamps inside the alleys of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey

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There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, as things change quickly. The question of “Is Istanbul Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on who you ask.

The information in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practice common sense, you will probably have a wonderful and safe trip to Istanbul.

If you see any outdated information, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. Otherwise, stay safe friends!

Updated April 2024

Is Istanbul Safe to Visit Right Now?

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Yes! Most backpackers to Turkey pass through its capital. Istanbul is definitely an awesome destination. There are plenty of things that are drawing you to this world city. History, food, and culture are just a few of the city’s appeals. It’s often cited as the crossroads between Europe and Asia.

Unfortunately, safety in Istanbul has been a concern in recent years. Sharing a border with Syria doesn’t help matters. Though Istanbul is 900 miles away from all that turmoil, there is the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks.

Though according to Euromonitor, in 2023, Istanbul was the most visited city in the world , with 20.3 million visitors ! As one of the top visited city, tourists definitely have a positive experience.

Karakoy ttd Istanbul

That said,  Istanbul is pretty safe.  The situation has calmed down. You may see authorities stopping people to check IDs, but that just means that security is heightened. Being vigilant and monitoring media reports is what the UK government recommends .

It’s a fairly liberal city. People stay out late and there’s a decent nightlife scene going on here. It’s fun and people are friendly.

But like most cities in the world, being aware of your surroundings will help you stay safe. Pickpockets, street beggars, and scams are less likely to affect an alert traveler.

But overall? Yes, Istanbul is safe.

Check out our detailed where to stay guide for Istanbul so you can start your trip right!

Where to Stay in Turkey

When choosing where you’ll be staying in Istanbul, a bit of research and caution is essential. You don’t want to end up in a sketchy area and ruin your trip. To help you out, we’ve listed the safest areas to visit in Istanbul below.

  • Sultanahmet : Sultanahmet is the historic and cultural heart of Istanbul. It’s the oldest part of the city and is surrounded by bodies of water to the north, east and south, and old city walls to the west. This district is the best place to stay in Istanbul if you’re visiting the city for the first time as many attractions are within walking distance.
  • Karaköy : Today, Karaköy is one of the city’s most hip and stylish Istanbul locations. Here you’ll find an array of vendors and stylish restaurants as well as independent shops. With its own fair share of historic and cultural attractions, this is also where you’ll find some of the most amazing views of Istanbul.
  • Galata : In recent years, Galata has emerged as one of the coolest Istanbul locations. It’s in Galata where you will find the city’s hottest nightlife scene. From trendy bars and stylish clubs to relaxed pubs and funky cafes, this neighborhood has it all.

Places to Avoid in Istanbul

Is Istanbul dangerous ?!

Nope, but we recommend you avoid these unsafe places during your visit:

  • Tarlabasi : Long considered Istanbul’s most dangerous neighborhood, Tarlabasi is extremely poor and crime rates are high. Even though it’s only a few blocks away from the much-loved Istiklal Street, tourists never actually end up in Tarlabasi.
  • Dolapdere : A bit north of Tarlabasi you’ll find Dolapdere, which is another impoverished neighborhood. Far from being one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the world, you’ll still want to avoid the area unless you know a local resident.

Quick side note : It’s important to know that all of the places we’ve just listed CAN be visited. They just have a higher crime rate than others, but those crimes are usually not targeted toward tourists. 

Keeping your money safe in Istanbul

 One of the most common things to happen to you whilst travelling is losing your money. And let’s face it: the most annoying way for this to actually occur is when it’s stolen from you.

Petty crime is pretty much a problem all over the world.The best solution? Get a money belt.

Active Roots Security Belt

Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

It looks exactly like a normal belt  except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

Istanbul 2

There may be a bit of a terrorist threat in Istanbul, but in general, when it comes to safety in Istanbul you’ll be fine. It’s super ready for tourists. And you’ll be even finer if you travel smartly, use your street smarts and common sense to make sure you avoid potentially dodgy situations. But since you can never over-prepare, here are a few tips for keeping safe in Istanbul.

  • Keep your belongs close to you in tourist areas  – this is where pickpockets operate
  • Walk around in groups if you go out at night  – just a normal city tip for almost any city.
  • Watch out for ‘street children’  – near the Süleymaniye Mosque they’ve been known to surround and pickpocket unsuspecting tourists, so keep an eye out.
  • Try to dress like a local  – some areas are more European, others are not. Try to be aware of where you’re visiting. But mainly everything’s quite open-minded.
  • AVOID taxi scams  – these are a BIG thing (more on that later).
  • Be wary of strangers  – the classic is “Would you like a drink my friend…?” One thing leads to another, you’ve got a HUGE bill and your new “friend” has scarpered.
  • Don’t get a shoeshine  – you might think it’s free, it’s not. If you DO want one, definitely agree on a price beforehand. Otherwise, it will cost you, arguments ensue, a crowd can develop. Best to just NOT.
  • Use a reputable tour agency  – in Turkey, these need a license. Check the TURSAB website.
  • Don’t use the ‘ok’ sign?  – this means you are calling someone homosexual. This won’t go down well with Turkish men especially
  • Be careful if you want to buy a Turkish rug  – there are many fakes. Research needed
  • Same goes for gold coins  – fakes galore. Do your homework.
  • Negotiate prices in lira  – unless you want to pay a hefty price. Plus you’re in Turkey, you shouldn’t be using US Dollars or Euros ANYWAY.
  • Always keep an emergency stash of cash – Never keep all your cards/ currency in one place. And hide it all from thieves with a hidden money belt .
  • Carry small denominations  – want to pay a small amount? Have small amounts to pay with. People can be ‘forgetful’ with change!
  • Don’t agree on the first price for ANYTHING  – it’s inflated, every single time. Taxis, souvenirs, whatever. Offer half and go from there.
  • Never accept food or drink from a stranger -it’s been known to be laced with a sedative. Then when you’re passed out, you get robbed
  • Take a good medical kit with you – you never know when you might need it!
  • Learn to say NO  – there are a lot of scams in Istanbul. The best way to avoid getting into any bad situation is to just say “no”. Have a sense of humor and walk away.

On the whole, Istanbul is safe. And at the end of the day, the best way to avoid getting into any unsafe situation is mainly to just  watch out for strangers.  Scams are rife in Istanbul and exercising simple stranger danger (why wouldn’t you!?) and not believing everything at face value is bound to keep you safe and sound.

Solo Travel in Istanbul

No doubt, Istanbul is safe to travel alone. This is a city that is very, very used to tourists visiting. Perhaps a little too used to tourists…

By which we mean, making money off tourists through scams is pretty rife. As a solo traveler, wandering around tourist sights by yourself, you’ll be more of a target. Single males especially . So here are some top tips to help you stay safe as a solo traveler in Istanbul.

  • If something doesn’t feel right, like if someone starts talking to you out of the blue and being overfriendly, offering to take you somewhere “recommended”, just walk away. Don’t worry about not being polite about it.  It’s properly rife  and many fall for it since the set-ups can be pretty convincing. The general rule of thumb: don’t talk to strangers (at least when it doesn’t make sense to strike up a conversation).
  • Since solo travelers are often targeted for scams, get some travel buddies! The best way to do this is by staying at a well-reviewed, well-situated, social hostel in Istanbul. This will also be a good chance to swap travel tips, stories, make actual friends , and rid yourself of the solo traveling blues. (It can get lonely!)
  • But with all that said, don’t be afraid to shop. It can be  a lot of fun!  Just keep your budget in mind, know not to take the first price as the actual price, haggle your heart out and go for it.
  • Learn some Turkish.  You’ll get mad respect for it. Plus it will help you get rid of people, get around, just open up the city to you – if only a little bit.
  • Don’t tell people the exact address of where you’re staying. Not only is this kinda risky anyway, but this may also just bring the scams right to your doorstep!
  • Walking around by yourself at night is a mixed bag. Keep an eye on what other people are doing around you. If there are a lot of people out, including families, being out after dark in this area is fine. If it’s empty and sketchy looking, it probably IS sketchy.
  • Get yourself a pre-paid sim . You can get these at the airport. You’ll never get too lost, you’ll get to keep up to date with people at home, and they’ll know where you are too.
  • Since scammers seem to be everywhere in Istanbul, look like you know where you’re going at all times.  Looking lost is the best way to get the wrong sort of attention, and Turkish authorities aren’t able to do much for thefts.

Female Travel safety in Istanbul

You’ll be happy to know that it’s safe for solo female travelers in Istanbul. As opposed to Turkey as a whole, Istanbul is pretty liberal and you’ll be basically free to do what you want when you want.

But at the end of the day, traveling solo as a female always comes with its own unique challenges . But this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying what the city has to offer. Here are a few personal safety tips and tricks below:

  • Istanbul is as much a European city as it is an Asian one and as a result, the dress code is pretty casual. Women here wear pretty much what they want to wear. You won’t have to worry about  covering up  – shorts are fine, for example. Some women do cover up and dress modestly, and some women wear short skirts and show their shoulders. It’s about how comfortable you feel , as much as it is dependent on where you are. Visiting a mosque? Dress conservatively. Keeping an eye on how locals are dressing is a good gauge of what’s ok and what isn’t.
  • Avoid going out by yourself late at night. It can be a bit intimidating with men in certain areas like  Istiklal Avenue  or in  Taksim . You may not actually be threatened but it can feel scary.
  • Stay in a good hostel or hotel, especially one where you might be able to make friends in common areas or on tours. It’s a good idea for  staying safe in numbers , plus it’s always nice to share your experiences with someone else.
  • On that note, if you feel like hitting the town, go with a group of people. And whilst you’re out,  don’t get crazy drunk . Getting tipsy is fine, but you don’t want your senses completely gone. Also, accepting drinks from strangers is a hard no.
  • Understand that the culture IS different . As a woman, you might receive attention from men that feels quite hassle-y, and sometimes it is. Anything from “you’re beautiful” to practically offering marriage (seriously, this is an actual thing) is normal. Most men are polite  and will stop hassling if you politely decline any advances. If it continues, make a fuss and head to a busy area and/or alert nearby  tourist police.
  • Basically, be careful of men who are overly forward and want your number, etc. They are most likely after your money.
  • Catcalling is par for the course. It’s annoying and can be upsetting, but try to ignore it. This is basically  part of being a woman in Istanbul . Sad but true.
  • Be confident, keep your wits about you and pretty much try not to look like an easy target. Having maps on your phone, planning routes, and getting acquainted with your local area are all good ideas.

But all said and done, Istanbul is safe for solo female travelers. You might feel intimidated, uncomfortable, and upset that people may try to scam you, but many female travelers visit Istanbul and have a great time. So will you!

Sultanahmet, Istanbul

Sultanahmet

Sultanahmet is the city’s most popular tourist destination. Home to Istanbul’s most iconic attractions, including Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, this neighbourhood is perfect for first-time visitors to the city and an awesome base for your Istanbul itinerary.

Being a pretty well-trodden tourist city, Istanbul is totally safe for families. There might be some practical problems, it might be a bit stressful, but there’s nothing to stop you from visiting with your family.

In fact, Turkey as a whole is focusing on  attracting family travelers,  which makes Istanbul a more family-oriented place.

Family travel in Istanbul

Finding yourself a good place to stay that’s close to the main sights that you want to see is a good place to start. Make sure the reviews are good and that it genuinely does have all the facilities you need for your family. There are some pretty epic, family-friendly Airbnbs in Istanbul to choose from.

Breastfeeding in public isn’t normal, so it’s better to do it somewhere private to avoid unwanted attention.

Make sure you  agree on a meeting place  if you go to a busy area and get split up. Some sort of landmark that you can all spot will help you find each other again if you get split up.

Other than that, Istanbul is a society that  loves children! Having your children with you may even help to defuse potentially tense situations with market stallholders and shopkeepers as well as touts and hecklers.

mockup of a person holding a smartphone in white background with Holafly logo

A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!

An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected the minute you land. It’s that easy.

Is your phone eSIM ready? Read about how e-Sims work or click below to see one of the top eSIM providers on the market and  ditch the plastic .

As Istanbul’s traffic is insane, you definitely do NOT want to drive here. There’s really no need to anyway.

Public Transportation in Istanbul

Not only is the public transportation system in Istanbul  very comprehensive , but public transport in Istanbul is safe. Great news.

First things first, get yourself an  Istanbul Kart . This is a contactless card that will make traveling around Istanbul super easy . You can use it all over the city on public transport. And there are loads of different types of public transport in Istanbul.

  • Trams : Trams are quick and cheap. There are five different networks.
  • Metro : Our firm favorite. There are two systems, which connects large portions of the city.
  • Funicular : It goes uphill (obviously) and is pretty fun.
  • Ferries : Because it’s coastal, and  spans two continents . Also pretty fun!

Buses  are another story though. There are 400 different routes making it pretty confusing. It’s not very quick since they have to contend with Istanbul’s awful traffic. They get very crowded which makes pickpocketing easy. try to avoid them if you can.

In a city that seems to run rife with scams, taxi drivers are heavy offenders. Everything from simply not putting the meter on (in which case, tell them to put it on ) to taking you a massively long way around to rack up the cost.

Top tip: download the BiTaksi  app which will estimate how much your fare should cost. Good grounds for haggling! You can even book a taxi through the app.

Cycling in Istanbul is not the easiest, but it does have a vibrant and loyal number of cyclists. If you really want to get a feel for the city on two wheels, do so in a park or other bicycle-friendly locale.

Pickpocketing is the most common type of crime you’ll encounter in Istanbul. Unfortunately, it’s all too common these days and is absolutely something to prepare for. Areas of particular concern include popular tourist hotspots like Taksim Square, The Grand Bazaar, Sultanahmet, and The Spice Bazaar.

Use a money belt or other hidden compartment for your wallet and phone. We’d also recommend leaving hard-to-replace valuables in your hotel room.

Terrorist attacks are a legitimate concern when visiting Istanbul. In November 2022, 6 were killed and dozens more were injured in a Taksim Square explosion . While events like these are rare, they do happen. Avoid crowded, touristy areas when and where you can.

Everyone’s packing list is going to look a little different, but here are a few things I would never want to travel to Istanbul without…

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Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Gifts for backpackers

A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must.

Yesim eSIM

Yesim stands as a premier eSIM service provider, catering specifically to the mobile internet needs of travellers.

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Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Pacsafe belt

This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

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SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Here are some quick answers to common questions about safety in Istanbul.

What should I avoid in Istanbul?

These are the things you should avoid in Istanbul: – Don’t disrespect the culture or religion – Don’t give the ok sign (this is very offensive) – Avoid shoe shining stalls – Don’t be afraid of haggling

Is Istanbul safe at night?

Yes, it is safe to walk around the streets in Istanbul at night. While it’s still safer during the day, you’ll be unlikely to wander into a sketchy area. We’d recommend sticking with a friend or a group, just to add some extra safety to your nightly stroll.

Is Istanbul airport safe?

Absolutely! The new Istanbul Airport is one of the nicest places in the world to transit through. It was recently completed at the end of 2019 and is super safe, modern and secure.

What are dangerous areas in Istanbul?

While Istanbul is a safe city, there are areas to avoid such as the Tarlabasi neighborhood which is the most dangerous part of the city. Even locals try to avoid it. It’s unlikely that you’ll end up in there as a tourist, but if you do, make sure you get out!

Can you drink the water in Istanbul?

Nope. While it’s fine to brush your teeth with it, Istanbul’s tap water is not safe to drink. Many locals have filtered jugs that they frequently replace.

You can totally visit Istanbul, see the sights, even as a solo female traveler, eat the food, even live there – safely, too!

Honestly, though, Istanbul is  known for its scams.  This is what’s going to be instantly noticeable in tourist areas and especially the Old Town.

Don’t get a shoe shine and basically just follow the simple advice that you’ve heard since you were 3 years old: don’t talk to strangers. There are a lot of savvy scammers in Istanbul, so it pays (literally) to be savvy yourself.

Explore Istanbul, eat the food, get wrapped up in the history and culture of the streets. You’ll be fine!

The Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey with fountains in front.

Looking for more info on traveling to Istanbul?

  • Let me help you choose where to stay in Istanbul
  • Swing by one of these fabulous festivals
  • Get inspired by these EPIC bucket list adventures !
  • Check out my favorite Airbnbs in the centre of all the action
  • Plan the rest of your trip with our fantastic backpacking Istanbul travel guide!

Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!

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Very good and mostly accurate review but the part about Wikipedia being blocked is not. I just pulled it up from my Turkish ISP.

It was blocked at the time the article was written and may be blocked again in the future should it offend the ruling establishment!

I have however updated the copy to reflect this.

Thank you for the information. Thankfully I have learned alot about Turkey! I started watching Turkish series 4 years ago and I love them. I loved the first series so much that I never stopped watching them. I started to watch many historical series as well and learned so much of their history. I find Turkey fascinating. The ottoman empire days were just awesome to me. I plan to visit there soon. I am a Canadian citizen although I live in the USA and I am Ukraine descent. I just can’t get enough of these turkish shows. I stopped watching American TV. No offense but I love Turkey’s traditions!

Usefull! Regarding the name of the city, all the names now and past, are Greek names since all turkey was Greek territory at the ancient years before Turkey exists as a nation!

So, the name Istanbul is combined of 3 Greek words – ???- ???- ????- which means – to the city-.

Through the years the words combined from the three Greek words into one.

Thank you for the great tips I really enjoyed reading this article I’m planing a trip to turkey with my family soon and just by reading this it felt as if i actually was there. One more issue that yiou had not addressed is the internet connectivity. Am planning to place an order for the Pocket WiFi with rent n connect let me know of this is the right choice or if there are more options on this that are better.

If you need to be connected to the internet pretty frequently for high-volume work, definitely stick to your pocket WiFi plan. If you just need it at night, your accommodation’s WiFi should be enough. 🙂

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Turkey Travel Advisory

Travel advisory july 26, 2023, turkey - level 2: exercise increased caution.

Reissued with obsolete COVID-19 page links removed.

Exercise increased caution when traveling to Turkey due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do Not Travel To:

  • Sirnak province, Hakkari province, and any area within six miles (10 kilometers) of the Syrian border due to terrorism.

Country Summary:  Terrorist groups continue plotting possible attacks in Turkey.  Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.

Security forces have detained tens of thousands of individuals, including U.S. citizens, for alleged affiliations with terrorist organizations based on scant or secret evidence and grounds that appear to be politically motivated.  U.S. citizens have also been subject to travel bans that prevent them from departing Turkey. Participation in demonstrations not explicitly approved by the Government of Turkey, as well as criticism of the government (including on social media), can result in arrest.

Read the  country information page  for additional information on travel to Turkey.

If you decide to travel to Turkey:

  • Stay alert in locations frequented by tourists.
  • Avoid demonstrations and crowds.
  • Stay at hotels with identifiable security measures.
  • Monitor local media and be prepared to adjust your plans quickly.
  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program  ( STEP ) to receive travel alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on  Facebook  and  Twitter .
  • Review the  Country Security Report for Turkey.
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest  Travel Health Information  related to your travel. 
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the  Traveler’s Checklist .

Sirnak Province, Hakkari Province, and Any Area within six miles (ten kilometers) of the Syrian Border – Level 4:  Do Not Travel

Do not travel to Sirnak province, Hakkari province, or any area within six miles (10 kilometers) of the Turkey/Syria border due to the continued threat of attacks by terrorist groups, armed conflict, and civil unrest.  Terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings, ambushes, car bomb detonations, and improvised explosive devices, as well as shootings, and illegal roadblocks leading to violence have occurred in these areas. U.S. government employees are subject to travel restrictions in the entire provinces of Sirnak and Hakkari, and any areas within 10 km of the Syrian border.

Visit our website for  Travel to High-Risk Areas .

Travel Advisory Levels

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Is It Safe to Visit Istanbul Right Now?

By Ashlea Halpern

Image may contain Human Person Pedestrian Vehicle Transportation Clothing and Apparel

On January 12, 2018, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 3 travel advisory for Turkey , asking its citizens to "reconsider travel … due to terrorism and arbitrary detentions." Specifically, it cautioned against traveling in the southeastern provinces along the Turkey-Syria border, and to be vigilant in places with large crowds, such as airports, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and clubs.

The Level 3 classification puts Turkey in the company of Sudan and Haiti , and one step below no-go zones like Afghanistan and North Korea . (Iceland, by contrast, is classified as Level 1, where “normal precautions” apply.) The United States isn’t alone in its assessment; the U.K. Foreign & Commonwealth Office has also cited a heightened risk of a terrorist attack in Turkey , listing “Kurdish groups, Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), and far left organizations” as potential perpetrators.

Does that mean you shouldn’t go to Turkey right now? Not necessarily.

“The question of safety is sadly one that now affects every major tourism destination, as we’ve seen in Paris, Nice, London, Madrid, Sydney, Berlin, Copenhagen, New York, Boston, and even Fort Lauderdale and Orlando, Florida,” says Ralph Radtke, general manager of the five-star Çırağan Palace Kempinski hotel in Istanbul. It’s important to keep some perspective. “In Turkey, for example, the distance between Istanbul and the farthest regions in its southeast is roughly 900 miles—greater than the distance between London and Rome or New York and Texas,” observes Radtke.

How exactly, then, does the State Department come up with its ratings?

“We look at the totality of circumstances, including such factors as crime, terrorist activity, civil unrest, health and natural disaster, and current events,” explains a State Department official, speaking to Condé Nast Traveler on condition of anonymity. “The primary drivers of the [Level 3] classification are terrorism and arbitrary detention. So while street crime in Turkey is relatively low, that’s separate from terrorism. And what makes terrorism challenging is that terrorist attacks can occur with little or no warning.”

The administration works with government partners to assess credible threat information and determine which types of places are most likely to be targeted by terrorists. “That’s not solely Istanbul-specific,” the official continues. “That’s the kind of target in any place with a heightened terrorist risk.”

Unfortunately, a string of high-profile attacks—including a 2016 suicide bombing in touristy Sultanahmet Square (near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia) and a mass shooting at ritzy nightclub on New Year’s Day— crippled Turkey’s tourism economy . But the biggest blow, at least for many working in hospitality, was the June 28, 2016 attack at Istanbul Atatürk Airport . Forty-one people died and 230 were injured.

“The attack at the airport and then the coup were the final straw,” says Earl Starkey , an Istanbul-based Turkey travel specialist from Protravel International. “After that we got no bookings at all. Maybe one or two in 2017.”

By January 2017, tourism had fallen 19 percent from the previous year. Hotels slashed room rates in an attempt to increase occupancy. Tour guides went a year or more without work; other were forced to lead outbound tours or focus on the Asian market. Some tour companies, like London-based outfitter Travel the Unknown , suspended trips to Turkey altogether.

But with the passage of time, and international media focusing its attention elsewhere, things have slowly begun to rebound. Locals working in the service sector have suffered for years, says Riza Yenice, one of Starkey’s most trusted Turkish tour guides, but the recovery now is palpable. “There are really long lines getting into museums and mosques and even markets,” says Yenice. “Seeing [the return of] tour groups and individual travelers is really cheering us up and giving [us] hope.”

Intrepid Travel , which offers a dozen small-group itineraries in Turkey, reports that the country is currently its fastest growing in terms of global bookings, with a 368 percent increase over last year. While travelers appear keen to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate, warnings from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have pushed Intrepid to rethink some of its itineraries.

“We wouldn’t consider going to a region with a ‘Do Not Travel’ warning. However, Istanbul and Van are categorized at the next level and we do travel there,” says Jen Hartin, Intrepid’s Istanbul-based destination manager for Turkey and the Middle East. “Our team in Turkey have the local knowledge and contacts to avoid any situations. For example, we’re still being cautious and ensuring our leaders avoid taking groups into public events, fairs, and parades while they’re on a trip.”

By Starkey’s estimate, the U.S. State Department’s Level 3 warning may be driven by the fact that Turkey is technically still in a state of emergency since the coup. A snap election has been planned for June 24, around which he would advise travelers to “avoid political rallies or large crowds until the elections are over.” But mostly, he believes the warning has “more to do with politics than any real danger,” noting that Russia also has a Level 3 categorization right now.

Yenice concurs, noting that there are “crazy leaders everywhere.” Turkey is a melting pot, she says, adding that “we have always lived [in] harmony with cultural and religious diversity. Despite these difficult times, it will always continue this way. If we felt unsafe due to the instability, we would have already left. But we didn’t, and we have no regrets.”

With the first phase of the Istanbul New Airport slated to open in late October, Turkey has a golden opportunity to reboot its tourism economy. By the airport’s intended completion in 2020, it is expected to be the largest transit hub in the world, serving 200 million passengers a year. Because the State Department reassesses Level 3 and 4 countries every six months, Turkey will also be up for re-evaluation next month. (Level 1 countries, by contrast, are examined just once a year.)

Ansel Mullins, the Chicago-born founder of food tour company Culinary Backstreets , spent 15 years living and working in Istanbul. He moved to Lisbon a year and a half ago, coincidentally flying out six hours before the attempted coup. But Mullins still visits Istanbul regularly and considers it to be as safe as ever. Like Starkey and Yenice, he pins the Level 3 rating on troubled U.S.-Turkey relations.

“Worrying about being the victim of a terrorist attack feels, to me, like worrying about being struck by lightning,” says Mullins. “Set that aside, and you’ve got what? The threat of an angry mob? As an American citizen, I’ve lived and traveled widely throughout Turkey in times when the country’s reputation was at its worst. From Diyarbakir to Mardin to Mus, I’ve always been mobbed... with hospitality! Honestly, I've never felt anything but safe here.”

While Mullins concedes that the current political situation does not make Turkey “as ‘free’ a place (for activists, journalists, academics, free-thinking folks) as it was a few years ago, it is probably more safe. Once you hit the ground, it’s all free tea and the beautiful chaos that makes the city so enchanting. For the visitor, paradise.”

Tip: If you decide to travel to Turkey (or anywhere really), sign up for STEP , the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. The free service keeps you alerted to country-specific travel advisories and helps the U.S. Embassy contact you in case of an emergency.

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Latest update

Exercise a high degree of caution in Türkiye overall due to the threat of terrorism.

Higher levels apply.

Turkiye Map May 2023

Turkiye (PDF 895.52 KB)

Europe (PDF 2.62 MB)

Local emergency contacts

Fire and rescue services, medical emergencies.

Call 112 or go to the nearest hospital.

In major cities, call 155. English speaking officers aren't always available.

In rural areas, call Jandarma on 156. English speaking officers are rarely available.

English-speaking officers may be available in police departments at:

In Istanbul, call the dedicated Tourist Police unit on (+90) 212 527 4503.

Advice levels

Exercise a high degree of caution in Türkiye overall.

Exercise a high degree of caution in Türkiye overall due to the threat of terrorism.

See Safety .

Do not travel to within 10km of the border with Syria.

Do not travel  to within 10km of the border with Syria due to serious threat of terrorism, violence and acts of war in this area. 

Reconsider your need to travel to the provinces of Hakkari and Sirnak.

Reconsider your need to travel to the provinces of Hakkari and Sirnak due to the unpredictable security situation.

  • There's an ongoing high threat of terrorist attacks in Türkiye. Possible targets include tourist areas, transport networks, shopping malls, hotels, places of worship and diplomatic premises. Be alert to potential threats, especially in locations frequented by foreigners. Avoid crowds, keep a low profile and be aware of your surroundings. Monitor the media for updates and follow the advice of local authorities.
  • Demonstrations and protests can occur and may turn violent. Avoid protests and large public gatherings. Monitor the media and follow the advice of local authorities.
  • There is an ongoing risk of earthquake in parts of Türkiye. Know the dangers of a major earthquake in your area and where your local shelter is.
  • There's an increased threat of military and terrorist attacks against Israel and Israeli interests across the region and ongoing military action in the Occupied Palestinian Territories could lead to increased tensions in other locations in the region. Demonstration and protest activity may occur, and localised security situations could deteriorate with little notice. Avoid all demonstrations and protests. 

Full travel advice:  Safety

  • Malaria is a risk from May to October in Amikova, Çukurova Plain and the southeast. Consider taking anti-malarial medication. Other insect-borne diseases include leishmaniasis and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever. Ensure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent.
  • Foodborne, waterborne and other infectious diseases include tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis, measles and rabies. Drink only boiled or bottled water. Avoid raw or undercooked foods.
  • Alcoholic drinks could be mixed with toxic substances, including methanol. Drink only at reputable venues. Avoid homemade alcohol. Get medical help straight away if you suspect poisoning.

Full travel advice:  Health

  • Don't use or carry illegal drugs. Penalties for drug offences are severe and include long prison sentences.
  • By law, you must always carry a photo ID. You should carry your passport with you at all times. 
  • It's illegal to 'insult' Türkiye, the Turkish flag, the President or government, and the country's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Don't make insulting comments, including on social media.
  • It's illegal to photograph military sites.
  • Many parts of Türkiye have conservative dress and behaviour standards. Dress modestly, particularly at mosques and shrines. Respect religious and social traditions. Avoid public displays of affection.

Full travel advice:  Local laws

You'll need an e-visa for tourism or business if you're staying for less than 90 days in a 180-day period.

  • If you're travelling to Türkiye for medical services, you should apply for a medical visa through the  HealthTürkiye  online portal.
  • Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of Türkiye for the latest details.

Full travel advice:  Travel

Local contacts

  • The  Consular Services Charter  details what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
  • For consular help, contact the  Australian Embassy in Ankara , the Australian Consulate in Istanbul, or the Australian Consulate in Canakkale.
  • To stay up to date with local information, follow the embassy’s social media accounts.

Full travel advice:  Local contacts

Full advice

There's an ongoing high threat of terrorist attacks in Türkiye.

Most terrorist attacks have taken place in the southeast of the country, Ankara or Istanbul. 

Attacks could take place anywhere and at any time, including in places visited by foreigners. Possible targets include:

  • tourist sites
  • public transport and transport hubs
  • markets/shopping malls
  • government facilities
  • diplomatic premises
  • hotels, clubs, restaurants
  • places of worship
  • courts and the judiciary
  • political parties
  • major sporting and cultural events
  • educational institutions

Terrorists have also previously targeted Western interests and places associated with the Turkish security forces, such as military barracks and police vehicles.

Previous methods of attack have included armed assaults, suicide bombings, car bombings, rocket attacks, arson, and improvised explosive devices left in garbage bins, crowded areas, shops, and public transport.

To protect yourself:

  • be alert to threats, especially in public places and around significant dates
  • keep a low profile and be aware of your surroundings
  • report suspicious activity or items to the police
  • monitor the media for new and emerging threats
  • take official warnings seriously
  • follow the advice of local authorities

If there is an attack, leave the affected area immediately if it's safe to do so.

If you plan to travel to Türkiye to commemorate Anzac Day, understand the risks and plan ahead. Read our ' Travel overseas for Anzac Day'  page for further information on attending the event.

Border regions

The threat of terrorist attacks, violence and acts of war is high along the borders with Syria and Iraq. In the past, rockets have been fired from Syria and Iraq into Turkish territory.

South-eastern provinces

The south-eastern and eastern provinces see occasional clashes, particularly between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) terrorist group and Turkish security forces.

Attacks by the PKK on government institutions, infrastructure and other sites have affected civilians.

More information:

Kidnapping occurs across the world with political, ideological and criminal motives. Foreigners, including Australians, have been kidnapped overseas while travelling. Kidnaps can happen anywhere, anytime, including in destinations that are typically at lower risk.  

Terrorist groups operating in Syria and Iraq kidnap and murder westerners. These groups may extend their operations into Türkiye.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it doesn't make payments or concessions to kidnappers. 

More information:  

  • Kidnapping  

Civil unrest and political tension

The security situation in the region remains unpredictable and could deteriorate with little or no warning.

Demonstrations and protests

Demonstrations occur regularly in major cities in response to:

  • domestic events
  • international events
  • political developments

Events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories have led to heightened tensions in the region. Large demonstrations have been reported outside diplomatic missions connected to the conflict in major cities, particularly Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul. 

There are nearly 4 million Syrian and other refugees in Türkiye. Anti-refugee sentiment can be a source of tension and occasionally violence. 

Demonstrations can happen without warning. 

Extremists have targeted political protests.

Peaceful events can turn violent.

Protests in Istanbul have centred around:

  • Taksim Square
  • Istiklal Street
  • streets surrounding Istikal as far as the Galata Tower and down to Karakoy
  • Okmeydani on the European side
  • Kadikoy on the Asian side

Protests in Ankara often centre around the Kizilay and Tunali areas. They have targeted diplomatic missions.

Protests also happen in other districts of Istanbul and Ankara and other cities and towns, including:

May Day rallies on 1 May can become violent, particularly in Ankara and Istanbul.

Mass rallies often occur during the Persian New Year, 20 - 21 March.

Police break up crowds using the following:

  • water cannons
  • plastic bullets

Tear gas can spread to surrounding areas.

Local authorities can ban events, such as public gatherings, celebrations, demonstrations and protests, with little warning. 

They may also impose or extend curfews without warning.

To stay safe during periods of unrest:

  • avoid political gatherings, protests and demonstrations
  • obey curfews
  • monitor the media and other sources
  • be alert around key dates, such as 20 to 21 March and 1 May 
  • plan your activities to avoid possible unrest on significant dates

Be prepared to change your travel plans. Contact your airline, travel agent or insurer for help if there are transport disruptions.

  • Demonstrations and civil unrest

Theft and assault

Common crimes include:

  • pickpocketing
  • bag snatching

Crime is especially common in the tourist areas of Istanbul, including:

  • Sultanahmet
  • the Grand Bazaar
  • the Spice Bazaar

To stay safe, monitor local sources for information on crime and:

  • pay close attention to your personal belongings, particularly on public transport and in crowded places
  • avoid secluded parks and unlit areas
  • avoid ATMs on the street, especially at night
  • use ATMs in banks, shops and shopping centres

Drink and food spiking

Foreigners, including Australians, have been drugged by English-speaking strangers who steal their belongings and passports.

Drugs can be present in:

  • chewing gum
  • confectionery

These drugs can cause you to become disoriented and compliant. You may even become unconscious.

To reduce your risk of food or drink spiking:

  • be wary of overly friendly strangers
  • don't accept food, drinks, gum or cigarettes from strangers or new acquaintances
  • never leave food or drinks unattended

Sexual assault

Women may experience physical and verbal harassment. This is more common in regional and conservative areas.

There's been an increase in violent  sexual assaults  against women travelling alone or in small groups. Assaults have happened in popular tourist areas, including Istanbul and coastal resorts like Antalya. The assailant is often a person the victim has just met.

There have been reports of sexual assaults on minors alone in public toilets.

If you're a woman:

  • avoid travelling alone, especially after dark
  • avoid isolated locations
  • be wary of new friends and acquaintances
  • stick with people you trust

If a child in your care needs to use a public toilet, go with them.

  • Advice for women
  • Sexual assault overseas

Scams  commonly target travellers.

Friendly English-speaking locals may try to scam you out of thousands of dollars.

Typically, these scammers take you to a bar for food or drinks. You're then presented with an inflated bill, often thousands of dollars, and threatened with violence if you don't pay. These scams are regularly reported, particularly in Istanbul.

Scams involving inflated taxi prices or taxis taking longer routes than needed have also been reported. These are particularly common to and from airports in Istanbul. 

Scams are also common among carpet traders.

To protect yourself from scams:

  • insist your taxi driver uses the meter
  • pay attention to your surroundings
  • be wary of deals where your carpet trader arranges to send you goods by post

Tours and adventure activities

Transport and tour operators don't always follow safety and maintenance standards. This includes adventure activities such as diving and ballooning.

If you plan to do a tour or  adventure activity :

  • check if your travel insurance policy covers it
  • ask about and insist on minimum safety requirements
  • always use available safety gear, such as life jackets or seatbelts
  • if proper safety equipment isn't available, use another provider

Cyber security 

You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you're connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers, or Bluetooth. 

Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media. 

More information:  

  • Cyber security when travelling overseas  

Climate and natural disasters

Türkiye experiences  natural disasters  and  severe weather , including:

  • earthquakes

If there is a natural disaster or severe weather event:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location
  • keep in contact with friends and family
  • monitor the media and other sources, such as the  Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System

Bush and forest fires often occur during the summer months, from June to September. Conditions can change quickly. Monitor the local media and follow the advice of local authorities. Read our advice on what to do if you're overseas and  there's a bushfire near you .  

These are most common in heavily forested areas with high temperatures and low rainfall.

Fires have burned close to holiday areas, including:

  • the Aegean coast
  • the Mediterranean coast
  • the Gallipoli peninsula

Earthquakes

Earthquakes  are a constant risk in Türkiye. There have been major earthquakes in recent years, including in February 2023, when 2 earthquakes occurred in Kahramanmaras province, close to Gaziantep, causing mass fatalities.

The North Anatolian fault runs 20km south of Istanbul and is one of the world's most active. Know the dangers of a major earthquake in your area and where your local shelter is.

Large, damaging earthquakes could happen at any time. Aftershocks can continue for days or weeks.

When an earthquake happens, you should drop, cover and hold. If an earthquake is long or strong and you're near the coast or other large body of water, you should go to higher ground immediately.

If you're indoors during an earthquake:

  • move no more than a few steps to a heavy, solid object you can get underneath, and hold onto it
  • don't try to run outside
  • stay indoors until the shaking stops
  • stay away from windows, chimneys, and shelves with heavy objects

If you're in bed:

  • hold onto the bed and stay where you are
  • protect your head and body with a pillow and blankets

If you're outdoors:

  • move to the nearest clear spot
  • keep away from buildings, trees and power lines
  • drop to the ground

If you're in a car:

  • drive to a clear place away from buildings, trees and power lines
  • stay in the car with your seatbelt on until the shaking stops

If you're in a lift:

  • stop at the nearest floor and get out

After the earthquake finishes:

  • be aware of possible tsunami risks
  • prepare for travel delays
  • reconfirm your travel arrangements
  • check your accommodation with travel agents and tour operators
  • let your family/friends know that you're safe

During a crisis, local authorities are responsible for helping people living or travelling within their jurisdictions.

More information

  •  Read our  advice on earthquake risk and response .

Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides across Türkiye. This can hamper overland travel and reduce the provision of essential services. Roads may become impassable and bridges damaged.

Severe drought conditions can affect the water supply to several cities.

Running water may not be available in many places, including hotels.

Travel insurance

Get comprehensive  travel insurance  before you leave.

Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.

If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.

If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.

  • what activities and care your policy covers
  • that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition. 

See your doctor or travel clinic to:

  • have a basic health check-up
  • ask if your travel plans may affect your health
  • plan any vaccinations you need

Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.

If you have immediate concerns for your welfare or the welfare of another Australian call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your  nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate  to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location .

  • General health advice
  • Healthy holiday tips  (Healthdirect Australia)

Medications

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in Türkiye. Take enough legal medication for your trip.

Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:

  • what the medication is
  • your required dosage 
  • that it's for personal use

Health risks

Medical tourism.

Each year, many Australians travel for medical tourism. 

Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned. We're aware of several cases in recent years where Australians have experienced serious complications after their procedures in Türkiye.   

If you're considering undertaking medical treatment in Türkiye, you should do your research including on whether your insurance will cover you. Read our advice on travelling overseas for medical tourism before you go. 

The  HealthTürkiye  portal lists the medical providers authorised by the Turkish Ministry of Health .  We can't provide recommendations or endorsements for any particular health providers. You should discuss your plans carefully with your Australian doctor, dentist or hospital specialist before committing to any procedure overseas.

  • Health Services General Directorate
  • Authorised Healthcare Providers 
  • International Health Services Call Center  

Insect-borne diseases

Malaria  is a risk from May to October in:

  • Çukurova Plain
  • the south-east

There's no malaria risk in the main tourist areas in the west and southwest of the country.

Other insect-borne diseases occur, including:

  • leishmaniasis
  • Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF)

CCHF is common in:

  • central Anatolia to the north
  • east of Ankara

Seasonal summer outbreaks of CCHF have been fatal.

To protect yourself from disease:

  • make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
  • use insect repellent
  • wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing

Consider taking medicine to prevent malaria.

Bird flu (avian influenza)

Human deaths from  bird flu (avian influenza)  have been confirmed in Türkiye.

Talk to your doctor about bird flu as part of your pre-travel health checks.

Measles cases routinely occur in Türkiye, with the country experiencing increased measles activity. Make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date before you travel.

  • Measles Outbreaks 2019 (Department of Health and Aged Care)
  • Measles immunisation service (Department of Health and Aged Care)

Other health risks

Waterborne, foodborne, and other infectious diseases occur, including:

  • tuberculosis

Serious outbreaks sometimes occur

To protect yourself from illness:

  • drink boiled water or bottled water with sealed lids
  • avoid ice cubes
  • avoid raw and undercooked food, such as salads
  • avoid unpasteurised dairy products
  • avoid contact with dogs and other mammals

If you're bitten or scratched by an animal, get medical help immediately.

Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

  • Infectious diseases

Poisoning from alcoholic drinks

Locals and travellers have reported poisoning from alcoholic drinks. Drinks may be contaminated with harmful substances, including methanol.

Locals and travellers have become seriously ill after drinking contaminated alcohol.

Consider the risks when drinking alcoholic beverages, particularly drinks made with spirits.

Labels on bottles aren't always accurate.

To stay safe:

  • drink only at reputable licensed premises
  • avoid home-made alcoholic drinks

Symptoms of  methanol poisoning  can be similar to the effects of drinking too much. This includes fatigue, headaches and nausea.

If you suspect that you, or someone you're with, has been poisoned, get urgent medical attention. It could save you from permanent disability or death.

  • Report suspected cases of methanol poisoning to the police.

Medical care

The standard of medical facilities in Türkiye varies.

Private hospitals with facilities comparable to those in Australia exist in major cities. Services can be limited outside of major cities.

Private hospitals usually need confirmation of insurance or a guarantee of payment before admitting a patient. Costs can be high.

Decompression chambers are available near popular dive sites and major cities in:

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may be able to receive treatment at a private or teaching hospital in Ankara or Istanbul. However, medical evacuation could be necessary. Medical evacuation can be very expensive. Ensure your travel insurance covers this.

Australians who reside in Türkiye for more than 12 months may have access to Türkiye's Universal Health Insurance (UHI).

  • Republic of Türkiye Social Security Institution  (in Turkish)

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian government will do what it can to help you under our  Consular Services Charter . But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Following the end of a State of Emergency in 2018, local authorities continue to have increased legal powers.

Authorities have detained thousands of people suspected of having links to alleged terrorist groups. Detainees have limited rights.

Authorities may prevent foreigners and dual nationals from departing Türkiye.

Penalties for using or possessing drugs are severe. They include long jail sentences.

  • Carrying or using drugs

Hiking Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat, between the eastern provinces of Agri and Igdir, is designated a 'special military zone'. You must hire the services of a locally licensed guide if you intend to hike in the area. A licensed company will obtain the necessary permits and assign you to a registered Mountaineer to accompany you throughout your hike. Visiting Mount Ararat without the Turkish government's permission is an offence that could incur severe penalties.

By law, you must always carry a photo ID. Carry your passport with you at all times. 

Illegal activities could result in severe penalties including:

  • taking photos of military installations
  • searching for historical artefacts without authorisation
  • defacing or destroying Turkish currency
  • failing to comply with Turkish visa conditions or immigration regulations
  • supporting terrorist organisations in Türkiye, including expressions of support on social media

It's also illegal to 'insult':

  • the Turkish flag
  • the Turkish President or Government
  • the founder of Türkiye, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

This includes making insulting comments on social media. Penalties can be severe.

Selling or exporting antiquities and cultural artefacts without a permit is also illegal. You'll need a receipt and an official certificate to export these goods legally.

If you're arrested or detained, you may be deported from Türkiye. This may happen after your court hearings or after completing your sentence. You may be deported even if you're not convicted.

If you're arrested, ask the local authorities to tell the nearest Australian embassy or consulate.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you're overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.

  • Staying within the law and respecting customs  

Dual citizenship

The Turkish government recognises dual citizenship.

However, Turkish-Australian dual nationals are treated as Turkish citizens in legal matters. If you're a dual citizen, this limits the  consular services  we can give if you're arrested or detained.

If you are a male Turkish-Australian dual national, you could be forced to complete military service when you arrive.

Check your obligations with an  embassy or consulate  of Türkiye before you travel.

  • Dual nationals

Local customs

Standards of dress and behaviour are conservative in many parts of Türkiye. Some regions are more conservative than others.

Avoid offending locals by respecting religious and social traditions.

Dress modestly, particularly at mosques and religious shrines.

If in doubt, seek local advice.

The Islamic holiday month of  Ramadan  is observed in Türkiye. Respect religious and cultural customs and laws at this time.

During Ramadan, eating, drinking and smoking in public during the day may not be culturally appropriate in some areas. If you're not fasting, avoid these activities around people who are. 

Some areas are more tolerant of travellers and locals who don't fast. Seek local advice to avoid offence.

Explore our  Ramadan  page to learn more, including dates for Ramadan.

LGBTQIA+ information

Same-sex relationships are legal but aren't widely accepted in Turkish society.

LGBTQIA+ events and gatherings may be subject to local government bans.

Avoid public displays of affection.

  • Advice for LGBTQIA+ t ravellers

Visas and border measures

Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering. 

Use the official Turkish government site to  apply for an e-visa  online.

Be wary of using unauthorised websites. They may charge for information on e-visas.

Apply for a medical visa through the  HealthTürkiye  online portal if you're travelling to Türkiye to seek medical services (see 'Health').

Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document.

If you're not eligible for an e-visa, you'll need to arrange a visa through an  embassy or consulate  of Türkiye before you arrive. If you don't, authorities may refuse entry.

If you're a tourist and arrive by sea, visiting the surrounding areas for up to 72 hours without a visa might be possible. Check your visa requirements with your travel operator or local authorities at the port of entry, and make sure you get entry and exit stamps in your passport. 

If you don't abide by your visa or permit terms, you may be fined, deported and banned from re-entering Türkiye.

Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. Contact the  nearest embassy or consulate  for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.

  • Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture information on COVID-19

Entry into Türkiye

Before travelling to Türkiye, check if you'll be able to return to your country of origin or if you can travel onward to your next destination. Some countries may impose quarantine or other restrictions on travellers coming from Türkiye.

Travel with children

If you're  travelling with a child  aged under 18 years, you may need to provide proof that you're the legal parent or guardian. Check with the  embassy or consulate  of Türkiye before you travel.

Border Crossings

All border crossings from Syria are currently closed.

Crossing the border to or from Iraq is difficult. Military activity in the region is ongoing. The Turkish Government tightly controls entry and exit.

Other formalities

If you enter or leave Türkiye by land or sea borders, make sure immigration authorities process you correctly. This applies even for a short trip, such as visiting the Greek Islands.

Make sure your passport is stamped for every exit and arrival. If you don't, you could face difficulties when departing, including:

  • possible fines
  • future travel bans
  • deportation

Some countries won't let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you are just transiting or stopping over.

Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.

You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.

The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport's expiry date before you travel. If you are not sure it will be valid long enough, consider getting  a new passport .

Lost or stolen passport

Your passport is a valuable document. It is attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.

Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:

  • In Australia, contact the  Australian Passport Information Service .
  • If you're overseas, contact the nearest  Australian embassy or consulate .

Passport with 'X' gender identifier 

Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can't guarantee that a passport showing an 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest  embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination  before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers. 

  • LGBTQIA+ travellers  

The local currency in Türkiye is the Lira (TRY).

Most services accept credit cards, but carry a small amount of cash just in case.

EFTPOS and ATMs are widely available.

Local travel

Anzac cove and gallipoli historical site.

The weather can change suddenly in the Gallipoli region.

Winter storms and heavy traffic seriously affect many coastal roads around Gallipoli. This includes roads in the Gallipoli Historical Site.

  • be prepared for a range of weather conditions
  • obey safety signs and directions
  • don't wander off marked roads and tracks
  • don't separate from your tour group

More information: 

  • Travel overseas for Anzac Day

Driving permit

You can drive in Türkiye for up to 6 months if you have a valid Australian driver's licence

You must get a Turkish driver's licence if you plan to drive for longer than 6 months after your arrival in Türkiye.

  • Turkish Security Directorate (Turkish)

Road travel

Travelling at night on country roads can be hazardous due to poor lighting and local driving practices.

Drink-driving carries a minimum penalty of:

  • an on-the-spot fine
  • confiscation of your driver's licence

Get to know the local road rules and practices.

Check if your travel insurance will cover you before driving.

In the event of a car accident:

  • For accidents with only vehicular damage, exchange insurance information, take photos of the accident before moving the vehicles, and depart if both sides agree. Turkish law requires drivers to fill out a Turkish-only form and provide pictures of the damage. Non-Turkish speakers should call and wait for the police.
  • For accidents involving an injury or a disagreement, remain at the site of the accident. Do not move the vehicle – even out of the way – until the Traffic Police arrive. Report the accident to the Traffic Police (dial 155) or Jandarma (dial 156). Get a certified copy of the official report from the Traffic Police office (this can take several days).
  • Driving or riding

Motorcycles

Avoid using motorcycles due to the poor standard of driving.

Check whether your travel insurance policy covers you for riding a motorbike, quad bike or similar vehicle.

Always wear a helmet.

Use only licensed taxis or reputable limousine services. Arrange these through your hotel.

Taxis in major cities are generally professional, metered and charge according to set rates.

Insist your taxi driver uses the meter.

In rural areas and small towns, you may need to negotiate rates.

Public transport

Türkiye has an extensive inter-city bus and train network. 

  • Transport and getting around safely

International and domestic flights fly out of the new Istanbul Airport instead of Ataturk Airport.

Turkish airports and commercial aircraft have been the subject of terrorist attacks. See  Safety

Enhanced security measures are in place at major airports.

Airports are often crowded, and security checks can cause delays.

DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.

Check Türkiye's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.

Emergencies

Depending on what you need, contact your:

  • family and friends
  • travel agent
  • insurance provider

Always get a police report when reporting a crime.

Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Consular contacts

Read the  Consular Services Charter  for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

For  consular assistance in Türkiye , contact the:

  • Australian Embassy in Ankara
  • Australian Consulate-General in Istanbul
  • Australian Consulate in Çanakkale

You'll need to make an appointment in advance.

Australian Embassy, Ankara

88 Uğur Mumcu Caddesi  Gaziosmanpaşa Ankara  Phone: +90 312 459 9500  Website:  turkey.embassy.gov.au Email:  [email protected] Facebook: Australia in Türkiye X: @AusAmbTürkiye

Check the Embassy website for details about opening hours and any temporary closures.

Australian Consulate-General, Istanbul

Süzer Plaza (Ritz Carlton Hotel), Askerocaĝı Caddesi No. 15, Elmadağ Istanbul

Phone: +90 212 393 3300 Email:  [email protected]

Australian Consulate, Çanakkale

Kolin Hotel  Kepez 17100 Çanakkale

Phone: (+90 286) 218 1721  Email:  [email protected]

24-hour Consular Emergency Centre

In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:

  • +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
  • 1300 555 135 in Australia

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Istanbul, Turkey

Is it safe to travel to Türkiye right now? Latest travel advice

Here is everything we know about travelling to Türkiye amidst the conflict in Israel

Liv Kelly

Türkiye’s abundance of cultural heritage, fascinating historical sites, great architecture, food and people have made it a go-to holiday destination for decades. Istanbul is an incredibly vibrant city, which straddles two continents, but the country is also known for its beautiful landscape and coastlines. 

However, its proximity to the continuing conflict in Israel , which erupted on Saturday October 7, is causing concern about how safe it is to travel to this region of the world. Here is everything we know about travelling to Türkiye amidst the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

Is it safe to travel to Türkiye at the moment? 

Türkiye  has not been impacted by the conflict in Israel.  It depends on where in the country you’re travelling, but the majority of destinations in Türkiye are safe and tourist-friendly. Certain areas have experienced wildfires over the summer, and the UK Foreign Office estimates that the terrorist threat is ‘very high’. However, travelling to Türkiye is not advised against. 

How about Antalya? 

A city with gorgeous beaches which is full of ancient Greek and Roman remnants, Antalya is one of Türkiye’s fastest-growing tourist destinations.  

The province experienced wildfires earlier this year, which began in the forests of Kemer. However, the region has been considered a safe place to travel since the fires were brought under control. 

Is it safe to travel to Istanbul?

There is currently no official advice stating that it is unsafe to travel to Istanbul.

What is the UK Foreign Office saying? 

The UK Foreign Office advises against all travel to anywhere within 10km of the border with Syria. It also advises against all but essential travel with Sirnak (city) and Hakkari (province). 

Travellers are free to visit the rest of Türkiye, but the advice is to remain vigilant. Political protests can break out unexpectedly and the country is considered to have a ‘very high’ threat of terrorist attacks. The webpage also states that Türkiye is prone to experiencing wildfires during the summer, and recommends taking care when driving through woodland areas. 

What about the Turkey Travel Advisory? 

The advice from the Turkey Travel Advisory is similar to that of the UK Foreign Office. It marks Sirnak, Hakkari and anywhere within 10 km of the Syrian Border as a level four, which means ‘do not travel’. 

Advice about the rest of Türkiye encourages travellers to stay alert, avoid demonstrations and crowds, and to monitor local media for up-to-date information. You can read more about the Turkey Travel Advisory’s recommendations on their webpage. 

How far is Türkiye from Israel? 

Türkiye is 879 km from Israel, or about an hour and a half flight. Türkiye is north of Israel, and the two countries do not share a border. 

Is travel to other countries near Israel safe?

The Foreign Office does not currently advise against travelling to countries bordering Israel, but advice may change quickly as the violence escalates. 

Read more about the latest  travel advice for Israel and Egypt  and Jordan . 

For more information on how to help those affected by the conflict, you can read our guide on where to donate here . 

Stay in the loop: sign up to our free Time Out Travel newsletter for all the latest travel news.

  • Liv Kelly Contributing Writer

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Latest Covid Restriction Updates in Istanbul: All You Need To Know

istanbul travel right now

On this page, we have listed the general sanitary Covid 19 rules in Turkey , as well as additional specific measures that apply in Istanbul.

To take control over the coronavirus outbreak and reduce the number of new Covid-19 cases, Turkey has implemented a series of preventive measures. Another important effort by the government is Covid-19 vaccination program . Currently, over 85% of the Turkish population at the age of 18 and above has received 2 doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The Turkish Ministry of Health has categorized the provinces of Turkey in four risk zones : low risk (blue zone), medium risk (yellow zone), high risk (orange zone) and very high risk (red zone) that are shown in a color-coded vaccination map. See the updated map on the official governmental website .

Istanbul is classified as a "blue zone" by the Turkish Ministry of Health, indicating that at least 77% of the population has been vaccinated with two doses and is at "low risk".

Let’s have a look at the general rules that apply throughout Turkey. After that, we will continue with Istanbul specifically.

General Regulations that apply Nationwide

1. General Regulations that apply Nationwide 

Many Covid 19 rules and measures, such as the lockdown, have been lifted over time, leaving most services available in Turkey without restrictions . The following regulations are currently still in place:

Social (Physical) Distancing

You need to maintain  social distancing (at least 3 steps) from others in public areas.

Wearing a face mask is no longer required. Only in medical establishments is it still necessary to wear masks.

HES Code in Istanbul

The use of the HES ( Hayat Eve Siğar ) Code, the coronavirus contact tracing system, has been lifted in all institutions. The HES code, which was automatically generated when filling out the entry form, is no longer required for entry into the country as of March 2022.

Dining establishments

Dining establishments   (cafés, bars, restaurants etc.) are open without restrictions. 

Opening Hours

Grocery shops, shopping malls, boutiques and stores are open during the normal operation hours throughout the week.

Smoking in public areas is banned, but not very respected by the public.

Please remember that fines will be imposed on those who do not comply with the regulations imposed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Additional Measures & Rules only in Istanbul

2. Additional Measures & Rules only in Istanbul

Vaccination rate with two doses (persons over 18 years of age):  With a vaccination rate more than 77%, Istanbul, currently classified as a blue zone (low risk province). 

Hotels in Istanbul: In Istanbul, more than 500 hotels and accommodation facilities have received a "Safe Tourism Certification" from the Turkish Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Read More about Hotels in Istanbul .

Disinfection: Mosques, museums, tourist attractions, government buildings, and hotels in Istanbul are disinfected periodically against the COVID-19 virus. Read more about Museums in Istanbul .

Airports in Istanbul: To ensure that passengers can travel safely to Istanbul, Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gökcen Airport, the main arrival points for foreign travelers, have implemented numerous measures against the COVID-19 virus. See below the most important measures taken to protect travelers from the coronavirus:

Airports in Covid 19 in Istanbul

  • The same entry requirements apply to Istanbul as to the rest of the country. You will either need a negative Covid-19-PCR-Test , a negative rapid antigen test, proof of vaccination, or a documentation of recovery from COVID-19 to enter Istanbul.
  • PCR and antigen testing is available 24/7 at the testing center of Sabiha Gökcen and Istanbul Airport for all passengers for a fee of 250 TL. Be sure to arrive at least 6 hours before your flight, as test results take up to 5 hours. To get a PCR test easily in town, please book it now in Istanbul Welcome Card Shop .
  • Only passengers who have a valid ticket are granted access to the terminal. An exception is made only for passengers who require assistance. 
  • Inside Istanbul and Sabiha Gökcen Airport, wearing face masks is mandatory for everyone.
  • At the entrance to the terminal, as well as at the check-in desk, there are thermal cameras which carry out body temperature measurements of all arriving passengers. Passengers departing from international lines are also monitored with thermal cameras. If necessary, passengers will be subjected to a COVID-19 test.
  • Foreign passengers who test positive for COVID-19 upon landing will be referred to a private hospital by the Ministry of Health-Border Health Unit. Turkish passengers will be admitted to a state hospital.
  • At Istanbul airport, an ultraviolet light is used to disinfect all baggage that passes through the X-rays.
  • A hygiene team helps remind passengers inside and outside the airport of hygiene and social distance rules.
  • Hand sanitizers are placed at key points throughout both airports.
  • The terminal at Istanbul Airport is supplied with fresh air around the clock.
  • To ensure social distance, there are social distance markings on the floor at all areas of the airport.
  • Istanbul Airport houses pandemic help desks with quarantine rooms located within the terminal building.
  • All airport personnel are trained in hygiene and sanitation. Body temperature measurements are also carried out at personnel entrances.

Now you are set to visit Istanbul safely. Don't hesitate to ask us for more questions and to consult our other articles for more help for your journey in Istanbul.

For more amazing pictures and tips about Istanbul, follow  our official Instagram account @istanbul.tourist.information

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Is Istanbul safe to visit? A comprehensive safety guide

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Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, is the biggest city in Turkey and serves as the country’s historic, cultural and economic center. The city of Istanbul has more than 15 million residents, which is roughly 19% of Turkey’s entire population. It is also one, if not the country’s most popular tourist destination, with an average of 16 million tourists every year. This is because of the city’s rich history and culture as well as its collection of world-renowned attractions; in fact, the Turkish city is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

While Istanbul is a year-round destination, the months from June to August are considered the peak season because of the summer weather and the range of events and festivals held during this period. If you want more manageable crowds, consider Istanbul’s “shoulder season”, which takes place from March to May. During this period, prices are generally reasonable and the weather is starting to get warmer as summer approaches.

The best time to visit Istanbul depends on your personal preference; for instance, summer has the best weather but prices do increase. Winter is colder and gloomier but the rates are at their lowest. Regardless of when you decide to come, use a Bounce luggage facility in Istanbul during your visit to make your trip convenient and hassle-free.

Flying into Istanbul Airport ? Read on for details on how to have an enjoyable and safe trip in this incredible city. Traveling to Istanbul is bound to be a terrific adventure.

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Is Istanbul safe to visit right now?

As a nation, Turkey is currently ranked Level 2 in the U.S. Government Travel Advisory, which means exercising increased caution when you travel. This does not necessarily mean that you should reconsider visiting Istanbul; the city itself is predominantly safe for tourists and has a lower crime rate compared to other places outside the city limits.

Like many holiday destinations around the world, there is the risk of tourists being victims of petty crimes in Istanbul. For one, pickpocketing is a common occurrence in some of the popular tourist areas that tend to be crowded. Another potential problem is taxi driver scams designed to get more money from you.

All in all, the Turkish city is a safe destination to visit and this guide will provide some Istanbul safety tips that you can apply during your trip. You should keep in mind that it is your responsibility to ensure your own personal safety and to do additional research about the city before your trip. It's best that you check with the government travel advisory of your home country to see if there are any potential threats regarding your destination, no matter your experience as a traveler.

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Top petty crimes and scams in Istanbul affecting tourists

“Is Istanbul safe?” is a question that has been asked many times by travelers from all over the world. It is predominantly safe in Istanbul for tourists, whether solo travelers or family travelers.

There are some potential crimes and scams that you need to look out for during your stay. Turkish authorities are aiding in preventing these petty crimes to keep tourism alive in the city.

Pickpocketing and purse snatching

Perhaps the most common petty crime in Istanbul is pickpocketing; many tourists and locals in the city have reported occurrences of purse snatching. Most of these crimes are even carried out by children in tourist hotspots such as the Topkapi Palace and Taksim Square. To avoid falling victim to this wrongdoing, consider a belt or bag that is hidden from sight and leave your important items in your hotel safe.

Or keep your important belongings in a Bounce luggage location in Istanbul to ensure that they are secure. Another thing that you can do is purchase travel insurance before your trip, to help you recover the value of your stolen items if you do fall victim to pickpockets.

Taxi drivers scam

Another popular scam that can affect visitors in Istanbul is one pulled by local drivers of taxis. They either charge you a fixed rate that is double the usual fare that you would normally pay on a metered taxi or they pretend they don’t have change for your money so they can keep the excess. To avoid falling prey to this scam, insist that you stick to the metered rate and prepare small notes before you go on a taxi ride.

Shoe shine scam

One common scam that is unique to Istanbul is the “shoe shine scam.” Shoe shining is a traditional trade in the city and it is not surprising to find shoe cleaners in a busy area in the city. The scam involves the shoe cleaner pretending to drop their brush in the presence of a tourist. Once the tourist picks up the brush and returns it to the shoe cleaner, they then offer their services for free and share a story about making ends meet.

After the cleaning, the shoe cleaner will suddenly charge the tourist an exorbitant amount and guilt them into paying. The simplest way to avoid this is to not engage with the shoe cleaners no matter how hard they try to get your attention.

Currency scam

Beware of the currency scam, which is when shops and vendors charge a tourist’s credit card in Euros instead of Turkish Lira . Since the Euro has a higher value than Lira, you're essentially paying for items at an extra cost and will be charged expensive exchange fees. To avoid this, make sure that the shop’s card machine is charging in the local currency or simply pay using cash.

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Is Istanbul safe to travel alone

The simple reply to, "Is Istanbul safe to travel alone" is YES. Safety in Istanbul is not that big of a concern, even for a solo traveler. What's more, the Turkish people are warm and welcoming to visitors. However, as mentioned, there are some instances that one has to be aware of when planning to visit Istanbul. For solo female travelers that are planning a trip, know that Istanbul is generally a very safe city for women. In fact, Turkey ranks 30th on the Bounce Women Travel Safety Index , with little occurrence of crimes on females.

While Istanbul is safe in general, this does not mean that there is no likelihood of trouble, especially if you're a solo female traveler. Needless to say, it is still best to exercise common sense when you're out exploring on your own. Even though Turkish hospitality is a huge part of the city's culture, it is best practice to avoid instances such as accepting drinks from strangers.

Safest neighborhoods in Istanbul

Istanbul is a large city and there is no shortage of accommodations to choose from. You should definitely consider if the area you're staying in is safe and easy to explore. Below are some of the safest neighborhoods in Istanbul.

Sultanahmet

Located on the European side of Istanbul, Sultanahmet is the city’s historic district and the most popular area to stay in for tourists. The area is home to most of the city’s prominent attractions, such as the Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia and the famous Grand Bazaar (also known as the Spice Bazaar). It is also home to Istanbul’s top-rated hotels and hostels, most of which are walking distance from the best sights.

While it is a popular tourist area, the neighborhood of Taksim is spacious and more conducive for walking. The district is home to the famous Taksim Square and has numerous public gardens as well as a pedestrian-only street filled with street food vendors, restaurants, shops and other bustling establishments.

Nişantaşi is an upscale district known as a luxury residential and shopping destination. The neighborhood is not part of the usual tourist route but it does offer a quieter and more lavish escape for those who want to get away from the crowds.

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Is Istanbul public transportation safe?

You might be wondering if Istanbul is safe when it comes to using public transport, which is a valid concern. The city’s public transportation is efficient, affordable and easy to figure out. The downside is that public transport can get extremely crowded, especially during rush hour, hence why most pickpockets and thieves target places such as train stations and buses.

If you're using public transportation in Istanbul, be mindful of your belongings and your surroundings. Don’t leave your wallet or mobile phone in your pocket where it can be easily snatched.

Important emergency numbers in Istanbul

Despite having prepared everything for your trip, there are instances where you might need assistance from local authorities. It is good practice to take note of emergency numbers of the destination that you're planning to visit. For Istanbul, here are some of the vital contacts to take note of:

  • Tourism Police: +90 212 527 4503
  • Medical emergency: 112
  • Poison Emergency: 114
  • Police: 155

Additionally, it is best to be aware of your country's embassy number.

Visit Istanbul safely

Safety in Istanbul may be a concern for some but all in all, the Turkish city is safe for tourists and definitely worth making the trip for. Remember to exercise caution and use your better judgment when making decisions.

Check out our guide on Where to Stay in Istanbul: The Ultimate Guide for wonderful accommodation information. To learn about transportation, you'll find it helpful to read our guide on How to Get Around Istanbul .

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Home > Is Istanbul Safe To Visit Right Now? – Written By A Local

Is Istanbul Safe To Visit Right Now? – Written By A Local

Post author Nicky

Written by our local expert Nicky

Nicky, originally from the UK, is now a local in Turkey. She moved to Marmaris, Türkiye for love 12 years ago and is now your Turkey travel planner.

One of the most commonly asked questions people ask me as a Turkey local would have to be, “Is it safe to travel to Istanbul?”

In this post, I will show you how safe Istanbul is and how to keep safe on the streets of Istanbul while you are in this iconic Turkish city.

Turkey Travel Blog_Is Istanbul Safe

You might think there should be a simple yes or no answer here, but nothing about traveling to Türkiye is ever that simple. The truth is that Istanbul, as with any large city, has its dodgy spots. Every city in the world requires you to be careful about personal safety, and Istanbul is no different.

However, asking this question in 2023 is understandable because you’ve undoubtedly heard a few stories.

Let’s lay those doubts to rest.

Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!

Past Terrorist Attacks In Istanbul

The main reason why people ask about safety in Istanbul is that the city has, in the past, been the victim of several terrorist attacks. The most recent was in November 2022, when an explosion occurred on a busy Sunday afternoon on Istiklal Street, Taksim. This is one of the most active parts of the city.

Before that, the city suffered in 2015 when a suicide bomber detonated a bomb close to Blue Mosque and Hagia Sofia in Sultanahmet . Again, this is a bustling and touristic part of Istanbul. Further suicide bombings occurred in 2016, and in 2017, a mass shooting happened at a busy nightclub.

Of course, from reading that, you undoubtedly decide that Istanbul is dangerous, but you have to put this into context. During these years, many cities worldwide were dealing with terrorism due to the rise of ISIS and its deadly campaign of terror. Unfortunately, Türkiye suffered very badly during this time too.

Since 2017, Turkey’s safety record has increased a significant amount. The last attack in November 2022 came to us locals as a huge surprise simply because we assumed that after a period of calm, such tragedies were a thing of the past. Unfortunately, terrorism is a global problem, and it’s not only Istanbul that has had to deal with it.

The point here is that, yes, Istanbul has suffered very severely in the past at the hands of terrorist groups. Still, visitors should not be overly concerned about visiting as long as they learn a little about the city before they arrive.

If there is a terrorist threat while you are in Istanbul, always follow the local authorities’ directives and contact your embassy just as you would while you are in any foreign country.

As I write this, I am in Istanbul, and I do not feel unsafe in the slightest.

Evening & Solo Female Travel Safety In Istanbul

Is Istanbul safe? - Aerial view square near Hagia Sophia in Istanbul

Rather than worrying about personal safety in Istanbul, you’d probably be better off worrying about being ripped off more than anything else. There are several well-documented scams that many tourists fall foul of. To help you out, we’ll talk about those in a moment.

For now, let’s talk about whether Istanbul is a safe place during the evening hours and for solo female travel .

Istanbul is a large and bustling city, so there are some dangers during the evening hours. This is the same for every large and busy city worldwide. Walking alone at night is not advisable, and you’d be better off taking a taxi wherever you want. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t flash your valuables during the day or not.

Is Istanbul Safe For Women?

As for solo female travelers, you will see many females traveling on their own, and for the most part, they experience a very pleasant and enjoyable time. The key here is to stay within busy tourist areas. In that case, the worst you’ll ever experience is a rather over-eager waiter who wants to talk to you. A simple “no, thank you” will suffice.

Read our solo travelers’ guide to Turkey here

Obviously, make sure that you dress sensibly. While you can wear whatever you want in Istanbul (unless you’re visiting a religious site), walking around with short skirts or low-cut tops doesn’t pay. Aside from anything else, it’s cold in the winter! Cover up a little, and you won’t attract unwanted attention.

Read what to wear in Türkiye here. 

Is istanbul safe with kids.

Ice cream in Turkey - Istanbul 2

Istanbul is a beautiful city for families with kids . The city has much to offer regarding history, culture, and fun activities for the whole family. However, as with any large city, there are also some safety concerns that parents should be aware of.

Here are a few tips to help keep your family safe while enjoying all that Istanbul has to offer:

  • First and foremost, always be aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on your kids at all times, especially when they are near busy streets or crowded areas. If possible, stick to well-lit and populated areas when out and about after dark
  • Secondly, be sure to educate your children about stranger danger. Teach them not to talk to strangers or accept gifts from them. If they do get lost, they should know to go to a police officer or security guard for help
  • Lastly, it’s always a good idea to have a plan in case of an emergency. Know where the nearest hospitals and police stations are located, and make sure everyone in the family knows how to reach you if they get separated. By following these simple safety tips, you can rest assured that your family will have no safety issues and will have an enjoyable trip to Istanbul
  • Public breastfeeding is not permitted in Istanbul, especially in conservative neighborhoods. If you need to breastfeed, you must do so discreetly

Editors note: I was in Istanbul with my two sons (aged 5 & 10) in 2023, and I can say we never once felt unsafe. I made sure to hold the boys’ hands and reminded them each day not to run ahead or move away from me – just because the city was so packed! But I do that in every big city we visit as a precaution. 

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Is there much violent crime in istanbul.

Is Istanbul safe - Medusa head at the cistern

With a population of 16 million – or 2o plus million, if you ask the locals, there is undoubtedly some crime in Istanbul.

Crime Against Tourists

The highest form of crime against tourists in Istanbul (and Turkey) is petty crime, such as pickpocketing, particularly in tourist attractions like Taksim Square , Sultanahmet, The Grand Bazaar, and Spice Bazaar. Taking precautions beforehand can mitigate your risk of being pickpocketed in busy areas or tourist destinations.

If you want to be extra safe, wear a money belt under your shirt rather than putting your belongings in your pockets.

Some victims have reported their bags being snatched or slashed, so keeping your travel documents secured in a safe in your hotel room is better.

Other than that, crime rates are not anything to worry about in Istanbul.

Istanbul’s Safest Neighborhoods And Not-So-Safe Areas

Istiklal streetm Taksim Istanbul Guide

Let’s repeat the same line here – Istanbul is like any other city, which means it has very safe areas and dangerous areas that you should probably avoid.

You’re generally very safe in any touristic area, so we’re talking about Sultanahmet , Fatih, Kadikoy, Besiktas, Ortakoy, etc. You still need to use your common sense and not walk alone at night, but overall, you’re very safe in areas like this.

The question arises when we talk about Taksim and Beyoglu . Now, Taksim isn’t unsafe per se, but it’s a very large and busy area with many winding back streets, and this is also where the city’s main nightlife is located. This part of the city literally doesn’t sleep. You’ll find trouble if you deliberately open yourself up to it.

Beyoglu is the area around Taksim, which also includes Istiklal Street. You only have to visit there during the daytime to understand that it may be a little dangerous during the evening hours if you don’t speak the language and don’t know where you’re going.

So, while you shouldn’t necessarily avoid these areas, use common sense and caution, especially during evening hours.

That being said, there are a few neighborhoods to avoid in Istanbul:

This neighborhood is within walking distance of Taksim Square and Istikal Street. Extreme poverty and violence related to that poverty color daily life here, and taxi drivers won’t even venture this way if they can avoid it.

Another run-down neighborhood near Taksim Square and Istikal Street, technically in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, is Tarlabaşı. If you aren’t aware, it is easy to walk into this area accidentally. Don’t detour too far to the east or northeast of Istikal to avoid this area, known for its sex workers and aggressive vibe.

Sultanbeyli

This neighborhood is on the outskirts of the Asian side of Istanbul , so it’s unlikely you would venture this far. It is calm during the daytime; yes, there isn’t anything to do here. At night, things get more unruly.

It’s another location not high on tourists’ radar, but just in case it comes up in your searches, it’s another place to avoid. It can be quiet during the day but is a top spot for street fights and drug deals.

Gaziosmanpaşa

Located near the historic center, this disadvantaged city area was built with poor infrastructure. It is an area where weapons are more common, and the population is dense, so avoid it.

This is a working-class neighborhood in the Beyoğlu district, and not so much dangerous as it is poor. Many buildings are falling apart, and streets are dirty. A large population of the city’s scammers live in the neighborhood, so it’s more prone to petty theft.

This neighborhood is in the Sisli district. The Sisli district is an incredible part of town. Still, the Kustepe neighborhood, just a tiny portion of the district that you can walk around, has a history of crime: drugs, beggars, and other sketchy behaviors you want to avoid on your travels.

Laleli-Aksaray

These neighborhoods are in the Fatih district. While not dangerous, they also aren’t super comfortable places for travelers, especially women. Laleli is known for prostitutes, and Aksaray is where the most conservative live, so if you wander into these areas, dress as modestly as possible.

Is It Safe To Walk Around Istanbul At Night

Yes, the city of Istanbul is a very safe city. However, as with most major cities worldwide, it can be a little more troublesome during dark hours. Istanbul is precisely the same, but that also means you need to use your common sense as you would anywhere else.

There are certain parts of Istanbul where it’s just not a good idea to walk around after dark, but if you stick to the main areas, such as Sultanahmet, Besiktas, and Kadikoy , to give a few examples, you’ll be fine. Just don’t wander into quiet residential areas, as these will likely cause you a few more problems when it’s quiet and dark.

However, Taksim and Beyoglu are two places (strictly speaking, they run into one another, so it’s just one area) where you should be careful at night.

This is where most of the nightlife is located, so there could be fights, people getting drunk and causing problems, etc, which is the same in any active nightlife hotspot. It’s best to stick to the main roads and avoid alleyways in these areas.

Take a taxi back to your hotel if you need to walk any distance, and you should be more than fine.

Is It Safe To Use Public Transport While In Istanbul

I would totally recommend you make use of Istanbul’s fantastic public transport network and it’s very safe and easy to use. The only thing to be careful of is if you’re carrying a bag with you, especially if it’s a backpack.

Public transport, such as Metros and buses, can get extremely busy, to the point where you’re sharing personal space with people you’ve never met before. Trust me, it can get CROWDED. Of course, this is prime time for pickpockets and petty thieves.

Keep a hold of your bag in front of you, and make sure you don’t carry valuables around with you. You’ll notice that a lot of locals have their backpacks on their fronts, so follow their lead and do the same.

I wouldn’t use the Metro late in the evening, but that’s just my opinion. I would much prefer to get a taxi in that situation, especially if I was alone or just with another person. That’s only because Metro stations can be quiet during the late evening hours.

Istanbul’s Well-Known Scams

Best Things To Do In Istanbul - taksim square Red tram in Istiklal street

There are some well-known scams that most tourists fall foul of at least once during their first stay. After your first visit, you’ll know what to look for and be savvier!

Taxi Issues

Getting around Istanbul - Taxi in Istanbul

The most common is when you choose to use a taxi. Now, this is less of a problem these days because there are more rules that taxi drivers have to adhere to, but it doesn’t completely rule out the chances of this happening.

The good news is that public transport is effortless and very cheap, so that you can avoid this to a certain degree. A taxi driver may decide to take you on the scenic route to your destination, which costs you a lot more because the fare is determined by the meter and, therefore, by kilometer. Efforts, that plus, not every taxi driver will try to do this to you – it’s just the minority that may.

Shine Those Shoes

You’ll usually see someone drop a brush before you and walk away as though they’ve accidentally dropped it. This is usually a little older man. You’ll probably pick it up and call him back, thinking you’re doing a good deed. What you’ve done is fall for a scam.

The person will then offer to thank you for picking up their brush by giving your shoes a shine. They will refuse to take no for an answer, but you don’t know that they’re not doing this for free, and you’ll end up paying for their services.

“It’s Turkish Hospitality”

Solo Travel In Turkey

Now, I can vouch for the fact that most Turks are very hospitable and will treat you with great respect. But, in Istanbul, you’ll find this scam that takes that to another level and misuses it.

You’ll meet someone, and they will want to speak to you, usually because they want you to help them with their English. They’ll tell you that chatting like this is all part of Turkish hospitality.

You’ll have a friendly little chat, and everything will be great. But you don’t realize that you’re paying for the drinks they’re consuming. And often, the bar or restaurant is in on it, and you’re not getting away with not paying, no matter how much you complain.

It’s really best to say that you’re busy and walk away.

Wrong Change

Always check your change when you pay in cash, and try not to give large notes if possible. One common scam is that they will provide you with the change for a smaller note and then refuse your explanation that you gave them a larger note.

Pay with the right money if you can, or use your debit/credit card, which is widely available.

Lira Or Euro

In shopping malls, prices are set in Turkish lira , but some scrupulous traders will take your credit cards and process the sale in euros. Needless to say, the difference is drastic. You can avoid the charade by always paying in cash, which Turkish people like anyway.

Another way tourists are swindled is through the restaurant scam . Let’s say you go to a restaurant, review the menu, and order food. Your waiter comes over with a dish you haven’t ordered but insists you try. You might think it’s free, but it’s not. If you read reviews online and ask what’s included in the dish before ordering, you can avoid being scammed by restaurants.

Read all about scams in Turkey here. 

Storms & earthquakes in turkey.

Natural disasters are impossible to prevent, but keeping up with storm and snow weather forecasts and the news may help you stay safe.

In Istanbul and throughout Türkiye, earthquakes and tremors are common. Although they cannot be avoided, you can mitigate your own risk by following safety protocols during an earthquake.

If you’re caught in an Earthquake, flood, or snowstorm in Turkey, listen to the local authorities and follow their safety instructions.

Istanbul Safety Tips To Know

Istanbul - Roko Vladimir & Mate with Medusa head

Using your common sense will ensure your safety in Istanbul. To help you out, here are a few pointers.

Learn A Few Words Of The Local Language

You’re far less likely to be scammed if you speak Turkish, even just a little. Plus, it’s nice to talk to locals in their mother language.

Avoid Backpacks

This is especially the case on public transport when there are usually many people in a small space. Keep your bag very close to you, and if you use a backpack, have it on your front instead.

Find anti-theft bags here. 

Don’t show off your valuables.

It goes without saying, surely? Just leave them at home or in the hotel safe.

Get A Local SIM Card

Turkcell and Vodafone offer tourist sim cards with packets that give you internet , call, and text allowances. This will help you to get around more efficiently, and you’ll always have the ability to call someone if you need to

Don’t Go For The Cheapest Accommodation

If you search for accommodation in Istanbul, you’ll undoubtedly find a considerable amount, which is very reasonable. However, the cheapest options are usually not in the greatest of spots. Do your research and make sure you’re staying in a safe area.

Find the best accommodation in Istanbul here. 

Use the istanbul kart.

This is a pre-paid card you can use on public transport. You buy the card from a Metro station or the airport , or alternatively, a small kiosk on the street with the sign. Then top up your card and use it on buses, trams, Metro, and ferries.

Read all about transport in Istanbul here. 

Watch your drinks.

It’s always best to drink bottled beer and always keep your drink with you. Remember, drink measures vary from country to country, and you don’t want to find yourself drunk and unable to find your way back to your hotel.

As you can see, Turkey is a safe country, and you will have a safe trip to one of my favorite cities in Türkiye.

Is tap water safe to drink in Türkiye?

Turkish authorities claim tap water is safe to drink , but most tourists and locals prefer bottled water. It’s always best to buy bottled water when visiting another country , regardless of whether authorities claim tap water is safe.

Is English widely spoken in Turkey?

Turkish is the official language of Türkiye; that said, English is widely spoken , especially in Istanbul. But learning a few Turkish words or phrases for your vacation to Turkey is still a good idea . It is also highly appreciated by the locals.

Is Istanbul a safe city for tourists?

Yes, Istanbul is generally considered a safe city for tourists. However, taking usual precautions is always best, such as being aware of your surroundings and belongings.

Are there any specific areas to avoid in Istanbul?

Istanbul is a large city, and while most areas are safe, it’s recommended to avoid poorly lit or deserted areas, especially at night.

Is it safe to use public transportation in Istanbul?

Yes, public transportation in Istanbul is generally safe. However, being cautious in crowded places is advisable, especially during rush hours.

What should I do if I encounter any issues or emergencies in Istanbul?

If you encounter any issues or emergencies, seek assistance from the local authorities or your embassy/consulate. Istanbul has tourist police specifically trained to assist travelers.

Are there any specific safety tips for solo travelers in Istanbul?

While Istanbul is relatively safe for solo travelers, it’s essential to remain vigilant and avoid walking alone in remote areas, particularly at night.

What is the current security situation in Istanbul?

As security situations can change, checking with your government’s travel advisory for the latest updates and safety information before traveling to Istanbul is recommended.

Is it safe to visit popular tourist attractions in Istanbul?

Yes, popular tourist attractions in Istanbul are generally safe. However, be cautious of pickpocketing in crowded places and tourist hotspots.

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Türkiye travel advice

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Last updated: June 4, 2024 08:03 ET

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Safety and security, entry and exit requirements, laws and culture, natural disasters and climate, türkiye - exercise a high degree of caution.

Exercise a high degree of caution in Türkiye due to the threat of terrorist attacks and the possibility of demonstrations throughout the country.

Border region with Syria - Avoid all travel

Avoid all travel to within 10 km of the border with Syria, due to a deteriorating security situation.

Earthquake-affected provinces - Avoid non-essential travel

  • Kahramanmaraş

Southeastern provinces - Avoid non-essential travel

  • Bingöl

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Protests related to the situation in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip

Since October 17, 2023, protests have been taking place throughout Türkiye due to the ongoing situation in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Some protesters have targeted and vandalized popular Western-branded businesses and foreign diplomatic missions in Ankara, Istanbul and Adana, especially those of the United States and Israel. The protests have led to confrontations between protesters and security forces, road closures and traffic disruptions.

Additional protests at various locations cannot be ruled out and could pose a risk to your safety, regardless of your nationality.

Turkish authorities have employed enhanced measures to respond to demonstrations, including:

  • deploying additional security forces
  • using crowd dispersal methods

If you are near an affected area:

  • exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings at all times
  • expect heightened security measures
  • avoid all demonstrations and gatherings
  • follow the instructions of local authorities
  • plan and use alternative routes

Armed attacks

Turkish authorities remain on alert following armed attacks in Istanbul at the Italian Santa Maria Catholic Church on January 28, 2024 and the Caglayan Courthouse on February 6, 2024.

If you are in Istanbul, you should:

  • exercise increased caution
  • expect a heightened security presence
  • monitor local media

Border with Syria

Extremist groups have carried out attacks at border crossings and other locations in Syria close to the Turkish border. The Turkish government has declared some areas in villages along the border with Syria special security zones as part of cross-border military operations. Expect a heightened military presence and movement restrictions in these areas.

The security situation remains unpredictable.

  • Exercise extreme caution
  • Review your security measures regularly
  • Monitor these events very closely

Southeast region 

Terrorist groups have launched deadly terrorist attacks against Turkish security personnel in several cities and regions in the south and southeast of the country.

  • Remain vigilant
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local and international media

There is a risk, particularly to foreigners, of kidnapping in the area (see Kidnapping, below). Maintain a high level of vigilance at all times.

Avoid overland travel. If you must, drive during the day and stay on major roads. Don’t use public transportation.

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism from domestic and international terrorist groups in Türkiye. Many attacks have occurred throughout the country. Although most have occurred in the south and east, some also took place in major cities like Istanbul and Ankara.

Attacks have targeted:

  • Turkish military and government facilities
  • places of worship
  • tourist attractions and popular public places
  • nightclubs and entertainment venues
  • public transportation

Further attacks may occur, and terrorists may also target:

  • crowded places
  • places with high pedestrian traffic and where foreigners may gather
  • commercial establishments
  • local government offices
  • public transit stations
  • busy streets
  • long queues at tourist attractions

Turkish security officials may set up roadblocks or close streets when they receive reports on specific threats. It is common to have a proactive police presence.

  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times in public places
  • Avoid large crowds
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities at all times

Mountaineering and hiking

Mount Ararat, between the eastern provinces of Agri and Igdir, is designated a special military zone. You must hire the services of a locally licensed guide agency if you intend to hike in the area. A licensed company will obtain the necessary permits and assign you a registered Mountaineer to accompany you throughout your hike.

If you intend on engaging in mountaineering or hiking:

  • never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
  • buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
  • ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
  • ensure that you’re properly equipped and well informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
  • inform a family member or friend of your itinerary, including when you expect to be back to camp
  • know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
  • obtain detailed information on trekking routes or ski slopes before setting out and do not venture off marked trails

Accurate information on mountain conditions can be difficult to obtain. Weather in mountainous areas can also be unpredictable.

Identification

Random ID checks and ‎roadblocks may take place in large cities and on intercity roads.

Cooperate during ID checks and always carry your passport and visa or residence permit. Failure to produce these documents or non-compliance with Turkish officials during identity checks could result in fines, detainment or deportation.

Turkish authorities have detained and prosecuted large numbers of people over social media posts criticizing the government, state officials, president, military operations, etc. You could be subject to scrutiny if you posted similar comments, even if a post was published years ago or outside of Türkiye.

  • Keep in mind the sensitivities
  • Think twice before posting or reacting to online content criticizing the government
  • Restrain and limit your social media footprint

There is a threat of kidnapping-for-ransom along Türkiye’s borders with Syria and Iraq. Extremist groups take advantage of porous borders and an unpredictable security situation to carry out operations and use kidnapping as a means of raising funds.

They may target the local population, foreigners and even foreign aid workers.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations may occur. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations

Mass gatherings (large-scale events)

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, can occur throughout Türkiye.

  • Avoid showing signs of affluence
  • Ensure that your belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times
  • If travelling by car, keep valuable belongings out of sight, windows closed and doors locked

Muggings, assaults and sexual assaults occur.

Spiked food and drinks

Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery. Do not accept food and drinks from strangers, even if the wrapping or container appears intact.

Don’t go to down-market bars and neighbourhoods. One scam, particularly common in Istanbul, involves locals inviting tourists to bars for food and drinks and then forcing them to pay a steep bill.

Don’t accept letters, parcels or other items from strangers. Drug traffickers sometimes attempt to convince foreigners to deliver packages and messages into and out of Türkiye.

Credit card and ATM fraud occurs. Be cautious when using debit or credit cards:

  • pay careful attention when your cards are being handled by others
  • use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
  • avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
  • cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
  • check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements

If you’re travelling to Türkiye to meet someone you’ve only met online, or the person in Türkiye asks to wire money, you may be the victim of a scam. Don’t send money to someone you have never met in person.

Overseas fraud

Women’s safety

There is a risk of sexual assault.

Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Be aware of your surroundings.

Dress conservatively, especially in areas outside major cities and coastal resorts.

Advice for women travellers

Stray animals

There are numerous stray dogs and cats in Türkiye. Dogs often travel in packs and could attack pedestrians and joggers.

Don’t attempt to feed or pet stray animals.

Road safety

Türkiye has a modern road network. However, uneven surfaces and poorly marked lane changes near construction zones, are common.

Exercise caution, especially when driving in the rain. Severe weather conditions may seriously affect road conditions.

Ensure that your vehicle is in good repair. Avoid driving after dark outside of major cities or major roads.

Accidents are common. You may face the following hazards when driving in the country:

  • reckless driving
  • vehicle breakdown due to poor maintenance practices
  • dangerous road conditions
  • inadequate lighting
  • poor signage
  • high-volume traffic congestion

If you come across an accident, don’t slow down or stop to observe.

If you are involved in an accident, lock your doors and windows and call 112 to notify the police.

Don’t move your vehicle until advised to do so by the police, even if your accident results in:

  • blocked traffic routes
  • injuries to those involved
  • a disagreement
  • a crowd starting to form

You may be permitted to move your vehicle after communicating with the police if you are on a busy road, once you have taken pictures of the scene.

Although pedestrians officially have the right of way, it may not be the case in practice.

General Directorate of Highways

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

Information about foreign domestic airlines

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

We have obtained the information on this page from Turkish authorities. It can, however, change at any time.

Verify this information with the  Foreign Representatives in Canada .

Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.

Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.

Regular Canadian passport

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the duration of stay indicated on your visa, e-Visa, visa exemption or residence permit.

Passport for official travel

Different entry rules may apply.

Official travel

Passport with “X” gender identifier

While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Other travel documents

Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Useful links

  • Foreign Representatives in Canada
  • Canadian passports

Work visa: required Tourism visa: not required for stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period Business visa: required Student visa: required Medical visa: required

If you are travelling to Türkiye to seek medical services, apply for a medical visa through the HealthTürkiye online portal. You should also consult our advice on medical tourism under the  Health  section before applying for a medical visa.

If you are travelling to Türkiye and need a visa, use the official Turkish government site to apply online and purchase an e-visa before entering the country. Be cautious of third-party websites that offer help in getting any type of visa, as they charge additional fees to provide information and submit applications for you. They are not operating on behalf of the Government of Türkiye.

If you plan to study or work in Türkiye, you must obtain a visa at a Turkish embassy or consulate before arriving in Türkiye.

To qualify for a subsequent visa-exempted entry for a 90-day period in Turkiye, you must leave the country for at least 90 days before being allowed to re-enter for another 90 days.

If you wish to remain in Türkiye for longer than 90 consecutive days, you must obtain a residence permit from the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management in the province in which you reside. If you overstay, you might be fined, deported or banned from future travel to Türkiye for a specific period of time.

  • E-visa application system  – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Türkiye
  • Residency permit applications – Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Türkiye
  • HealthTürkiye online portal – Ministry of Health of the Republic of Türkiye

Entry stamp

Ensure Turkish immigration officials stamp your passport on arrival. Failure to produce a stamped passport is punishable by a fine, detention and deportation, and can lead to significant delays at departure.

Dual citizenship

Dual Turkish-Canadian citizens must present a valid Turkish passport or piece of identification to enter the country.

  • Children and travel

Learn more about travelling with children .

Yellow fever

Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).

Relevant Travel Health Notices

  • Global Measles Notice - 13 March, 2024
  • COVID-19 and International Travel - 13 March, 2024

This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.

Routine vaccines

Be sure that your  routine vaccinations , as per your province or territory , are up-to-date before travelling, regardless of your destination.

Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.

Pre-travel vaccines and medications

You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary. 

Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.

Country Entry Requirement*

  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.

Recommendation

  • Vaccination is not recommended.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.

About Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada

There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.

Practise  safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.

Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is a risk in some areas of this destination. It is a viral disease that affects the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It is spread to humans by the bite of infected ticks or occasionally when unpasteurized milk products are consumed.

Travellers to areas where TBE is found may be at higher risk  during April to November, and the risk is highest for people who hike or camp in forested areas.

Protect yourself from tick bites . The vaccine is not available in Canada. It may be available in the destination you are travelling to.

In this destination, rabies is commonly carried by dogs and some wildlife, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. While travelling, take precautions , including keeping your distance from animals (including free-roaming dogs), and closely supervising children.

If you are bitten or scratched by a dog or other animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. In this destination, rabies treatment may be limited or may not be available, therefore you may need to return to Canada for treatment.  

Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who are at high risk of exposure (e.g., occupational risk such as veterinarians and wildlife workers, children, adventure travellers and spelunkers, and others in close contact with animals). 

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.

Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.

  Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus.  Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.

Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.

 The best way to protect yourself from seasonal influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated every year. Get the flu shot at least 2 weeks before travelling.  

 The flu occurs worldwide. 

  •  In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs from November to   April.
  •  In the Southern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs between April and   October.
  •  In the tropics, there is flu activity year round. 

The flu vaccine available in one hemisphere may only offer partial protection against the flu in the other hemisphere.

The flu virus spreads from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Clean your hands often and wear a mask if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

Safe food and water precautions

Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.

  • Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
  • Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
  • Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs. 

Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.

The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Typhoid   is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.

Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.  

Insect bite prevention

Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:

  • Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
  • Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
  • Minimize exposure to insects
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed

To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.

Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.

Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is a viral disease that can cause fever, pain and bleeding under the skin.  In some cases, it can be fatal.  It spreads to humans through contact with infected animal blood or tissues, or from the bite of an infected tick.  Risk is generally low for most travellers.  Protect yourself from tick bites and avoid animals, particularly livestock.  There is no vaccine available for Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever.

Animal precautions

Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.

Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.

Human cases of avian influenza have been reported in this destination. Avian influenza   is a viral infection that can spread quickly and easily among birds and in rare cases it can infect mammals, including people. The risk is low for most travellers.

Avoid contact with birds, including wild, farm, and backyard birds (alive or dead) and surfaces that may have bird droppings on them. Ensure all poultry dishes, including eggs and wild game, are properly cooked.

Travellers with a higher risk of exposure include those: 

  • visiting live bird/animal markets or poultry farms
  • working with poultry (such as chickens, turkeys, domestic ducks)
  • hunting, de-feathering, field dressing and butchering wild birds and wild mammals
  • working with wild birds for activities such as research, conservation, or rehabilitation
  • working with wild mammals, especially those that eat wild birds (e.g., foxes)

All eligible people are encouraged to get the seasonal influenza shot, which will protect them against human influenza viruses. While the seasonal influenza shot does not prevent infection with avian influenza, it can reduce the chance of getting sick with human and avian influenza viruses at the same time.

Person-to-person infections

Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette , which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:

  •   washing your hands often
  • avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
  • avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) , HIV , and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.  

Medical tourism

Medical tourism is common in Türkiye. Canadian travellers have had serious health complications following surgeries abroad. The Turkish government recommends that all travellers seeking medical services select healthcare providers authorized by the Turkish Ministry of Health.

Before leaving for medical travel, you should do your research, especially on:

  • the health and financial risks
  • medical facilities performing the intended procedure
  • language barriers, which can lead to misunderstandings about your medical care and conditions
  • travel insurance that includes coverage for the type of medical procedure you will be undergoing

The Turkish authorities established the HealthTürkiye online portal, which provides information to foreigners about medical tourism in Türkiye.

You should discuss your medical plans with your primary healthcare provider in Canada before travelling. 

  • Make sure that the healthcare providers you choose are authorized by the Turkish health authorities.
  • Ask to see the credentials of the healthcare providers
  • Obtain a written agreement detailing the proposed treatment or procedure.
  • Receiving medical care outside Canada
  • If you become sick or injured while travelling outside Canada or after your return
  • Authorized healthcare providers  - Ministry of Health of the Republic of Türkiye (In Turkish)
  • International Health Services Call Center  - Ministry of Health of the Republic of Türkiye
  • HealthTürkiye – Ministry of Health of the Republic of Türkiye

Medical services and facilities

Modern medical care is available in major cities but may not be in remote areas. Immediate cash payment is often required.

Most provincial and territorial health care programs are extremely limited in the coverage offered abroad. 

Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.

Travel health and safety

Universal health coverage

Foreigners with residency permits must register for universal health coverage under Turkish Social Security (SGK). Although Canadian citizens are exempt, you may enroll if you have no other coverage and you have been a resident in Türkiye for at least one year.

Universal Health Insurance  - Türkiye's social Security Institution

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a   travel health kit , especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You must abide by local laws.

Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad .

Authorities can request to see your ID at any time. If you fail to present valid identification documents upon request, you could face:

  • deportation
  • entry ban for future travel into Türkiye

During your stay:

  • carry the original version (not only photocopies or digital versions) of a valid government-issued ID, such as your passport, at all times.
  • keep a digital copy of your ID and travel documents in case it is seized or lost
  • follow the instructions of the local authorities requesting the documents

If you are temporarily in Türkiye, you should carry a valid passport that contains a Turkish entry stamp and a valid visa.

If you reside in Türkiye, you should carry your Turkish resident ID (Kimlik and/or Ikamet) and a valid passport that contains a Turkish entry stamp and a valid visa.

The use of illegal drugs is prohibited. Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and heavy fines.

Don't agree to carry any baggage that is not yours.

Drugs, alcohol and travel

Lèse-majesté

It is illegal to denigrate, desecrate or insult the following:

  • the name or image of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Türkiye
  • the president of the Republic of Türkiye
  • the Turkish flag and the national anthem
  • Turkish currency
  • State organs and institutions and its judicial bodies
  • the police and the military

Religious proselytism

Although religious proselytism is not illegal, some activities may be considered illegal and could lead to detention.

Political discussions

Avoid discussions (including on social media) on historical and religious issues as well as on politics.

  • Restrain/limit your social media footprint.

Online activities

Turkish authorities have detained and prosecuted people over social media posts criticizing the government, state officials, president, military operations. You could be subject to scrutiny even if a post was published years ago or outside of Türkiye.

Authorities have also targeted people and groups for:

  • publishing statements
  • organizing news conferences
  • organizing or participating in nonviolent activities
  • critical writing and online activism protesting the government, its policies, decisions and actions

Even if a case does not go to trial or ends in acquittal, people can be labelled as terrorism suspects and face adverse consequences due to investigations and criminal proceedings, including possible loss of employment and social exclusion.

Photography

It is forbidden to photograph military or public installations. Avoid photographing public demonstrations or members of police or security forces. Cameras may be confiscated. Do not photograph people without their permission.

Turkish antiquities and other cultural artifacts that are considered of historical value or of national importance cannot be exported. Seek advice from Turkish authorities prior to departure from Türkiye. If the item can be exported, you will require a sales receipt and the official museum export certificate issued by the Turkish customs office.

2SLGBTQI+ travellers

Turkish law does not prohibit sexual acts between individuals of the same sex. However, homosexuality is not widely socially accepted.

Travel and your sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics

Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Türkiye.

If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Türkiye, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements .

Travellers with dual citizenship

International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and Türkiye.

If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Türkiye, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the Turkish court.

If you are in this situation:

  • act as quickly as you can
  • contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
  • consult a lawyer in Canada and in Türkiye to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
  • report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children's Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre

If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.

Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country's judicial affairs.

  • List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
  • International Child Abductions: A guide for affected parents
  • The Hague Convention – Hague Conference on Private International Law
  • Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
  • Request emergency assistance

You should carry an international driving permit.

International Driving Permit

Dress and behaviour

Islamic practices and beliefs are closely adhered to in many parts of the country.

In all places of worship, women should cover their head with a scarf and all visitors should cover their arms and legs.

  • Dress conservatively, especially in areas outside major cities and coastal resorts
  • Behave discreetly
  • Respect religious and social traditions to avoid offending local sensitivities

In 2025, the lunar month of Ramadan is expected to begin on or around February 28.

In public, between sunrise and sunset, be discreet when:

The currency of Türkiye is the Turkish lira (TRY).

Earthquakes

In February 2023, severe earthquakes struck several provinces in southeastern Türkiye resulting in tens of thousands of casualties and significant damage to critical infrastructure, buildings and private houses. There are reports indicating that most of the affected local populations live in temporary shelters or settlements awaiting reconstruction.

The authorities revoked the state of emergency on May 9, 2023. Recovery work is underway, but the situation remains precarious in the following southern provinces affected by the earthquakes:

If you are in the affected area, you can expect:

  • continued telecommunication and electricity disruptions
  • frequent aftershocks
  • limited food, water and hygiene options
  • limited accommodations
  • extremely limited transportation options from the disaster area

If you are planning to travel near an affected area despite this advisory:

  • monitor local media for the latest developments

Avoid non-essential travel to the provinces affected by the earthquakes as our ability to provide consular assistance to Canadians in that area is severely limited. If you need assistance, call the Embassy of Canada in Ankara: 90 (312) 409-2700.

Türkiye is located in an active seismic zone. Landslides are possible in affected areas, and strong aftershocks may occur after the initial earthquake.

Earthquakes - What to Do?

Severe rainstorms occur in various regions around Türkiye, especially in the Black Sea region and coastal areas. Heavy rainfall can cause severe flooding and landslides, resulting in extensive damage to infrastructure and hampering the provision of essential services in the affected areas. Roads may become impassable and bridges damaged.

Droughts and snowstorms can also delay travel and disrupt essential services.

Forest fires often occur during the summer months, particularly in provinces on the Mediterranean and Aegean coasts of Türkiye.

The air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke.

In case of major fire:

  • stay away from the affected areas, especially if you suffer from respiratory ailments
  • follow the instructions of local authorities, including evacuation orders
  • monitor local media for up-to-date information on the situation

Local services

Dial 112 for emergency assistance.

Consular assistance

Azerbaijan, Georgia. Offering consular services to Canadians in Iran.

For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Türkiye, in Ankara, or the Consulate General of Canada to Türkiye, in Istanbul, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.

The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.

If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.

Learn more about consular services .

Risk Levels

  take normal security precautions.

Take similar precautions to those you would take in Canada.

  Exercise a high degree of caution

There are certain safety and security concerns or the situation could change quickly. Be very cautious at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.

IMPORTANT: The two levels below are official Government of Canada Travel Advisories and are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country or region may be at risk.

  Avoid non-essential travel

Your safety and security could be at risk. You should think about your need to travel to this country, territory or region based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with the region, and other factors. If you are already there, think about whether you really need to be there. If you do not need to be there, you should think about leaving.

  Avoid all travel

You should not travel to this country, territory or region. Your personal safety and security are at great risk. If you are already there, you should think about leaving if it is safe to do so.

Istanbul.tips

The Best of Istanbul in One Place

Visiting Istanbul as an American: Safety, Restrictions and Requirements

Are you an American planning a trip to Istanbul? If so, you’re in for a treat. Istanbul is a city that bridges Europe and Asia, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and stunning architecture. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about visiting Istanbul as an American, including visa requirements, safety tips, and how to communicate with locals.

Page Contents

🚗 First Time in Istanbul? Be Prepared & Carefree!

Istanbul: Private Airport Transfer with Meet and Greet 🌟 4.4 / 5 (318 reviews)

Istanbul: Turkey and Europe eSIM Roaming Mobile Data 🌟 4.1 / 5 (216 reviews)

Istanbul: Full-Day Highlights Tour with Guide and Lunch 🌟 4.5 / 5 (1101 reviews)

🕌 Discover Famous Landmarks of Istanbul

Istanbul: Topkapi Palace & Harem Museum Ticket & Audio Guide 🌟 4.2 / 5 (205 reviews)

Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Entry & Audio Guide 🌟 4.4 / 5 (318 reviews)

Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour 🌟 4.4 / 5 (318 reviews)

Visiting Istanbul as an American: Visa Requirements

Before you set off on your Istanbul adventure, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper documentation. American citizens traveling to Istanbul will need a passport that’s valid for at least six months past their arrival date, as well as a visa. Fortunately, obtaining a visa is easy and affordable.

visiting istanbul as an american

You can apply for a sticker visa on the Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs website , which costs $50 and is valid for 90 days. If you plan to stay longer, contact a Turkish embassy or consulate to apply for a residence or work permit.

Is Istanbul Safe for Americans Right Now?

Safety is always a concern when traveling, especially to a city with a different culture and language. However, Istanbul is generally a safe destination for American tourists. Like any major city, there are some areas that are more prone to crime, such as the Esernyit and Sisli districts. But if you exercise caution and follow basic safety guidelines, you can avoid most problems.

couple sitting next to golden horn

Is Istanbul Safe for American Tourists?

As an American tourist, you may be concerned about standing out and becoming a target for crime. However, Istanbul is a welcoming city with a diverse population, and tourists are generally treated with kindness and respect. That being said, it’s important to be mindful of cultural differences and be respectful of local customs and traditions.

Read more about safety in Istanbul >>

Be Aware of Dangerous Areas in Istanbul

While Istanbul is a vibrant and historically rich city, it’s essential to be cautious of certain areas known for their higher crime rates. Notable neighborhoods to be mindful of include Kasımpaşa, Dolapdere, and Tarlabaşı. It’s always a good idea to research potentially unsafe areas and avoid them, especially during nighttime or when traveling alone.

For a comprehensive understanding of the areas to avoid and tips on staying safe, we recommend reading the article “ Istanbul Dangerous Places: Areas to Avoid and Tips for Staying Safe .” This guide will help you navigate the city while minimizing risks and ensuring a memorable experience in Istanbul.

Don’t Miss The Best Tours and Cruises in Istanbul

Book guided tours to enhance safety and see the real city.

To ensure safety while exploring Istanbul, consider joining guided tours led by experienced local guides. These tours not only provide valuable insights into the city’s history and culture but also help you avoid potentially unsafe areas.

Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show 🌟 4.3 / 5 (2533 reviews)

Istanbul: Private Turkish Bath, Massage, and Spa in Old City 🌟 4.8 / 5 (81 reviews)

Istanbul: Taste of Two Continents Food Tour 🌟 4.9 / 5 (243 reviews)

How to Communicate with Turkish People if You’re an American

While English is widely spoken in Istanbul, it’s always a good idea to learn a few basic Turkish phrases to help you navigate the city and connect with locals. Here are a few phrases to get you started:

  • Merhaba: Hello
  • Nasılsın: How are you?
  • Teşekkürler: Thank you
  • Pardon: Excuse me

Additionally, it’s helpful to have a translation app on your phone, such as Google Translate, which can help you communicate with locals and navigate menus and signs.

Save our guide with basic Turkish words to feel more confident while you are traveling!

Be Aware of Scams, Because Turkish People Know Tourists Have Money

Unfortunately, scams can occur in any city, and Istanbul is no exception. Some common scams in Istanbul include taxi drivers overcharging tourists , street vendors selling fake goods, and people pretending to be friendly locals in order to steal from unsuspecting tourists.

To avoid scams, be wary of anyone offering you unsolicited help or trying to sell you something. Always agree on a price before getting into a taxi, and avoid carrying large amounts of cash.

Avoid Taxi Scams at the Airport: Choose Private Transfers

To steer clear of potential taxi scams at the airport, consider using private transfer services like Welcome Pickups . These reliable services offer fixed prices, ensuring you won’t accidentally pay 2 000 TL instead of 500 for a ride (hard to believe, but it happens!). By opting for a private transfer, you’ll enjoy a hassle-free and trustworthy transportation experience from the airport to your destination.

Visiting Istanbul as an American: Our Conclusion

In conclusion, Istanbul is a safe and fascinating destination for American travelers. While there are some risks associated with any travel, taking precautions and being aware of your surroundings can go a long way toward ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip.

So, whether you are a seasoned traveler or embarking on your first international trip, visiting Istanbul as an American is an experience you will never forget. With a little bit of planning and a healthy dose of common sense, you can enjoy all that this magnificent city has to offer in comfort and safety. So pack your bags, grab your passport, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime in Istanbul!

You Might be Interested in:

Istanbul in may: weather & things to do, events in 2024.

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https://www.mfa.gov.tr/visa-information-for-foreigners.en.mfa US citizens traveling for the purpose of tourism do not need a Visa unless the will stay longer than 90 day in a 180 day period or they are using a diplomate passport.

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Wander-Lush

42 Things to Know Before You Visit Istanbul: Helpful Istanbul Travel Tips

Istanbul is a magnificent beast.

Thirty-nine districts, 15 million people, and 1700-plus years of history – it’s still difficult for me to wrap my head around a city of this scale.

I never know where to begin with Istanbul. And yet every time I arrive, I somehow feel instantly at ease. Turkey’s biggest metropolis has a way of encircling you, sweeping you up and taking you along for the ride. For me, it’s one of those places where it’s best to relinquish expectations and anxieties and just go with the flow.

View of Istanbul city at sunset from the Galata Bridge, with a Bosphorus ferry and mosque minarets. Travel tips for visiting Istanbul for the first time.

That’s easier said than done, and there are countless tidbits I wish I had known before I visited Istanbul for the first time back in 2019. On my recent re-visit, there were many more things I noticed for the first time.

I struggled to whittle this list down to a digestible size – not because travelling in Istanbul is particularly complicated or difficult, but because when you’re dealing with a city of such incredible breadth and depth, there’s just so much to talk about.

Here are 42 Istanbul tips that I think every traveller will benefit from , including cultural quirks, itinerary planning tips, logistics hints, and common faux pas.

  • Also read: The perfect itinerary for 4 days in Istanbul

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.

Istanbul quick links

  • Istanbul airport transfer: Private transfer from Istanbul Airport or Sabiha Gokcen (from $27)
  • Where to stay in Istanbul: Hostel Le Banc (budget); 38 Hotel (mid-range); Hotel Empress Zoe (boutique); Ecole St. Pierre Hotel (luxury)
  • Istanbul Official E-Pass: Pre-purchase online here
  • Skip the line: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour (from $40)
  • Best Istanbul food tour: Taste of 2 Continents (from $100)
  • Top-rated Istanbul city tour: Best of Istanbul in 1 Day (from $60)
  • Turkey car hire: Find a low-cost rental on Local Rent (from 28€/day)

Essential Istanbul travel tips

Starting with the basics, here are answers to some of the burning questions I had before my first visit to Turkey (Türkiye) and Istanbul.

1. Avoid visiting in summer

Never underestimate Istanbul’s magnetism. The city pulled in more than 14 million tourists in 2019 (including me), and on my most recent trip in 2022, it felt just as crowded as it had been three years earlier.

I’m willing to bet that most people visit Istanbul during the summer months – June, July and August. This feels a bit hypocritical because I myself have visited Istanbul twice during summer – but because I did, I know what peak season is like.

Istanbul’s climate is quite mild relative to other cities in the region. Temperatures might not go too far beyond 30 degrees Celsius in the shade, but the sun is scorching hot, and it’s very dry.

Aside from the oppressive heat, there are the summer swarms to contend with. (You haven’t really experienced a queue until you’ve stood in line for the Hagia Sophia on an August afternoon.) There are crushing crowds at every landmark during summer, and that gets old pretty quickly. On top of that, accommodation prices are noticeably higher and it can be challenging to get a reservation.

The best time to visit Istanbul is during shoulder season, spring (April to early June) or autumn (mid-September to the start of November). For something different, consider visiting Turkey in winter , when snow covers Istanbul and the city’s charm-o-metre is off the charts.

Take note of the dates for the Holy Month of Ramadan (usually around March-April-May, but it changes every year), which influences the way the city operates.

2. You need at least three days to do Istanbul justice

However many days you give yourself in Istanbul, it will never be enough. You will always feel like you short-changed yourself – there’s always one more neighbourhood to explore, one more ferry trip to take, one more museum to visit, one more restaurant to try…

Three days is the bare minimum for a first-time visitor, but you could easily stay for a week or more.

I recently spent 10 days in Istanbul and found it was a good amount of time to see the city at a relaxed pace. I stayed in the centre for that entire time, though I did have a few ‘down’ days to work. There are dozens of day trip opportunities to break things up if the city gets to be too much.

One of the highlights of Istanbul is the food, so you’d do well to measure the duration of your stay in meals eaten rather than nights slept! Six square meals (and a couple of ‘spread breakfasts’) is ideal for indulging in the best of Istanbul’s food scene .

Plan your time with my 4-day Istanbul itinerary , which covers the must-sees and a few local gems.

Ottoman-era wooden houses in Arnavutkoy district of Istanbul, Turkey.

3. Save time (and maybe money) by applying for an e-visa

Most nationalities require a tourist visa to enter Türkiye. The country’s e-visa scheme, which launched in 2013, is available to citizens of 40+ countries, including the States, Australia and Canada. (EU citizens do not need a visa.) A standard multiple-entry visa is valid for a stay of up to 90 days with 180 days validity from the date of issue.

Visa on arrival (VOA) is also available, but if you’re flying in, it requires queueing at the airport – and because of the high volume of flights arriving at IST particularly, it can be a long wait. For some nationalities, it’s also more expensive – 10 USD dearer on average compared to the e-visa according to the official fees (though for US passport holders, VOA is cheaper).

Applying for a Turkish e-visa requires completing a simple online form. The website has English-language support and international card payment, but be warned that sometimes it’s a bit glitchy. Both times I’ve applied, my visa has landed in my inbox almost instantly (within the hour). Be sure to print off the A4 piece of paper to show at immigration.

There are copycat sites out there – the official e-visa portal is located here .

I have never been asked for proof of onward travel or a hotel reservation when entering Turkey. If you want one or both for peace of mind without making an actual booking, then I suggest using OneWayFly .

4. Travel insurance is a must

Travel insurance is mandatory for all foreign visitors to Turkey. Again, you might not be asked to show proof of insurance if you’re travelling on an e-visa (I haven’t), but rules are rules nonetheless.

Istanbul is generally regarded as a safe city, but pickpocketing and crime do occur. More importantly, local health care can be expensive, so it pays to be covered in case of accident or unexpected illness.

For single-policy or annual trip insurance, I recommend HeyMondo. Get 5% off your policy when you sign up using this link .

Read up on these Istanbul safety tips before you go.

5. Use the Havabus (Havaist) shuttle to travel to/from the airport

Update: Since publishing this guide, both Istanbul airports now have an underground metro service. I would definitely look into this option – avoiding traffic could be a real time-saver. Here are more details .

Havabus is a terrific service for travelling between Istanbul’s airports (yes, there is more than one – see the next point) and the downtown area. Shuttles operate 24/7, with departures in both directions every 30-60 minutes.

Tip: At Sabiha Gokcen airport, the shuttle is called Havabus and at Istanbul Airport, it’s called Havaist. I have used both – they operate in much the same way, but they have separate websites for checking the schedule ( here for Havabus and here for Havaist).

When you land in Istanbul, look for the airport bus signage. At Sabiha Gokcen, the bus stand is located on the other side of the car park directly in front of the arrivals terminal. Tickets are purchased using cash on the bus and cost 37.50 TRY (around 2 USD) per person to go to Taksim.

If you prefer a private transfer, airport cars are very well priced (from $27 to/from either airport). Pre-book a door-to-door airport transfer online here .

Eventually the Istanbul metro will extend to IST Airport, but the line has not been completed yet.

6. There are multiple airports in Istanbul – don’t front up at the wrong one!

Istanbul Airport (IST) is the city’s largest and busiest international airport. Located on the European side in Arnavutkoy, 40km / 45 minutes’ drive from Taksim Square, it is sometimes referred to as ‘Istanbul Grand Airport’ or IGA. If you’re flying with Turkish Airlines or from Europe, there’s a high chance you will be landing at IST.

A second airport, Sabiha Gokcen International Airport (SAW), receives flights from the Middle East (Emirates, Qatar ) as well as Turkey’s own Pegasus Airlines. It is located on the Asian side, 40km / 60 minutes’ drive from Taksim Square.

A third airport, Ataturk Airport, closed in 2019.

The two airports are 80km apart and it takes at least 75-90 minutes to travel between them. There are shuttle buses, but if you show up at the wrong one for your flight, there’s a good chance you’ll be left high and dry. Triple-check your reservation and make sure you show up at the correct airport.

We got caught out with this on our first trip and rolled up at the wrong airport for our flight back to Australia. Luckily we had come a day early with the intention of staying the night at the airport hotel, so we still made our flight.

You can use Havabus/Havaist to get back to the airport from the city, too. Buses depart from Taksim Square. Take the metro to Taksim and follow the exit towards Taksim Gezi Park. From there, the station is a short walk (you will see the coaches waiting and two ticket booths on the footpath).

Buses to both airports depart from the same area, so again, triple-check you’re hopping on the right one!

7. Pre-book your accommodation

Hotel platform Booking.com doesn’t work in Turkey, so if this is your preferred way to find accommodation, you’ll need to do your browsing and booking before you arrive. (This can be overcome by using a VPN of course.)

Pre-booking is essential for peak-period travel as properties do fill up and prices can skyrocket for last-minute reservations.

I normally use Airbnb in Istanbul for the simple reason that I prefer to stay in local neighbourhoods. Sisli is my district of choice: It has great access to public transport, fantastic local restaurants, and a more relaxed vibe.

8. Card is widely accepted, but it helps to carry cash

Ninety-nine percent of venues and shops in Istanbul accept credit/debit cards, including Visa and Mastercard, as well as contactless pay. For small markets and convenience stores, local restaurants, bars and taxis – and when dipping into the wonderful world of Istanbul street food – you’ll need cash.

Many smaller shops in Turkey have a primary limit set on card purchases, meaning you need to meet a certain threshold if you want to pay with a card. In these instances, cash is necessary. Small bills also come in handy for tipping (more on that later).

I suggest withdrawing cash when you first arrive and reserving it for smaller purchases and tips. Check out my Istanbul Travel Budget to learn more about budgeting for your trip and the cost of common items and services.

Tipping is Istanbul, Turkish lira notes and coins on a restaurant table.

9. Most ATMs in Turkey charge a fee

ATMs are ubiquitous in Istanbul and most of the time, you’ll see half a dozen different cash machines clustered together. Majority charge a withdrawal fee – up to 5% for some banks – and have a transaction limit of between 3000-5000 TRY.

The only no-fee ATM we could find was Ziraat Bank. It’s red with a distinctive wheatear logo. We also used HalkBank, which did not charge us a withdrawal fee, but did hit us with a 13 TRY fee on Wise.

Banks change their fee structure regularly, so you might need to experiment with a few different machines. If the bank does charge a fee – either a flat fee or a percentage – this should always be displayed on the screen before you finalise the transaction.

On our first trip to Turkey, we had issues with our Australian bank cards not being accepted. This time around, I used my Wise card without any issues. I found the best method for withdrawing cash was to exchange stored currency to Turkish lira within the Wise app, then withdraw lira from the ATM.

Wise is great for international travel and offers very competitive exchange rates – if you don’t yet have an account, you can sign up here .

10. Buying a SIM card in Istanbul is easy, but your options are limited

Open WIFI is not readily accessible in Istanbul, which makes buying a local SIM card more or less a necessity.

If you’re not a Turkish citizen and you don’t hold a residency permit, you’ll find you have limited options when it comes to buying a SIM. Low-cost packages are not available to foreigners and most telcos only offer one standard tourist package.

After doing a bit of research, we settled on a Vodafone SIM. Vodafone only has one option for tourists, which includes 20GB of data, calls and texts, and unlimited access to Whatsapp. We paid 350 TRY (around 19 USD).

The process of buying a SIM is very straightforward and only took us about 15 minutes. You need a hard copy of your passport for registration, so make sure you’re carrying it with you. The tourist SIM automatically expires after 60 days.

A red Vodafone sim card at a shop in Istanbul, the best sim card for tourists in Turkey.

11. The public transport system is phenomenal

If you’re considering hiring a car in Turkey to continue your travels beyond the city, make sure you pick it up on the outskirts of the city (possible when using a company such as Local Rent ). The traffic is maniacal and I would not recommend driving in the city centre.

There’s no reason to drive a car in Istanbul, anyway: The public transport system is affordable, easy to use and reliable. Between the metro, trams, buses, ferries, and my personal favourite, dolmus vans, you can get anywhere you need to go with ease. Google Maps works well for planning your route.

Dolmus minivans – Turkey’s answer to a marshrutka – are a fun experience. The name literally means ‘stuffed’ because passengers are squeezed in like sardines. Keep in mind that the entire transport network is very busy and squishy during peak hour, especially in the morning between about 8-9.30am.

When boarding a bus in Istanbul, enter through the front door and tap your IstanbulKart on the electronic reader. If the bus is very full, you can board through the back doors and pass your card down the line for someone at the front to swipe.

12. You need an IstanbulKart transport pass

On our first trip to Istanbul, we walked a lot and relied on buying single-journey metro tickets for longer trips. This time around, we re-learned that only certain ticket machines inside the metro dispense single tickets – and usually they are the ones with an obnoxiously long line of people.

An IstanbulKart is an essential purchase if you plan to use public transport. There are several different cards available – all are valid for the metro, buses, trams and ferries. The so-called Anonymous IstanbulKart is recommended for tourists and is sold at kiosks and newsstands and inside metro stations for 50 TRY (non-refundable). You can use one card for multiple people (up to five people).

A single IstanbulKart fare costs 7.67 TRY. Compared to the 15 TRY for a single-journey ticket, you’ll end up saving almost 50% on every trip.

Note that metrobus fares vary according to the number of stops travelled, but metro fares are flat. Transfers are charged at 5.49 TRY for the first transfer and 4.17 TRY for the second leg.

Find more information about the public transport system here .

13. Use an app for taxis in Istanbul

Istanbul’s cab system is similarly well organised, with three types of taxis at different price points. Yellow taxis are standard and have the lowest fares (6.3 TL/km plus a switch-on fee of 9.8 TL). Turquoise taxis are a premium service and cost 20% more, while black taxis (always luxury vehicles) are twice as expensive as yellow taxis.

Taxis are metered, so it’s generally considered safe for a tourist to hail a cab on the street. However, scams do happen , which is one of the reasons most people (including many locals) prefer to use an app.

After numerous legal battles, Uber re-launched in Turkey in 2021. We used it on several occasions and found the service to be good – short wait times, friendly drivers, and competitive fares (we always paid in cash rather than hooking up our credit card – make sure you are carrying small bills).

Uber alternatives include BiTaksi and Itaksi. The former has POS contactless payment, which is great for paying by card.

A yellow taxi on a steep street in Istanbul's Galata district.

14. Tipping is standard

Tipping is customary in Turkey, with 10% being the standard mark for restaurants and bars. For taxi drivers, it’s normal to round up to the nearest lira when paying in cash.

Of course you should only tip if you’re satisfied with the service. We found the quality of customer service in Istanbul to be pretty good across the board, with the exception of one chain cafe where we had a terrible experience.

Tipping is slightly higher for other service providers: 10-20% goes to your tellak or natir at the Turkish baths, and to your hairdresser or barber.

15. Can you drink the tap water in Istanbul?

This is a rhetorical question, because I’m still not sure what the correct answer is! Locals will warn you off tap water while at the same time, the government is running campaigns to encourage more people to drink from the faucet.

From what I understand, Istanbul tap water was undrinkable a decade ago. Infrastructure improvements (and the addition of chlorine to the water stream) have made tap water safe to drink, but many people still prefer to drink bottled water.

If the building you’re staying in has old, rusty pipes, it might be best to give tap water a wide berth. Try a small quantity and see how it sits with you.

16. Don’t flush your loo paper

Istanbul’s pipes are a bit sensitive, thus most restaurants, cafes and hotels request you place toilet tissue in a bin rather than flushing it down the loo. If this is the case, you’ll likely see a sign and a strategically placed wastepaper bin. If in doubt, don’t flush it.

17. If you need a bathroom, head to the nearest mosque

After chasing after non-existent bathrooms in malls and metro stations, I finally cottoned onto this little Istanbul tip: There are public toilets attached to most mosques and in my experience, they are almost always cleaner than public bathrooms elsewhere. Pan toilets are common. Men’s rooms are marked with bay , and women’s with bayan .

Some bathrooms are free to use, while others charge a small (1-2 TRY) fee. Another good reason to carry some small bills or coins with you.

18. Sip ayran to keep your tummy happy

Ayran is a savoury yogurt drink that has its roots in Turkey, but is popular around the region (I developed my ayran addiction several years ago in Bosnia and Herzegovina and have been sipping it ever since). It’s not too creamy, not too watery, and has just a hint of salty effervescence.

Because it’s yogurt, it’s full of good bacteria that do wonders to keep your gut in balance. Just as you might drink lassis in India, you can drink ayran in Istanbul to help ward off any potential food or water-related bugs.

Food poisoning definitely does occur in Istanbul, so watch what you eat and try to consume street food earlier in the day when it’s fresher (especially fish wraps and seafood).

People drink ayran with breakfast, lunch or dinner, and it is served at virtually every restaurant in Istanbul – either in little plastic tubs or from a fountain. Always go for the fresh option when it’s available: It’s light and aerated and extra delicious, presented with a big scoop of yogurty foam on top.

A silver cup of ayran, a creamy yogurt drink served with a round spoon at a restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey.

19. Drinking is common, but alcohol is not ubiquitous

The most popular alcoholic drinks in Istanbul are beer, wine and raki , a powerful spirit distilled from grapes or other fruits. Not all restaurants serve alcohol, however, and when you make your way over to the Asian side of Istanbul (which is noticeably more conservative), you’ll find that only a handful of establishments are licensed.

If you prefer to BYO, tekels are Istanbul’s answer to bottle shops. They normally sell a selection of local bottled beers and Turkish wines along with soft drinks, snack foods and cigarettes. It’s illegal to sell alcohol within 100 metres of a mosque or a school, so you won’t find any tekels in some neighbourhoods.

Sales are restricted to certain times of day – you cannot purchase drinks from a bottle shop between 10am and 6am (there are no restrictions on restaurants and bars, though). Alcohol is served as normal during Ramadan.

Excessive drinking is taboo in Turkish culture. Raki, the national drink, is a social beverage consumed slowly with food. It has aniseed notes and is sometimes served over water and ice, which gives it a milky colour.

If you want to try raki, head to a meyhane (meze bar), where alcohol is served with small places of food (also see point #26 on this list). You can order a small 350 mL bottle or a shot (~40 mL). Start slow – some rakis are 80-90 proof.

20. English is widely spoken (sort of)

The number of Turkish people who speak English is somewhere between 15-20% . Of course the rate is much higher in Istanbul, but still, English is not as widespread as you might imagine.

We found a bit of a paradox here: In big shops and phone stores, very little English was spoken, while we encountered staff who spoke perfect English in small restaurants and humble bakeries.

The bottom line is that it’s a bit of a mixed bag, so be prepared to sign and mime your way through some situations. Of course it helps to have some simple Turkish under your belt – knowing a few basic phrases can help to smooth things over.

Istanbul quirks to know before you go

Here are a few unusual quirks that tripped us up in Istanbul.

21. Pharmacies are hard to find

Turkey differentiates between ‘pharmacies’ and ‘cosmetic stores’ in a way that I’ve not noticed in any other country. The latter sells beauty and health products, but there is no pharmacist on staff and nowhere to buy over-the-counter medications or prescription meds.

Chains such as Watsons, Rossmann and Gratis are classified as ‘cosmetics stores’. If you need anything more serious than paracetamol or a revitalising face mask, you need a pharmacy or eczane .

Eczanesi are more difficult to come by. That’s because there are no chain pharmacies in Turkey. All pharmacies are small and owner-operated by a pharmacist – essentially mom-and-pop shops. You won’t find them in malls, only on the streets. Look for the ‘eczanesi’ sign in the window, and when using Google Maps, search for ‘eczane’ rather than ‘pharmacy’.

Pharmacies are worth hunting down if you need them: Many medicines are freely available in Turkey without a prescription, and prices are almost always cheaper than elsewhere in Europe. You do have to ask around, though, as every pharmacy has different stock and different generic brands. My partner spent several days searching for his medication and after asking at a dozen eczanesi, he finally found what he was looking for at a quarter of the price it is in Georgia.

22. Hand cologne is a thing

Istanbulites were sanitising their hands long before it was cool. The first time we had our hands doused in hand cologne by a friendly waiter, we assumed it was hand sanitiser – but no, this tradition far predates the pandemic.

Kolonya harks back to the days of the Ottoman Empire when a pleasant smelling liquid was sprinkled on guests’ hands as they would enter or exit private homes, hotels or hospitals. Today it’s widely used in restaurants after you pay the check. Some places have a little bottle on the table next to the salt and pepper shakers.

Scented with jasmine, lemon, rosewater or dark spice, a dash of hand cologne leaves your paws smelling fragrant fresh. Unlike hand gel, kolonya is very thin and watery – a little bit goes a long way. And because it’s ethanol-based, it does act as a disinfectant as well.

A bottle of lemon flavoured kolonya hand cologne at a restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey.

23. Don’t be surprised if you get asked for your phone number

Grocery stores, cosmetic stores, clothing shops and pharmacies alike seem to ask customers for a local phone number – I assume for marketing purposes rather than to track or register anything. This happened to us on a daily basis, and the first few times, the language barrier made it very confusing.

If you don’t have a local SIM (and even if you do), you can always say no and the cashier will copy a random number off the back of an old receipt.

24. Don’t stay too close to a mosque if you like to sleep in

Istanbul has its own backing track, and that is the sound of the call to prayer ( ezan ). The rumble of minarets whispering to each other is incredibly stirring – but your opinion might be slightly different if you happen to be laying your head near a mosque’s speakerbox every night.

The call to prayer happens five times a day, starting with the pre-dawn İmsak ( Fajr ), which reverberates around the city some time between 4-6am depending on the time of year. In July, it can be as early as 3.30am, with a second Sunrise ( Güneş ) call around 2 hours later.

With well over 3,000 mosques, you’ll more than likely have at least one or two nearby. If you’re a light sleeper, it’s worth scoping out the local mosques and choosing accommodation that’s further than earshot from the nearest minaret.

25. Don’t linger too long at a lokanta

Lokanta are a specific type of Turkish restaurant that serve casual, home-style meals to workers and tradesmen. Every neighbourhood has them, and they are a terrific place to sample salt-of-the-earth Turkish cuisine and soak up a bit of local culture at the same time.

When you sit down at a lokanta, a waiter will come to take your order within seconds. Some are cafeteria style, others are a-la-carte. At the end of the meal, empty plates are spirited away and the table sprayed and wiped just as fast as the food came out. Usually you settle the bill at a cash desk rather than requesting a written check.

It’s easy to overstay your welcome at this type of establishment, where the imperative is to turn tables as quickly as possible. They are perfect when you need a quick bite, but if you want a leisurely meal, choose a different sort of restaurant. Sidewalk meyhanes , for example, are the complete opposite. Serving meze and raki, they are designed for long, lingering lunches.

Wait staff at a meyhane restaurant in Kadikoy, Istanbul.

26. Don’t assume those meze plates are free

It’s normal for wait staff at a meyhane to present you with an attractive tray of small plates before they take your order. Turkish meze includes grilled eggplant with yogurt, fava beans, artichoke, and many, many more delicious bites designed for sharing over a bottle of raki.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming these small side salads are free – they are not. (Sides of chopped onion, herbs and chilli served in smaller silver dishes with kebab, on the other hand, are usually included in the price.)

27. Brace yourself for lots of uphill walking

They don’t call Istanbul the ‘City on Seven Hills’ for nothing. After a few days walking the streets, you might think the ‘city of seven million hills’ is a more apt nickname.

Constantinople was laid out in the image of Rome, which was of course built over a septet of hills. On the ground, it feels like all of Istanbul is rippled, with steep streets and vertiginous staircases at almost every turn. There are many advantages to this city plan, the delightfully sloped houses in Balat for one, and the spectacular city views you get from the higher elevations for another.

Comfy shoes and a whole lot of patience are absolutely essential when exploring Istanbul on foot, where it can literally feel like an uphill battle to get from one place to the next.

There are ways to avoid the slog, including using the funicular railways: Taksim-Kabatas and the historic Tunel that links Karakoy and Beyoglu. The latter is the world’s second-oldest subterranean rail line (after the London Underground) and the oldest still-operating underground funicular in Europe.

Istanbul travel tips to feel like a local

While it takes more than a three or four-day stay to feel like a fully fledged Istanbulite, here are a few little tricks to help you fit in.

28. Dress modestly to blend in

Istanbul is a metropolis through and through, with a liberal dress code to match. Almost anything goes, but I still recommend you cover up for comfort and to fit in with the crowd. Women should try to avoid plunging necklines, revealing fabrics, and very short hemlines.

There are noticeable differences between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul, with more modest dress and more hijabs worn in Uskudar compared to Eminonu, for example. Generally speaking, Turkey gets more conservative the further east you go, and this holds true even in the city centre. Keep it in mind if you’re travelling around the country.

One place you definitely must observe the dress code is mosques, where covered arms (to the elbow for men or the wrist for women) and legs (down to the ankles) is required. Women must also cover their hair. Majority of mosques have pull-over muumuus that you can borrow (for free) at the door to fully cover up. Note that there are no dress requirements for young kids.

It’s obligatory to remove your shoes when entering a mosque, so on days when you’re sightseeing, wear kicks that you can easily slip off and on. And if you prefer not to go barefoot, carry a pair of ankle socks in the bottom of your bag. Some mosques provide plastic bags, otherwise you can just leave your shoes outside.

A woman dressed in a cover-up at a mosque in Istanbul.

29. Never skip breakfast…

Breakfast is certainly the most important meal of the day in Turkey. Sunday breakfast is the queen of the morning meals, when the famous kahvalti tabagi ‘spread breakfast’ comes into its own.

On a Sunday, some Istanbulites spend the better part of the day between mid-morning and late afternoon gathered around the breakfast table with friends or family, noshing on an extravagant spread of cheeses, olives, cut vegetables and eggs served with supple somun bread. Kahvalti is a daily occurrence in places like Besiktast ‘Breakfast Street’ and in gourmet cafes such as Van Kahvalti.

If you’re on a tight timeline or a budget, breakfast doesn’t have to be drawn-out or expensive: There are faster and more affordable options, such as a pick-and-choose breakfast at Cakmak Kahvalti Salonu, where small plates range from 2-8 TRY each. 

Borekcisi (borek bakeries) serve portions of steaming hot filled pastry and chai, or for a simple breakfast snack on the go, grab a simit bagel from a street vendor.

30. …But don’t order coffee first thing

Kahvalti means ‘before coffee’. Breakfast is traditionally accompanied by cay , strong black tea, rather than Turkish coffee. It’s normal to down half a dozen glasses of tea in a single sitting (though two or three is usually enough). Most sit-down kahvalti breakfasts come with two pots of tea.

If you want to do things like a local, save your Türk kahvesi for after lunch and start your morning with cay sade – strong and bitter tea with no sugar – instead.

31. Don’t be afraid to haggle at the bazaar

Haggling is customary and expected at markets in Istanbul and in other commercial settings. You’ll find that most items at the Grand Bazaar or Spice Bazaar have a price tag, but for those that don’t (and even for those that do), it’s quite normal to bargain for a better price. This is especially true if you’re buying more than one of something or multiple items from the same vendor. Rule of thumb is to aim for a 35-50% discount on the sticker price.

There are huge mark-ups at the Grand Bazaar, which seems to be almost exclusively the domain of tourists these days. There are local markets and street markets all over Istanbul where you’ll have a better chance of striking gold for a fair figure. Markets are held on different days of the week and following a rotating schedule, so you can always find something on. Popular food and flea markets take place in Karakoy (Tuesdays), Ortakoy (Thursdays), Uskudar (Fridays), and Besiktas (Saturdays).

If you do decide to brave the Grand Bazaar or another historic market in Istanbul, the best advice I’ve heard is to do your shopping in the mid-morning. It’s more likely that vendors have already made a few sales and met their daily commission targets, so there will be less pressure on you.

32. Don’t fall for the ‘shoe cleaner trick’

This one got us good.

One early morning we were walking down an alleyway in Besiktas when we heard a clack on the cobbles and noticed that someone had dropped a wooden shoe brush. Being the saint he is, my partner rushed to pick it up without a second thought and handed it back to the shoe cleaner whose caddy it had tumbled from.

Expressing his profound thanks, the guy promptly took a seat on the curb at our feet and insisted on shaking my husband’s hand in gratitude. That’s when he grabbed him by the wrist in a monkey grip and tried to pull him down for a coerced shoe cleaning. I should mention that he was wearing joggers, not leather shoes!

Neither of us were aware of this common scam at the time, so we thought the whole situation was quite hilarious. The man had a gorgeous smile and was very friendly – we actually gave him credit for this ingenious trick.

Only later when we heard about the scam did we realise what had (almost) happened to us. Ross managed to talk his way out of it, dirty shoes still intact.

We were not mad in the slightest, but it could have been a different story had we actually been talked into handing over cash. Keep an eye out for this trick, especially in touristy areas.

33. Embrace cat culture

There are up to a million cats and kittens living on the streets of Istanbul. Every cafe is a cat cafe, and every corner has its own posse of cute pusses. A picture-perfect clowder of cats lounging on fence posts and chairs like the princes and princesses they are awaits you at every turn.

Similar to street dogs in Georgia , the cats of Istanbul are regarded as community pets rather than strays and are fed and cared for by the locals. For the most part, they don’t bother people and keep to themselves. We definitely encountered a few fiercer felines on our travels – it’s pretty obvious which cats want pats and which ones need their personal space. They will let you know with a dagger stare or a hiss.

Cat culture can be traced back to Ottoman times, when tabbys helped to quash the city’s mice population. In this respect, cats are an inseparable part of the city’s social fabric.

If you’re an animal lover, it can be distressing to see so many cats living rough, especially when they’re not in the best shape. (Though I must say that every cat I met in Istanbul was plump and rosy.) It helps to know that Istanbul (and all of Turkey) has a no-kill, no capture policy.

A cat looking longingly at a tank at a fish market in Uskadar, Istanbul.

34. Brush up on your basic hammam etiquette

Partaking in a traditional Turkish bath is a must-do in Istanbul. The hammams have aeons of history and custom attached to them – there are definite dos and don’ts, just as there are with the sulfur baths in Tbilisi . It helps to know how to handle things once the towels come out, lest you embarrass yourself.

Regarding nakedness, men normally strip down to nothing while women wear undies (single-use pairs are supplied by most bathhouses) then don a pestemal towel, which stays wrapped around you for the duration of your stay.

The Turkish-style skin peel/massage ( kese ) can be quite rough on the skin and muscles. The therapist, known as a natir or tellak , will always be of the same gender. It’s customary to tip them 10-20% after your treatment.

For more Turkish hammam hints, see this guide .

More helpful Istanbul tips to make the most of your visit

Finally, here are a handful of practical tips for planning your itinerary and getting the most out of your time in Istanbul.

35. Organise your Istanbul itinerary by neighbourhood/district

Istanbul has 39 districts, each with its own character and appeal. From the Instagrammable houses and antique shops in Balat, to the trendy cafes in Cihangir, the rambunctious fish market in Uskudar to the Ottoman-era mansions in Arnavutkoy , every corner of the city has something incredible up its sleeve.

A great way to organise your time in Istanbul is by planning your movements around the different neighbourhoods. Each one is quite discreet, so you can knock out a to-do list before moving onto the next.

Some neighbourhoods naturally pair together thanks to geography and transport logistics: Galata and Karakoy, Fener and Balat, Uskudar and Kadikoy, Cihangir and Cukurcuma. See my Istanbul 4-day itinerary for more ideas on how to plan your visit by district.

Colourful row houses in Balat, a famous neighbourhood in Istanbul, Turkey.

38. Consider signing up for a food tour

One thing every Istanbul neighbourhood has in common is its never-ending supply of cafes, restaurants and street food vendors. One of the best ways to discover the city – especially if you’re on a tight timeline – is by signing up for a food tour.

I was lucky enough to join Culinary Backstreets’ Born on the Bosphorus tour during my most recent visit to Istanbul. It was one of the highlights of my trip – not only because of the delicious food, but mainly thanks to our incredible guide, Benoit, who over the course of a full day taught me so much about Istanbul’s food and beyond.

The popular Taste of Two Continents tour, with 11 food stops and a Bosphorus ferry crossing, is a good alternative if you’re looking for a half-day experience.

37. Get an early start to beat the crowds

This is particularly important in summer, when the touristy parts of the city get extremely crowded. One of the best ways to avoid long waits at landmarks such as Galata Tower is by waking up early and arriving as doors open.

The metro starts running at 6am – and from Friday evening to Sunday morning public transport operates 24/7 – so there’s no excuse not to get out in the early AM.

Galata Tower, a must-visit in Istanbul for first timers.

38. Invest in a Museum Pass or Istanbul E-Pass

There is a gamut of different tourist cards and passes available for Istanbul. The 5-day Istanbul Museum Pass or the 2-7 day E-Pass is one of the best investments you can make if you plan on doing the rounds through the city’s best museums and big attractions.

The digital pass gives you skip-the-queue access to 10 of the city’s finest cultural institutions, including Galata Tower, Topkapi Palace and the Harem, the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, and the Galata Mevlevihanesi Museum.

Available to purchase online before you arrive, it uses a simple QR code system. Just show your pass on your mobile – no need to print anything.

Only buy the pass if it makes sense for you, though: You have to visit multiple attractions for it to pay off, though the other perks – particularly the ability to skip the ticket line – are invaluable in a sense.

Purchase the official Istanbul E-Pass here via Viator .

39. Check prayer times in advance

The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia are both active mosques, open to visitors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Except during prayer times, that is.

All of Istanbul’s mosques temporarily close to non-Muslim visitors five times a day for a period of about 90 minutes. For the duration of the Congregational Prayers, no tourists are permitted to enter.

It’s imperative to check prayer times in advance. If you show up while prayers are on, you will be met with a long wait outside. Times are signposted at the bigger mosques or you can check online .

The queue to enter the Hagia Sophia gets very long towards the end of the prayer session. The best time to visit is 30-40 minutes before the mosque is scheduled to close. Don’t try to visit on Fridays when the Jumu’ah prayer takes place – this is one of the busiest times, and it’s always crowded and chaotic.

If your Istanbul visit coincides with Ramadan or another Islamic holiday, prayer times might be different and mosques might be closed for longer periods during the day.

A sign in front of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul with opening times for the mosque and closures for daily prayers.

40. Skip the Bosphorus cruise – take advantage of local ferries instead

Some people opt to experience the Bosphorus on board a yacht at sunset with champagne and nibbles. If your budget won’t stretch that far, or you just prefer a local experience, then a ride on the public ferry offers the same ambiance and water views for a fraction of the price.

Hundreds of ferries criss-cross the strait, linking Istanbul’s Asian and European sides. The most scenic ferry routes include Besiktas to Kadikoy, Karakoy to Uskudar, and Karakoy to Kadikoy. Some boats go up the Bosphorus towards the Black Sea, and others head in the opposite direction towards the Princes’ Islands.

Bring a simit bagel to snack on (and to lure seagulls in for photos), or order a tulip-shaped glass of tea from one of the roving vendors on board.

A ferry on the Bosphorus in Istanbul glides past a beautiful mosque.

41. Don’t miss the sunset from Galata Bridge

There is only one way to end a day in Istanbul in my opinion, and that’s by watching the sun go down from Galata Bridge. It might be touristy as heck, but there’s a good reason why this is such a popular spot. Views of the glittering water and intertwining boats, mosque minarets silhouetted against a dusky blue sky framed by fishermen casting their lines off the edge of the bridge, are absolute gold.

I recommend finding a spot to stand on the western side of the bridge, above the area where the Karakoy ferry docks. Aim to arrive about an hour before sunset for the best light.

For the perfect Istanbul photo, wait patiently for the garbage truck to come down the street and dump its load in the bins near the ferry terminal – this sends the seagulls into a frenzy, and they fill the skies with their spinning and diving for a good 15 minutes.

42. ‘Authentic’ Whirling Dervish ceremonies still exist – here’s how to find one

Speaking of Istanbul must-dos: A Whirling Dervish show is a bucket-list item for many. I was warned that all Mevlevi Sema ceremonies had become commercialised and ‘spoiled’ by tourists to the point where they just weren’t worth pursuing any more. So I made it my mission to find a real, ‘authentic’ Sema ritual in Istanbul, and I’m happy to say that I eventually did.

Get all the details about the best Whirling Dervish ceremony in Istanbul in this guide .

A man films Dervishes at a traditional Sema ceremony at a local mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

Where to stay in Istanbul

Budget: Hostel Le Banc (⭐ 9.5) – This popular hostel in Beyoglu is footsteps from the Galata Tower and Sishane metro station. It features air-conditioned rooms (private doubles and mixed/all-female 4 and 10-bed dorms), a shared lounge and a terrace.

Mid-range: 38 Hotel (⭐ 8.6) – Located in Sisli, close to Osmanbey metro station, this hotel has compact, tidy double rooms and suites.

Boutique: Hotel Empress Zoe (⭐ 9.2) – This gorgeous boutique hotel is decorated with heritage flourishes and boasts hammam-like ensuites and private internal terraces. The location in Fatih, minutes from Sultan Ahmet Mosque and the Blue Mosque, is very central yet the hotel still feels secluded.

Luxury: Ecole St. Pierre Hotel (⭐ 9.5) – Located in Beyoglu close to Galata Tower, this boutique-luxury hotel offers high-end suites with private courtyards and terraces. The building, an old Italian Dominican school with remnants of the 13th-century Galata walls inside its courtyard, is dripping with history.

Turkey essentials

Here are some of the websites and services I recommend for planning a trip to Turkey. Remember to check out my full list of travel resources for more tips.

FLIGHTS: Find affordable flights to Turkey using the Skyscanner website .

VISAS: Use iVisa to check if you need a tourist visa for Turkey and apply for an expedited visa online.

DOCUMENTATION: Use OneWayFly to obtain proof of onward travel/hotel reservation for your visa application.

TRAVEL INSURANCE: Insure your trip to Turkey with HeyMondo , my preferred provider for single-trip and annual travel insurance.

CAR HIRE: Use the Local Rent platform to hire a car from a local agent. Prices start from as little as 18€ per day.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Turkey hotel deals on Booking.com .

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: Browse the Viator website to find the best itineraries and prices for Istanbul food tours, Cappadocia balloon rides and more!

More Istanbul travel resources

  • 1-4 day Istanbul itinerary
  • Istanbul travel budget
  • The ultimate guide to eating out in Istanbul
  • Tips for visiting Galata Tower for Istanbul city views
  • The best Whirling Dervishes ceremony in Istanbul
  • Guide to Arnavutkoy, Istanbul’s most beautiful district
  • The best places to visit in Turkey
  • Turkey in winter: Where to go plus travel tips

12 Comments

Detailed tips are super helpful, especially about the best time to visit and the ins and outs of public transport.

Thank you. Right now in Turkey with wife and kids. Following your steps and recommendations. Just one thing: booking asked for a price but the hotel converted the price to Liras and charged me much more for exactly the same booking and service! Thank you again,

I love your travel blog! Your vivid descriptions and stunning photographs make me feel like I’m right there with you. It’s inspiring to see someone embracing adventure and exploring new cultures. Keep the travel stories coming!

Excellent article and links for further information. I am planning a trip to Turkey in September with my wife and your articles a great start and support. Great job! Alejandro

This is very, very helpful. Thank you so much.

Early in your article you indicated that Booking.com does not work in Turkey, yet in the section, entitled “Turkey Essentials”, you direct us to that site for Hotels. Maybe I am missing something, but that appears to be contradictory. I found the article very helpful…..Thanks for the information.

Hi JB – I still recommend using Booking, only you have to reserve from outside of Turkey ie. before you arrive.

Thanks so much, this was really helpful. Lots of good to know stuff that I didn’t find mentioned elsewhere

it was very helpful thank you

Ha, I made the same mistake again and didn’t read through your info thoroughly. In Georgia, I paid more than I needed to for a SIM at the airport and this time, I could have saved a few lira on a bank withdrawal in Istanbul.

Already appreciating the smiles and kindness in Istanbul very much.

Love your work Emily.

Perhaps it’s different for Australian passport holders, but I found the VOA to be a better deal than the eVisa for Americans. Our eVisas were fast and easy to get, but cost $50 plus a 2 dollar service fee. We got them before traveling to Turkey last year, but went twice to make them a better value. This past month we got VOA (no lines) and paid 25 euros each. Both are valid for 6 months. Plus you get a little visa stamp in your passport!

Thanks Owen for the info – you’re right, VOA is more affordable for US passport holders, but not for us Aussies unfortunately! I would have loved a visa stamp. I’ll update that now. Cheers!

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Why You’ll Pay More and Behave Better When You Travel This Summer

From Barcelona to Bali, higher fees and new rules are targeting overtourism and unruly behavior. Some locals are worried the changes will keep tourists away.

Crowds of people in bathing suits and shorts sit beneath colorful umbrellas on a beach that is so crowded, the sand cannot be seen.

By Paige McClanahan

A new tourist fee in Bali. Higher hotel taxes in Amsterdam and Paris. Stricter rules on public drinking in Milan and Majorca. Ahead of the summer travel season, leaders in many tourist spots have adopted measures to tame the tourist crowds — or at least earn more revenue from them.

All of this may pose headaches for travelers, although in most cases, the new fees or tax increases represent only a tiny fraction of the total cost of a trip. The goal is to ensure that tourism functions smoothly for visitors and locals alike, said Megan Epler Wood, managing director of the Sustainable Tourism Asset Management Program at Cornell University.

“All tourism is dependent on beautiful natural and cultural resources. You have to protect those resources in order to be a viable tourism destination — and if you don’t, they degrade,” Ms. Epler Wood said.

In some places, proposals for new fees or visitor rules have drawn opposition from residents, who fear they might scare away the tourists who bolster the local economy. But destinations need to find ways to counteract what Ms. Epler Wood calls “ the invisible burden ” of tourism, which includes strains on a community’s infrastructure, utilities and housing stock, as well as tourists’ carbon footprint and any challenges they might impose on residents’ daily lives.

“You put so much pressure on the place that the people who live there become unhappy, and then they don’t present a very good face to tourists,” Ms. Epler Wood said. “The longer you wait, the higher the cost to fix it.”

Here is a look at new measures that travelers can expect this summer, and where others might be coming in the future.

New visitor fees

Since February, visitors to the Indonesian island of Bali have been asked to pay a levy of 150,000 Indonesian rupiahs, or about $9.40 per visit. Revenue will be used to support the preservation of cultural and natural assets on the island, where tourism has brought major challenges related to litter, water supply and overcrowding. Visitors are encouraged to pay the new fee online before departure, although it’s also possible to pay on arrival at the airport.

Beginning Aug. 1, most foreign travelers to the Galápagos Islands — which had a record-breaking 330,000 visitors last year — must pay a $200 entry fee, double the current rate. The money raised will be used to support conservation, improve infrastructure and fund community programs.

The change is the first increase to the entry fee since it was introduced in 1998, said Tom O’Hara, communications manager for the Galápagos Conservation Trust . Mr. O’Hara noted that the increase comes a year after the UNESCO World Heritage Committee urged the government of Ecuador to work toward a “zero-growth model” for tourism in the Galápagos.

“It’s quite a complicated topic,” Mr. O’Hara said, noting that the fee increase has been viewed “as part of the solution to overtourism.” On the other hand, he added, “everyone is trying to reassure the local tourist industry that this isn’t going to kill tourism on the islands.

In April, Venice began imposing a fee — 5 euros, about $5.40 — on day-trippers visiting on peak days, with the goal of striking “a new balance between the tourists and residents.”

But the new Venice Access Fee has drawn criticism from residents. “This project is a disaster for us. We are a city, not a park,” said Matteo Secchi, the president of Venessia.com, an association of Venice residents. Mr. Secchi said that a communications campaign would have been more effective.

The possibility of a new tourist fee has also drawn local opposition in Hawaii, where Gov. Josh Green has proposed a “climate impact fee” for visitors to the state. The measure failed during a recent meeting of the State Legislature, but Governor Green has persisted in calling for visitors to help fund the state’s preparation for future climate shocks.

“We have to get this tiger by the tail,” he told journalists in May, adding that $25 per visitor could raise $250 million a year, which the state could use to guard against climate disasters, manage erosion, strengthen infrastructure and protect parks.

Hotel fees and other taxes get a bump

Hotel taxes, also known as occupancy or accommodation taxes, are widespread in the United States and Europe, where they were on the rise for a decade leading up to the pandemic. With tourism’s rebound to prepandemic levels, several destinations have increased or adjusted the tax to capture more revenue.

Like Hawaii, Greece — which also suffered severe wildfires last summer — is looking to steel itself against climate disasters, and the government wants tourists to help foot the bill. Greece is calling the charge a climate crisis resilience fee , and it will be collected by accommodation providers. The tax will be higher from March to October, when it will top out at €10 per night at five-star hotels. The rate drops from November to February, and for hotels with fewer stars. The fee replaces the previous hotel tax, which ranged from €0.50 to €4 per night.

In Amsterdam, the hotel tax, which was already one of the highest in Europe, rose to 12.5 percent from 7 percent on Jan. 1. City lawmakers have also raised the tax on cruise passengers to €14 from €11 per person per night.

The hotel tax in Barcelona also rose this year, increasing to €3.25 per night. The measure was the final step-up in a gradual increase that began before the pandemic. A spokesman for Barcelona City Hall said that further tax increases would be aimed at tourist rental apartments and cruises that make short stopovers, which contribute less to the city’s income. The spokesman also noted that revenue generated by the tourist tax is being used, among other things, to fund the installation of solar panels and air-conditioning in Barcelona’s public schools.

Ahead of this summer’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, lawmakers in the Île-de-France region have imposed a new tax, on top of the normal hotel levy. With the new tax, which will fund public transportation in the region, a guest in a five-star hotel now owes a total of €10.73 in tax per night stayed, while a stay in a two-star hotel incurs a tax of €3.25 per night.

Though the measure was adopted by the regional government, it was not supported by the leadership in Paris itself. A spokeswoman for Paris City Hall called the move “a democratic power grab” that “in no way benefits the city of Paris.” She noted that even with the funds generated by the new tax, the region still raised the price of tickets for public transportation in the city during the Olympics — a measure that has disgruntled many Paris residents.

Introducing new rules

In other tourist spots, the focus is on curbing behavior that pollutes the local environment or harms residents’ quality of life.

In Japan, authorities at Mount Fuji will cap visitors at 4,000 per day. They have also imposed a new fee of 2,000 yen (about $13) for access to the iconic summit. Elsewhere in the country, a community council in the Gion neighborhood of Kyoto has closed some small roads to tourists, after complaints that the area, home to the city’s geisha district, was suffering from crowds.

“We will ask tourists to refrain from entering narrow private streets in or after April,” Isokazu Ota, a leading member of the community council, told Agence-France Presse in March. “We don’t want to do this, but we’re desperate.”

A spokeswoman for the city’s tourism board described the road closures as “a local initiative,” adding that “neither Kyoto City nor the Kyoto City Tourism Association are aware of any details beyond what is reported in the media.”

Rowdy visitor behavior has been the target of new rules in Milan. In some areas, city leaders have banned outdoor seating after 12:30 a.m. during the week and 1:30 a.m. on the weekend in response to resident complaints. They have also limited the late-night sale of takeaway food and drinks.

And in certain areas on the Spanish Balearic Islands of Majorca and Ibiza that are overrun with drunk tourists, the government has imposed a ban on late-night sales of alcohol and the consumption of alcohol in the street. New restrictions have also been imposed on party boats in the same areas.

“Tourism has negative externalities that must be managed and minimized,” Marga Prohens, the president of the Balearic Islands, told a local gathering this month , according to The Majorca Daily Bulletin. Local tourism, she said, “cannot continue to grow in volume.”

Paige McClanahan, a regular contributor to the Travel section, is author of “The New Tourist: Waking Up to the Power and Perils of Travel,” forthcoming from Scribner on June 18.

Open Up Your World

Considering a trip, or just some armchair traveling here are some ideas..

52 Places:  Why do we travel? For food, culture, adventure, natural beauty? Our 2024 list has all those elements, and more .

The Alaska Highway:  On an epic road trip, a family plots a course from Alaska to the Lower 48, passing through some of Canada’s most spectacular scenery .

Minorca:  Spend 36 hours on this slow-paced Spanish island , which offers a quieter and wilder retreat than its more touristy neighbors.

Japan:  A new high-speed train stop unlocks Kaga, a destination for hot springs, nourishing food and traditional crafts , as an easy-to-reach getaway from Tokyo.

London:  The Victoria and Albert Museum is a treasure trove of art and design. Here’s one besotted visitor’s plan for taking it all in .

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The 10 Best Lightweight, Breezy Summer Pants at Amazon Right Now — Starting at $16

Certain pairs are even up to 50 percent off for a limited time.

istanbul travel right now

Travel + Leisure

As temperatures continue to soar and we inch closer to the official commencement of summer, there’s no denying that it’s long past time to tuck away your heavier clothing in favor of lighter, more breathable garb. And while shorts may be one of the most popular pieces to opt for when it’s hot outside, a loose pair of lightweight pants can be just as cooling, and even far more comfortable.

The good news is that you can still stick to your shopping budget for the month while upgrading your summer wardrobe, as Amazon is chock-full of flowy pants fit for every vacation. Ready to put away those dreaded denim shorts for good? Keep reading to find the 10 best breathable pairs of pants available at Amazon right now — they’re all shopper-loved and under $50.

Ueu Women’s Casual Loose Wide Leg Pants

These traveler-approved pants are one of the most comfortable options available at Amazon, and it just so happens that they’re also perfect for summer thanks to their lightweight polyester and spandex construction. A thick, high-rise waistband will never dig into your skin no matter how long you’re seated during a flight, and the loose, breezy fit allows for a full range of movement if you’re wearing these pants during sightseeing days. At $24, you may just want to snag them in more than one of the 19 available colors.

Anrabess Women’s Linen Palazzo Pants

Linen is practically the honorary fabric of the summer months, and this best-selling pair allows you to achieve the look for less. Primed for wear from the beach to a day of walking around, these casual and breathable pants are made with a flattering elastic waistband alongside wide, flowy legs that bring a beachy vibe to every outfit they’re paired with. Dress them up with sandals or down with sneakers, but no matter how you style them, you’re sure to turn heads this summer.

Arolina Women’s Stretchy Wide Leg Palazzo Pants

If you find yourself drawn to bold patterns and bright colors, then you won’t want to let these palazzo pants from Arolina pass you by while they’re on sale for just $16 for a limited time. A lightly compressive, high-rise fit looks phenomenal on a wide range of body types, while the eye-catching floral print will surely make it a statement piece in your wardrobe for any upcoming travels. And with more than 28,700 five-star ratings to back it up, it’s safe to say that these pants are a valuable addition to your closet this season. 

Made by Johnny Women’s Pleated Palazzo Pants

Add some texture to your summer packing list this year with these pleated palazzo pants that come with a convenient drawstring waistband, making them perfectly comfortable for every occasion. A blend of polyester and spandex keeps these pants feeling light and flexible whether you’re headed out to dinner or waiting on an overnight flight, and you’ll never feel restricted by too-tight material thanks to the wide, flowing shape of the legs. Best of all, while these effortless pants can be worn throughout the heat of the summer, they’re also versatile enough to be on the main stage of your closet all year long.

Heymoments Women’s Wide Leg Lounge Pants

If you’d like the option to adjust the waistband of your pants without the look of drawstrings, these classy paper bag-style pants are sure to be up your alley — and they’re available for just $30 at Amazon. The ruched, elastic waistband still provides essential comfort and flexibility, but you’ll also have the option of a more cinched look with the accompanying belt. This style is flattering on nearly everybody and can even be styled for anything from a nice dinner to a casual day of shopping, depending on your top and footwear choices.

Dokotoo Casual Elastic Pants

The gaucho trend may have been left behind in the early 2000s, but that’s not to say that you can’t modernize the breathable style with this equally comfy pair from Dokotoo. Resembling a maxi skirt with the functionality of trousers, these airy pants are guaranteed to keep you cool on even the most humid summer days, and right now they’re on sale at Amazon for just $27 for a limited time. They boast deep pockets which are convenient for holding your phone and even a snack while hurrying through the airport, plus, they’re available in an impressive range of 17 colors and patterns, with sizes spanning from S to XL.

Chartou Women’s Summer Drawstring Pants

Constructed from a high-quality blend of cotton and linen, these straight-leg drawstring pants are practically made to be worn to the beach, and fortunately you can score them for just $27. They’re designed with a mid-rise fit that allows you to ease into the low-rise trend without fully committing to the look, plus, there’s something undeniably cool and beach club-esque about the simple white shade. That being said, these pants are also available in seven other colors if you’re looking to expand your closet on a budget.

Ecowish Wide Leg Pants

These bold, vacation-ready pants may be a style statement, but they’re also a comfortable selection for sitting poolside, walking around town, or lounging around your Airbnb. They’re made from an ultra-soft blend of polyester and cotton that packs down well and wards off wrinkles better than other materials, and shoppers have even shared that they “feel like pajamas but look like a dressier pant.” No matter what you have planned during your next trip, these pants will go a long way to make you the best dressed person in any room. 

Joob Joob Boho Pants

The relaxed fit and cinched ankles of these pants set them apart from the rest while still nailing the comfort and flattering finish you’re looking for in a travel pant — and they’ve even earned more than 8,400 five-star ratings from happy customers who agree. Currently on sale for 33 percent off, these harem pants are an upgrade to your simpler bottom offerings, and they’re made with side pockets, a stretchy waistband, and sizes ranging from S to XL. If it’s a bohemian flair that you’re aiming to channel this summer, these ‘Amazon’s Choice’ pants are the way to go.

Nimin Wide Leg Pants for Women

A good pair of simple black pants is an essential addition to any good travel wardrobe, and this classic option from Nimin is a worthwhile addition to your wardrobe while it’s on sale at Amazon for an impressive 50 percent off for a limited time. They’re flattering enough to be worn with a nice pair of sandals during a night out on the town, but can also be dressed down with sneakers to carry you through the airport while still looking your best. And if you have enough black pants to choose from already, don’t fret — there are 14 other bright and neutral colors available (and also on sale).

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