Turkey – Istanbul Travel Safety Update
With the (usual) media coverage on any civil unrest going on in this world, you probably heard by now about the situation in Istanbul, Turkey.
In short, protests in Istanbul broke out on May 27, 2013 when people gathered in Taksim Gezi Park to protest against the authorities wanting to turn the park into a shopping mall. Police quickly took action, and the scene escalated from there.
The situation has been going on for days, leaving more than 100 people injured.
As a result, the travelers are starting to ask whether or not they should visit Istanbul (now or later in the year).
Should you visit Istanbul?
As long as you stay away from the Taksim Square, Gezi Park, and the streets leading to them, you should be fine (Istanbul is a huge city; if you’re staying in a different part of it, chances are you won’t see any unrest at all). Needless to say, if you’ve already booked accommodations in that area, it’s best to cancel and look for a place to stay in a quieter area.
The historical city area (including Topkapi Palace) is not a problem to visit. But of course, be extra careful at all times; avoid the affected streets and rely on your instincts.
While not trying to downplay the situation (as it is a serious one), keep in mind how the media tends to sensationalize everything. It’s also smart to check out reports and social media outlets from travelers on the ground in Istanbul right now.
Karen from the UK states, “My daughter’s in Istanbul at the moment. Judging by her FB entries, she’s having a perfectly normal tourist time! Official advice seems to be to exercise common sense and steer clear of demonstrations but there is no particular problem for tourists.”
Is Istanbul the only city affected?
According to the travel warning on the US Embassy website for Turkey, protests have occurred in other cities, too, including Ankara and Izmir.
From our research, we think smart common sense indie travelers will be just fine in Istanbul and Turkey. Just like most of the 70+ million people that live there.
The official advice is NOT to cancel your plans, but to be aware of what’s going on, listen to the local news stations, and follow the local authorities’ instructions.
From personal experience
I have visited Athens, Greece, in March 2012 while there were still problems with riots in the city. Taking the very same advice as above, I made sure to avoid Syntagma Square (the area where the protesters gathered) – which wasn’t that hard because police closed the streets leading to it, anyway – and I took a longer route to get to the hotel (which was close to Monastiraki Square, about 2 km from Syntagma Square). For the remaining 4 days while I was in Athens, it was quiet in the Syntagma area.