Is it still safe to travel to Turkey?

Travellers with winter holidays planned in Turkey may be expressing concerns about the ongoing conflict between Palestine and Israel. Given Turkey’s proximity to Syria, Israel, and the Gaza Strip, the United Kingdom’s travel advisory for Turkey has been updated in response to these regional conflicts.

Holidaymakers seeking a winter getaway may understandably be apprehensive about traveling in light of recent events, such as Hamas militants entering Israel, resulting in casualties and hostage situations. Israel has responded with a full-scale attack on Gaza, leading to further casualties among the Palestinian population.

So, is it safe to travel to Turkey at this time? Here’s what you need to know:

Is it safe to travel to Turkey right now?
The travel guidance from the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) has been revised to advise against all travel to certain parts of Turkey. Currently, they discourage travel within 10km of the Syrian border and recommend only essential travel to Sirnak and Hakkari provinces.

The FCDO states, “Fighting in Syria continues in areas close to the Turkish border, and there remains a heightened risk of terrorism in the region. Roads in Hatay province leading towards the border may also face closures due to the ongoing conflict in Syria.”

Regarding Sirnak and Hakkari, they mention, “This is due to a heightened risk of terrorism in the region. If you must travel to this province, exercise extreme caution.”

Terrorist attacks against British nationals are considered “likely,” and the official advice emphasizes vigilance. The FCDO warns, “There is a high global threat of terrorism affecting UK interests and British nationals, including threats from groups and individuals who consider the UK and its citizens as targets. Remain vigilant at all times.”

Most terrorist incidents have occurred in Southeast Turkey, Ankara, and Istanbul. Even tourists in major cities from Western countries may be potential targets or inadvertently caught up in attacks.

Holidaymakers are urged to maintain a high level of vigilance, even if they are visiting popular tourist destinations in Turkey. The advisory acknowledges that all travel carries inherent risks, although flights continue to operate to certain tourist areas.

The guidance further notes, “Terrorist groups in Syria, including Daesh- and Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, frequently use kidnapping as a tactic. They are present in Syrian border areas, so exercise particular vigilance in these locations. Daesh and other terrorist groups may target humanitarian aid workers and journalists. If you are kidnapped, your presence’s purpose is unlikely to ensure your safety or secure your release.”

Given the constantly evolving situation in the conflict between Palestine and Israel, it’s essential to check the official FCDO advice before embarking on your travels. It’s worth noting that your travel insurance may become invalid if you visit an area that the FCDO has advised against traveling to.

How far is Turkey from Israel?
Turkey is approximately 879 km away from Israel, which translates to roughly a one-and-a-half-hour flight. While the two countries do not share a border, they are geographically close, lying north of Israel.

Is travel to other countries near Israel safe?
The Foreign Office does not currently discourage traveling to countries bordering Israel. However, the advisory may change rapidly as the violence in the region continues to escalate.

Do you need a visa to enter Turkey?
If you are planning to visit Turkey for a holiday or business purposes, you can stay for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without requiring a visa. For longer stays exceeding 90 days, you will need to apply for a longer stay visa or obtain a residence permit before your initial 90-day stay expires.