Istanbul Safety, security and travel insurance

Safety and Security in Istanbul

Holidays to Istanbul are generally trouble-free. However, as with visiting any place in the world, visitors are advised to be cautious of their surroundings and to practice common sense when exploring Istanbul, the same way they would when visiting other major cities.

Is It Safe to Travel to Turkey

Istanbul is generally safe for tourism. It's one of the most popular destinations worldwide, receiving around 40 to 45 million visitors each year, with the vast majority of tourists enjoying a trouble-free holiday.

Since tourism makes up a majority of Turkey's economy, the Turkish government is working hard to provide a safe environment for foreign tourists. Thus, tourists should feel safe exploring Istanbul and other popular tourist destinations in the country, including Cappadocia and Antalya. Nevertheless, travellers are advised to remain vigilant at all times.

Tourists exploring the top attractions of Istanbul should always keep an eye on their belongings to avoid pickpocketing and street robbery. This advice should keep you safe not only in Istanbul but when travelling to other popular tourist destinations around the world.

Travelling Alone to Istanbul

The residents of Istanbul are warm and welcoming to tourists and will do everything to keep you feel safe during your visit. Whether you are travelling solo as a male or female, here are some tips to stay safe in Istanbul.

  • Avoid telling anyone that you are alone.
  • Purchase a local sim card at the airport upon arrival, so you will have access to the Internet at all times and be able to get in touch with your family back home. Having an Internet connection also allows you to use online maps that would come in handy when going out and about.
  • Do not go out on your own after dark.
  • Beware of tourist scams and strangers inviting you for a drink. Decline politely and firmly.
  • Consider joining a group tour where you can meet fellow solo travelers.

Transport and Taxis Risk

In general, the public transport in Istanbul is reliable and safe. But be aware that pickpockets could happen from public transport. In fact, pickpocketing is a common concern on the various streets of the city, especially in popular tourist destinations like Taksim Square and the Grand Bazaar. So, be very careful when taking public transport and going to public places. Hold your bags tightly by your side and avoid displaying expensive stuff, such as jewellery and gadgets.

If you plan on driving around Istanbul, be aware of some local drivers who are reckless and would ignore traffic rules and signs.

Terrorism Risks

Terrorism is one of the biggest concerns for tourists in Turkey. There have been a few terrorist attacks in the country over recent years. A large majority of these are between Turkish security forces and terrorist groups. It's often likely on the borders that Turkey shares with Syria, Iran, and Iraq. However, terrorist attacks have also taken place in popular tourist sites like Istanbul over the past years.

In 2016, there was an attack on tourists in Istanbul, particularly near the Blue Mosque. In that same year, an attack happened at the Istanbul Ataturk airport that resulted in 41 casualties and more than 230 people injured.

Government travel advisories recommend that visitors avoid visiting the provinces in the east and southeast of the country because of the heightened threat of terrorism in these areas, especially in those areas close to the border with Syria.

If you decide to travel to Istanbul, stay updated with the local information regarding potential threats. Talk to locals, read the latest news, and stay informed while in the city. Make sure you follow the warnings issued by your respective foreign offices.

Scams and Mugging

The most common scam in Istanbul is when locals try to befriend tourists, asking them out for a drink or dinner and asking tourists to pay for it, which could be very expensive. Another common scam is taxi drivers tricking you into paying more and giving wrong directions.

Violent crimes could sometimes happen in Istanbul, and there were reports of tourists getting mugged and drugged and valuable items stolen. Some criminal groups would try to steal passports from tourists, so be very careful with this. If possible, leave your valuables at your accommodation when going out and about.

Health and Medical

Healthcare in Turkey has drastically improved over the decades. In fact, the country is now one of the leading healthcare providers in the world. Currently recognized as a focused-healthcare destination with modern technological advances, Turkey has welcomed thousands of foreign patients from Europe and the Middle East over the past few years.

Turkey has continuously pursued medical superiority and solid expertise in creating a foundation for patient quality care. The country's healthcare system is working on competing with other health service providers to achieve excellence regionally and globally.

Medical Care in Turkey

Medical care in Turkey is exceptionally decent. Both private and state healthcare is highly accessible for foreigners, with private healthcare being more affordable compared to the United States and Europe.

Expats with a minimum of one-year residency can sign-up for the Turkish State Health Cover known as the Sosyal Güvenlik Kurumu. Although the monthly fees would regularly increase, it can provide coverage for the entire family and towards the cost of medical treatment at some private hospitals and cover admission costs at state hospitals.

Each village or town in Turkey has a local health centre. Locally known as the Sağlık Ocağı, consultations at these health centres are free, for as long as you show your residency permit. In the case of foreign tourists, passports. In addition, you will find many private doctor surgeries and polyclinics in Turkey that are competitively priced. These are often geared towards foreigners and ex-pats since the staff speaks good English.

Private Hospitals are also available for ambulance and walk-in emergency treatments. But they are more expensive compared to public hospitals. Tourists should verify if their travel insurance can cover them. Also, foreign residents with SGK may need to check the discounted rates for some treatments. The majority of the private hospitals in Turkey are of good quality standard and are cheaper than those in the US, UK, and Europe, with many foreign patients opting to come to Turkey for specialist operations, including plastic surgery.

Healthcare for Foreign Visitors to Turkey

The United States Center for Disease Control recommends that all foreign travellers to Turkey keep up to date with immunizations. More importantly, every visitor should have travel insurance. Otherwise, make sure you have sufficient money to pay for emergency medical visits. And although Turkey's healthcare services are particularly less expensive compared to Europe and the United States, the cost can add up if you don't have insurance to cover the cost.

For those with a medical condition, it's a good idea to plan your holiday near or around a private hospital in Istanbul. Private hospitals may be more expensive but have shorter waiting times than public hospitals. Plus, the staff generally speak fluent English, unlike many public hospitals.

In case of an emergency, call an ambulance immediately. The ambulance will take you to the emergency department of a public hospital near you. You will immediately be attended to, and there will not be any charges for this. The fact that you are not a citizen of Turkey will not make a difference. Rest assured that you will be treated equally when seeking medical care as a foreign tourist in Turkey.

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