Istanbul Safety, security and travel

Table of Contents
  1. Introduction
  2. Things To Do in Istanbul
  3. Safety and Travelling in Istanbul
  4. Weather in Istanbul

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.

Getting Around

Istanbul is a big city. But the good news is that it's pretty easy to get around to, all thanks to its excellent public transport. Perhaps, the only issue you will have to deal with is the traffic. Thankfully, there are ways to get around the heavy traffic.

The Istanbul Card

When taking public transport in Istanbul, you can rely on the Istanbul Card or IstanbulKart. It is best to purchase this from the airport as soon as you arrive since you will need it when taking public transport all over the city. You can also buy them from various kiosks in the city. It only costs 13 Lira, and you need to load some credit to it.

To use the card, scan it upon entry at the metro, bus, or ferry, and you will be charged 4.03 Lira on every journey.

Istanbul Public Transport

There are various types of public transport you can take in Istanbul to get around the city. And although you can easily walk between certain places, keep in mind that distances can be pretty long. You might think that a specific route looks walkable. But when you set off, you'll realize otherwise!

You can hire a car in Istanbul if you prefer to drive around, but given the traffic, it's not the best idea. Aside from the traffic, some roads can be bad and local drivers tend to beep constantly, enough to drive you crazy. So, save yourself from all the stress. Take public transportation instead.

Taking Taxis in Istanbul

Taxi is a convenient way to travel around Istanbul. Unfortunately, hailing a taxi in the city can be tricky. Taxis will not always stop on the street and are often almost full. And if you can get a taxi to stop, the next challenge is communicating with the driver to tell him where you want to go. You may also need to negotiate the rate, as some drivers won't be willing to take you on a metered rate.

Taxi drivers should take anyone anywhere. Unfortunately, drivers will prefer to take tourists who will go farther since they want to earn more. They do not want to be stuck in traffic on short journeys for a very affordable fare. It's pretty understandable, but that can be annoying for tourists.

But if you have no choice but to take the taxi, choose the yellow, marked taxis. Ask the driver how much you are expected to pay to your destination, even if they will go by meter. It's a good idea to ask ahead how much to pay so you will not have to pay more once you get to your destination.

Istanbul Buses

There are two kinds of buses in Istanbul - regular and faster metro buses. You will not find any buses in the middle of the city, such as in Taksim and Besiktas. But you can take the bus to get you to the European side from the Asian side and back. They are more common in the outskirts, such as Zeytinburnu, Yenibosna, etc.

Since regular buses are easier to use and find, they are your best bet when taking buses in Istanbul. They will have a sign on the front on where they are going, including a list of the main stops.

The only problem with buses in Istanbul is that they could get stuck in traffic and can be very busy, especially during weekends. Despite this, they are the cheapest and easiest way to get around the city. Buses also run until the early morning hours.

Using The Metro in Istanbul

Taking the metro train is the fastest way to get around Istanbul. There are several lines, but the two main lines can take you where you want to go. While it does not cover the entire city, it does cover the main parts of it, including Taksim, Levent, etc. Also, it connects you to the far reaches of the city, including the bus station in Esenler.

When searching for a metro station, simply look for the M sign with red, blue, and white colors. Scan your IstanbulKart to get in the gates, then follow the arrows to the train you need to take. Refer to the big map on the wall if you need directions on which train to take. And if you get stuck, don't hesitate to ask one of the local commuters or the staff at the station who can point you in the right direction.

Marmaray – Europe to Asia

The Marmaray is a metro service that will take you to the Asian side of Istanbul coming from the European side. To take this train, head to Sirkeci and you'll find the station there. Using this train service is pretty much the same as taking the regular Metro train. However, it will be travelling through the Bosphorus and come out to the other side in Kadikoy.

Ferries In Istanbul

Another way to get to Asia from Europe and back is to take the ferry. Taking the ferry is a fun and scenic way of travelling around Istanbul as it crosses the Bosphorus Strait. The ferries will run from various points, such as Besiktas, Eminonu, and Kadikoy, and usually leaves every 15 to 20 min.

You can use the ferry service the same way you would with the other public transport in Istanbul, which is by tapping your IstanbulKart upon entry. While ferries can get very busy during peak hours, they are rarely packed, so they are a more convenient way of getting around Istanbul.

Istanbul Trams

Another popular mode of transportation for tourists to get around Istanbul is to take the tram. While trams don't cover the entire city, it's a great way to get to Sultanahmet from Besiktas without having to walk.

The tram line begins in Kabatas, down a steep hill from Taksim and Besiktas, going as far as Bagcilar. There are 31 stops along the way, and you can use the tram the same way you would in the metro. But, trams can be quite busy during rush hour, especially since it travels to the city's main tourist areas. The tram runs from 6 AM until 11 PM.

Go To
  1. Introduction
  2. Things To Do in Istanbul
  3. Safety and Travelling in Istanbul
  4. Weather in Istanbul

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