Turkey travel guide
For sheer diversity, Turkey is hard to beat. The country is best measured in multitudes – of people, natural landscapes and cultures. It is a land of vast open spaces and massive mountain ranges, fertile valleys and rugged coastline, fast-growing cities and sleepy villages, seaside resorts and remote beaches.
Countless waves of invasion, rebellion and immigration have forged a country whose cultural depth and breadth may surprise visitors as they venture not just through major cities, but across the country.
Turkey overflows with historic sites and archaeological wonders, all set in a varied and beautiful landscape. The Mediterranean coastline is punctuated with well-preserved Greco-Roman cities like Pergamom and Ephesus, while the otherworldly landscapes of the Cappadocia region harbour cave churches and underground cities.
Though capital status eludes it, Istanbul is very much the beating heart of the nation. The city is an archive of cultural influences throughout the centuries, playing host to Roman aqueducts, Byzantine churches and Ottoman mosques and palaces. Yet it’s no relic. Cafes, bustling bazaars, hammams (public baths), and nightclubs all buzz with activity.
Still, Istanbul is just one piece of the vast Turkish puzzle. Beach-lovers can while away lazy sunny days at the ever-popular Bodrum, Marmaris and Izmir resorts along Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts.
The unlikely capital city, Ankara, may be less frequented, but its location in central Anatolia makes it worthy of a few days’ visit, if only to witness the contrast between the city’s modernity and the surviving citadel. Away from the more European sensibilities of Istanbul, Ankara also presents an opportunity to gain insight into other facets of Turkish culture.
However deep its roots are, Turkey is today a thrusting and dynamic society, navigating cultural, economic and political change while seeking to retain the best of its multicultural heritage and time-honoured traditions. And that’s arguably what makes it so rewarding.
783,562 sq km (302,535 sq miles).
79,622,062 (UN estimate 2016).
101.4 per sq km.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since 2014.
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım since 2016.
230 volts AC, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used.
Last updated: 13 March 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There is a high threat from terrorism. There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
A number of terrorist groups are active in Turkey. Since 2015 there has been an increase in PKK (Kurdish separatist) terrorist activity in south-east Turkey. There have been a number of attacks by other groups including suicide attacks by Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), attacks by the far left DHKP(C) and the Kurdish separatist group TAK, including in cities such as Ankara and Istanbul. Terrorist groups, including Daesh and the TAK, have publicly threatened to attack tourist sites in Turkey.
Further attacks are likely. Attacks could be indiscriminate and could affect places visited by foreigners.
There is a heightened risk of terrorist attack against the aviation industry in Turkey. You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports.
On 1 January 2017, there was an attack on the Reina nightclub in Ortakoy, Istanbul; 39 people were killed and 69 injured.
On 10 December 2016, a car bomb exploded near the Besiktas football stadium in the Macka/Dolmabahce area of Istanbul. 44 people, mostly police officers, were killed, and over 150 injured.
On 24 November 2016, a bomb exploded near the Governor’s office in Adana. 2 people were killed and 21 injured.
On 14 October 2016, a rocket attack took place on the outskirts of Antalya towards Kemer; no casualties were reported. Separately on 14 October 2016, attacks also took place against the Turkish military in Hakkari, Diyarbakir, Van and Adiyaman resulting in 13 injuries to service personnel
On 6 October 2016, an explosion occurred near a police headquarters in the Yenibosna area on the European side of Istanbul
On 24 August 2016, a roadside bomb injured 2 Gendarmerie officers on the Antalya – Kemer road near Topcam.
On 20 August 2016, an attack on a wedding party in Gaziantep killed more than 50 people and injured around 100.
On 28 June 2016, Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul was attacked. More than 40 people were killed.
On 7 June 2016, a bomb attack in the Vezneciler area of Istanbul killed 7 police officers and 4 civilians. 36 people were injured.
On 1 May 2016, a bomb attack at the Central Police Station in Gaziantep killed two police officers and injured 23 others.
On 27 April 2016, there was a suspected suicide bomb attack at Bursa Ulu Mosque. The bomber was killed and 7 people slightly injured.
On 19 March 2016, there was a suicide bomb attack against tourists on Istiklal St in Istanbul, in which 4 tourists died and at least 36 people were injured.
On 13 March 2016, a bombing in Kizilay Square, central Ankara killed more than 30 people.
On 17 February 2016, a large bomb attack near a military barracks on Eskisehir Road in Ankara killed 28 people.
On 12 January 2016, a suicide bomb attack in Sultanahmet in Istanbul killed 10 tourists.
On 23 December 2015, while the airport was closed for the night, there was a mortar attack on Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul.
On 10 October 2015, there were 2 explosions near the main train station in the Ulus area of Ankara. At least 100 people were killed and more than 180 injured.
On 20 July 2015, a suicide bomber killed 33 people and injured over 100 others in Suruc, Sanlurfa province near the Syrian border.
On 9 June 2015, 4 people were killed in an attack in Diyarbakir. On 5 June 2015, two people were killed and many injured by an explosion at an HDP rally in Diyarbakir.
Extremist groups based in Syria including ANF (Al Nusra Front) and Daesh have the capacity to carry out attacks in neighbouring countries, including Turkey.
Daesh has targeted border crossings and nearby locations on the Syrian side of the border. The 20 July attack in Suruc, Sanlurfa province, is believed to have been carried out by individuals associated with Daesh. Daesh is also believed to have been responsible for the 10 October 2015 suicide bombings in Ankara, which killed over 100 people. The Turkish government have said that Daesh was responsible for the 12 January 2016 attack in Istanbul in which 10 foreign tourists were killed, the 19 March attack in which 4 foreign tourists were killed, the 1 May attack in Gaziantep in which 2 police officers were killed and the 28 June attack on Istanbul Airport in which more than 40 people were killed.
There’s a domestic terrorist presence in the south east of the country including in Van, Bitlis, Bingol, Elazig, Mus, Batman, Erzincan, Diyarbakir and Agri provinces. In December 2012 talks began between the Turkish Government and the Kurdish aligned PKK (proscribed as a terrorist group in the UK), during which the PKK observed a ceasefire. However, following the Suruc bombing on 20 July 2015, the ceasefire ended when the PKK killed 2 Turkish police officers.
15 August is the anniversary of the first PKK attack against Turkish government installations. Historically, this anniversary date has prompted an escalation of violence by the PKK and other splinter groups. Since the end of July 2015 there has been an intensive period of violent incidents in Turkey’s south-east and eastern provinces. The vast majority of these incidents have been PKK attacks on Turkish security forces, their premises and vehicles, in which many members of the armed forces and police have been killed and injured. There have also been attacks on infrastructure (eg oil pipelines, dams) and incidents in which civilians have been affected. The government has responded with arrests of PKK suspects in Turkey and air-strikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq.
The anti-western, far left, proscribed terrorist group, THKP/C-Acilciler (Turkish People’s Liberation Party/Front) and the linked DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front) remain active, and launched a series of attacks in Istanbul in 2015 targeting the Turkish police and judiciary. The DHKP/C attacks have mainly targeted the Turkish authorities and US diplomatic missions.
Between approximately 30 March and 20 April, there are several dates significant to the DHKP/C, starting with the 30 March anniversary of their founding which may have been linked to previous attacks. 19 December is also recognised as an important date around which the DHKP/C may be active.
Methods of attack have included armed assaults, suicide bombings, car bombings and rocket attacks and improvised explosive devices left in refuse bins, crowded areas and on public transport.
Be vigilant, monitor media reports and keep up to date with the travel advice.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
There is a threat of kidnapping near the Syrian border in Turkey.
Terrorist groups operating in Syria, including Daesh routinely use kidnapping as a tactic. They’re present in the Syrian border areas and are capable of conducting kidnappings from across the border. Daesh and other terrorist groups view those engaged in humanitarian aid work or journalism as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as protection or secure your safe release.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.