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.
Last updated: 18 April 2019
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.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to areas within 10 km of the border with Syria, except the city of Kilis (see below).
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to:
- all other areas of Sirnak, Mardin, Kilis (including Kilis city) and Hatay provinces
- the provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli and Hakkari
For more information, see Local travel and Terrorism
British nationals made over 2.3 million visits to Turkey in 2018. Most visits are trouble free. Be alert to your surroundings and remain vigilant in crowded places popular with foreign nationals, including during festival periods.
All commercial passenger flights operating to and from Istanbul Ataturk Airport are due to be transferred to the new Istanbul Airport between 5 to 7 April 2019. During the transition period there will be a short period of time where no flights will operate from either airport, and thereafter restrictions of the frequency airlines can operate at, until the transfer is completed. Passengers may be affected by delays and cancellations during the transition period and for a limited period after the transfer, and should contact their airline for further information. If you’re travelling from Istanbul Airport, we recommend that you plan to arrive well in advance of your flight’s scheduled departure time, in case of possible delays reaching the airport. Once the transfer is completed, the IATA airport code IST will apply to Istanbul Airport and Istanbul Ataturk will acquire IATA airport code ISL.
The situation has calmed following an attempted coup in July 2016. A state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt has been lifted, although some restrictions remain in place.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Turkey. Terrorist groups, including Kurdish groups, Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) and far left organisations, continue to plan and carry out attacks. Further attacks could be indiscriminate. Most attacks have taken place in the south and east of the country, and in Ankara and Istanbul. While there is a potential that citizens from western countries may be targets or caught up in attacks, particularly in the major cities, attacks are most likely to target the Turkish state, civilians and demonstrations. You should be vigilant, follow the advice of local security authorities, monitor media reports and keep up to date with this travel advice.
It’s illegal to be a member or supporter of a terrorist organisation in Turkey, including expressions of support on social media. Some organisations in the region though not proscribed in the UK, such as the YPG and the Gülen Movement are illegal in Turkey.
Restrictions on carrying large electronic devices in the aircraft cabin on flights departing from Turkey to the UK have now been lifted. For more information and advice about what items you can take into the cabin on your flight from Turkey to the UK, contact your airline or travel company.
British nationals need a visa to travel to Turkey, except for some cruise ship passengers arriving at sea ports for visits of up to 72 hours. If you’re visiting Turkey as a tourist or on business, get an e-Visa online before you travel. Make sure you use the official e-Visa website so you get a genuine visa without paying additional fees.
You should carry your passport and a printed copy of your e-visa (if applicable) or residence permit at all times. In some busy areas, especially Istanbul, the Turkish authorities are stopping members of the public to conduct ID checks.
There have been reports of an increase in holidaymakers being encouraged to submit a claim for personal injury if they have experienced gastric illness during their stay. You can find more information about the action you can take if you have suffered a personal injury on the Citizens Advice website. You should only consider pursuing a complaint or claim if you have genuinely suffered from injury or illness. If you make a false or fraudulent claim, you may face legal proceedings in the UK or Turkey.
Many parts of Turkey are subject to earthquakes. You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake and follow the advice of the local authorities.
You can contact the emergency services by calling 155 (police), 112 (ambulance) and 110 (fire).
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. Consular support is severely limited in parts of Turkey where we advise against travel, and limited in the areas we advise against all but essential travel.
Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Turkey.
Most terrorist attacks have taken place in the south and east of the country and in Ankara and Istanbul. While there is a potential that citizens from western countries may be targets or caught up in attacks, particularly in the major cities, attacks are most likely to target the Turkish state, civilians and demonstrations.
Attacks could be indiscriminate, affecting public buildings, major events or large public gatherings. Be vigilant around significant religious occasions and public holidays; terrorist groups sometimes call for attacks around these times.
Previous 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 this travel advice.
The Turkish authorities have successfully disrupted attack planning in the recent past and have said that security has been tightened in response to recent attacks.
There is a heightened risk of terrorist attack against the aviation industry in Turkey. You should co-operate fully with security officials at airports.
It’s illegal to be a member or supporter of a terrorist organisation in Turkey. Some organisations in the region though not proscribed in the UK, such as the YPG and the Gülen Movement are illegal in Turkey.
A number of terrorist groups are active in Turkey:
The last major attack attributed to Daesh occurred on 1 January 2017 at the Reina nightclub in Ortakoy, Istanbul; 39 people were killed and 69 injured. Extremist groups based in Syria including Daesh and ANF (Al Nusra Front) have the capacity to carry out attacks in neighbouring countries, including Turkey. Daesh has previously targeted border crossings and nearby locations on the Syrian side of the border.
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.
From the end of July 2015 there was an intensive period of violent incidents in Turkey’s south-east and other provinces, although the pace of these has now decreased. The vast majority of these incidents have been PKK attacks on Turkish security forces, their premises and vehicles, with many members of the armed forces and police 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 sustained military pressure on PKK positions in northern Iraq.
TAK (Kurdistan Freedom Hawks)
TAK have previously carried out attacks in Turkey, and have publically threatened to attack tourist sites. TAK are a proscribed group under UK law.
Far Left groups – DHKP-C and THKP-C
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.
There’s 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.
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.
Terrorist groups operating in Syria, including Daesh and AQ-linked groups, routinely use kidnapping as a tactic. They’re present in the Syrian border areas and you should be particularly vigilant if you are in these locations. 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.
Safety and security
Local travel - Syrian border
The FCO advise against all travel to areas within 10km of the border with Syria, except the city of Kilis. The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the remaining areas of Sirnak, Mardin, Kilis (including Kilis city) and Hatay provinces.
On 24 August 2016, the Turkish military started operations across the Turkey-Syria border near Karkamis and declared special security zones in villages along the Turkey-Syria border in Gaziantep Province.
Fighting in Syria continues in areas close to the Turkish border and there remains a heightened risk of terrorism in the region.
Mortar rounds are occasionally fired from Syria into Turkey. As a result of heavy fighting in northern Syria, there has been a mass influx of refugees into southern Turkey over the past 3 years.
Due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, roads in Hatay province leading towards the border may be subject to closure.
Local travel – eastern provinces
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Diyarbakir, Tunceli and Hakkari. Since July 2015 there has been an intensive period of PKK attacks on Turkish security forces, their premises and vehicles. Civilians have been affected. Security operations have taken place in the cities of Diyarbakir, Sirnak and Hakkari, with curfews imposed in these and other towns and cities in the region. If you’re undertaking essential travel to these provinces, you should take extreme care.
A temporary Turkish military restricted zone has been imposed for the Mount Ararat area. No permission is being given for parties to enter the area, nor to climb the mountain. Other temporary military restricted zones have been established in eastern provinces. Don’t attempt to enter these zones. There may be some disruption to travel in these areas.
The PKK have carried out attacks against Turkish security personnel and premises in Van province in August and September 2016. On 17 August 2016 an attack in central Van against a police station killed 3 people and injured 73 others. On 4 September 2016, a mortar attack was launched against a police checkpoint in the Edremit district of Van Province, but there were no injuries. On 12 September 2016 an attack at a police checkpoint wounded at least 50 people in Van province. There have been subsequent clashes between Turkish security forces and the PKK resulting in a number of deaths and injuries. Take extra care if you’re travelling to this area; keep up to date with local media and follow the advice of the local authorities.
Sporadic demonstrations take place in cities across Turkey, some of which have, in the past, become violent. In Istanbul previous demonstrations have centered on the area around Taksim Square, on Istiklal Street and in the Besiktas and Kadikoy districts and more recently in Okmeydani. In Ankara, the protests have mainly taken place in the central Kizilay district around the Prime Minister’s office. In Izmir the focus has been in the town centre, near the water front.
You should avoid all demonstrations and leave the area if one develops. Police have used tear gas and water cannon extensively to disperse protests. The effects of tear gas can be felt several hundred metres beyond the immediate site of demonstrations. Local transport routes may be disrupted.
The situation in Turkey has calmed following an attempted coup on 15-16 July 2016. The security environment, however, remains potentially volatile. A two-year state of emergency ended in July 2018. However, some additional security measures and restrictions remain in place.
The presidency of the Higher Education Council has issued a revised note indicating that restrictions on leave and travel for university employees don’t apply to foreign nationals. If you’re employed at a university, you should check with your employer directly before taking leave or making any travel plans as the implementation of the restrictions is subject to the discretion of individual institutions.
Generally crime levels are low, but street robbery and pick-pocketing are common in the major tourist areas of Istanbul. You should maintain at least the same level of personal security awareness as in the UK. Alcohol and drugs can make you less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times so they are not spiked. Be wary of strangers approaching you offering food and drink (which may be drugged), to change money or to take you to a restaurant or nightclub.
Passports have been stolen from rented villas, even when they have been kept in the villa safe. This is a particular problem in Didim, Kas, Kalkan and the Fethiye/Hisaronu/Ovacik areas.
In 2018, 32 cases of sexual assault, including rape, were reported to British consular staff in Turkey. Most of these cases occurred during the summer holiday period in coastal tourist areas. Many were committed late at night by someone the victim met during the evening. There have also been sexual attacks on minors visiting toilet facilities alone. You should be extra vigilant in these situations.
Never accept lifts from strangers. Find a registered yellow taxi and make a note of the registration number before getting in.
Very rarely counterfeit alcohol has been responsible for the death of some tourists. If you have any concerns, seek advice from your tour operator or the Turkish authorities.
Take care when travelling by road throughout Turkey, particularly at night. Approach checkpoints slowly and follow the instructions of security personnel. Roads between the major cities are generally in excellent condition, but can be poor in remote, rural areas. Accidents are common and mainly due to poor or reckless driving.
If you drive in Turkey, you must have either an International Driving Permit or a notarised copy (in Turkish) of your UK driving licence. If you stay in Turkey continuously for more than 6 months, you must convert your UK driving licence into a Turkish licence. Provisional driving licences aren’t recognised.
You will need an ‘A’ category standard motorcycle licence to hire a motorcycle over 50cc in Turkey. An ‘A1’ category ‘light motorcycle’ driving licence is only suitable for motorcycles below 50cc. By law you must wear a helmet. Failure to do so could result in a heavy fine.
Don’t drink and drive. The police will breathalyse drunk drivers, fine you on the spot and immediately confiscate your licence for 6 months.
If you participate in extreme sports (including paragliding, parasailing, white-water rafting, off-road driving and hot air ballooning), satisfy yourself that adequate safety precautions are in place. Only use reputable operators and insist on training before use. Make sure your travel insurance covers you for all the activities you want to undertake. British nationals have been injured and in some cases killed participating in extreme sports.
Most towns and cities have stray dogs. Local authorities take action to control and manage numbers but packs congregate in parks and wastelands and can be aggressive. Take care, remain calm, and avoid approaching stray dogs. If you’re bitten, seek medical advice as rabies and other animal borne diseases are present in Turkey.
Local laws and customs
It’s illegal not to carry some form of photographic ID in Turkey. You should carry your passport and a printed copy of your e-visa (if applicable) or residence permit at all times. In some busy areas, especially Istanbul, the Turkish authorities may stop members of the public to conduct ID checks. There’s also a larger than usual number of police checkpoints on main roads across Turkey. You should co-operate with officials conducting checks.
Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in all indoor workplaces and public places. Smoking is restricted in some outdoor areas where cultural, artistic, sports or entertainment activities are held.
Turkey has strict laws against the use, possession or trafficking of illegal drugs. If you are convicted of any of these offences, you can expect to receive a heavy fine or a prison sentence of 4 to 24 years.
The possession, sale and export of antiquities is against the law and carries a prison sentence of 5 to 12 years as well as a substantial fine. Some historical items found at local markets and in antique shops can be sold within Turkey but are illegal to export. You should confirm the legal requirements before considering a purchase or returning home with an antique/historical item.
Dress modestly if you’re visiting a mosque or a religious shrine to avoid offence.
Don’t take photographs near military or official installations. Ask for permission before photographing people.
Homosexuality is legal in Turkey. However, many parts of Turkey are socially conservative and public displays of affection may lead to unwelcome attention. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
It’s an offence to insult the Turkish nation or the national flag, or to deface or tear up currency. If you’re convicted of any of these offences you could face a prison sentence of between 6 months and 3 years. You should be aware that controls carried out by the Turkish authorities, including those that take place at airports, may include the examination of electronic devices.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals need a visa to enter Turkey, except for cruise ship passengers with ‘British Citizen’ passports who arrive at sea ports for tourist visits to the port city or nearby cities, provided that the visit doesn’t exceed 72 hours.
Turkish visit visas are valid for multiple stays up to a maximum of 90 days in a 180 day period.
We recommend that you get an e-Visa online through the official Republic of Turkey e-Visa website. An e-visa costs $20 and you can pay by credit or debit card. If you use this option, you should apply at least 48 hours before travel and can do so up to 3 months in advance. In case of technical problems at the Turkish port of entry, carry a printed copy of your e-Visa or keep an electronic copy on a smartphone or other device to show at immigration.
Be wary of using unauthorised websites, as these may charge additional fees for supplying information and submitting applications. Some unauthorised websites have also issued fake e-Visas.
If you have any queries regarding e-Visas call the Visa Contact Centre (details provided by the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Alternatively, until further notice you can get a multiple entry sticker visitor visa, valid for 90 days, on arrival at any port of entry on payment of £20 in cash (Scottish and Northern Irish currency is not accepted). However, as the visa on arrival service is likely to be phased out at some point in the near future, we recommend you get an e-Visa.
You can also apply for a visa before you travel from the Turkish Consulate General in London. If you’re planning to study or work in Turkey, or are unsure about the type of visa you require, you should apply for a visa before travel.
If you hold a different type of British nationality (eg BN(O), British Overseas Citizen, British Protected Person or British Subject), check visa requirements with the Turkish Consulate General before you travel. These types of passport are classed as ‘UK Special Passports’ in the Turkish e-Visa system. You’ll need to apply for a visa from the Turkish Consulate General before you travel.
If you plan to remain in Turkey for a period of more than 90 days, you should either apply for a longer stay visa before you travel, or get a residence permit from the local authorities in Turkey before your 90 day stay has elapsed. If you intend to work in Turkey, ensure you have the correct permits. More information is available from the Turkish Ministry of the Interior. If you don’t abide by the terms of your visa or permit, you may be fined, deported and banned from re-entering the country.
If you’re entering Turkey via a land border crossing, make sure your passport has a dated entry stamp before you leave the border crossing area.
The Turkish government advise that your passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the date you enter Turkey and that there is a full blank page for the entry and exit stamps. You can find more detail about the requirements for entry into Turkey on the website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Travelling with children
If you are leaving Turkey with a child who is a dual British-Turkish national, you may be asked to show the Turkish immigration authorities evidence that the Turkish parent has given permission for the child to travel.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETD) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Turkey within the dates printed on the document. ETDs should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Turkey.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The use or possession of some common prescription and over-the-counter medicines is controlled in Turkey. For more information on controlled medicines and the relevant documentation required, contact the nearest Turkish Embassy or Consulate before you travel. See this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), is not valid in Turkey. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 112 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Many parts of Turkey are subject to earthquakes and tremors.
You should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake and follow any advice given by the local authorities.
The US Federal Emergency Management Agency has information about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
The currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira. ATMs are widely available in major cities and tourist areas. You can get local currency from banks and exchange bureaux, known as DOVIZ in Turkish.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.
Flights to the UK from Turkey are subject to additional hand luggage restrictions, as from 25 March 2017. All phones, tablets or laptops are banned from carry-on luggage and must be placed in hold luggage if they are larger than:
- 16 cm in length
- 9.3 cm in width
- 1.4 cm in depth (thickness)
The UK Foreign Office advises travellers to contact their airline before travelling to find out if they will allow specific electronic devices or electrical items on the flight.
Flights to the USA from Turkey do not allow any electronic devices larger than a smartphone in carry-on baggage. These restrictions prohibit any laptops, tablets, electronic game units and e-readers larger than a smartphone. All electronic items of this size should be carried in hold luggage. For more information visit the Department of Homeland Security website.