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Turkey travel guide

About Turkey

For sheer diversity, Turkey (officially the Republic of Türkiye) 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. 

Key facts

Area:

783,562 sq km (302,535 sq miles).

Population:

79,622,062 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

101.4 per sq km.

Capital:

Ankara.

Government:

Presidential system.

Head of state:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since 2014.

Travel Advice

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Areas where FCDO advises against travel

Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice. Consular support is also severely limited where FCDO advises against travel.

Border with Syria

FCDO advises against all travel within 10km of the border with Syria.

Sirnak (city)

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Sirnak (city).

Hakkari province

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Hakkari province.

Find out more about why FCDO advises against travel.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

  • advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
  • information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Turkey set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact Turkey’s UK embassy or consulate.

COVID-19 rules

Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel company or airline for changes.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

You should also read TravelHealthPro’s general COVID-19 advice for travellers.

Passport validity requirements

If you are visiting Turkey, your passport must:

  • be valid for at least 150 days from the date you arrive
  • have a full blank page for entry and exit stamps

If you are a resident in Turkey, your passport must be valid for 6 months from the date you arrive.

If entering Turkey through a land border, make sure your passport has a dated entry stamp before you leave the border crossing.

Visa requirements

If you’re visiting Turkey for tourism or business for up to 90 days in any 180-day period, you do not need a visa.

If you plan to remain in Turkey for more than 90 days, apply for a longer stay visa or get a residence permit before the end of your 90-day stay. If you plan to work in Turkey, make sure you have the right permits.

If you hold a different type of British nationality, such as British National (Overseas), check visa requirements with the Turkish Embassy or Consulate General before you travel.

Applying for a visa

The Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has information on applying for a visa.

Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and certificates you need on TravelHealthPro.

Travelling with children

If leaving Turkey with a dual British-Turkish national child who is 18 or younger, you may need to show the Turkish immigration authorities evidence that the Turkish parent has given permission.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice and regional risks advice.

Terrorism

There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Turkey

Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Turkey.

Most terrorist attacks have happened in Southeast Turkey, Ankara and Istanbul. Citizens from western countries may be targets or caught up in attacks, particularly in major cities.

Terrorists may target places visited by foreigners, such as:

  • public buildings
  • places of worship
  • major events
  • large public gatherings

Terrorist groups sometimes call for attacks around religious occasions and public holidays.

Previous attacks have included:

  • armed assaults
  • suicide bombings
  • car bombings
  • rocket attacks
  • arson
  • improvised explosive devices left in bins, crowded areas, shops and on public transport

There is also a heightened risk of terrorist attack against the aviation industry in Turkey.

You should:

  • follow the advice of the local security authorities
  • monitor media reports
  • cooperate fully with security officials at airports

It is illegal to be a member or supporter of a terrorist organisation in Turkey. Organisations such as the YPG and the Gülen Movement are illegal in Turkey.

Terrorist and insurgent groups include Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL), PKK, and THKP/C-Acilciler (Turkish People’s Liberation Party/Front) and the DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Front). There’s a domestic terrorist presence in the southeast of the country including in Van, Bitlis, Bingol, Elazig, Mus, Batman, Erzincan, Diyarbakir and Agri provinces.

DHKP/C attacks have mainly targeted the Turkish authorities and US diplomatic missions.

Extremist groups based in Syria including Daesh and Al-Qaeda linked groups 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.

Take particular care during dates of significance to terrorist groups, including:

  • 15 August
  • 30 March to 20 April
  • 19 December

Terrorist groups operating in Syria, including Daesh and Al-Qaeda linked groups, routinely use kidnapping as a tactic. They’re present in the Syrian border areas. Be particularly vigilant in these locations. Daesh and other terrorist groups may target humanitarian aid workers and journalists. 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 builds the capability of terrorist groups and finances their activities. This can, in turn, increase the risk of further hostage-taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) makes payments to terrorists illegal.

Political situation

Occasional demonstrations can occur in cities and may become violent. Police have used tear gas and water cannon to disperse protests.

Events in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories have led to heightened tensions in the region and demonstrations are ongoing in locations across Turkey. Large demonstrations have been reported outside diplomatic missions connected to the conflict in major cities, particularly Israeli diplomatic missions in Ankara and Istanbul.

Avoid all demonstrations and leave the area if one develops. Local transport routes may be disrupted.

Crime

Street robbery and pickpocketing

Street robbery and pick-pocketing are common in the major tourist areas of Istanbul. Be aware of your personal belongings and make sure they are always secure.

Drink and food spiking

Buy your own drinks and always keep sight of them 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.

Counterfeit alcohol

In a small number of cases, counterfeit alcohol has caused deaths of tourists. If you have any concerns, seek advice from your tour operator or the Turkish authorities.

Sexual assault

In 2023, 42 cases of sexual assault, including rape, were reported to British consular staff in Turkey. Most sexual assault cases reported to British consular staff in Turkey have happened during summer holidays in coastal tourist areas. Many were committed at night by someone the victim met during the day, including hotel workers. There have also been sexual attacks on minors visiting toilet facilities alone. Be extra vigilant in these situations.

Vehicle safety

Accepting lifts from strangers can be dangerous. Find a registered taxi and note the registration number before entering.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

It is illegal not to carry some form of photographic ID in Turkey. Always carry your passport or residence permit. In some busy areas, especially Istanbul, the authorities may stop people for ID checks. There are also several police checkpoints on main roads across Turkey. Cooperate with officials conducting checks.

Dress visiting mosques

Dress modestly if you’re visiting a mosque or a religious shrine to avoid causing offence.

Personal injury claims

There are reports of tourists being encouraged to submit a claim for personal injury if they have experienced gastric illness in Turkey. Find out what you can do if you have suffered a personal injury on the Citizens Advice website. Only make a 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.

Smoking bans

Smoking is illegal 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.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Turkey has strict laws against the use, possession and trafficking of illegal drugs. You may receive a fine or prison sentence of 4 to 24 years.

Stray dogs

Most towns and cities have stray dogs. Packs congregate in parks and wastelands and can be aggressive. Take care and do not approach stray dogs. If you’re bitten, get medical advice immediately. Rabies and other animal borne diseases are present in Turkey.

Sale of antiquities

The possession, sale and export of antiquities is illegal. You could be fined and receive a prison sentence of 5 to 12 years. Some historical items found at local markets and in antique shops can be sold within Turkey but are illegal to export. Confirm the legal requirements before purchasing or exporting such items.

Using cameras

Do not take photographs near military or official installations. Ask for permission before photographing people.

LGBT+ travellers

Homosexuality is legal in Turkey. However, many parts of Turkey are socially conservative and showing affection in public could result in unwelcome attention. Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.

Comments about the nation and flag

It is illegal to insult the Turkish nation, state or the national flag, or to deface Turkish currency. These laws can also apply to comments or images online wherever they were uploaded. Offences under these laws carry a penalty in Turkey of a prison sentence of between 6 months and 3 years.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Extreme sports

If you do an extreme sport, check that adequate safety precautions are in place. British nationals have been injured and killed doing extreme sports. Only use reputable operators. Make sure you are given full instructions and training before your activity. Make sure your travel insurance covers you for all activities you want to do.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Turkey, see information on driving abroad. You must carry a green card in Turkey.

Take care when travelling by road, particularly at night. Approach checkpoints slowly and follow the instructions of security personnel. Roads between 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.

It is illegal not to wear a helmet on motorcycles and mopeds. You may get a large fine if you do not wear a helmet.

Do not drink and drive. The police fine drunk drivers and your licence could be confiscated for 6 months.

Licences and documents

You need either a 1968 international driving permit (IDP) or a valid UK driving licence (notarised in Turkish) to drive in Turkey. The 1949 IDP is not accepted anymore. You cannot buy an IDP outside the UK, so get one before you travel. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.

If you stay in Turkey for more than 6 months, you must convert your UK driving licence into a Turkish licence. Provisional driving licences aren’t recognised. If you intend to bring a vehicle registered in another country into Turkey, familiarise yourself with the relevant Turkish customs regulations.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Forest fires

Forest fires happen frequently in Turkey during summer. Take care when visiting or driving through woodland areas.

You could get a fine or prison sentence for lighting a fire of any kind in forbidden areas. This includes barbeques and discarding cigarette butts in the woods.

If there is a forest fire in your area, local authorities may tell you to leave your accommodation. Follow the directions of local authorities.

If you see a forest fire, call emergency services on 112.

Flooding

Severe rainstorms can cause flooding and landslides across Turkey. Roads may become impassable and bridges damaged, making it difficult to travel and reducing essential services.

If you’re in an affected area:

  • monitor local media
  • follow instructions of local authorities, including evacuation orders

Earthquakes

Many parts of Turkey regularly experience earthquakes and tremors. These can be a high magnitude, cause damage to infrastructure, and pose a risk to life.

A 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Gaziantep and neighbouring provinces in the south-east of Turkey in February 2023. Strong earthquakes may continue to affect the region and it remains heavily damaged.

Follow any advice given by the local authorities.  See the US Federal Emergency Management Agency guidance about what to do before, during and after an earthquake .

This section has safety advice for regions of Turkey. It only covers regions where FCDO has specific advice.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice

Border with Syria

FCDO advises against all travel within 10km of the border with Syria.

Fighting in Syria continues in areas close to the Turkish border and there remains a heightened risk of terrorism in the region.

Due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, roads in Hatay province leading towards the border may be subject to closure.

Sirnak (city)

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Sirnak (city).

Hakkari province

FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Hakkari province.

This is due to a heightened risk of terrorism in the region. If you’re undertaking essential travel to this province, take extreme care.

Mount Ararat

Mount Ararat, in Ağrı province, is a special military zone. You must have access permission from the Doğubayazıt Government Office, and pay a fee in the local Governor’s Office. If visiting with a travel agent or tour group, confirm with them whether you need an individual permit.

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.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 112 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:

UKHSA has detected an increase in gastrointestinal infections in travellers returning from Turkey, with over 200 cases of Salmonella detected since the beginning of 2023. Further information is available from UKHSA.  See NaTHNaC’s advice on food and water hygiene.

Medication

The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries. Some common medicines are controlled in Turkey. For more information and the documentation needed, contact the nearest Turkish Embassy or Consulate. Read best practice when travelling with medicines on TravelHealthPro.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad. British prescriptions are not accepted in pharmacies in Turkey. In some cases, you may be able to liaise with Turkish hospitals and your GP to arrange for a Turkish prescription for the equivalent medicine.

Health insurance cards

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) and Global Health Insurance card (GHIC) are not valid in Turkey.

Healthcare facilities in Turkey

View a list of medical facilities in Turkey.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also mental health guidance on TravelHealthPro.

Medical tourism

Medical tourism is when people travel to have medical, surgical or dental treatment abroad. Cosmetic surgery, dental procedures and cardiac surgery are the most common procedures for medical tourists.

The standard of medical facilities and available treatments can vary widely globally. We are aware of over 25 British nationals who have died in Turkey since January 2019 following medical procedures. There were reports of an outbreak of botulism linked to weight loss treatments performed in Istanbul and Izmir in February 2023. You can find further information about botulism in Turkey on TravelHealthPro.

If you are considering travelling to Turkey for medical, surgical or dental treatment, you should:

  • read more advice on going abroad for medical treatment and elective surgery
  • discuss plans with your UK doctor before going ahead with any medical procedures abroad 
  • do your own research - private companies have a financial interest in arranging your medical treatment abroad and the information they provide should not be your only source of information

Find further advice on medical tourism from TravelHealthPro, and NHS guidance on going abroad for medical treatment, and (if relevant to you) on cosmetic surgery abroad

The Turkish Ministry of Health provides a list of its approved medical providers on the HealthTurkiye website. This website is for information only. FCDO does not make any recommendation of or endorsement as to the competence or suitability of any individual or facility. It is important that individuals make their own enquiries and due diligence checks.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Turkey

Telephone: 112 (ambulance, fire, police)

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

You can also contact FCDO online.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

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