Is Turkey Safe For Americans To Visit? Yes, But…
Is Turkey safe for Americans? is a common question and one that has been especially popular in the travel community in the last couple of months. We asked our travel buddy Mariana from Road Trip EuroGuide about it, as she just got back from an extensive solo trip through half the country. Here’s what she had to say.
Turkey has been in the headlines recently for a variety of reasons, from terrorist attacks and bombings to the proximity of Turkey to the Russian-Ukrainian war. And so believe me, before I set my sights and route through Turkey, I asked myself and my local Turkish friends all of the questions:
- Is Turkey safe for Americans? What about Istanbul?
- Is Turkey safe for females? LGBTQ+ Community?
- Is Turkey safe in light of the Russia – Ukraine war?
- Are taxis safe? Is driving safe?
- Any safety tips? What do I need to avoid?
Is Turkey Safe for Americans to visit?
The answer is nuanced, but here’s what I observed traveling as a solo female for a couple of months in Turkey:
➡️ All of the places I visited, from Istanbul to Cappadocia and all around the western half of Turkey were very safe. I rented a car for portions of the trip and drove alone, I stayed in hostels and AirBnBs, I took busses and public transportation at times, and I ate at fine dining restaurants as well as hole-in-the-wall spaces down little streets in Istanbul. I always felt safe, welcome, and included!
➡️ While the overall security situation in Turkey has improved in the recent decade, there are still a few areas of the country that I would consider unsafe for me to travel solo, like the southeastern provinces closest to Syria. If I wanted to travel closer to the eastern part of Turkey, I would opt to go with a Turkish local or as part of a guided tour.
➡️ It is important to remember that Turkey is a large country, and a majority of it is NOT affected by the same security concerns. To that point, I had wonderful experiences even in the busiest of markets and smallest of rural towns. Of course, I took precautions not to make myself a target for mugging, and I stayed alert as I do in any country I visit.
If I was to give you a quick gist of how it felt to travel as an American in Turkey on these aspects, here’s my take:
✔️ Overall Risk: Low
✔️ Transporation Risk: Low
✔️ Petty Theft Risk: High
✔️ Natural Disaster Risk: Low
✔️ Terrorism Risk: Medium
✔️ Scams Risk: Low
✔️ Female Travellers: Low
Is it safe for Americans to visit Istanbul?
Yes, in fact, some of the safest places happen to be the more touristed areas like Istanbul, Cappadocia, Bodrum, and Izmir.
It’s no secret that Turkish hospitality is something special in this world – the customer service in this country is the best I’ve seen in all my travels. Because of this, tourists and travelers are treated extremely well!
Is Turkey safe for female travelers?
Yes, and what’s more, I met so many solo female travelers in Turkey. There are always extra risks you need to be cautious of when traveling as a woman, but these are not heightened in Turkey.
For a little extra peace of mind, here is what I recommend:
- Learn to say “no”. People will invite you out for a meal or a drink with them, to buy their knick-knacks, to look at their store, whatever. If you don’t want to, don’t do it – it’s ok to politely refuse. Local women do it all the time! 🙂
- Dress modestly, especially in the more rural conservative towns. It’s cool to dress how you want in big cities like Istanbul or Izmir, but mind that you are a guest in Turkey, so be respectful of their customs.
- Take tours or lodge in hostels at times if you feel comfortable doing so. This helps you meet fellow travelers you can bond with and travel with. This way, you’re not always alone grabbing drinks or dinner, etc.
Is it safe for the LGBTQIA+ Community?
Real talk, I did not see much of the queer community out and about in Turkey, even in Istanbul. As the government isn’t open-minded legally and the culture is more strict religiously, this does not come as a surprise.
I don’t recommend showcasing your relationship or sexuality (even for the hetero community) in public.
Is driving in Turkey safe?
LOL! Ok, so driving in Turkey is insane. I thought I had experienced the worst in Italy and India, and then I rented a car in Turkey.
The reality is that Turks drive aggressively, honk and flash their lights behind you when they want you to move, squish their banged-up taxis in between you and the impossible space you left for the cat to cross the street, and just generally drive recklessly.
I’ve seen kids on their mother’s lap in the front seat without seatbelts, drivers not respecting traffic rules or speed limits, and pedestrians nearly getting run over.
All that to say, it’s not that you won’t be able to handle driving in Turkey, it’s just that you need to go into the situation prepared and able to apply the rules of Defensive Driving you learned in that one class you took when you were 16.
Are taxis safe?
Yes, taxis are safe. But again, they drive like a bat out of hell, and I mean this in the most literal sense. I’m not a religious person, but I found myself singing “Jesus, take the wheel!” quite a few times, and miraculously, I made it to my destination in one piece every time! 🙂
It’s ideal if you learn to say a few phrases in Turkish or have your Google Translate out so you can communicate. Also, most taxis are metered, so it tracks the cost as you ride.
Travel Tip: I might caution you about a little scheme where the driver asks for a different amount to be paid than what is on the meter. I didn’t encounter this but it’s something that I know can happen.
Simply get out of the car safely and ask for help from locals around (police, hotel attendants that may be around, restaurant owners, anyone who speaks both Turkish & English!)
Is it safe to travel to Turkey with the Russia-Ukraine war going on?
Yes, it is safe. While the Russia – Ukraine war is affecting every country, and especially worrying nearby European countries (including Turkey), there is no danger or unsafe implications for traveling to Turkey. The war has not spilled over, so to speak.
The thing that surprised me most was the huge number of Russian and Ukrainian people who had left and fled their countries when the war started, seeking longer-term refuge in Turkey. Of all the groups of people traveling solo or with their friends in Turkey, Russians were the majority.
Do I need Travel Insurance as an American in Turkey?
When it comes to travel medical insurance, Turkey is one of those places where it’s not strictly necessary, but it’s definitely worth it. I got some pretty bad food poisoning from the water or some uncooked chicken on my trip (which can happen in any country), and I was glad to have that backup.
I never had to use travel insurance, but in the back of my mind, there was peace in the fact that I had the option.
Things To Consider When Visiting Turkey
All in all, Turkey is safe to travel to as an American (or anyone really), but here are some Turkey-specific pointers.
✅ Be Careful of Pickpockets & Muggings
Turkey’s crime rate is not high, but petty theft is pretty common, especially in busy areas like bazaars, markets, and literally all tourist places in Istanbul.
✅ Respect the Religious Customs
Let’s remember to check our ignorance at the border and respect the culture of the land. Turkey is a Muslim country, and as we as travelers are guests, it’s our responsibility to respect the house rules, especially in religious venues.
✅ Stay Alert & Practice Caution
This goes for anywhere you travel, be aware of your surroundings, exit a situation that feels weird or icky to you, and generally practice common sense.
✅ Learn a few Turkish Phrases
Here are my top 3 most used phrases:
- Tesekular! – Thank You!
- Bu ne Kadar? – How much is it?
- Yardım edin, lütfen. – Help me, please.
✅ Love the Cats But Be Careful
Turkish people’s love for cats is on another level. You will see little bowls of food and little cat houses everywhere – cats live like queens on the streets of Istanbul. But just because they are cute, don’t forget they are also wild stray cats. Pet with caution, they sometimes bite!
What To Avoid When Visiting Turkey
I hope these are common sense pointers for anyone traveling, but here we go:
❌ Avoid political rallies & protests.
❌ Don’t disrespect their government.
❌ Don’t show off your cash money in public.
❌ Don’t be out at all hours of the night.
In Conclusion, Is Turkey Safe for Americans to Visit?
First and foremost, it is important to do your research and stay up-to-date on the current situation in the country. Additionally, it is wise to avoid large crowds and politically sensitive areas.
But as long as you take these precautions, there is no reason why you can’t enjoy a safe and memorable trip to Turkey.