Is Turkey Safe? Is it Safe to Travel to Turkey?
Most travelers comment on the friendliness and hospitality of the Turkish people. It really is exceptional. Turkey is not only friendly, it is, in many ways, as safe as Europe and North America, although no place is completely safe.
Even though Turkey is relatively safe, the only crime-free place is heaven, so here are things to watch:
Single Male Travelers
Single male travelers should beware particular scams aimed at them in Istanbul. One of these is the “Let’s Have a Drink” Scam which results in your paying a drinks bill of hundreds or even thousands of dollars or euros. Robbers love it because it’s easy, and their risk of identification, arrest, trial and punishment is almost non-existent. This is why it happens in many cities (even London), and certainly in Istanbul.
How to Identify the Scam
1. The con man often begins his chat with “I just got off from work in [nearby hotel].” This is to convince you that he knows and is friendly with foreign visitors.
2. He will suggest that you go for a drink not to just any bar but “to a place I know.” At first he may take you to one or two normal places, perhaps for tea or coffee, but eventually he will insist on going by taxi to a particular bar/nightclub that’s in on the scam.
3. Your conversation will not seem normal. You may ask a question about Turkey, and he will say something on another topic entirely. In fact, he’s following a script to lead you to the point of agreeing to go have a drink (and be robbed).
How to Avoid Being Scammed
A. Mention that you’re with two or three other male friends who have gotten ahead of you. “Let’s go find them and all go,” you can say. A Turk who’s just interested in having a friendly drink and chat would probably welcome the suggestion. A scammer will pressure you to come alone.
B. You suggest another place for a drink, a very public one, such as a hotel lobby bar or sidewalk café. A polite Turk will agree—the point is to sit and chat, and it doesn’t matter where. A scammer will insist on going only “to this place I know.”
C. Say that you’re meeting others in a few minutes (give no details, even if he asks), and offer to meet him for a drink some other time (say tomorrow) “with my other friends.” The scammer will not want that.
If you think you’re being scammed, excuse yourself and get away. “Sorry, I can’t right now. Bye!” “I gotta go!” “Some other time.” Most of the time this will work. The scammer usually chats you up on a public street, and won’t want to be seen as part of a ruckus or scuffle.
Statistically, you are 7-9 times safer in Turkey over the US. Compared to Turkey, violent crime is 78% worse in the US, with total crimes (per 1000 people) being 9X worse in the US over Turkey. There is crime growth in the big cities (Ankara, Istanbul, İzmir) so defense is the same anywhere: wear your purse/bag strap over your chest (not just dangling from your shoulder) and hold your bag close.
Mugging (robbery) and rape are rare, but they do happen, so observe the normal travel precautions.
Women travelers should be sensitive to local customs and attitudes.
It’s everyone’s worry these days. Statistically, it is not much of a danger at all (compared to such real big-time killers as traffic accidents), but it makes headlines, so we’re frightened.
You must answer this question to fit your personal tolerance for risk. If you believe the statistics and look at it rationally, you’ll probably go. If you’re going to worry about safety a lot while you’re there, the worry may make your trip less pleasant, and so you probably shouldn’t go.
Many governments post detailed security notices on the Internet. These are useful reading if you are concerned about safety when you travel:
Some people do come down with Travelers’ Diarrhea, and more serious gastrointestinal ailments are possible as in most countries, so observe wise dining habits. The US Government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s CDC Travelers’ Health website, and its Turkey page, are also useful.
Turkey had historically high vehicular accident and mortality rates, but government safety education programs, vast improvements in highways, and strict law enforcement have greatly improved the situation. You must still drive and ride carefully.
It is very safe way to travel.
Turkey is in an active earthquake zone, and deadly temblors occur periodically, as they have for millennia. Like San Francisco, Istanbul and the Marmara region expect a major earthquake within the next three or four decades.
It’s a good idea to review your coverage and decide if you’re adequately insured