Istanbul

Istanbul is a colorful city rich in culture and history that is split into two halves – half in Europe and the other in Asia (have you ever wanted to be in two places at the same time? Checked!). Although the Grand Bazaar and the Egyptian Bazaar and the Turkish baths could keep you quite busy, make sure to visit the beautiful Blue Mosque, stroll the Galata, and take a minute to admire the jaw-dropping architecture.

SAFETY INDEX

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Although this is a popular city to visit and is generally safe, be aware of local risks like pickpockets. Keep your personal belongings in front of you or somewhere you can keep an eye on them. Free tea or refreshments in shops and bazaars are usually normal and expected, but getting these offers outside these circumstances from strangers can be an opportunity to scam you or a “drug-and-mug.” However, this is not very common.

Warnings & Dangers

Mid Priority-96 OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM

There are some areas to avoid, and as long as common sense is used and travelers always remain alert, Turkey can be an exciting country to explore.

Mid Priority-96 PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH

Pickpocketing and bag snatching are common in all tourist areas, especially in Taksim Square, Sultanahmet, the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar. The Süleymaniye Mosque is another area you should also be careful with your belongings. Children try to surround travelers to confuse them and distract them while one steals their money or goods. Keep your possessions attached to you at all times.

Mid Priority-96 MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM

Muggings and assaults have also been reported. Travelers have been drugged and had their passports and other personal effects stolen.

Mid Priority-96 SCAMS RISK : MEDIUM

Common cybercrimes reported are requests of money upfront for services or investments. A recurring case of scamming is the one where a traveler befriends an English-speaking local, he/she is taken to a bar for food and drinks and then is expected to pay for everything.

Mid Priority-96 TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM

Overall, transportation in Istanbul is safe. However, travelers need to keep an eye on their belongings at all times.

Mid Priority-96 NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM

Istanbul is subject to earthquakes as it is located close to the North Anatolian Fault Zone. However, they do not occur often. The last big earthquake in this city was magnitude 7, and it struck in 1894.

Mid Priority-96 TERRORISM RISK : HIGH

Istanbul remains in a heightened state of alert as further terrorist attacks in Turkey are likely – although they never target tourists.

Mid Priority-96 WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM

There have been reports of sexual assaults against female travelers that are either traveling solo or in small groups. These assaults are usually committed by someone the victim met recently. Female travelers are advised to avoid isolated locations and traveling alone after dark.  

Carte

WHAT TO DO?

Old City – Sultanahmet & Eminönü

As the name says it, this is the oldest part of the city and the location of most of its historical sites like: The Blue Mosque – Also known as Sultanahmet Camii, the Blue Mosque is still a working mosque. Remember to dress modestly as this is a religious site, and bring your own socks because you must take off your shoes to enter. Hagia Sophia – (Sultanahmet Square) was originally a basilica built for the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I in the sixth century. Later, in the 15th century, it became a mosque when the Ottomans conquered the city. Now, Hagia Sophia is a museum that encloses a masterwork of a Roman engineering.

Grand Bazaar – Word has it that this is the oldest shopping mall in the world. This labyrinth with nearly 4400 shops organized by products will keep you busy for most part of your day. As this is popular among tourists, you are likely to pay a little more for your items than elsewhere.

Basilica Cistern – or Yerebatan Sarnici, is an underground reservoir built in 532 by Justinian to provide water to the city in case of a blockade. Don’t be surprised by the gigantic fishes swimming below your feet and don’t forget to check out the statues of Medussa. Topaki Palace – For four centuries, this was the imperial territory of the Ottoman emperors. Stroll through the four courts, including the Harem, and get your camera ready for the stunning view from the fourth court. As this is the most popular tourist spot, beware of potential pickpockets.

Beyoğlu

Formerly known as Pera, Beyoğlu has always been Istanbul’s cosmopolitan heart. And, as such, it contains many different neighborhoods. Taksmi Square – is one of the busiest areas in Istanbul with shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and even some street performers. Karakoy/Galata – these are popular neighborhoods in the area with a varied mix of visitors, locals, and expats due to the shops, galleries, and the Museum of Modern Art.

Princes’ Island

These four islands, located in the Sea of Marmara, used to serve as exile islands for the Ottoman Empire. Access these islands by ferry (one hour ride) from Istanbul if you are looking for some peace and quiet. There are no cars allowed on these islands, so all transportation is conducted by horse and cart and bikes.

Useful Information

Some nationalities like Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Ireland,, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, the UK and USA require Visas that you can purchase online at http://www.evisa.gov.tr/before travelling. Most nationalities, including the above, get a 90-day visa. www.doyouneedvisa.com is a useful website that can help you know if you need a visa or not based on your nationality and the country you’re visiting.
The currency in Turkey is the Turkish Lira. Credit and debit cards are accepted by most businesses, and ATMs are available in major cities and tourist areas. Tipping is customary in restaurants, hotels, and taxis.
The Mediterranean coasts of Turkey get hot, dry summers and slightly cool, wet winters. The coasts bordering the Black Sea have a moderate Oceanic climate with warm, wet summers and cold, wet winters. As you get farther away from the coasts, the weather gets harsher with contrasting seasons.
The main international airports in Turkey are in the west: Atatürk International Airport (Istanbul’s main airport), Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, Antalya International Airport, Adnan Menderes Airport, Bodrum International Airport, Dalaman International Airport, and Esenboga Airport. If you're looking for cheap flight deals, you can find some on JetRadar
As in any country, we advise travelers to get a travel insurance that covers not only medical problems but also theft and loss of personal items. Learn more on our travel insurance page