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Turkey is generally considered a safe destination, and many expats relocate there without problems. Nevertheless, an ongoing risk of terrorism has raised concerns of safety in Turkey, with several attacks having targeted popular tourist areas in the past, including Istanbul's Atatürk Airport. Road safety is also a concern, and expats should take to the roads with caution.
Crime in Turkey
Crime rates in Turkey are generally low but have been steadily increasing in recent years. Nevertheless, pickpocketing and muggings occur in the popular tourist areas of Turkey. Expats should follow the normal precautions to lower the risk of being a victim of such crimes.
Expats should note that it’s illegal to insult Turkey, the Turkish ethnicity, the government or the founder of modern-day Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Penalties for contravening this carry fines and possible imprisonment of up to three years.
Although there are no dress restrictions in Turkey, female expats should rather avoid wearing clothing that is too revealing as this may attract unwanted attention.
Terrorism in Turkey
There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Turkey due to the presence of both local and regional terrorist groups; these largely include Leftists, Kurdish separatists and Islamic extremists.
The most prominent terrorist organisation in Turkey is the Kurdistan People's Congress (also known as Kongra-Gel (KGK) or PKK), composed of ethnic Kurds with a separatist agenda, who operate mostly in southeastern Turkey and northern Iraq. The regional terrorist group, ISIS, has also carried out attacks in Turkey.
There have been some terrorist attacks in Turkey in recent years. Some of these have specifically targeted public transport and popular tourist areas, including in Istanbul, Ankara, and along the Mediterranean and Aegean coastal resort areas. Security forces have often been targeted by PKK militants in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern provinces, including Diyarbakır, Batman, Hakkâri, Şırnak, Siirt and Tunceli. Although PKK activity has seen a definite decline in recent years following a ceasefire and talks with the Turkish government, a number of other groups, such as the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and ISIS, continue to present a threat. Attacks are more frequent before major political events and anniversaries. Due to the terrorist threat, many governments warn their citizens to be vigilant and advise against travel to higher-risk regions.
Due to the ongoing conflict in neighbouring Syria, and the impact this has had on some Turkish towns, which have been struck by stray bullets and artillery rounds, several governments also carry advisories against travel to the border areas with Syria. Expats should follow the instructions of their local embassy with regards to travel to the Syrian border or any other high-risk areas in Turkey.
Protests in Turkey
Turkey is in a period of political transition and protests and demonstrations occur quite frequently in the country. Taksim Square and İstiklâl Caddesi in Istanbul, the downtown Kızılay area, and across the street from the American Embassy in Ankara are popular protest areas. Most protests are directed against the government and its policies. Expats should monitor local developments and avoid all large political gatherings.
Road safety in Turkey
Road safety in Turkey is a concern. Expats may find driving in Turkey a challenge. Drivers are generally aggressive and often ignore the basic rules of the road. It should be noted that pedestrians don’t have the right of way, so be extra cautious when crossing the road.
►For an overview of the Turkish healthcare system, see Healthcare in Turkey
"Just because most Turkish people are super friendly doesn’t mean you should go off with a random stranger you meet when you’re out and about." Read more about Lisa's thoughts on safety in Turkey.
Are you an expat living in Turkey?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Turkey. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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