Written: Summer 2015. Please see link at the end of this blog for UPDATE: Istanbul 2016.
The day that I set off for my Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul, there had been a suicide bomb attack on a Police station in Sultanbeyli on the outskirts of Istanbul. It was a minor attack and no one was killed, it also had a specific target. It did, however, prompt me to do my research before travelling.
A Text Message from my concerned Aunty – Not really a Party Pooper!
I received the following text message from my aunty…
‘My darling Amy Bimpkin, I really don’t want to be a harbinger of doom or a party pooper, but I wondered if you had heard the terrible news? Please check up on it and seek foreign office travel advice. I love you so much and don’t want you to take any unnecessary risks. Let me know what you think. From your neurotic aunty Dab!’
Naturally, my family members were concerned – is Istanbul safe? They were not being party poopers, just generally concerned for my safety. And they have a right to be, after all, safety concern goes hand in hand with love!
Don’t be offended when family members question your travel plans, it is, for them, a natural and loving thing to do. Just do your research, and then reassure and educate them.
Current Foreign Office Advice on Turkey as of August 10th 2015
The Foreign Office advice remained the same – safe to travel but be vigilant and avoid the Syrian border, so I decided to continue with my trip.
Tackling Media Stereotypes
I think it’s important as a traveller to be sensible, but to keep things in perspective. I would never go to a risky area without checking FCO advice or getting insurance.
Once you are certain that your travel plans are safe, you can then challenge media stereotypes in an attempt to educate people about Geography, politics and the truth about solo female travel.
How Western Media can affect the Turkish Economy
I was talking to Onur, the hostel owner of Sultan Hostel in Sultanahmet, Isanbul. Many Large groups are cancelling hostel bookings in Istanbul, due to negative media, which can cost business owners thousands of euros in revenue. Many of these cancellations are school or university groups whose parents don’t want their children to travel to Turkey,
Hostel owners and restaurant owners in Istanbul are thankful for the solo travellers who do their research through official channels, rather than listen to the news, and still travel to Turkey, bringing revenue to the economy and educating others on their return.
The problem with the media is that it focuses on the negative. Traumatic or turbulent events tend to make the news over positive stories. You rarely hear of ‘good’ news in Turkey through the media. There is no need for the news to report on the wonderful people, amazing architecture and beautiful views, although this is predominantly the reality of Istanbul. There are so many cool things to see in Istanbul.
Is Istanbul Safe?
So now for the truth about Istanbul! I have been here for a few days now and will stay for a week in total. Here are my answers to common questions…..
Is Istanbul safe for female solo travellers?
Yes, it is. You may get compliments and get asked out! But the people are very respectful and helpful. If you get lost, they will tell you where to go, and they will not touch you or grab you, like I have heard some people say! It is still Europe!
Are there suicide bombings happening in Istanbul?
At the moment week commencing 10th August 2015, security is very high and this week I have seen no disturbances whatsoever. Attacks are rare and extremely targeted in istanbul.
What can I do to keep safe in Turkey?
Have your travel head on – keep your map with you and your money tucked away in a money belt.
Be vigilant. General security advice is avoid the metro, police stations and embassy’s and you should be fine.
Is Istanbul Safe near Sultanahmet and the historic sites?
This week I have been walking around Sultanahmet and the harbour with no problems whatsoever. We have visited the Grand Bazaar and Spice market and felt very safe and secure. We have seen no disturbances or attempted pick-pocketing.
How can I help to promote Tourism in Turkey?
- Blog or use social media to convey positive experiences
- Challenge stereotypes in a way that educates others
- If you have had a good hostel or restaurant experience in Turkey, give a 5 star Trip Advisor review.
UPDATE – I recently blogged about the Istanbul Terrorist Attack 2016.
You may also like to read…